Saturday, July 27, 2013

A few flowers from the Olympics

 Erythronium oregonum (White Fawn Lily), one of thousands that pop up as soon as the snow covering the ground melts.  We were either walking on snow or flowers and in the distance, the fields of white were almost indistinguishable.

 Llium columbianum (Tiger Lily), fairly rare while hiking but easy to spot with it's magnificent orange color.

I call this little guy 'persistence' but as close as I can tell from this tiny specimen it is Penstemon davidsonii (Penstemon) .  One of  many tiny flowers growing all alone on rock, covered with snow 8 months out of the year.  Amazing.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Ibex for Dogs

Benton, the worlds cutest Aussie (Australian Shepherd) models my favorite piece of clothing, a hooded Shak from Ibex.

Ibex for Dogs.  Why put your dog in a little house when they can have their own Shak!!

Benton as a puppy, probably the cutest dog on the planet for a couple of weeks, but certainly the cutest Aussie in the world!!
Sir Benton 'damn he's cute' cowboy the Eviscerator, as a puppy.!!

 Some shots of Benton growing up.  

Benton running across a log in the garden.

Benton's first visit to the beach and his first time with a Frisbee

Benton with a large rope TUG toy I made for him.

Benton takes a nap on his North Face Cat's Meow sleeping bag.

Benton along the PCT, 2012 in Northern California.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

AutoStitch, the best Panorama app out there, and it's free!

Panorama Deluxe in the Olympics.  A complete 360!!  8 different images, but just one me!
Last year on the PCT I met a father son team from New Zealand trail named Shack and Wiki.  It seemed funny to me to meet these two thru hikers from NZ on the PCT, not on the Te Araroa.  

Big Sur, California

Anyhow, they showed me this great app called AutoStitch.  It was free, or only 99 cents, so I installed it.  I didn't use it much, just occasionally here and there.  It's easy to use, simple and well thought out.  

Yessi searching for a way to cross a raging stream in the Olympics.
 One neat feature is that you can select previous photos to stitch together.  After using this feature a few times, I fell in love with this app.

In the Olympics, huge boulders in the forest.

I now consider this app amazing.  How it can identify similarities of pictures, stitch them together vertically, horizontally or diagonally to create a panorama is just amazing to me.

Lake Constance in the Olympics, above the Dosewallips river basin

And the way it corrects for perspective is phenomenal.  It seems to curve each image to some varying degree so that they all fit together correctly and vertical lines all converge on the same point while horizon alt lines remain straight.

Yessi on Anderson Glacier in the Olympics.
What I truly like about this app is that it allows you to take pictures of very large, long or tall scenes without having to have all the peripheral stuff in the photo.  Take the tree and me shot at the very bottom. This is from Muir Redwoods and is a photo of a tree almost 300' tall.  If I'd shot that with a wide angled lens I'd have about 50 other people in the photo.  

Yessi tramples flowers in the Olympics
Stitching smaller photos together allows you to capture what you want with individual shots and essentially edit out stuff you don't want in your photo by not photographing it.

dbBrad in front of a huge Redwood at Muir park, just north of San Francisco.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Jacaboo, Yessi and dbBrad take a little Kayak trip in the San Juan Islands.

Klepper with Sail set up on Jones Island, one of the nicest little kayak camp spots there is.
The Klepper.  Made in Germany, Almost the same design since its conception in 1907.  Just about 100 years in production and still the greatest kayak to be had.

Yessi taking a sunset paddle in the Klepper in the San Juan Islands.
An impossible collection of little wood pieces with aluminum can tab like connectors which assembles in just minutes to a fragile looking wood sculpture in the shape of a kayak.  But when fully assembled in it's canvass/hypalen shell and sponsons inflated, is one amazing, sea worthy boat.

dbBrad and my favorite kayak ever, the Klepper.  Solid timeless design.
But what I really like about the Klepper is it's spen cockpit, comfortable seats (aftermarket) and it's sailing set up.  There is nothing like being on the ocean, sitting at exactly the same level as the sea, and doing 7mph with out effort.

Jacaboo and I recently set off on a trip in the San Juan islands.  For three days we utilized the strong currents from the large summer tide swings to circumnavigate San Juan Island in three days.

Jacaboo looking a little wide eyed out it big water, west side of San Juan Island.

Day one we departed at 4am to catch an Ebb tide which wisked us from the north end of Lopez island to the Southern point of San Juan Island.  A bit tired, we had a few hour nap while the tides shifted, then we rode a flood tide all the way up to Posey Island, just outside Roche Harbor.

View from Pose Island, just outside Roche Harbor looking NorthWest.
This was a long day, over 12 hours in the boat.  But we traveled over 30 miles in some big water and had some amazing views.  A bit like thru hiking last summer, we thought we were thru paddling. In fact we were.  With the tides and the sailing set up, we did almost no paddling at all.

Jacaboo looks a little stiff from our epic travels yesterday.
Day two we enjoyed being the only ones on Posey Island, a rare event anymore.  The kayak tour companies use Posey island frequently, with all the reservations for the next few weeks for a select group of three tour guides.

View from Jones Island, Kayak point, one of the best legal kayak camp sites in the San Juan Islands.
 Eventually we paddled the half mile into Roche Harbor to walk around, have some coffee, and people watch.  Then back in the boat with some cold ones for a 6 mile paddle that felt a bit more like 10. Headed across the top of San Juan Island, paralleling Spieden Island, the curents are cutting across and with a stiff breeze from the SE, we had to work a bit harder to get to Jones Island

Yessi carries the sale while Jacaboo gets his land legs back!

The next day was an easy paddle back to Lopez Island, where Yessi was waiting to greet us and help us unload our gear.  Later, locals from Lopez including Jeff and Joe and the managers of Odlin park and a few others joined us for a raging fire and a great potluck meal.

dbBrad in my favorite Ibex hoodie with Jacaboo glad land is so close!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Light Weight Stove Review, but there is only one Contender, the MSR Reactor.

I've used every stove there is and the MSR Reactor is the fastest, quietest, most practical, and smartest cooking system ever.

And you can quote me on that.  In fact if you've hiked the Te Araroa or the PCT last year, you probably heard me boasting about it.
MSR Reactor, the greatest cocking system there is.  Rector is pictured on a survey stand, high over lake Hawaea on the South Island of New Zealand with Mount Cook visible in the range Behind.  Mt. Cook and the King of Cook stoves!
I'm a huge fan of having Tea while hiking in the wilderness. That and good, warm, food at least two times a day.  A reliable practical stove is essential.  For years I used a DragonFly by MSR, but I got tired of all the noise.  To arrive deep in the wilderness, to set up camp and not be able to hear anything if the stove is going just seems silly to me now!

The only competitor of the Reactor for practicality and durablity might be the Tin Can versions I saw in NZ.
So a few years ago I purchased a Whisper Light.  I was doing a lot of mountaineering at the time and the power of white gas is indeed alluring. I thought I was purchasing a quite and light stove with MSR reliability. Now I love MSR but the name Whisper Light is an oxymoron as it is neither Light nor Quiet! So I returned it and got an MSR Reactor.

The jet boil is a tiny bit lighter than the Reactor, but look at all the crappy plastic pieces to break.  And if you run out of fuel, the pan is of no value with it's plastic parts and cheesy warmer, drink mug feature.
Last year I hiked 5000 miles on 3 continents in scorching hot dessert, freezing, and wet conditions and at altitudes approaching 18000 feet.  This stove has never failed me and in fact is still in service.

The point here isn't the beautiful Yessi Ye or the magnificent Olympic mountains above lake Constance, but the lovely smooth black satin finish of my resin coated MSR Reactor pan, a unique natural finish only available by cooking on wood fires.

One of the reasons I promote the MSR Reactor over its slightly lighter more complicated plastic coated cousin, the Jet Boil, is because it's all metal welded construction and folding metal handle are totally okay with the fire pit.  MSR might not condone this, but my pan has been around the world, literally, used 3 times a day for the last 18 months, dropped, turned red hot in a fire, stuffed in my pack and totally submerged in water, and it still preforms marvelously for me every single time I use it.

Really, the only other stove worth talking about for reliability, simplicity and weight is an aluminum can alcohol stove.  But notice I didn't say fast or performance, nor will you hear me say safe.  My big problem with these stoves is people with no stove experience using them.  You get people that have never worked with flammables or cooked on a camping stove, wielding liquid fuel around an open flame.  Nuts!!  Alcohol stoves are dangerous, a fire risk and they stink.  Forget it, get a Reactor and live large.

Glacier Mountain Summit--Peak of Disappointment!

Climbing trip to Glacier Mountain June 2013.  We didn't summit, a bit of a disappointment, but we did summit Disappointment!!

The crew, from L2R,Jacab Leonard aka Sprinkles, dbBrad aka Freestyle, Yessi Ye aka Llittle Sherpa,  Joe Green aka architect, and Jeffery Huntinton the third aka Mr. Roper.
For another great description and more terrific photos of this Glacier Peak Climb, please see Jeff Huntingtons post on PeakBagger.

dbBrad and Yessi Ye (Lil Sherpa) in the wetlands along the North Fork Sauk.  The skunk cabbage was gigantic.
The trip begins with a rendezvous at Jeff's new little cabin in a development called Cascade River Park, an unlikely little development of summer cabins with a very likely name.  His darling cabin is just up from the roaring cascade river perched on a hill in the forest.

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Yessi and I borrowed a truck, picked up Jacaboo at the airport fresh from SanFrancisco, made a quick trip to REI, then up to the cabin.  Joe and Jeff came from Lopez Island.  It was 7pm when we were all finally together.

At about 4k feet, lots of snow on the trail.  Ice axes were handy on the approach here since it was so steep.
We then proceeded with our pack dumps, stove comparisons (the MSR Reactor wins again!), research and mapped routes, new apps and our final gear selection.  Darkness consumed us and our tasks at around 10pm.

Sprinkles hanging out at base camp, back on the PCT!
Off to bed and early to rise, we headed out around 6:00 with a slightly 'soft' start.  The drive was a bit further than I thought, taking over an hour to get to the trail head.  We were hiking by 8, a little late but with plenty of time to hit the PCT at White Pass.

Yessi, Jeff and Joe at camp, clouds rolling in below us.
Camp was just off the PCT below White Pass.  It was fun for both Sprinkles and I since we walked past this very point last September while on the PCT fresh from Mexico.  In fact, there was a little stream just above us in a worn part of earth where the snow had melted and we think this was the PCT.

Jeff in the early morning light headed over the ridge towards Upchuck Glacier Basin.
Next morning was supposed to be a 5am hard start, but was more like a 5:45 soft start, but that was okay.  It was a beautiful morning, the snow was firm but no need for crampons and we headed over the ridge to the long traverse headed towards Whitechuck Glacier.

At just after 7am about 1.5 miles from base camp, the sun blesses us with it's warmth.  White Mountain behind.
We took a break after about 3 miles while Joe demonstrated Blue Bag techniques in the open basin that never seemed to end.
These footsteps go on for 7 miles--it's a long approach to Glacier from White Pass and the soft snow made it much more challenging.
Keep walking, keep walking, posthole, slip, trip, keep walking.  The going was tough and kept changing as we swithced from boots to snow shoes, to crampons and back again.  Walk, posthole, slip, posthole, keep walking!!
Joe followed by two others with Rainier visible in the distance.
The terrain was beautiful as was the weather, and we kept walking, slip, posthole....

Jeffery Huntington the third, aka Mr. Roper!

Jeffery Huntington the third, aka Mr. Roper
Finally we were at the base of Cool Glacier, roped up, crampons on and ready to do some real vertical.  Of minor interest were the crevasses along the way which appeared harmless and of no circumstance.  But when you bring Mr. Roper this far, you've just got to tie up and it is after all a glacier.

At the summit of Disappointment Peak, just 800ft shy of Glacier Peak peak, we called it a day due to weather and headed back down.  We made the right decision as the clouds kept dropping and we were able to stay under the whiteout conditions during our return to camp.
And I was glad we did.  Wanting to get a closer look, a glimpse into the icy blue abyss only glaciers can provide, I stepped perhaps a little farther over than I should have and broke through the snow up to my arm pits.  With feet dangling,  I was able to pull myself out, but was really glad Joe was watching me and taking up rope.

All packed up, headed back down the next day.
From L2R, Joe Green, Mr. Roper, Sprinkles and Lil Sherpa.
We kept heading up the glacier, optimistic that we were going to have the perfect day, though it was getting late.

This was Yessi's first time to walk on snow ever, and after all our snow travel this trip, Yessi was looking like a pro on the way down.
But as we climbed up to the saddle, we could see clouds in the valley getting thicker and clouds overhead getting lower, now touching nearby peaks.  We were being sandwiched by the clouds and we still had 800 vertical to get to the summit.

Joe helps Yessi up over a steep ledge.
It was now 3pm, we were all tired from the 7 mile approach and knew that the return would be even harder.  The sunshine was nice and made for beautiful views, but the snow was now super soft.

Yessi's company flag, TuTwo.图途
So we bagged  Glacier Peak and headed up a 400' slope to the summit of Disappointment Peak.  It was a disappointment, appropriately named, but still a successful day.

Crossing the river, almost back at the truck, we paused for a quick group photo at a nice new log bridge.  Thanks to the US Forest Service for building it and to Yessi Ye for taking the photo.
And we headed back to camp, 7 miles in soft snow, sometimes  postholing up to our knees, occasionally to the crotch. We finally arrived back at base camp, exhausted.  Sprinkles and I both agreed we'd rather do a 30 miler on the PCT in the high Sierras, without food, in the rain, than to relive our 14 mile day to Glacier and back.

Back at the trucks after a great trip.
But looking at these pictures, it's an amazing place, an amazing approach to a glaciated volcano and I'm ready to do it again, but to the top!!