Sunday, January 27, 2013

Totally Dehydrated

"A crude meal, no doubt, 
but the best of all sauces is hunger."
-Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

I have no idea how much, if any, interest there is in the preparation involved for my long distance hike this summer, but I figure the topic of food dehydration is something that is on everybody's mind- long distance hiker or not! Ok, so maybe not. The truth is I want some kind of attestation of what it took to get ready for the PCT. As they say, anything worth doing is worth documenting, right?

Throughout this process of planning a four to five week hike, I've sometimes wondered if I've bit more than I can chew. Mostly because there is so much to learn. The learning curve is quite steep with next to no backpacking experience under one's sack. Who knew? 

I've got the required reading though- stacks of half-read books on window sills, nightstands, even on the kitchen table all highlighted and bookmarked with pages that will teach me how to cook in the wilderness, how to choose the best campsite, how to treat water, how to read a map, how to read a compass, how to read a map AND compass when lost in the woods hungry, tired, cold, and being chased by a wild beast. How to, how to, how to- sometimes it seems endless how much how to there is. But then it occurs to me that I'm learning this because when Wisdom and I are walking the trail this summer, we will only have what's in our packs and on our backs. We will not go home each night to the comforts of the couch and the flick of a switch. Instead, we'll set up camp somewhere along the Oregon wilderness with only the stars as our ceiling and the trees for walls. Our life in our hands. Isn't that what we all want ultimately?

Yet despite knowing this, yesterday when up to my elbows in raw chicken, sick, moving from kitchen to bed to kitchen again, I felt over my head. Are we really going to be able to dehydrate enough food to last me (and to some degree, Wisdom) a 450 mile hike? Kimi said she didn't know as she loaded another tray of steamed chicken into the dehydrator. Not exactly the answer I was looking for. But it was the truth, and a truth I try live by. I will do what I set out to do. Fear is a part of the picture to be sure, but nothing to be too afraid of. Sometimes I wonder how much we leave untried due to apprehension. My motto: You try, You learn, You do. Or as it says in some book on some page somewhere around my house: Dream, Plan, Endure, Achieve.

So, Kimi is right. We don't know where we'll be in terms of food come August, but why let that stop us from doing what we can do today? If we must know everything before taking the first step, doesn't that first step become so much harder? Ah, lessons from the trail and I haven't even left the house in 5 days (damn sore throat).

So, two dried chickens, two dehydrated bananas, three cups of dried rice, and two moisture devoided yellow peppers later, I'm well on my way to some fancy dining on the PCT this summer. Ok, the bananas were awful. So awful, in fact, that the only way I would ever eat them is if I were lost in the woods hungry, tired, cold, and having just outrun a wild beast, but the rest shows some serious promise. 

Join me for dinner sometime?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Full Throttle Nature

This is just a fun post from a memorable week on Mt. Hood with two of my favorite people. 
It's doubtful there will be anything thought-provoking.
And I have no idea what happened to my spacing.

Sure-fire ingredients to a fun day.

Thanks to a crazy Inversion-type weather system that hit the Pacific Northwest last week, Portlanders were stuck with a climate typically found on the mountain this time of year- 25 degree days, even colder nights, and clouds. Lots of clouds. Meanwhile, us mountain folks enjoyed a week of stunningly beautiful blue skies and balmy temperatures that reached into the low 60s. Skis and snowshoes beware. This is sledding kind of weather. 

Meet Crash.

Some history: Crash is my sled. Crash earned her name last year when Kimi and I took our brand-spanking new machines out for the first time ever. At the end of the day when loading her onto the trailer, I, apparently, hit the throttle a little too hard and for a little too long. Unfortunately, I never gave the brake a thought as I flew through the front of the trailer and into the back of Kimi's truck. I was quickly thrown off the sled and face-planted in the parking lot. Oddly, my snowmobile was nowhere to be seen. I wasn't hurt, but assumed the truck and brand new snowmobile were toast. For a moment, I considered feigning injury to deflect attention from the sure-to-exist crash scene. I rolled over gingerly (just in case I had to fake cracked ribs) and saw that my sled was slightly on the trailer, but mostly it had climbed up the back of the 4 Runner. Its skis reached gallantly for the sky. It didn't look good, only, it didn't look entirely bad either. Surely something had to be broken though. After all, I just busted through the trailer. Yet, besides being the only ones in the parking lot, and certainly being the only ones in the parking lot with a snowmobile stuck on the back of their car, things looked okay. Somehow the two of us managed to get the thing off the truck and back on solid ground. As a testament to the Toyota brand, the 4 Runner barely had a scratch, and my snowmobile seemed in good shape too. The damage was minimal, possibly only cosmetic, and it started right up, which was a good thing because somebody still had to get it on the trailer. Little did I know, that somebody would be me. As it turned out, once was enough to crash through the trailer and into the truck. She loaded beautifully the second time around; however, she would never be nameless again. 

The present: Diana, straight out of Queens, New York and my best friend from high school, came to visit last week. Before this trip, she had never ridden a snowmobile. In fact, being from New York, she never even really plays in the snow. This was evidenced by her outfit for the week: ski pants she bought on the mountain the day before, a long, pretty coat with faux fur around the collar that she typically wears to her Emmy-winning job in New York City, knee high leather boots with a zipper on the side, and borrowed gloves, goggles, and ski helmet from me. Yes, it occurred to us that she would be riding with me, on Crash, without a rated snowmobile helmet, but I promised I'd take it easy. 

Diana driving Crash around the parking lot.

The parking lot? I didn't promise to take it that easy. Soon we were off to higher ground.

That's more like it.

Diana and I took the lead with Kimi right behind us. I started to feel good on Crash and couldn't believe it had been nine months since I'd last ridden. Diana, riding on the back of my sled on the jump seat, was my first passenger, and she was a good one. I could barely tell she was there. That's when it occurred to me to check to make sure she was, in fact, there. Not only was she in place, but she was smiling too. So, I gunned it a little, gave us some speed. We climbed up the butte, high into the sky, the two of us- longtime friends who always thought life was a little more fun on the edge. Or was it the ledge? I wonder because, soon enough, I misjudged a shelf, what some might call a small ledge, and rolled Crash over on its side. Diana and I rolled too, and landed in the snow. Luckily, landing in snow doesn't hurt! However, we didn't have the muscle power to pull it right side up and Kimi wasn't upon us yet. What else was there to do except get the camera out? 

As we waited for Kimi to arrive, someone else stopped by to assess the situation.

I bet you're thinking, "how cute and innocent." Yeah, that's what we thought too.

That is, until we got to the fire lookout and were relentlessly pursued by these predatory birds for our lunch.

It may have gotten a piece of my finger, but I'll be damned if it gets a piece of my sandwich! 

Finally, we retreated to the top of the fire lookout and to our surprise, found it unlocked. With the unlocked door came an unlocked view. 

But right outside the door, someone was waiting.

If Alfred Hitchcock didn't use the Gray Jay in his movie The Birds, he should have.

Finally, we escaped the nasty fowl and their merciless ways. I wanted Diana to experience driving a snowmobile more than around a parking lot, so later in the day, I handed her the keys to Crash. She and Kimi headed out on the sleds for a loop around Frog Lake; I walked to the snow-covered Pacific Crest Trail. I love full throttle nature and riding screaming adrenaline through the woods, but as I walked by myself on the PCT, I understood what makes my heart beat best. 

I wondered if Wisdom and I would make it this far north on the trail this summer. Will we pass Frog Lake sometime in August? Will I recognize this tree that held my helmet on a fun day way back in January when the sun was shining and my friend from New York came to visit?  

(Somewhere around mile 2098 northbound on the Pacific Crest Trail)

For now, those answers don't matter. For now, I've got this moment with two people and a mountain I love. For now, that's enough. 
(Driving home at the end of the day.)

The following two days we went back out and experienced some of the best snowmobiling to be had in Oregon- No rollovers, no getting stuck, no clouds, and best of all, no Gray Jays! Here are a few of my favorite scenes from those two days.

Mt. Jefferson, coming down from Grasshopper Butte.

Clear Lake in the late afternoon

 A cheap place to stay for the night -heat not guaranteed!

So, how do we get home? Just kidding.

From snow to sea.. 
next stop, Bora Bora

Monday, January 7, 2013

Free Your Heel And Your Mind Will Follow

Snow came fast to the Oregon Cascades this year. A major storm dropped 87" of snow in 10 days at Mt. Hood Meadows and by December 26th, I was skiing on a hundred inches of solid winter. Reports out of the High Sierras said the California mountains received more snow by early December than they did all of last year combined. A skier's dream, to be sure. But what of the hiker's? 

As I skied in deep snow through the trees, I wondered if my summer dream of hiking the Oregon section of the Pacific Crest Trail was being buried alive beneath me. The PCT rises to over 7000 feet several times as it makes its way across the state. The shoulder of Tipsoo Peak claims the highest point on the Oregon section with an elevation of more than 7500 feet. I don't need a high snow year this winter; I need a clear trail this summer. I will not be able to walk the high peaks of the Pacific Crest Trail if they're covered in snow. I have neither the knowledge nor the experience. If nothing else gets it first, high snow levels in the mountains will surely kill my thru-hike of Oregon.

But you have to take what Mother N gives you, right? In the mountains, it's not only one day at a time, but one season at a time. So, I click into my bindings, strap on my snowshoes, and find some pretty moments out there between the snowflakes and the snow breaks. But the dream, the dream is out there too. I'm not someone who is fully in the moment. Never have been. I always have an eye on the horizon, wondering what else is out there for me to do, to try? I suppose that's why I have a trail of hobbies behind me. I also suppose it's why, or partly why, I've never excelled at any of them. I don't do things looking for excellence. I do things looking for experiences- as many as possible in this one and only life we're given.

Yesterday, I cross country skied on tracks laid down by somebody else. Soon I was in a rhythm with the sound of my skis gliding across the snow. I pushed them forward and back, forward and back, and then found myself in rhythm with winter. As I became more centered, I understood just how conflicted I'd been with the coldest season of the year. Although, because of all the snow, I'd already done more wintery things by the new year than all of last year, privately, I wished for less snow for fear of my summer hike being derailed. And to be clear, I never wish for less snow. But yesterday, finally, standing on a frozen lake, I welcomed winter. Bring it, I thought, just bring everything you've got. I will, too, come summer, and maybe, just maybe we'll meet again on a high peak somewhere along the Pacific Crest Trail one late August afternoon. I looked down at my skis and remembered something from earlier: Free your heel and your mind will follow. If you're lucky, your dreams might too. 

I'm the one in the hat!