Tuesday, September 30, 2008

We Have Come To Journey's End

This will be my last post. I'm not taking down the blog, in part because it's important to me to have Wiley's memorial out there in cyberspace. But, quite frankly, blogging is just not fun anymore.

I loved writing about the adventures Wiley and I had, but it's not the same now that he's gone. I can't write about the kitchen. When I weigh in on a political matter that's important to me, I attract random know-it-alls who post tedious comments based on the title of a post rather than its content. Where's the fun in that? And I don't want to have one of those whiny, Facebook-esque much a-blog about nothing exercises in navel-gazing.

Plus, hiking season is just about over, so I doubt I'll be taking anymore exciting solo sojourns into the wild. That's why I'm ending with this one: my hike to Lone Eagle Peak.

Ever since I moved here and bought a book detailing local hikes, I've been obsessed with hiking to Crater Lake and Lone Eagle Peak. The photo of the latter in the book had me entranced.

Work and weather made it tough to find the right two-day break to do it, but Jerry my hiking referant at work warned me the window of opportunity was about to close for the season.

So yesterday I set off, starting at the Monarch Lake trailhead at about 8,300 feet above sea level, where the fall colors are at their peak:

The trail itself has the same rating as Byers Peak in my book: difficult. But the first half was a lovely walk in the woods, with consistent but gentle elevation gain and a few exciting "primitive" bridges over rushing streams:

The trail follows Cascade Creek for much of its 7.5 miles (one-way, to Crater Lake. With side trips I'd estimate my total mileage for the two days was about 17 miles). Paralleling the aptly-named creek, I passed many waterfalls:

The second half of the trail, and especially the last third, is much rockier and steeper, but quite frankly not as heart attack-inducing as Byers Peak. My guess is the two trails merit the same rating because Byers is short but steep and relentless while Lone Eagle is longer and still has about a 2,000 foot elevation gain.

In any case, here's a view of Lone Eagle Peak. To the right of the spire-like monster, along the ridge, is the remnants of Peck Glacier. To the left of the peak is Fair Glacier, barely visible through the trees.

I set up camp at the edge of Crater Lake, right at the foot of Lone Eagle Peak, pleased to have the place to myself. At dusk, as I was drifting off to sleep (I tend to rise and to sleep according to the sun when I'm in the wild), I was startled by the sound of Large Animals. There were two, possibly more, Things all around the outside of my tent. I peeked out through a small window and saw a moose walking past about ten feet away.

No, I didn't take any pictures. There were signs at the trailhead warning that moose were in "the rut" and would be aggressive, and that anyone who happened upon them should leave the area immediately.

Since they had happened upon me, I was just staying put and not venturing out of my tent. Eventually, after they drank from the lake and one of them apparently vomited (at least that's what it sounded like) they moved on.

As the full and total darkness of the wild descended around my tent, I realized I'd never camped alone in a place with real predators... Iceland, southern Chile, the Faroe Islands, Norway... these are not places known for hosting many apex predators. I'm not saying a moose is technically an apex predator, but there are black bears and mountain lions in the area I was and, well, an aggressive 1,000-pound moose on the loose might as well be considered capable of kicking my ass.

In the dead of night, probably around 0200 I'm guessing, I awoke with a start (I sleep much lighter in the wild, too). I was immediately aware of something walking outside the tent. It half-circled, then retreated (possibly when it heard me sit up and grab my trekking poles, which I planned to use to defend myself double-saber-style). Then it came back and made a full circle. Eventually the sound of paws in dry grass faded.

I'm sure it wasn't a bear or a moose, since its tread seemed too light and it was utterly silent but for the grass rustling. I'm guessing it was a fox or coyote, though I wouldn't rule out the possibility of it being a mountain lion. In any case, it didn't smell anything appetizing in my tent, so I was spared the drama of having to go all kung fu on an animal who was, after all, just doing what animals do.

I woke at dawn to find a thin, glossy coat of ice on the outside of my tent, even though I'd been toasty warm inside, swathed in layers of flannel and fleece. (The elevation for my campsite was around 10,350 ft.)
After investigating the environs of Crater Lake for a bit, I hid in my tent while the moose passed through again and then packed up and set off the way I'd come.
Here's another shot of Lone Eagle Peak, on the right, with the incredible wall of cliffs to its north, crowned by rock formations that look like cathedrals. My book pointed out that these cliffs inexplicably have never been named... I propose, with a nod to the great Waterboys song, "Church Not Made With Hands."

So there it is: Lone Eagle Peak, crossed off my to-do list. Despite how much I was looking forward to this trek, I have to say I didn't enjoy it. The trail was pleasant enough, and well-maintained, and the weather was near-perfect for hiking (sunny and in the 60s... though personally I prefer hiking in the 50s), and the scenery was gob-smackingly gorgeous, from the yellow stands of aspen to the magnificent cliffs and glaciers, as well as the imposing Lone Eagle Peak itself.

Maybe it was because I was wearing a full-on backpack for the first time in a long time (I'd been using a day pack on the shorter hikes Wiley and I took) and, oddly enough, the difference in weight between my pack ready for an overnight and ready for a two-week international jaunt is only a couple pounds (the difference being food).

Maybe it was because, of a dozen people I met on the trail, nearly all of them were with their dogs, which made me miss my little buddy even more.

Or maybe it's because I've got a lot of stuff going on now, things I haven't been blogging about but find very stressful. In any case, the hike was a trudge, a slog, a put-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other-and-get-it-done march. It was on the trail that I decided this blog has run its course. Thanks to all who read along, posted comments or e-mailed me. I've appreciated you sailing along, but now it's time to disembark. Take care.


Dr. Virago said...

Those are *fantastic* pictures. What a gorgeous day that was. It's too bad you didn't enjoy it -- though I totally understand why -- because from the pictures it looks like the perfect hike to end your series of hikes (and with which to end your blog).

I also understand why you're ending the blog. I think the kibosh on work blogging limited you too much, and now with Wiley's passing and winter coming, it makes perfect sense. You'll be missed in the blogosphere, though. I'll still keep you linked on my blogroll so people can click and explore your old posts.

Bullock and I have been thinking of you and worrying about how you're doing. Feel free to call or write whenever you need company, virtual or more immediate.

K said...

I'll miss you, Pastry Pirate. I've enjoyed your posts. Take care of yourself.


Jon said...

Sorry, I am the random know it all. I have been reading the blog for sometime and will miss it. Good luck in your future endeavors.

Bitey said...

Hi there. I've never commented here before, but I've been reading you for a long time--since Cookin' School. I got to you through Dr. Virago's blog, and I've really enjoyed your writing and your photos. I'm sorry you'll be leaving, but I'll hope to encounter your writing again sometime. :-) Happy sailing!

LilyT said...

Pastry Pirate, I've really really enjoyed reading about your adventures and opinions. I just pulled a couple of allnighters to read your stuff from cookin' school (and I was so bummed to find out that there was stuff I will never get a chance to read due to officious censorship!) Your tribute to Wiley brought tears to my eyes. You will be sorely missed by many of us out here who never spoke up before. I hope that you might choose to tell some of us your real name so that we may following your writings in real life. Thank you for sharing with us. Have a great life :-)

Sleepingbanshee said...

Oh noes! Although I can't say I blame you. I'll see you via e-mail.

tommy said...

Say it ain't so, Pirate!

I understand, though. Really, I do. There are times when blogging, like hiking, isn't fun, at least not in the water skiing, sky diving, roller coaster sense of the word. Sometimes you just have to drop something that no longer gives you what you need (while I'm still an avid hiker, I gave up mountaineering when I came to the conclusion that waking up in the freezing cold at 2:00 am only to drag myself up a mountain through pitch dark in abject terror of unseen crevasses was no longer doing it for me; all this after I'd lost two friends to climbing accidents... believe me, I understand). Lord knows there've been long stretches when I couldn't be bothered to post on my own blog.

This may sound a bit presumptuous, but I can only hope somewhere down the road a new dog, or a new human, or some new circumstance will re-ignite your desire to communicate with us again in this very public medium. And I know I'm not alone in that sentiment. In the meantime, do what makes you happy, and please feel free to keep in touch. As always, your comments, the snarkier the better, are appreciated over at Macerating Shallots (I could use some of yours as well, Jon!).

It's been fun. Good luck to you. Be well.

Laura said...

now what am I supposed to do at work?


love you pastry pirate.

Nina said...

Just wanted to let you know that I miss your blog... and make ginger syrup for dark & stormies all the time, thanks to your post.
Take care.

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women leather coat said...

Hi there. I've never commented here before, but I've been reading you for a long time--since Cookin' School. I got to you through Dr. Virago's blog, and I've really enjoyed your writing and your photos. I'm sorry you'll be leaving, but I'll hope to encounter your writing again sometime. :-) Happy sailing!

Michael said...

Wiley continues in the blogosphere...thanks. Even years on, your writing has been a joy to read...I came here,backwards in time, from Antarctica, and now internet tangents abound, I.e. wombats (!)