Portland Trip: Day 15 – Grand Tetons to Denver

September 6, 2014

Immediately on exiting the park I made a wrong turn. On the map, it looked to me like I needed to make a right and within a few miles I’d make a left. Clearly, I was deranged. I stopped at one of the many scenic pullouts for a picture and to ask which way to US 287. A biker had come from where I was headed, but he was unable to tell me where to go. He was from St. Louis, and he was so enthralled by the mountains he didn’t really know where he was or where he was headed.

I got my navigation straightened out. Here, US 287 and US 26 are conjoined, By now, US 26 was an old friend. And, in theory, I could take US 287 to within a few miles of my house. The road in the first 30 miles or so east of the Tetons is quite interesting and scenic. But we are in Wyoming, where most of the interesting bits are on the borders. The terrain quickly transitions to high desert.

The speed limits in Wyoming are a bit higher than in Idaho, but I didn’t really want to chance another ticket so I kept to my 5-8 mph over the limit strategy. Soon a big diesel pickup towing a Wells Cargo trailer passed me, so I sped up and followed him at a respectful distance. We made good time until a construction zone where they were essentially rebuilding the road. I was at the end of a line where we waited for a pilot car. A few miles later we arrived at the junction where US 287 headed south and US 26 continued east. Obviously, I’d be in Riverton well before dark and wouldn’t be stopping there. So the argument could be made that I should have followed 287 to Lander. But the pickup stayed on 26 and I followed him.

I stopped for an early dinner at the Arby’s in Riverton. There was a high school girls athletic team still ordering, so I had a long wait. That’s okay, it was time to figure out my navigation. I didn’t want to backtrack to Lander and didn’t want to follow US 26 to Casper and I-25. So I brought the atlas in from the car. That led to a conversation with a farmer from South Dakota. The unfortunate fellow was in Riverton with his wife when she had to go to the hospital. That left him in Riverton with a few days to kill. We talked about a number of things, but I was curious what he planted, how he decided what to plant, and so on. He has corn and beans now, and rotates his crops with peas or whatever the canner will give him a good price for.

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Seismic Crew Ahead

I decided WY 135 was the way to go. Fuel was the next stop after food, and at the gas station I talked with a local. I asked him if WY 135 was a good road. He said yes, and directed me: right at end of Main St., go across the bridge, make a left turn at the green sign, keep to the right at the junction with WY 136. At the junction with US 287 there’s a rest stop. His directions were spot on, and it was as good a road as he said. It was well travelled but not crowded and passed through some interesting landscapes.

After a few minutes at the rest stop, I continued east and south on US 287. I went slightly under speed limit until a faster guy came along. I tried to keep a good distance from him, a quarter mile or so. We made good time. After a while another car came up from behind, going about five miles per hour faster than me. She wouldn’t pass until I slowed down to about 60, then she sped up to 75 again. Now I’ve lost my pace truck, so I went back to slightly under the limit. To the east, several thunderstorms were in progress, maybe 20 miles away this way, perhaps 25 that way. Not real active, but throwing a nice lightning bolt every few minutes.

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I soon caught up to the last car to pass me. She had caught a truck and was unwilling to pass. I passed them both, and she followed me past the truck. I knew she’d be on my tail for a while as she wanted to go faster but seemed to have difficulty passing people. Luckily I caught another truck and managed to peel her off. The car is so low, tailgaters are particularly annoying after dark.

I arrived in Rawlins not long after dark. I was not tired at all. The drive has been pleasant, interesting to watch, and with little traffic. I won’t stop for the night here and head to Laramie where I’ll again decide whether to stop or continue.

It’s I-80 from Rawlins to Laramie. Now that it’s dark, I don’t mind the interstate so much. I know there’s not much to see, and I already saw it two weeks ago. I find night driving less tiring on the super slab than on two lane roads. There were two 10 mile stretches of construction where we were down to one lane, but otherwise easy. Those stretches were tough, though, as the pavement was so dark as to be invisible.

At Laramie I was still feeling great. I grabbed some munchies to eat while I drive, which I generally don’t do. I could have taken US 287 south to Ft. Collins but decided to stay on I-80. I didn’t want to drive any two lane road at night and if I got tired, there was no place to stop. (Don’t confuse me with the facts that 287 is four lanes much of the way).

Staying on I-80, my next decision point was Cheyenne. There were two more construction zones between Laramie and Cheyenne, also quite black. I was still going strong at Cheyenne, so I kept going. Next stop: home. Sitting on the beach at Leigh Lake, I had guessed that I could be home by midnight if I left the park by two. That turned out to be a pretty danged good guess. I pulled into my driveway at 12:06.

The whole trip was fantastic. I had one day where the weather interfered, but I can’t really complain about one bad day in a two week trip. This will be a hard trip to top. I drove a bit over four thousand miles, had a fantastic time for three days on the Deschutes River, enjoyed the challenge of learning three race tracks in four days, made three very interesting hikes, and even managed to get in a few days at the office.

Next I’ll put together three time lapse videos and at least one video from each track day. I hope to get all this done and posted by next weekend.

Wow. What a blast.

Portland Trip: Day 15 – Grand Tetons

September 6, 2014

As has been standard operating procedure on this trip, I was up early, had breakfast at the motel, and got a sandwich to carry for lunch. I fueled up and was on the road, Idaho route 33, by seven. The first notable terrain feature is the sight of the Grand Tetons from the west side, near Driggs. The range as a whole looks like a giant set of teeth, and one of them looks like a giant shark’s fin. I probably should have stopped and tried to get a picture, but I was looking pretty much directly into the sun so I didn’t figure I’d get one to come out.

ID 33 continues south from Driggs before turning southeast to the foot of Teton pass. Now in Wyoming, the route is designated WY 22, but it’s the same road. This is easily the steepest pass of my trip, and one of the steepest passes I’ve ever crossed. It’s a 10% grade both sides, with many hairpin turns. At the foot of the pass on the eastern side, we cross the Snake River, circle East Gros Ventre Butte, rejoin our old friend US 26 and wind through Jackson, Wyoming.

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Rolling north towards the park, Jackson Hole Airport is on the left. I missed the Fed’s Economic Policy Symposium at Jackson by a couple weeks, but there’s no shortage of expensive hardware operating here. A sleek Gulfstream was landing as I drove past.

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After entering the park (and crossing the Snake again), I stopped at the visitor center. I had been asking for hiking recommendations for some time. One suggestion was Phelps Lake, but I ended up deciding on starting at String Lake and going north past Leigh Lake and Bearpaw Lake to Trapper Lake. I found an idle ranger standing by a large map.

“Any reports of bear activity on the trail to Trapper Lake?”

“I’ve never seen a bear there.”

“Do you suppose I’ll be able to find somebody to hike with at the trailhead?”

“Who knows? Take your bear spray, make lots of noise, sing. If you’re a bad singer, all the better.”

That wasn’t very helpful. He’s never seen a bear there, but is that never on three hikes or never on thirty hikes? As it turns out, that’s a very heavily travelled trail. I don’t think I went 5 minutes without seeing other hikers, and that was before the trail got crowded. By the time I headed back to the car it was pretty much a conga-line hike.

The weather was gorgeous – a clear, cloudless day, calm and not too warm. The trail runs south to north along the shores of String Lake and Leigh Lake, so there’s no vertical component to speak of. I did take one of the trails that head up the valleys to the west hoping to get to an overlook but turned around before long without success. As I got toward the northern end of Leigh Lake I decided to go no further. The views were going from awesome to somewhat less awesome the farther north I went.

The sky was still cloudless but I set up the GoPro anyway. An occasional wisp would form over Mt. St. John and Grand Teton, but they disappeared very quickly. I hung out on the beach here for forty minutes or so, ate my lunch (the sandwich squashed, now resembling flatbread) and watched the boaters and kayakers on the lake.

My original plan was to hang out here most of the day, then head to a motel in Riverton for an easy day’s drive home tomorrow. Sitting on the beach I started pondering my options. If I left by two, I could probably be home by midnight. Or, I could drive through Yellowstone and see the sights. Having lounged by Leigh Lake for a sufficient time, I headed back toward the car.

Back near the parking lot, where there’s a nice view to the southwest, cloud action had improved over Grand Teton. I decided to sit there for another spell and got both cameras running. Here the trail was about fifteen feet from the shore of String Lake. The SLR clicking off a shot every two seconds caught the attention of most passersby, so I chatted with quite a few hikers. One was a wildlife photographer who had recently retired. We discussed 500mm lenses and I explained my process for shooting time lapse.

Several mentioned that the road to Old Faithful is closed and the traffic in Yellowstone is very bad. I mentally crossed off one of my options. I was wearing my Broncos cap, so another topic of conversation with folks was football. A Seahawks fan gave me grief, and a 49ers fan vowed that the Seahawks wouldn’t win their division. Even with letting the cameras run a good, long time I ended up back at the car a few minutes after two. Having eliminated Yellowstone as an option, I headed toward Riverton.

Portland Trip: Day 14 – Kennewick to Rexburg

September 5, 2014

My preferred breakfast is a bagel and some fresh fruit. This sort of fare is generally available in the “continental breakfast” included in many hotels and motels. Unfortunately, on this trip it has never been available. The motels I’ve been staying in have offered waffles and cereal. This morning they had sausage gravy and biscuits which I found acceptable.

According to Google, my route today would be eleven hours of driving. Add breaks for food and fuel and I could expect to be on the road for more like thirteen hours. Even more, if I found some interesting diversion. With that in mind, I was packed up and out the door shortly before seven.

A few minutes later I crossed the Columbia for the sixth time on this trip. Soon after crossing the Columbia, I cross the Snake just above where it joins the Columbia. My first crossing of the Snake was back on day 1 in Blackfoot, ID. I will cross it a few more times in the next couple of days.

I headed east on US 12 a few miles until I turned east on WA 124. I could have stayed on US 12 but WA 124 meets up with it later, cuts a few miles off and skips a trip through Walla Walla. Being a state route, it should also carry less traffic. This trip has certainly increased my appreciation for the road less traveled. It passes through farmland to start – corn, alfalfa, grape vineyards, and apple orchards. As we climb out of the valley the terrain turns to straw colored rolling hills.

I regain US 12 in Waitsburg and continue east. I find myself back on the Lewis and Clark Trail, which I will follow on US 12 for most of the day. The road is fairly pleasant through this part of Washington. Not heavily traveled, not too straight, not very twisty, with enough change in scenery to remain interesting. I refueled in Clarkston (WA), then crossed the Snake again into Lewiston (ID). I missed a turn here, seeing the route marker too late to change lanes. The road essentially does a 360.

For the first time today I found myself in traffic. Exiting Lewiston, the road crosses the Clearwater River, which US 12 follows to the top of Lolo Pass. That’s not entirely true – the road runs along the Lochsa River the last several miles up to the pass; the Lochsa and Selway Rivers join to form the Middle Fork Clearwater River. Anyway, there’s a fair amount of traffic for a while, but it cleared up gradually while at the same time the canyon become more scenic. The Clearwater River is aptly named – clear water flows through a broad, shallow watercourse with few rapids.

Thinking it’s about time for a break, I grab for my water bottle. It’s lighter than I expected. My backpack, sitting in the passenger seat, is damp. Not a good sign. I almost immediately arrive at the Fish Creek river access and pull over. The passenger seat is soaked so I unpack it and move the car so the seat is in the sun. I didn’t really mean to take an extended break, but so it goes. I rested there for about an hour.

I went down to the river and watched a couple of fly fishermen for a while. Back at the car to see how things are drying out, three motorcycles arrive, one with a passenger. I’m checking my stuff as they pull in. I’m not watching them but hear them get closer. Then there’s a nasty grinding noise. The rider with passenger dropped his bike. She’s sprawled face down, luckily not under the bike. It takes 3 of us to set the bike up. She’s okay, walks it off (with a limp). The bike is a bit scratched up now, but no serious damage.

We chat for a while. The three guys are all 72 years old. One has a pretty thick New York accent. I say “It doesn’t sound like you’re from these parts.” He lives in Reno; his friends call him New York George. “Twenty seven years in Reno, when are you gonna let me in the club?” They ask about my trip, I tell them. New York George tells of his friend currently riding across Russia, westbound from Vladivostok. He’s with a friend, a former Secret Service agent and they’re a month and a half into their planned three month trip. His friend’s previous trip was from Alaska to Patagonia. It sounds to me like a great way to spend retirement.

As they leave, a solo rider arrives. I didn’t get his name, I’ll call him Hank. We talk a bit about fun roads in the area. He recommends the Greer Grade. I’m not sure if I’ll be back in this area in the Lotus, but it doesn’t hurt to take notes. He also recommended a restaurant about ten miles this side of Lolo summit – the Lochsa Lodge. He leaves before I do, but I tell him if he’s still there when I arrive we’ll chat some more.

All trip I’ve been very good about not going more than 5-8 miles per hour over the limit. Here, I was idling along in sixth gear with a posted limit of 50. I found myself at 57 for a while, but it would creep up to 62 and I’d slow back down. I’ll blame it on subtle changes in the grade. I kept doing this, unable to keep to 58. I passed an SUV, then a semi. Around another bend I see I’m catching up to another SUV, who immediately pulls aside. I’m thinking “nice guy, getting out of my way like that.” Until I saw that it’s a State Trooper.

IMG_7453sHe pulled me over and cited me for 63 in a 50 zone. He said he always writes anything eight and over. “I have no doubt your car would easily do eighty, but you never know what’s around the next corner. Could be a truck, could be a moose.”

What I didn’t know until later was that the speed limit on the Montana side is 70, except for the steepest first mile where it is 60. The road is fundamentally the same – the curves are about the same radii, the grade is pretty much the same. If it’s safe to go 70 there, it’s safe to go 70 here. And if it’s safe to go 70, it’s safe to go 63.

I found the Lochsa Lodge, It was a very pleasant day, so I headed for the outside seating. Hank was there in a shady corner, just finishing his lunch. I sat with him and ordered lunch and a tasty local beer. The first topic of conversation was my ticket. He said he went 75 and was passed by other bikes with no sign of cops. He passed westbound bikes but none gave him any warning signal.

We talked about forest fires. Some of his favorite rides have had significant fires the last few years. We exchanged stories of the various desolate routes we’ve taken. He told me about riding with his wife, getting caught in a cold rain, nearly out of gas on a deserted highway in Nevada. I told him about the hundreds of shoes hanging on a chain link fence around a deserted gas station fifty miles from nowhere in the California desert east of Joshua Tree.

Back on the road my first stop was almost immediate: Lolo Pass. It was crossed by Lewis and Clark westbound in September of 1805 and again eastbound in June of 1806. There is much debate about the name. Some insist it is Nez Perce for “muddy water” while others believe it is a Flathead version of “Lawrence”. Those with no imagination say it’s just “low-low” because the traverse is low. But I’ve also heard that it’s a mistranscription of Lieutenant G. K. Warren’s map from 1857. There, it’s actually “LoCo”.

IMG_7457sAfter the summit of Lolo pass it was down the eastern side to Lolo, MT, my next navigation point and pit stop. A good sized area on the north side of the highway was burned. It looked fairly recent to me, perhaps in the last year or two I thought. Then I came across two houses being rebuilt, so it was probably quite recent. Near Lolo there are other burn scars, perhaps 5 or 10 years old. I gassed up and headed south on US 93.

US 93 goes over Lost Trail Pass, back into Idaho for me. Lost Trail doesn’t cross the Continental Divide, which is just a few hundred feed to the west. Although we’re no longer on US 12, we are still on the Lewis and Clark trail. They crossed Lost Trail pass from south to north, entering the Bitterroot valley. I found it a much more enjoyable drive than Lolo pass; it’s steeper and has sharper turns. But like Lolo, it was more fun in Montana than Idaho. As soon as you crest the pass, the speed limit drops significantly. Back in Idaho I kept an eagle eye on the speedometer.

The road flattens and straightens towards Salmon. I had a light dinner at Bertram’s Brewery. I also had a momentary confusion as to the time. I thought it was seven but my phone said eight. I hadn’t realized I’d returned to Mountain time. Heading back to the car I see I was parked 3 spots away from a nice looking Austin Healy. The owners walked up just as I was about to start up. “Is that a Lotus?” “Yes” “What year?” “’06. What year’s yours?” “66. Austin Healy”

Here in Salmon I quit US 93 and head south on ID 28, just after sunset. I pulled off the road for a quick second at a commercial driveway in the middle of nowhere. Over the idling of the car I could hear coyotes.

This was the only part of the trip where I doubted my navigation. I only used the phone’s navigation for finding addresses, not general route finding. Each morning I took notes from the atlas. I rarely noted the distance between points unless it was quite far. For some reason, I was thinking it was only another hour and a half to Rexburg when in fact it was two and a half.

I was quite sleepy as I had trouble falling asleep the night before, which didn’t help with my miscalculation on the timing. On the positive side, I figure I didn’t miss much scenery as the road is dead straight most of the time. Early on, I saw one sign for Rexburg but it wasn’t listed on the next three or four distance signs. I was expecting to junction with ID 33 by 9:30 but was still looking for it at 10:30. By then I was sure I’d missed it. There was no sign of civilization other than the faint glimmer of Idaho Falls over the horizon. I knew I had to be close, as I was seeing signs for INR like I did on US 20 near EBR-I on day 1. Turns out there was no way to miss the junction with ID 33 as it’s a T-intersection. I made the left turn and the next sign tells me it’s 32 miles to Rexburg.

As I pulled in to the motel parking lot, the low fuel indicator lights up.

Almost all of today’s drive was along the Lewis and Clark trail. Parts are Nez Perce trail as well.

Portland Trip: Days 11-13 – Work

September 2-4, 2014

This is not a work blog. We don’t talk about work here.

I will note that this was my first trip to Portland where I didn’t go downtown to Powell’s City of Books. I did have a couple pints of Ruby at John Barleycorn’s one evening and a nice sturgeon dinner at Five Spice the next.

Thursday evening I hit the road right after work. It took me an hour to get through rush hour traffic and onto I-84. My plan was to get to Richland, WA. I needed to get as far down the road as possible, as the following day I wanted to make it to Rexburg, ID, without spending the day on boring interstate highways.

The drive on I-84 through the Columbia Gorge is quite scenic for an interstate. Earlier in the trip, I went west on the highway on the other side of the river. I think the trip on I-84 is perhaps prettier than that one. As I drove, I kept an eye out for someplace to have dinner. I saw a sign for a brewery in Hood River and got off the highway there. I circled the central business district a couple of times but didn’t see the place and nothing else jumped out and grabbed my attention. I ended up eating at Wendy’s in the Dalles as the sun set. After fueling up I returned to the highway. Now that it was dark, scenery was in short supply. The only notable sight was the John Day dam lit up in red, white, and blue lights. Other drives on this trip ended as darkness fell. Not so today, as I spent two more hours on the road before I stopped at a motel in Kennewick, WA.

Portland Trip: Day 10 – Mt. Hood

September 1, 2014

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Mt. Hood

My normal routine for hiking is to hit the road early and take a bagel with me for breakfast at the trailhead. Today I waited for the Café to open and have a hearty breakfast – eggs, hash browns, bacon, sourdough toast – and get a sack lunch made. I thanked Mark for all his hospitality and bid him adieu.

I think there’s only one gas station in Maupin and when I pulled in I don’t see any premium. “Looking for the good stuff?” asked the proprietor. The premium is the same as fuel at ORP, 92 octane with no ethanol. And like at the track, it’s pumped from an above ground tank. As has become routine, I answered questions about the car.

IMG_6073sFrom Maupin to Timberline Lodge I retrace my steps from day before yesterday. The morning was bright and cloudless and afforded beautiful views of Mt. Hood. It looked to be another wonderful day, much in contrast to my Mt. St. Helens hike.

Once on the trail, I couldn’t help but notice that they mark trails here differently than in RMNP. The signs indicate which trail (by trail number) you’re following rather than telling the hiker what the trail’s destination is. That caused me a bit of confusion. I knew I wanted to go to Paradise Park, but I wasn’t sure what trail led me there. I was fairly certain I needed to take the Pacific Crest Trail but I had a nagging doubt. I soon caught up to another hiker who said he was going to Paradise Park as well. I was happy to have confirmation that I was headed the right direction.

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Mt. Hood from Timberline Lodge

The hike starts at Timberline Lodge, passing under the ski lifts. There were quite a few people in the parking lot with skis or snowboards but I only saw a few actually on the lift. I put boots on the trail at 9:30. It was still quite cool, I wore both a windbreaker and a hoodie. With the sun shining brightly, it wasn’t long before I shed one then the other. The first section of trail had nice views of Hood and Jefferson, but otherwise there’s not much to see. The trail contours around the mountain clockwise, through some scraggly trees, under the chair lifts, and past a communication tower before entering the forest proper.

For the most part, the trail was generally sandy. There were very few big roots and not many rocks except near the lodge. It was easy to maintain a good stride and I moved efficiently. More about this later.

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Mt. Jefferson, over Timberline Lodge

The next notable terrain feature I come to is a V-shaped ravine carved by a small creek. There’s no bridge here. In RMNP I’d expect a couple of logs, at least. But the soil is very sandy and looks like it erodes quite easily. I suppose any sort of minor bridge here would just have its ends undermined in a short time, rendering such a bridge impractical. Not a big deal, it was very easy to cross.

Zigzag Canyon overlook was next. That previous ravine was a miniature version of Zigzag Canyon. (Looking at the USGS topo map, I think it was Little Zigzag Canyon) Here the trail drops about 400’ to the river, then gains most of that back. The summit of Mt. Hood is nicely visible here. The hike down to the river is very lush. The stream itself (Zigzag River?) is much larger than previous stream but nearly as easy to cross. Again, there’s no bridge.

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Zigzag Canyon

The trail climbs consistently from here to the Paradise Park trail junction, then climbs some more. Forest alternates with open meadows filled with daisy-like purple wildflowers. Up close, the ground looks mostly purple, but from a distance these meadows look green. Bees were everywhere. There must be millions of bees – my guess without thinking was 100,000 bees per acre. Every square yard had several bees.

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Wildflower and bee

I soon found myself in a nice meadow with an unobstructed view of the summit. I’m used to hiking where there are lots of rocks and downed trees. Nothing like that here, the meadow was just grass and wildflowers with a trail running through it. So there was no convenient place to set the GoPro. The SLR wasn’t a problem because the tripod was taller than the flora, but the GoPro only sits a few inches off the ground. So I just set the cameras up in the shorter grass along the trail. This was a little spur trail, so not as much traffic as the main trail.

IMG_6095sI let the cameras run for nearly an hour. Although the sky was clear when I set out from Timberline Lodge, some nice clouds were sweeping past the summit. At times it seemed like the clouds were coming out of the mountain itself, which is fitting for a volcano. For most of my hikes in RMNP, I’m at secluded lakes and nobody is around. While I was shooting, a couple of hikers came by. The SLR clicking off every two seconds turns out to be quite the conversation starter.

I got back to the main trail and decided to do the loop rather than return the way I arrived. I met a couple of girls from Laramie and we each took the others’ pictures for them. They were doing the loop, too. I paused to refill water from a nice stream and they left my sight. I tried to follow the trail but kept getting into camp sites, except once at a dead-end overlooking a waterfall. I retraced my steps a couple of times (generally straight up the slope) and ended up going back the way I came.

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Wildflower and bee

After a while I came to two women who were standing next to a trail marker, consulting a map. I told them what I wanted to do and one pointed to a narrow trail heading straight down slope. “That’s the Paradise Park Loop trail”. So I headed that way. After a while it intersected the Pacific Crest Trail and turned left. At another overlook I met a couple who were trying to get to Ramona Falls. They said they went a little farther along the route I was taking but turned around because it got steep. I wonder where they came from then?

I continued and after a fair amount of descent came to the trail junction I’d been at earlier. I was happy to now be on familiar ground. Just a bit more descent to the Zigzag River, then the climb out of the canyon. It took me quite a while longer to ascend than to descend earlier in the day. I kept thinking the ordeal would be over as from the overlook back to the lodge was mostly slight up and down, or at least that’s how I remembered it. Perhaps part of the reason I was moving so efficiently in the morning was that the trail was slightly downhill. To my chagrin in the afternoon, I realized it’s pretty much uphill all the way from the Zigzag overlook to the lodge. I was really feeling it by the end. But once I saw the communications tower, my spirits and my pace picked up.

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Crossing the Zigzag

I didn’t see any wildlife bigger than a squirrel and no interesting birds (e.g. raptors). Not many birds at all. Just lots of bees. The weather was beautiful all day. No clouds visible when I hit the trail, one bank lying behind the mountain from my vantage, just higher than the shoulder of the mountain. By the time I got the cameras running, thin clouds were shrouding the peak. Moving fairly quickly, never really obscuring it until I was done.

One thing that I think made the hike harder than I’m used to is the humidity. I perspired quite a bit, but it didn’t evaporate, so no cooling effect. Elevation was certainly no problem, trailhead starts at about 5800′. Paradise Park is about the same. From the topo map it looks like there’s a total of 1,000’ of elevation change.

After the hike, I had to drive to Tigard for three days in the office. I don’t have much to say about the drive. Most of it was US 26, a repeat (in the opposite direction) of a few days before. This being the Monday of a holiday weekend, however, traffic was bad. The first few miles were at a crawl. Luckily that didn’t last long and I was in Tigard for dinner.

Portland Trip: Day 9 – Oregon Raceway Park

August 31, 2014

I had a lazy start to the day, not being on any specific schedule. It’s only about a half hour drive to the track from Maupin. I ate breakfast at the Café and ordered a sack lunch to go. I was on the way to the track by 8. The route to Grass Valley took me down the Deschutes River access road and then on to OR 216.

IMG_6054sAt the track, they knew my name when I walked in the door. We had exchanged emails over recent weeks, so I was more or less expected. This being an ORP club day, I couldn’t run unless I bought a trial membership or somebody gave me a guest pass. I don’t know who gave me the guest pass, but it was much appreciated.

“We’re running counter clockwise this morning.” I thought I was somewhat prepared, having watched Travis’s videos online. He ran clockwise, though, so my preparation was all for naught. They offered to give me a ride in their Crown Vic for a couple of orientation laps, which was a big help. I also noted that they said they were running counter clockwise “this morning”, which implied to me that we might change directions after lunch.

IMG_6060sThere were only ten cars there – two Porsches, a BMW M3, a 1974 Pinto, two Acuras, an Audi TT, a Mustang Boss 302, a BRZ, and me. We could run as much or as little as we liked, there being no groups and no sessions. And with only ten of us there, I often felt like I had the track to myself.

I think the track designer is a sadist. The track is diabolical. It has over 400’ of elevation change and no straightaways. Every turn is either off camber, unsighted over a crest, or at the bottom of a dip. Two sections act as straights, but I never really figured them out completely. Their signature series of turns is called the Half Pipe.

IMG_6061sI managed to run three sessions in morning, counter clockwise. Just before lunch they surveyed everybody: “Continue counter clockwise, or switch?” I abstained. I would be happy to continue to learn the track in this direction, just as I’d be happy to start the learning curve all over and run clockwise. At lunch I learned we were switching. I managed three more sessions in the afternoon, clockwise.

I had a couple of minor technical glitches. My lap timer didn’t work first two afternoon sessions. When I start it, I have the option of selecting the track or letting it auto-detect. I’ve always selected it. My first two clockwise sessions it managed to fail to detect the start/finish line. For my third session let it auto-detect and it worked just fine. For my last session, I took the top off and put the camera in my favorite place. I had a fantastic time, felt like I was finally starting to figure out the track. When I got back to the paddock I saw that I neglected to turn the camera on. So it goes.

IMG_6063sThe track not as slick as PIR, but I was sideways through half the turns all day. I braked too late and missed apexes by a mile. I figured corner workers would be saying something like “that Lotus driver can hardly keep it on the track.” When I paid (here you pay at the end of the day, not the beginning) I asked what the corner workers were saying about me. They told me they enjoyed the show. That was a bit of an ego stroke, but a good driver would have figured out the track quicker and hit the apexes without drama. I had a blast, though, which is what counts most for me. I managed to run a 2:09 counter clockwise and a 2:08 clockwise.

They fed us lunch – chicken, pasta salad, watermelon, and a dessert treat – so I had my sack lunch for dinner. I headed back toward Maupin and pulled into a campground where a stream enters the Deschutes. The stream was carrying a lot of sediment from storms up river. The Deschutes was running clean and clear above the stream. I found it interesting that when the mocha colored stream entered the Deschutes, it turned the water green.

When I pulled into the parking area I drew a crowd. I answered questions about the car and we chatted about motorsports. They kindly invited me to sit with them while I ate. “Do you want a beer, or are you going to keep drinking that water?”

Returned to Maupin to have a beer with Mark. I said I was headed to the Best Western at Government Camp, but he insisted I stay here again. Who am I to argue?

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Portland Trip: Day 8 – Mt. St. Helens

August 30, 2014

For much of this trip I’ve been awake before the alarm. Today was no exception. I was out of the hotel by 6:30. There’s a Subway next to the motel, so I got a sandwich to carry with me for lunch. The drive to Johnston Ridge Observatory (JRO) takes me up I-5 for a short distance, then eastbound on WA 504. I arrived at JRO by 8 and was on the trail by 8:10. Although the forecast was for a sunny and warm day, I couldn’t see the mountain which was well obscured by rain clouds. I was the only one there.

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Not far up the trail it started raining lightly. After a while it the rain was coming down hard enough to get out the poncho. Of course, once I had the poncho on, it stopped. But not for long. Once the rain returned, it got progressively worse and worse. By 9:45 I decided this wasn’t any fun so I turned around. On the way back, the clouds were a bit lighter, but still raining.

I thought the terrain was interesting. For the most part, there is no sign this was ever forest. But in one place on the back side of the ridge, there are tree stumps a few inches tall and some large deadfall, all pointing exactly away from where I assume the mountain is. The ground in places is covered with something not quite like moss, not quite like lichen. There is little ground cover otherwise. There are wildflowers in places, and shrubs in the gullies that coated me with water when the trail passed through them.

IMG_6037sThe trail is free of roots (for obvious reasons) and mostly free of rocks, making the hiking easy. Along the trail are large posts, taller and bigger than signposts and without signs. I thought they were a bit odd, but didn’t pay them much attention until on my way back. Because there is little ground cover, if visibility is degraded it can be difficult to follow the trail. I found the posts very helpful in the near fog conditions on the way back.

This hike is the “No Fun Trifecta”: cold, wet, and miserable.

Back at JRO, I went inside to watch one of their movies and check out the exhibits. At the end of the movie, they open large curtains revealing a wall of windows, presumably facing the mountain. Everybody went “oooh” but it would have been better had it been clear and the volcano was actually visible. No food or drink allowed inside, so I drove down to the Elk Rock overlook and ate lunch at 12:30.

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Rumor has it there’s a volcano around here

I stopped at another viewpoint a little farther down. You get a nice view of a large bridge but it wasn’t as scenic as I’d hoped. Beside the sign with the description of the bridge were other signs detailing how Weyerhauser had planted trees here, how big their investment was, and when each section would be harvested. I’m in the middle of a giant tree farm.

IMG_6048sI shouldn’t complain too much about the weather. This is the first day it was unsuitable for my activities. The silver lining in this cloud is that I was able to take my time on the way back to Maupin, where Mark kindly put me up for the night. He’s only a short distance from Oregon Raceway Park, my next destination.

The route took me south on I-5 and I-205 to Portland where I headed west on I-84. I exited I-84 on suburban streets that eventually lead me to US 26 where I refueled. This route let me scout the location of the trailhead for the Mt. Hood hike, which is planned for two days hence.

At Government Camp, I pulled over to make a phone call. A couple guys pull up and wait for me to finish. The driver gets out, all excited to see the car, particularly in these colors as he’s wearing Oregon gear. He says his 2 year old daughter loves Elises and he wants to get a picture of her in front of it. She couldn’t care less, but he’s pretty psyched.

By now I needed a rest stop and luckily there was one nearby. It’s still a bit on the chilly side and overcast. There I chatted with a guy riding a classic BMW motorcycle, mid-70’s. He’s trying to get warm and not having much luck.

Back on the road, I find OR 216 shortly after I pass the turnoff for Timberline Lodge and head east. It runs a pretty straight route, through pleasant pine forest before transitioning to high desert. Pretty quickly I arrive at Mark’s, it’s only 5:30. At the Café I dined on a bacon cheeseburger and a blackberry shake, which is strictly against my low sugar diet but much enjoyed. Afterwards, I visited with Mark over a couple beers.