Author Archives: ghsmith76
The Lost Coast Trail has become my early season getaway, but the year since Conquering the Lost Coast Trail in 2020 fueled a highly anticipated return. Permits for the LCT have become more coveted so you select your permit far in advance and hope for the best. This year’s permit was for February 18-22 and the weather appeared to be acceptable, however, rain was in the equation. We decided to do a Yoyo down and back from Mattole to avoid the brutal shuttle road over to Shelter Cove. I had my normal concerns about my now 66 year old body, but I also was highly interested in how my new exercise routine, Supernatural on Oculus, might enhance my backpacking experience.
This year Bryce and I welcomed Jeff, an experienced Wilderness Recreation Professional, to join us and the 2021 Trekking season was launched complete with Rainier Jubilee Beer. I do believe Jeff thanked me for the invite more than 100 times throughout the trek. We arrived at Mattole Trailhead at dusk on the 17th and found a spot to camp on the beach. Thursday was known to have rain in the forecast so we were grateful for every hour we got before it hit.
Low tide would occur around the middle of the day making for great flexibility, but the weather would dictate our progress. The Elephant Seals were strewn across the Punta Gorda Lighthouse stretch but they rarely emerged from their slumber. I’ll use the video below to document the Seals.
We were not making great time once we got on the trail, I think we knew that the weather was not going to cooperate to allow us to venture past the first tidal zone, so we enjoyed a leisurely stroll. It started raining around 2 pm and the wind out of the SW appeared to be an issue so we were looking for a campsite with a wind break. We ended up choosing the green knoll just as you enter into the overland section past Sea Lion Gulch.
We were able to get camp setup as the rain became more significant. By 4pm the rain had forced us into our tents for the remainder of the day and night. We had a significant amount of rain and the accompanying wind made it difficult to keep the moisture at bay. This is when you wish you had downloaded more media options to your phone to fill your time. But the rain began to retreat the following morning allowing us to pack up our wet gear and proceed south.
We were highly encouraged by the sight of blue skies but were were in for a weather mixed day which would include difficult stream crossing thanks to the overnight rain. (Stream Crossing Video later in the Post)
The weather bounced between a windy rain in our face to beautiful sunny breakouts. We were now hiking on the overland trail but needed to return to the beach at about the 5.5 mile mark. This turned out to be a bit precarious due to the recent rain. You have about a 20 foot drop down a steep eroding gully. Bryce ended up in surf slide down complete with a spill at the end, but no injury.
We were optimistic coming out of the tidal zone with beautiful sunbreaks but the weather report warned of another storm.
We wanted to venture past Spanish Flat, maybe down to Big Flat, but the rain and the wind were returning so we concluded that the wind breaks at Spanish Flat would be the better choice. We set up camp and had enough time to hike down to Kinsey Creek.
This was a much better evening since we weren’t forced into our tents until the sun went down, but then we were in for another night of heavier winds with rain. The next morning better weather complete with rainbows offered great motivation for our return north.
The hike back past the tidal zone was just as interesting as the hike in. Rain, wind and sun made for an eventful day. Streams were flowing as high as ever which made for some exciting crossings. (Documented in video below)
We decided we were going to camp somewhere near Mattole this night in preparation to head out from the LCT on Sunday morning.
After getting through the tidal zone the search for an acceptable campsite began. The problem with the stretch around the Punta Gorda Lighthouse is the presence of sea lions and free range cattle. We also were bucking a head wind which we were really hoping to get some shelter from.
Once past the initial tidal zone we were competing with cattle for the only decent campsites. We ended up clearing cow patties so we could camp.
Our final night on the LCT was beautiful and dry. We hiked out the next morning with plans for some frisbee golf, brewpub nourishment and to search for a campground for the the evening.
My third Lost Coast Trail Trek was all that I could have hoped for. Bryce has become a trusted companion and the addition of Jeff was a benefit to all. My old body held up great and I can validate that my Oculus Supernatural exercise paid great dividends for my core and upper body. My knees were a bit sore but what the heck, first hike in 2021 was awesome.
Driving out from Mattole through Petrolia and over to Ferndale was as scenic as ever, complete with spotting the pickup in the tree.
We went on to play a round of Disc Golf in the Redwoods at Humboldt State University. Had an amazing dinner at the Mad River Brewery and got a great campsite at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. However, we should have checked the road conditions, because getting back to Oregon from this location turned out to be quite an adventure with Hwy 101 closed just to the north and then CA 96 closed near Happy Camp. So we ended up having to take CA 299 over to Redding, CA to then drive north via Hwy 5.
Previous Lost Coast Treks:
December of 2015 where I nearly did not survive: I Lost to the Lost Coast
February of 2020 when I returned to conquer the Lost Coast: Conquered the Lost Coast
Historical Posts representing Adventure Continues: Second Quarter
Scientific Frontiers was in the process of closing when I found a note left on our door from my Hewlett-Packard rep mentioning that Union Oil was looking for a computer person for their Parachute Creek Oil Shale operation. This was such a turning point, I was now a computer person, maybe it was time to pursue this technology career. So I got the job, not because of experience but because of potential, or maybe because of flexibility. Few believed that this Oil Shale operation would be around much longer since the area was just coming off “Black Sunday” when Exxon shut down their Colony Oil Shale operation causing an economic disaster for the Western Colorado region. For me it was just another adventure.
Headquarters were in Grand Junction, CO, and the Oil Shale Operation was up the Colorado River on I70 at Parachute, CO. Exxon was in the process of building a city across from Parachute for 50,000 people that was now mostly a ghost town. Some 5000 inhabitants of the area had left so finding a place to live was no problem. We ended up renting a house in Clifton between Palisade and Grand Junction. My job site was in Parachute which required a 40 min drive along a really beautiful section of the Colorado River via Interstate 70. Union Oil’s computer operations were primarily based on IBM mainframes. We had a IBM mini computer on sight but we primarily relied on our 3270 vintage terminals to connect to corporate mainframes. I didn’t have any real experience with this platform but I quickly learned how the game was played. They had just installed their Foxboro process control computers to run the various components of the oil shale process. The Foxboro computer was mini computer with a real time control BASIC language reacting to live feedback from temperature, pressure and flow sensors. They sent me to Foxborough, MA, for a couple of weeks to learn how to program the Foxboro Computer. I then created the alarms that would dictate the parameters for which the operators must stay within. I was in technology heaven programming computers in the Parachute Creek canyon.
This was a time of growing up, buy a house, start a family, all of which is part of the Adventure. Grand Junction was adapting to the Oil Shale boom bust roller coaster, but at the core of this western entrance to the Rockies was still agriculture and outdoor recreation. I am so glad we were able to take advantage of this opportunity to enjoy western Colorado. From the desert to the mountains, there was plenty of Adventure to Continue. The Grand Mesa offered great backcountry skiing with some of the best powder skiing I ever experienced at Powderhorn.
We bought a house almost next to the Colorado River in Palisade from an older couple who taught Connie how to can fruit. Yes Fruit, this area was all about fruit orchards. Palisade was located at the entry to the Colorado River Canyon on the Western slope of the Rocky Mountains. Mt Garfield towered above us in Palisade. It was an awesome experience except for the pain we had to endure from two miscarriages as we tried to start a family.
Pressure was mounting on Union Oil to produce oil from the shale. Our country could not risk a dependance on the middle east so our oil shale operation existed to guarantee fuel for national defense. But would our process work? It was a very ambitious effort to mine shale, heat it in a retort to extract the oil and then move it from the side of the mountain 5 miles down the valley to the upgrade facility before it cooled to paraffin. In the annals of american engineering ingenuity, this was fascinating. I was right in the middle of it on the side of that mountain ready to make adjustments to the Foxboro programming. It didn’t work. It made sense to petroleum engineers, but they should have listened to the mine engineers. The abrasiveness of shale totally defeated the metal screw technology. Once the shale oil is extracted the spent shale expands to be even more abrasive like volcanic pumice. This spent shale was dumped over the side of the mountain after which we discovered that the rain water runoff was extremely carcinogenic and it was flowing to the Colorado River. I spent my remaining time with Union Oil helping to monitor this hazardous runoff that we were trying to capture with many holding ponds all the way down the canyon.
The next adventure would take us back to Steamboat Springs to work for ACZ, Inc.
My mind has moved into 2021 as I start to plan my next adventures. But my body had been struggling with 2020 pandemic workout options.
That is until I discovered the Oculus Quest 2 Virtual Reality Headset. My son-in-law introduced me to it and I knew immediately that I needed to have this technology. The opportunity to immerse yourself is another place such as a good backpacking trek totally justified the purchase. Then I explored some exercise oriented apps and decided to buy a 1 year subscription to SuperNatural.
So this is my short post about how the Oculus 2 Headset has allowed my Adventures to Continue. The YouTube VR Library is growing with some really great 360 videos. Plus there is Oculus TV which gives you many options to travel around the world. But then I explored the exercise option and realized that this VR thing could be the answer to the exercise motivation needed to keep my old body ready for the live adventures. I have never participated in any organized exercise program. I don’t do yoga and I have never joined a health club for exercise. But this SuperNatural App made exercise enjoyable and I have selected a few coaches who I like and my body is truly starting to experience the rewards. The concept of hitting black and white balls coming at you with virtual bats along with squatting under triangle barriers also coming at you is good. I decided to write a post after ending a session where I worked out on the surface of the moon as well as at my favorite backpacking location of Tom, Dick & Henry Mountain. The technique of placing you in a beautiful setting hitting balls and squeezing under virtual tunnels gives your body a complete workout. You can work up a sweat with a good 15 minute session and you definitely have to push yourself to finish the longer sessions. Here is the SuperNatural Promo Video:
This Virtual Reality tech is not entirely new to me. As a CIO in Higher Education I have watched the progression of the VR Technology. In the early days a team of many developers would spend months to develop an immersive experience on the high priced Oculus headset of the day. But now VR’s time has arrived and Facebook’s purchase of Oculus is a part of it. The Headset is relatively affordable now because the money is going to be made off the apps. This is just the next Playstation or XBox. BTW – my right arm is a bit sore from playing so much Table Tennis on the Eleven app.
Update 6 weeks later – still very positive. I have been meeting my goal of working out 4 times a week and I am seeing amazing improvements with strength and flexibility. I don’t worry to much about points, I realize that just doing the workout is a victory. The thing that bugs me the most is when I hit a ball with the wrong colored bat. I think the mental exercise aspect of the workout is as important as the physical. I think the combination of exercising and then getting in the Hot Tub is great for the body. I have always had low back concerns and now I feel so much more confident. I can’t wait to hit the ski slopes or the backpacking trail to enjoy what this old body can do.
Update 12 weeks – still going strong. This article from CNN captures my experience accurately. Tomorrow I head out for a 4 or 5 day trek on the Lost Coast Trail which will be my first opportunity to gauge my fitness progress from Supernatural with the demands of backpacking. Overall my Supernatural journey has been all that I could have imaged from an exercise program, but most of all it provided the motivation to “Just Do It”. I have progressed steadily to harder sessions but have also realized that I need to pace myself. My streak of 11 weeks meeting my goal will end this week.
I have not been in the wilderness since the Stevens Pass to Stehekin trek in August, so this post is mostly about how I followed through on my decision to get a Hot Tub. However, many other factors such as Covid, Massive fires and injuries contributed to why I remained relatively homebound for the rest of the season.
Upon return from the North Cascades I utilized our rotational week in Neskowin to allow my body to recover and to begin my investigation into the procurement of the perfect Hot Tub. I have always appreciated the hot tub experience but I have never really wanted to get my own. But now was the time, justified for therapeutic reasons was a good enough excuse. I started out with basic internet searches to get a feel for product and price. I knew that I wanted a relatively small tub since I did not see many hot tub parties in our future. Just give me a quality 2 or 3 seats with more jets then I would ever need. OK, I knew what I wanted but my inquiries were turning up an unexpected problem, availability. It appeared that our country has invested heavily in home upgrades to survive the pandemic. The Hot Tub business was booming with delivery options 6 to 12 months out. This was discouraging but also motivating, so I started talking with some of the larger Spa dealers around and settled on the purchase of a Dimension One Triad 36 from Spas of Oregon with an ETA about 3 months out. At least I was on the list and now I could focus on site prep.
I had a lot of fun designing where this tub would be located and how I would extend our deck out around it. I needed to put in a cement slab which is a fairly straightforward project guaranteeing some good exercise. The slab required me to dig up the sod in the rectangle area planned for the tub. This meant flat spade shovel work. What I discovered was how difficult it had become for my old body to jump up on this shovel for each initial dig.
This is where the injuries began, first to my left knee from digging then to my right elbow from lifting 60 lb bags of gravel and cement. These injuries were a real pain but they kind of added to the adventure. Next I had to fill this slab frame with cement. This is also when I got the call that my hot tub had come in 2 months early so the slab needed to be prepared ASAP. This is where having a strong son-in-law who was actually intrigued by the prospect of doing a project like this and owned a truck saved my butt. We decided to rent a 2 cu ft mixer to process 34 (60 lb) bags of Sakrete. It was a beautiful day which made for a wonderful family project.
My grandson had a great time watching and having our hand prints in the cement will be lifelong reminder for both of us.
Delivery was scheduled, however, various conflicts ended up having our hot tub installed on a Sunday evening as the sun was going down.
I had coordinated the installation of electricity a few weeks earlier and was very pleased when they were able to fit us in. I was not surprised to hear that hot tub electricity installations were dominating their schedule.
Oh boy, I filled the tub, followed the first time chemical treatment plans and thoroughly enjoyed this new hot tub. The D1 Triad 36 is basically a 2 person tub with a pump per side providing more jet strength then you would ever need. On the lounge side you are basically floating on jets. I believe that I can directly impact every muscle that I would ever want therapy for.
Now comes the fun part, building the deck and installing some low voltage lighting. I had spent many hours envisioning how this tub would be placed and accessed, many of those hours while hiking in the North Cascades. The plans were fine tuned and the building began. Unfortunately the cost of lumber is at an alltime high due to Covid work issues in the logging industry. I went with pressure treated lumber and was lucky to be able to buy what I needed at Lowes.
I will be adding other items to the installation such as a privacy screen and cabinet for towels. But for now the hot tub is in full use overlooking the farm under the open sky.
The overall cost of the project, Tub, Deck, Electricity & lighting will end up costing about $11,000.
This 4 month hiatus from the trail has been a different kind of adventure. Covid restrictions for my grandson’s daycare created the opportunity to watch my grandson two days a week, a priceless experience which has laid a relationship foundation for a lifetime. I was also able to lower my golf handicap from 20 to 16. But I am anxious to get back to the wilderness so I have blocked off low tide windows of opportunity for the winter months for the Lost Coast Trail. I just need a good weather window to match up and I’m on the Trail.
Historical Posts representing Adventure Continues: Second Quarter
I was young and adventurous, which translates to “Anything is Possible”. I was 26, I had sped through a couple of real jobs, so I had life figured out. The microcomputer revolution was beginning and I was going to be a part of it.
The rationale of doing this from Steamboat Springs was a bit skewed economically, but in line with my passion.
My father helped me move back to Colorado which offered us a bonding opportunity. Taking him backpacking to Trappers Lake in the White River National Forest was a highlight for us. Now settled in Steamboat I had to figure out how you do start your own business. There was no roadmap for starting up a computer store in 1980. There were a few ComputerLands that worked in large metropolitan areas and there were Radio Shacks for the hobbyists, but how was I going to make this happen? I had written a software program on my Apple that calculated and tried to manage Coal Testing Data. However, the managing part was a challenge without a random access storage device. Floppy Disks or even hard disks had not come to the Apple II yet. So I fell back on my original entry into computers and chose the HP 85 desktop computer with a somewhat random accessible high speed tape drive. This was the best option at the time and I totally immersed myself into programming as winter set in. My college buddy Jeff (as referenced in previous post) moved in with us and we set out to launch our computer store. This part of the adventure would hopefully generate revenue to live on but probably more important it connected us to the microcomputer revolution that was just taking off. We came up with the name “Scientific Frontiers” for our company and my sister helped us incorporate. We found space to rent for a store in Steamboat Square above the popular Mazzola’s Italian Restaurant. We bought the cheapest best looking chairs and tables we could find, made some signs and started learning how to acquire inventory. Hewlett Packard was extremely helpful and we focused on Commodore Computers for our core offering and more affordable Atari computers to tap into the entertainment appeal of these new computers. The local newspaper reporter, Ross Dolan, wrote up a nice article to help us launch Scientific Frontier’s Grand Opening on January 30, 1981.
Surprisingly we did survive for a while by selling HP devices to the various engineers in the area. We sold Atari computers to the affluent Steamboaters wanting to play a better version of Space Invaders and the Commodore PET to the new aspiring programmers. However, our real money maker was the Commodore 8032 computer that we sold to most every small business in town. The Commodore offered a dual floppy disk drive that allowed for the software to reside on one side and data on the other. BPI Business Software was our flagship solution along with VisiCalc on the Commodore.
I provided the hardware support which was mostly about winging it to keep these early devices working.
It was a fascinating time to be immersed into the birth of microcomputers while living the good life in Steamboat Springs. This is what your 20’s should be all about. Just follow your dreams because there is no failure at this time of your life. Connie also got to follow her passion by getting the opportunity to run the Steamboat Repertory Theatre. So talk about about a strange group of Steamboat friends: Thespians and Geeks.
We would typically have some of the actors stay with us at our Logan Street rental. This is also when I learned to Cross Country Ski since I rarely had enough money to downhill. Although, if we did get a major dump of snow, Scientific Frontiers would be closed so Jeff and I could go skiing. Summers were the best since it was mostly just the locals enjoying their mountain paradise. We did have ballon rodeos and some strange promotions such as a professional boxing matches and vintage car races to help promote Steamboat, but for the most part it was our town. The Yampa River Raft Race was about floating down the river consuming mass quantities of beer, unfortunately this race was cancelled a few years later due to excessive trash. The Winter Carnival was and still is a major event to get the locals through the toughest part of winter. Nothing better than watching the lighted man ski down Howelsen Hill. This was also when I started dabbling with backpacking. I think I had a frame pack and equipment capable of surviving in the summer temps, but I did discover the awesomeness of the wilderness around Steamboat.
Scientific Frontiers was always a financial struggle but it lasted into 1983. The Steamboat Pilot (newspaper) Office Supply Store decided to get into the microcomputer game and they had far more clout than we did, so they got the Apple franchise and later the IBM PC so the writing was on the wall for our demise. But what a great run it was. Our HP rep alerted me to a job opportunity at Union’s Oil Shale operation in Parachute Creek which turned out to be my next Adventure.
I had completed my warm up treks and was ready for a new Adventure. I had not done Stevens Pass north on the PCT, but I had done Suiattle River access to Rainy Pass, so that first portion of the PCT Section K was at the top of my list. It is a long stretch of 107 miles and lots of vertical, oh well, no problem other then carrying enough food. I planned for 10ish days knowing that I don’t have an appetite on the trail which would allow me to stretch my provisions if needed. Weather was going to be excellent except that it was warmer than usual. My travel logistics were easy starting with spending a night in Chelan Lake State Park, leaving my car at Lady of the Lake long term parking, catching the free metro link bus to Wenatchee and then taking a Trailways bus to Stevens Pass. I was on the PCT going north by 3:00 pm on July 27th. However, this trek seemed more daunting then usual. I had not been solo for a number of treks and the distance was 30% longer then I had even taken on. My mind was telling me how nice it would be to be sitting on my deck drinking a beer and my legs were already telling me they were tired. This is always the challenge, to force yourself to just do it and after a few days you know it was the right call, because getting out there is what it is all about. Unfortunately key comfort factors were not in my favor. Temperatures were flirting with 80 degrees and the bugs must have just hatched. The positive was that water was not an issue and the wild flowers were good. So I was “On the Trail Again”.
My goal for the first night was Lake Valhalla which push me a bit. I chose a campsite in a meadow where I discovered just how aggressive the mosquitoes and flies were going to be. But I was generally so tired at my campsites that I was content with escaping the bugs and getting to sleep. My goal for the second day would be Grizzly Peak thinking that the bugs would be better up high. This was only about 9 miles and not that much vertical, but it was hot.
My campsite plans for Grizzly Pass were fine except that the bugs were worse up high, so I did not hang out side much to enjoy the view.
The third day took me past Pear Lake which appears to be very popular due to alternative trail access options. I decided not to climb to Lake Sally Ann and opted for a night at Pass Creek which turned out to be much better with respect to the bugs. The goal for the next day was Indian Pass.
I was told about a great campsite by taking a trail from the Indian Pass sign. Yep, it was primo complete with a toilet, campsites in a thicket of trees next to a large meadow. However, the bugs were the worst yet. That night was kinda weird because a herd of deer bedded down around my tent. The next day would be about Red Pass.
Campsite plans were to deal with the ford of White Chuck Creek and camp on the north side. This ford complete with a buckled bridge and getting your feet wet was rather refreshing with a nice campsite reward.
The next climb would be Fire Creek Pass but I was wearing down so I opted to camp somewhere around Fire Creek. This section was a low milage day for enjoyment, bugs were not bad and the views were awesome. My body was wearing down since I had burned all of my easy fat and I needed to start eating more.
Fire Creek Pass was another beautiful event with plenty of snow, probably the most difficult of the trek.
On the way down I got the word that Milk Creek was an overgrown mess and that I could get water on either side. So my plan was to cross Milk Creek get water and find a campsite somewhere up the other side. The problem though was that for a mile before Milk Creek the overgrowth was so bad it was essentially bushwacking and the same was true on the north side. It was getting late in the afternoon, it was hot and the bugs were horrible as I tried to fight my way up from Milk Creek.
I was really getting tired so I was beginning to consider camping on the trail if I had to. It did not look good for finding flat ground for a campsite, but then I see a sign that says “Toilet”. Thank you God, I really needed to stop, there was no toilet but there were a couple of campsites. Now I needed to recover for the climb over Grassy Point the next day.
This was a tough day, the body was dead but I think the gorgeous scenery carried me over Grassy Point knowing that it was then down to the Suiattle River with one more huge climb to go. It was around this part of the trek where I decided that I needed to finally put in a Hot Tub at our house. Thoughts of how I would install this tub provided a needed distraction for many days. I opted to camp next to Vista Creek and take on the Suiattle River crossing and climb the next day. Turned out to be a great campsite where I had my first fire.
At the major bridge over the Suiattle River I took a long break to recharge my body and iPhone. I had about a 3500′ climb ahead of me so I just wanted to knock off as many miles as I could before camping.
I ended up at the Skyline camping area where there was a large Forest Service work crew just setting up.
Now the climb up and at least a little over Suiattle Pass. I was dragging but I made it to a nice campsite just over the pass complete with the most bugs of the trip.
It was Thursday August 6th and I had about 18 miles to go but it was mostly all downhill. I wanted to get close enough to High Bridge that I could catch the shuttle at noon on Friday. The hike down did have some more small climbs and the weather was changing to a light rain, plus I was running into more overgrown trail so I felt that camping at Swamp Creek 8 miles out from High Bridge would be fine. Plus I was soaked from the waist down due to the moisture off the overgrowth.
It was a nice last night on the trail even though it did rain off and on all night. But it was dry when I packed up for my final 8 “easy” miles to go. Not so easy as in some more up and downs with plenty of overgrown trail. The sight of High Bridge was so welcomed.
The normal Stehekin shuttle is not running this year, however, the Stehekin Valley Ranch is providing the service which gives you a hour layover at lunchtime to at the Ranch, just right for fueling up on a burger. I then stopped at the Stehekin Pastry Company where I had the best piece of Cherry Pie I think I have ever had.
I then set up camp in the National Park Lakeview Campground and proceeded to down a few brews from the store before it closed at 4:00 pm. The next morning I went back to the Bakery for breakfast and had a nice 2 mile walk back to get ready for my ferry ride back to Chelan.
Overall a great trip, but it was also the most difficult trek I have ever completed and now 4 days later I am just starting to feel recovered.
Historical Posts representing Adventure Continues: Second Quarter
What was I thinking? I was a young professional enjoying a great lifestyle in Northwest Colorado. Yes, life was good, but I started thinking I could make it better, but to do that I would need to expand upon this new career as a chemist.
So I started applying at other power plants around the country and an option that came up was to be a plant chemist at NIPSCO’s Mitchell Power Station in Gary, IN. So I rationalized that Gary would not be terrible and access to Chicago might be cool, etc, etc. We moved to the armpit of America in the Spring of 1980, finding a rental home in Hammond, IN, for my new job in Gary. It took about a week for us to start making plans for how we could get out of this place. I now understand how that young man with an adventurous spirit justified this move, but at that time I had no idea how life changing it would be.
I think the tone was set when I took my required physical exam for the job. I was from Indiana but I had changed into a free spirited mountain man from Colorado. During the exam the nurse asked me if I smoked. So my reply was, sure I smoked some marijuana occasionally, but never tobacco. It never crossed my mind that one should not divulge such information. So three days later I was asked to appear in the plant directors office where I was greeted by plant leadership. They asked me if I knew why I was there and I truly did not. They said, no one has ever answered the question about smoking the way I had. OK, now I realized what I had done and where I did it. I took a moment to speak, but then with great confidence I said: “Look at it this way, I am the most honest person that works here”. And they bought it. I assured them that I would never be under the influence of marijuana while at work and they could totally trust my work ethic. I still cannot believe that I did this, but I totally understand where my state of mind was that allowed me to.
Connie and I were making the best of this home. We rented a fairly cool old house in Hammond. Connie got a job as a legal secretary, we got to visit our family in Indiana, we checked out Chicagoland. I was enjoying the chemist job helping them create more standardized testing procedures.
Our pets were dominating our attention since Coco was about to have pups, Rusty was playing the father dog role and Barney the Cat was establishing his turf. Unfortunately, Barney did not understand the ways of the urban cat gangs. He had been missing for a few days when he showed up all torn up from fighting. We patched him up but he went right back out to retake his turf and we never saw him again. We were sad but also a bit impressed by Barney’s determination. Soon Coco had a litter of 12 cute australian shepherd puppies and we were knee deep in puppy poop in our basement. Unfortunately, Coco developed an infection that prevented her from caring for her pups as we might have hoped so Connie and I provided assistance with baby bottles. It was intense for a few weeks and we lost 2 of the pups, but soon we had crazy playful pups all over us.
If we had lived anywhere other than in the Chicago area we could have made some pretty good money off those pups, but soon it was just about finding them good homes, which we accomplished.
It was starting to warm up and the Indiana humidity combined with the industrial pollution of the area was motivating us all the more to escape this horrible place. A volcano named, Mt St Helens, erupted in the Northwest which created red skies in Chicago that looked like there was a fire in the heavens. Why were we here? But then I discovered a computer store called ComputerLand that was selling the Apple II computer. OMG, I could own a computer. I was obsessed and scraped together enough money to buy the Apple with a monitor, cassette tape drive and thermal printer. There were very few programs available so I started writing my own, quickly realizing that I could develop supporting programs for the chemist work we were doing. There was a dream evolving in my mind where I could envision my new evolving skill parlaying into a computer career. It was also about this time when our plant’s labor union decided to go on strike.
I quickly learned that a strike in the industrial armpit of America was a significant event. Unions in this area were in solidarity when it came to strikes, so when NIPSCO management did not budge and our workers went out on strike it was no longer safe for us non-union strike breakers to conduct our lives as usual. We went into a total plant lockdown where the administrators, supervisors and plant professionals took over responsibility for running the plant. Oh yes, and they paid us triple our salary which would financially pave the way for my exit.
This experience was fascinating to watch the process whereby company management had to prove that they did not need the union workers. The line was drawn and the two sides were facing off which is why we initially had to stay in the plant for like 10 days. Then it was something like out for 3 and in for 7 days at a time. Accomodations were made for us to sleep in areas converted to dorms, but I asked if I could bring my parent’s camping trailer on the property and stay there. And they said yes which sort of set things up for me to stay more independent which is what I had always been since I don’t think anyone else had ever taken a job there from Colorado. We went about our jobs along with some new assignments but we did have free time and everyone seemed to showcase some hobby or personal interest. A coworker who I had gotten to know was a serious saxophone player so I got to observe what that life looked like. For me it was about my computer but I also had this desire to play frisbee on the turbine floor. To do that I had to find someone who could throw so that I could have fun with my acrobatic catches. I guess we were all just trying to show off. But I was learning a lot about people.
For entertainment we were fortunate to be living at the time of the VHS and Beta Tape battles and no real legal control over the pirating of current run movies. So we were actually watching movies that were in the local theaters. But the ultimate entertainment night would be on my shoulders. I was telling people about my Apple Computer and that I had some games on it. These were typically simple text oriented games but I started to get some of the guys to checkout my football game. A simple play by play where you would run a play or choose a defense and the computer would randomly provide an outcome for the play. I found a way to put in our own names for the players which gave me the idea to create a game based on our own plant groups playing each other. Somehow the hype took off and everyone ended up in the cafeteria one night with my computer displaying the football game action projected onto a screen. We played an entire game where my computer was giving play-by-play results which included the names of most everyone in the room. These hard core power plant professionals went wild cheering for each play and I just made it run.
Keeping all of this in context: I’m a 26 year old chemist who came from Colorado and by then everyone knew how I had answered the smoking question and I am orchestrating one of the weirdest parties that I could have imagined. I think that is when I realized that anything was possible and I decided to take my strike pay winfall and move back to my beloved Steamboat Springs, CO, to develop laboratory software and open a computer store. I called Jeff, my college buddy who had just graduated with an MBA and degree in Law to see he wanted to join me. Connie was all in and left for Steamboat with the dogs. Soon after that I resigned from my job at NIPSCO and finalized my move back to Steamboat to launch my new adventure.
I still believe that the 41 mile Timberline Trail around Mt Hood is the finest backpacking loop in America. It just has it all with adventure galore which is why it was the theme of a Podcast I did. This was my 4th year to take on the Timberline, which I use as my age/health meter, and I am pleased with how my old body held up this year. Bryce again joined me for this year’s trek, we failed on our attempt last year in mid June due to snow and weather.
This year there was about as much snow but the trail was more navigable. Last year the beautiful portion was the first 2 days which served as a good memory for the wet weather that dominated the first 2 days this year.
Each year I think about going counter clockwise around Hood but each year my analysis of conditions steers me clockwise. Paradise Park is a great first night goal to warm up your hiking legs and prepare you for the grueling descent down to Ramona Falls and then back up the ridgeline to mid-mountain. This year’s trek started out with beautiful weather for the view from Paradise Park.
I had already decided that I wanted to checkout the most western campsite at Paradise Park located next to some tree cover. This turned out to be a fortuitous decision since a heavy wet fog moved in just as we had finished setting up camp. The trees gave us some relief from the wet fog but by morning it didn’t really matter, everything was damp and we were set for hiking in a mist.
On the trail you quickly adapt to being cold and wet which actually serves as a great motivator for knocking off miles. The emerging Rhododendrons on the lower trail help as well.
Your first concern is making it across the Sandy river, this year we got advice to go up stream where there were a couple of small logs providing a dry crossing. By now it was essentially raining so passing through an empty Ramona Falls was not as inspiring, but Ramona Falls is still one of the most beautiful places on earth.
Now begins the most challenging part of the trek, climbing about 2400′ over 8 miles taking the upper route but cutting over before Bald Mountain.
I had hoped to go all the way to McNeil Point but the rain and low cloud cover nixed that option. We opted to camp at Glisan Creek because we saw a couple of spots that were relatively dry under the trees. Bryce was totally inspired to start a fire relying on his Air Force survival trainer expertise, I was impressed. As for me, I really got chilled after setting up my tent and needed to get in my sleeping bag to warm up. It was still raining and seemed to be getting colder. An hour later I emerged to Bryce’s fire ready for dinner. We went to sleep that night hoping for the rain to stop.
We awoke to blue skies with great anticipation to be warmed by the sun. The goal for the day was to get past Cloud Cap, maybe even go up to Cooper Spur, however, this next section was going to be physically challenging for our tired bodies.
We hiked over a lot of snow but unlike last year there had been plenty of people before us to set the trail.
Some of the stream crossings presented you with a decision to trust using the snow bridge, but no real danger.
This day was crystal clear giving us some of the best photos I have of the north side of Mt Hood.
The challenge for the day was crossing Eliot Creek and it was not about the creek crossing but instead about getting down to the creek. The water was running high probably from the previous day’s rain and the sunny day so it was not obvious where we would cross. There is a huge tree that provides an excellent bridge down from the trail entrance, however, you do not see that crossing option at first.
This is the canyon where the trail had to be rerouted in 2017 due to a slide. The 20 feet or so of drop off to the creek is a mixture of loose dirt, rocks and boulders. Getting from the trail entrance to the log bridge crossing was flat out dangerous. You could not trust any rock to step on and when a large rock started to slide you had be be extremely careful not to get dragged along with it. I don’t remember this descent to the stream ever being so loose, maybe it is just an early season issue. But somebody could get killed here, so I think it is time for some sort of a reinforced trail down to the stream. Now the climb up to Cloud Cap and all was good. As we climbed east from Cloud Cap our weary bodies enticed us to camp near the head of Tilly Jane Creek in a really nice sandy area.
We were able to dry everything out and enjoy a wonderful evening underneath Mt Hood.
Morning broke with more beautiful weather motivating us for our climb above treeline over high point which is one of my favorite areas.
The weather was all over the place with sun and fog but it was a great temperature for the climb.
And then you descend down Gnarl Ridge to Newton Creek which presents a unique landscape of a really harsh existence for vegetation.
The Newton Creek campsites are excellent and within an easy distance to hike the following day, however, I thought that I remembered a spot near the upcoming waterfalls.
Unfortunately just after we left Newton Creek it started to rain and I was not finding those campsites so we ended up camping between Gemini and Voyager ski runs in Mount Hood Meadows Ski Area. The campsite worked out just fine and set us up for a relatively easy final day hike back to Timberline Lodge.
I do love hiking through Mt Hood Meadows Ski envisioning how I will ski down those runs next winter.
Crossing the White River was more difficult then I remember, but it was a beautiful day.
The 1000′ climb up to the parking lot always seems tough but the motivation of your reward, this year Halibut Fish & Chips, at the Barlow Trail Roadhouse, puts a hop in your step.
This years Timberline Trail Trek may have been the best yet. The still early season, unpredictable weather with pretty good awakening of flowers and no bugs made for a great Continuing Adventure.
Starting June 22, Bryce and I spent 5 days backpacking in the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness. It was one of those perfect weeks for weather, crowds, bugs, but a bit early for flowers. The Strawberry Mountain Wilderness is an island in the high plains of Eastern Oregon surrounding Strawberry Mountain which climbs to over 9000 feet. We accessed the wilderness via Prairie City with great meals in and out at 1188 in John Day. From the Strawberry Lake Campground we planned on spending the first night at Strawberry Lake which is only 1.2 mile in. If this area was anywhere but in the middle of nowhere it would be overwhelmed by hikers and campers. But it is 3.5 hours from Bend or Boise and 6 hours from Portland. The lake itself is pristine and there is fairly good fishing.
We got to the lake in late afternoon and just missed getting the primo campsite on a grassy beach next to an inlet stream. However, we took the campsite at the south end of the lake and immediately caught our Brook Trout dinner. Our plan was to do the loop starting with Slide Lake, however, Brook, decided that she did not want to carry her backpack and just took off to avoid her duty. Well, if you have followed Brook’s backpacking over the last few years you know that we have had some similar issues. Brook is complicated and this trip was her test for the 2020 season, and she failed. Of course she was not lost but she wasted half of our day as we had to look for her. The outcome was to spend another night at Strawberry Lake and do a day hike up to Strawberry Falls and Little Strawberry Lake.
Bryce decided to haul his float tube up to Strawberry Lake since it was not that far and it did turn out to be a nice recreational option. Bryce had some success fishing from it, but we also just used it to cool off in the lake.
Strawberry Falls and Little Strawberry Lake are must see. About a 1.5 mile hike further with some climb which set into to motion a gradual daily routine to get in better shape and acclimate to the altitude.
Hike to Strawberry Falls & Little Strawberry Lake
Strawberry Lake is at about 6200 feet but we would eventually top out at over 9000 at the end of the week by taking daily hikes.
The purpose of this wilderness get-a-way was to explore the Strawberry Mountain area but also to get in shape for the 2020 backpacking season. What I quickly realized was that it was about acclimating to elevation since I live at 300 feet. Each day I could feel my body adapt to an extra 1000 feet. I am so glad I did this since it should set me up well for the Timberline Trail around Mt Hood in another week.
We ended up camping at a different spot on Strawberry lake on our second night. It was on the east side of the lake with a much nicer view of the lake and stars. Our plan was to backpack to Slide Lake or further and still keep the loop option open to us by circling back to Strawberry Lake. However, I still had my eye on that great grassy beach campsite on the SW side of the lake. We decided that if that site opened up before we left for Slide Lake we would go take it over and then just day hike to Slide Lake. That is exactly what happened which set us up for camping the rest of the week at Strawberry Lake and just doing day hikes. This is not my normal strategy but in the case for this wilderness I now feel that it was the most attractive option.
Hike to Slide Lake
The hike to Slide Lake pushed most of the 1000′ vertical at the beginning and it was probably the steepest climbing we did all week, so the heart was pumping but it hurt so good.
Slide Lake is beautiful with a hike that provides views to the East with a view point of Prairie City providing a cell signal. From this point on the trail flattens out with occasional small snow fields.
You can hike around the lake which offered us some nice fishing holes. Hiking back to our primo campsite on Strawberry Lake made for a very complete day.
We were feeling really good about our exercise progress so we went to sleep that 3rd night hoping to hike to the summit of Strawberry Mountain on our last full day.
The hike from Strawberry Lake to the summit of Strawberry Mountain would require about 9 miles and a 2800 vertical climb. We got to pass by the falls again and then up into the meadows below the ridge-line over to the final summit ascent. The problem was getting to the ridge-line which was guarded by an imposing wall of snow. It probably would have been wise to have our ice axes but our drive to get to the summit gave us the motivation to take it on. We were careful and the snow was more firm in our ascent which helped a lot. Coming back down would present some new options.
Once on the ridge-line you traverse over to the north side at about 8700′ and your pumping heart is telling you that you may have come far enough, but you do need to finish the climb to the summit at 9038′.
After communicating with our families thanks to cell service on top we began our return to Strawberry Lake knowing that it would be so much easier going down, however, we still had the snow ridge to contend with. Bryce decided to glissade down it.
The glissade did look like fun but I opted for the conventional descent. The hike back to Strawberry Lake was an awesome end to a great week of hiking in the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness. One last night on our primo campsite just enjoying the beauty of this place.
Historical Posts representing Adventure Continues: Second Quarter
I did have a degree in chemistry so I was checking out job opportunities and wouldn’t you know it, I landed a job as a chemist for Colorado UTE Electric Association’s power plant in Craig Colorado. I was probably never thought I would work as a chemist, but then again, this was not serious chemistry. A Chemist for an electric generating station had to perform basic water, coal and emissions testing that really just required some knowledge of chemistry and the aptitude to learn. Plus they did not pay very much so they were definitely looking for novice chemists. But it was a real job, working for a real company, so I had to adapt to this new culture.
When I started work in late 1978 there was one new 400 MW plant in operation and a second 400 MW plant about ready to be started up. Colorado Ute was sort of a conglomerate of rural electric associations based in Montrose providing electricity to the western slope of Colorado. However, the power plants planned in Craig were more about satisfying the electricity needs for California. Plus new environmental concerns were forcing electric utilities to be more responsible about the dangerous emissions that had been polluting our country since the industrial revolution. I had no clue how electricity was produced, but it sure did look exciting. This was all happening in Craig, CO, because of easy access to fairly good coal.
Accepting this job ushered in all sorts of new responsibilities. Where to live? Craig was a boom town now with no available housing so Colorado Ute built a mobile home park on the outskirts of town and that was the only option.
We went to Denver, bought a 14×72′ furnished mobile home for $14K that would be delivered to Craig. For my first week of work we stayed with friends in Steamboat Springs, however, I never made it to work on my first day. It 49 degrees below zero and my car was totally frozen. It was devastating for me to make that call to my new employer telling them that I could not start my car. Our mobile home was delivered at the end of that week, however, utilities would not be hooked up until the following week. Connie and I went to Craig to check out our new home that weekend and decided to actually sleep in the dark cold trailer one night. We were a bit naive thinking we could be warm enough sleeping on our new bed when it was below freezing outside. I swear the trailer felt 10 degrees colder inside. But we were excited about this new life, it was truly going to be an adventure.
Work as a chemist was fairly easy to learn, we were mostly concerned about calcium in the water/steam that could plate out as silica on the turbine blades along with the BTU and sulfur content of the coal we were burning.
I was rather surprised when I appeared on the cover of the Colorado-Ute magazine highlighting an “article about what life was like in Craig, CO“. The startup of the second generator was exciting as there is great concern and optimism associated with such an engineering feet. Here is an article from the Unit II Dedication about our Environmental Effort that I am mentioned in. Overall I was into this sort of professional life. Connie worked as a bank teller but then doing research for a local Title Company.
We must have assumed we might stay in Craig because we bought a 5 acre plot of land that we planned on building a log house on someday. Craig, CO, was a unique experience, good people but also a bit rough. I played in a basketball league and a flag football league where I was the quarterback until I got my jaw broken.
I got to ski a fair amount in Steamboat and definitely took advantage of the surrounding wilderness for hiking and fishing. Oh yes, we added another animal to our family. A local rancher, Joni Voloshin, who worked with me offer to give us a beautiful Red Australian Shepard if we agreed to let her have a litter of pups. The local ranchers were trying to increase the population of Aussies so to help prevent them from being stolen.
This job as a chemist was good in that I now believed I could do so much more. Our lab’s new Varian Atomic Absorption machine opened doors for me especially thanks to the HP 85 Computer that controlled it. I discovered that I could program these new micro-computers to do so much more.
I was becoming restless and believed that I should make more money as a chemist so I applied for other power plant chemist jobs all around the country. I got an offer from NIPSCO, Northern Indiana Public Service, to work at a plant in Gary, IN. I was young and into the Adventure but who in their right mind would move from Colorado to Gary, IN?
I decided to advance my career as a chemist by applying for jobs with more opportunity. Somehow I ended up in Northern Indiana working at NIPSCO’s Mitchell Power Station.