Yellow Aster Butte

My preparation for the 2021 Devils Dome Trek included a day hike up Yellow Aster Butte on 8/29/21 which provided good distance, elevation and beauty. I chose this hike because I never really got to experience the upper portion of the trail back in 2016 due to weather that was not cooperating.

My 2016 hike was later in Autumn and I had gotten a late start that day so I decided not to climb to the upper view with the weather uncertainty. Brook was with me in 2016 and the Autumn colors on that hike were indicative of the trail’s name.

I wanted to get the full Yellow Aster experience and I also needed the workout of 7+ miles and 2500′ vertical climb. A beautiful Day made for a great hike. It was a Sunday so I knew that I would be competing with other hikers for parking and trail space. Many hikers were coming down after spending the night. The trail starts out with many switchbacks giving you awesome views of Mt Baker.

You can count on water from a mini glacier just before the final steep climbs.

The final climb, which is not really up to the Butte but to the peak just to the southeast of it is steep so your heart will be pumping. However, the reward of the 360 degree views are totally worth it.

Peaks around Yellow Aster Butte.

I was fortunate that the wind was not an issue which made for an enjoyable lunch break at the top. These are the times when you really appreciate access to the mountains here in the North Cascades, I was totally ready for the Devils Dome Trek. The hike back down was predictable with anticipatory thoughts of Beer and Pizza from the North Fork Brewery in Deming on the road back to Bellingham.

Devils Dome Loop – Clockwise

I love multi-day backpacking loop treks and the Devils Dome Loop in the North Cascades turned out to be a jewel. I was a bit surprised to come across it only finding a few trip reports. The distance and vertical are very similar to the Timberline Trail but the the effort was far greater.

East Bank Trail at Night

Most people approach the loop counterclockwise since the initial 4000′ climb is more moderate thanks to switchbacks. But I opted for the Clockwise route to coordinate better with the North Cascades National Park permitting for the first night. My common backpacking partner, Bryce, was gonna be challenged with getting there at a reasonable time on September 1st so I opted for a campsite halfway along the East Bank Trail at Roland Creek. We did not hit the trail until 7pm so night hiking was required. One issue worth mentioning, especially when searching for your campsite in the dark, was that the campsite shows up on the typical topo maps as being south of the creek when in fact it is north of the creek. But it did turn out to be a good site for setting up in the dark.

We hiked about 6 mile to Devils Creek Landing on Ross Lake where we had lunch and a rest before the big climb. The climb to Devils Dome or at a minimum Bear Skull Cabin was going to be the make or break for my body which is why I had been putting in extra vertical training in recent weeks. Water is an issue and the most dependable source supposedly would be found at Bear Skull Cabin 4000′ up. We were told that there was a stream at about 3000′ so we only carried 2 quarts which was adequate for our perfect cool weather climb.

However, 4000′ mostly straight up does kick your butt. Bryce and I slogged along and finally reached the Cabin after a 6 hour climb. I believe I got all that I could from my body on this climb so my training turned out to be totally justified. Now I understood why this loop is not more heavily travelled. The climb from the other direction is probably easier due to water and switchbacks, but 4000′ is a tough climb especially for an old backpacker. We did have a nice campsite just off trail toward the cabin. The night was totally clear with magnificent stars that I was too tired to enjoy.

Taking in the View from Devils Dome

The next day required another 1000′ climb up to Devils Dome which lived up to the hype for a fabulous 360 view of the North Cascades looking into Canada. The day was clear with some cloud cover moving in later, temperature at about 60 and no wind. This was as good as it could get.

Up till now we were also sharing the trail with the Pacific Northwest Trail, PNT, but that would end as we approached Devils Pass. Supposedly there is water on this 6 mile stretch but I don’t remember seeing any.

We were carrying enough water to make it to Granite Creek, which turned out to be our choice for a campsite after about an eight mile day. The trail over to Granite Creek was one of the most pleasant and beautiful stretches of hiking that I have ever experienced.

However, more campsite information would have been helpful. On the north side there is a campsite about a quarter mile up a steep trail from the stream. We opted to go to the creek assuming there would be campsites. Well, we only found one campsite barely large enough for two tents which was just south of the creek as you enter the trees. This worked out fine since there were hardly any other backpackers on this loop. And we did keep commenting on this lack of traffic especially on the long Labor Day Weekend. I guess the high vertical entry price to this loop keeps the crowds away.

Leaving Granite Creek hits you with a couple of tough 700+ ft climbs, the second being switchbacks up a fairly steep scree field.

These climbs were tough with legs that were worn out from the previous climb but were encouraged by fantastic views of Crater and Jack Mountain over beautiful valleys. The last climb was a bit precarious as you had to climb up a scree field with a few long switchbacks but also with a few really steep slippery sections. I think that I would rather be climbing here rather then descending.

We were again putting in about an 8 mile day planning to camp just before the final descent down to the Devils Park Trail which would take us back to our East Bank Trailhead parking lot.

We were again surprised that campsites were not more plentiful except for 2 to 3 miles up from the start of the descent. There was only one good campsite before the descent and it was fairly large but taken. Luckily the people there had scouted the area and found a hidden campsite a short distance behind theirs which turned out to be perfect for Bryce and I. The last day required us to descend down to Canyon Creek which was rather easy considering the number of switchbacks. This video captures my gratitude.

The long descent to the canyon floor.

At the crossing area over to the the Trailhead there is no longer a bridge, however, the stream ford is not to difficult. Plus there is a landslide just west of this crossing which forces you to ford the stream just to get around the landslide and back to the Devils Park Trail. Now you get to finish up the trek with a gentle 3+ mile hike along the stream.

Bryce and I agreed that the Devils Dome Loop is a special one, however, we would classify it as more technical or difficult. Our bodies were totally spent but it “Hurt So Good”. My advice, I originally planned to camp at Devils Creek on the 1st or second night to set up better for the long climb up to Devils Dome. One bummer for the trek was finding that thieves had stolen Bryce’s Catalytic Converter off his Toyota 4Runner.

Greg & Bryce at the end of the Devils Dome Loop

Timberline Trail 2021

Start of the Timberline Trail

Yes, the Timberline Trail is the finest loop trail in America and my fifth year in a row trekking around it was another epic adventure. The bottom line though is that this trail is tough and my old body struggles to pull it off. Typically after the tough second day I really question why I do this. But the rewards are incredible especially when the weather is so beautiful.

Rather different to start a summer backpacking trek by making your way through a crowd of skiers, but that is Mt Hood. So starting out July 11th in beautiful weather with no chance of rain for the entire trek. Joining me is Shannon “Snuffy” Leader, blogger of Must Hike Must Eat. And to be joined that night by Bryce and Chris at Paradise Park. The hike up to Paradise Park is a good half day warm up which is a bit out of the way but totally worth it. The trail is so easy over to the Zigzag Canyon overlook, but then it is down and up.

Above ZigZag Canyon

Down to the ZigZag and then the climb up to Paradise Park. It was a warm day and the black flies were out so we did pay our dues to get an excellent campsite at Paradise Park.

Paradise Park Campsite

Some of the best flowers were displayed on the climb.

Hiking with “Snuffy” was a real treat to compare backpacking prowess and stories but I had no interest in her culinary concoctions. But that is what Shannon does, she validates really interesting wilderness trail meals, whereas I just try to consume my evening Mountain House meal. This colorful meal that she made was supposedly excellent.

Bryce and Chris joined us later in the evening in Paradise enjoying a great cloudless sunset together.

The second day after staying at Paradise Park requires a plunge into the Sandy River Canyon with the always exciting crossing of the Sandy. This year the challenge was medium, but mistakes could not be made.

Snuffy Crossing the Mighty Sandy River

The reward for crossing the Sandy is your visit to Ramona Falls. We got there a bit earlier then typical years so the sun was only at the top. But Ramona Falls is the best.

Ramona Falls

Just after Ramona Falls you have the option to take the high or the low trail to Bald Mountain. The high route has been devastated by a tree blowdown and is essentially closed but unfortunately Bryce and Chris forgot about that when they left us to accomplish their trek in 3 nights instead of 4. They completed the high route but paid a heavy price for their effort. There should have been a sign at the turnoff to the high trail, however, I believe that sign did not get placed until after we passed by.

This stretch of the Timberline is the toughest for me because of the 3000′ climb with no good water options. Every year this stretch tests my resolve and I contemplate why I do the Timberline. This year was as difficult as ever but as with every year I eventually make it to the great view at the top and the streams coming off McNeil Point. Our campsite in that area turned out to be excellent.

The next day’s goal is typically to cross the Eliot Canyon which this year we knew would be the greatest test. But this stretch of trail offers some of the most beautiful views of Mt Hood and surroundings. The burnt areas from the Dollar Lake Fire 10 years ago now seem to offer a unique contrast to the lush green slopes. The Cairn Basin shelter did take a hit from a blowdown tree.

The Eliot stream crossing has been a breeze in recent years thanks to a large log that spanned the water but that log has washed away along with a lot of the canyon wall to create a new treacherous crossing. However, the greatest danger in the Eliot Canyon is just getting down to the stream. The steep approaches to the stream present numerous loose boulder situations, but we experienced that last year.

Slope down to the Eliot

This year we also got to experience one of the most forceful river crossing I have ever accomplished. The video is of a hiker from Michigan.

This year the option to just stay at Tilly Jane Campground seemed like a good idea since nobody else was there probably due to the mess that has been made by more tree blowdowns.

On this Northeast side of Hood you get to experience above treeline hiking which has become a favorite of mine.

Heading down to Newton Creek

The goal for the last night is typically to reach Newton Creek which has clear streams and good campsites. This year the Newton Creek crossing was a bit more challenging than usual. I do love the view of Gnarl Ridge from the Newton.

Gnarl Ridge

The final day offers many beautiful waterfalls before you enter the Mt Hood Meadows Ski Resort land.

Then down to the White River and the killer climb up to Timberline Lodge. The climb isn’t really that bad except that you are fairly exposed and pretty much spent from the previous 40 miles.

Thank goodness for visions of your post trek meal to carry you up the ridge of the White River Canyon. Once you see the lodge you know you can make it.

This year’s Timberline Trail again taught me a lot about my 67 year old body. Many times it “Hurt So Good”. I do believe I will return to the Timberline Trail next year, but maybe do it in 5 nights.

Trappist Abbey

I have been hiking the Trappist Abbey Trails for many years and again this week it is providing the necessary vertical workouts I need to get ready for my annual trek around Mt Hood.

The Abbey is about a 10 minute drive from home and it offers 900′ vertical over its various trails. The new sign (left) provides a much needed map with all of the Abbey rules. There were times when you could get lost on the property since trails were poorly maintained or marked. However, in the last year they have greatly improved the trails and signage. And this used to be my go to hike with Brook, but “No Dogs Allowed” now. Eliminating dogs is OK since the more prevalent use of vineyard cannons to keep the birds away also caused great anxiety for Brook. Now the focus is primarily for the exercise, but this is beautiful country that does refresh your soul.

Brook did love to hike Trappist Abbey in her youth.

Overall the changes implemented by the Abbey for trail management appears to be working. Plenty of hikers are enjoying the seclusion that for many years was only enjoyed by their monks. The main trail takes you up to the top of the ridge where you have a side trail over to a view of Mt Hood on a clear day. On the way up you have three offshoot trails that shorten the overall trek and let you manage how much vertical you want.

There are a number of great views of the valley along the trails.

The Abbey provides nice parking at the trailhead which skirts their facilities. Not uncommon to have wildlife greet you at your car.

I hope you enjoyed this short post. I have been meaning to write about the Trappist Abbey Trails for many years. Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey is a Trappist monastery located in Yamhill County, Oregon in the United States, north of Lafayette and about 30 miles southwest of Portland.

Alice Lake Sawtooth Mountains

The Sawtooth Mountains grabbed my attention in recent years and based on typical snowpack conditions it looked like a great trek for late June. However, I needed to move my visit up to the middle of June, but the heat wave we were in looked like it would remedy any snow problems. What I did not properly take into account was that I drove over to Idaho from 300′ elevation and my hike up to Alice Lake would take me from about 7000′ up to 8600′ and I was sucking air. I had planned to do the Alice, Toxaway Lake Loop but I had received reports that the pass between the lakes was a post holing snow challenge, plus I also got feedback that the mosquitoes were thick over at Toxaway Lake. So after the oxygen deficit difficulty I experienced climbing to Alice Lake and knowing that the pass was another 1000′, I decided why not just stay another night at my fabulous campsite on Alice Lake. I knew that I could day hike over to Twin Lakes and just relax in this beautiful area. Plus feedback also suggests that Alice Lake is the most beautiful so why leave? It is difficult for a backpacker to be practical when your plans call for a longer trek, but hanging out for two days in this beautiful place turned out to be another great Adventure.

The trail up to Alice Lake is well maintained but this early season climb required fording a number of stream crossings. It does appear that the stream crossings will provide rock hop bridges when the water recedes about 8 inches. This young family from nearby Stanley was using this trip as a Christmas Present for their 3 boys.

This is about where I was really starting to think about the nap I would need. Alice Lake has a lower lake that leads you to believe you have arrived, it is all good.

Lower Alice Lake

Once at Alice Lake you realize the awesome beauty of this area.

When I arrived at Alice Lake all I wanted was to find a flat spot in the shade where I could take a long afternoon nap. That is exactly what I did but when I roused again around 6 pm I wandered around to find the perfect campsite. I was rather surprised that it had not been taken. Word was out that Alice Lake was easily accessible so I had plenty of company at the lake.

Alice Lake was perfect. Total sun, warm but not hot, no bugs and an awesome night ski to view the Milky Way.

Wind Dance on Alice Lake

The next day I felt better but it was obvious that a climb over to Toxaway Lake would have been tough, so I settled into total relaxation mode with plans for a day hike over and around Twin lakes.

I also explored the stream connection between Twin and Alice Lakes.

Just as beautiful approaching Alice Lake on the return from Twin Lakes.

Now I had most of the afternoon left to continue my serious chillaxing. Thankfully I had plenty of downloaded podcasts (Various IU Hoosier Basketball and Backpacker podcasts along with “The Dirtbag Diaries” and, “National Geo Overheard”) that I could catch up on.

Chillaxing

Just a beautiful day with another awesome evening.

Evening on Alice Lake

I felt so much better after a couple of days at altitude. I thought about more exploration, but heading for home was motivated a bit by the sporting events (US Open) that needed to be watched. Packing up was so nice because everything was dry The hike out from Alice offered the morning view of the lake.

Hiking back to Pettit Lake seemed long but it was all down hill. This was a Thursday and so many hikers and backpackers were headed up to Alice. There was a group a healthy young hikers who happened to all work at Redfish Lodge. It brought back memories of my youth knowing how cool it was to take advantage of local recreation opportunities during that summer job.

Back at the Tin Cup Trailhead and the Pettit Lake Campground I needed to say goodbye to Jane, the wonderful campground host. She plans on taking care of this campground for many years to come, plus she is looking forward to also backpacking up to the many nearby lakes.

I drove back to Oregon by way of Stanley and roads that took me north of Boise. A few things struck me such as the frenzy of tourists wanting to start their weekend. Also very little cellular access, maybe Biden’s infrastructure bill will help with that.

I hope to return to the Sawtooth Mountains better prepared for a more complete exploration. This is truly one of the most beautiful places in the US.

Early Season TDH Get-Away

I was itching for a backpacking Get-Away so when the temperatures started to rise with guaranteed clear skies I headed for my favorite overnight at Tom, Dick & Harry Mountain.

I have done this trek many times but never in April when there would definitely be snow, but I did underestimate how much snow there would be. Early on the trail the bridges filled to the rail with snow set the tone. The trail for the first two miles was essentially ice which created many difficulties especially for the hikers trying to get to Mirror Lake.

The upper trail to the top presented more serious challenges such as not sliding down hillsides and just finding the real trail. Once on the last leg to the top I realized I should have brought my snowshoes, but it was doable even though I was questioning my wisdom in scheduling this trek. I knew what the reward would be at the top but I was also starting to be concerned about how strong the winds were going to be.

Mt Hood from the Tom, Dick & Harry View Area

The winds were strong and the snow was deep so this was going to be a whole new camping experience at my favorite spot. The winds were ripping up the mountain so I was able to set up camp with a nice view of Hood and still get shelter from the wind.

I quickly realized that I had not properly prepared for the snow or the wind so I had to improvise with some rope tie offs to nearby trees. Thankfully those rope ties did the job as the wind never let up throughout the night. It was amazingly beautiful as I have come to expect, however, the wind prevented any comfortable viewing of Mt Hood.

The saving grace for the evening was that the winds were also bringing in unusually warm air so being cold was not a concern. However, major wind gusts pummeling my tent all night did not allow for much sleep. Plus my air mattress was not holding air so I had to blow it up about every hour. It was still beautiful at sun up, but the winds were increasing in intensity.

Sunrise over Mt Hood

By 7:00 am I had to break down the campsite to avoid being blown away. The winds were fierce so I had to take an alternate path behind the view area to get to the shelter of the forest.

Morning at Mirror Lake

The hike down was not easy but it was downhill so no complaints. Overall the the ultimate Get-Away that I had hoped for did not pan out, but it sure was another great Adventure.

Supernatural Results and a Perfect Ski Day

First Time on Oculus
First Time on Oculus

This post is a reflection on the value realized from my Oculus Supernatural exercise program for the enhancement of my outdoor recreation passions. My earlier post about Supernatural on the Oculus was about the motivation it provided to improve the strength and flexibility of my core and upper body. At that time I was definitely wondering how those benefits would affect my adventures. My backpacking trek on the Lost Coast Trail showed some of that progress, but it was a fantastic day of skiing on Mt Hood that confirmed the value.

Lost Coast Trail

On my Lost Coast Trail Trek I definitely noticed how my upper body and shoulders carried my backpack with less of those annoying pains that tend to surface on the first big outing of the season. I still got just as tired from the hiking but my body felt better throughout. I suppose this encouraged me to further embrace Supernatural finding that I matched up well with the Moderate workouts. Throughout my SN journey I have also been interested in the affect it might have on my golf game. Can’t say that my handicap has improved but I have definitely added 5% distance for all of my clubs.

The stage was set to test for my 66 year old body. Staying at Timberline Lodge set the stage for a full day of skiing.

The conditions were perfect with a 175’ base, clear skies, no wind and very few people. I hit the slopes at opening and quickly realized how perfect this day could be.

Covid restrictions greatly reduced the number of skiers so basically I skied directly onto each lift and had to ride by myself due to the restriction.

First Run

Well this also translated into having the runs to myself. The first few runs brought out the typical questions of whether this old body could still shred the slopes.  I was pleasantly surprised at how good I felt and I guess the endorphins were kicking in from the pleasure I was experiencing. 

After a couple of hours a snow storm moved in pelting me with large snow pellets that caused some concern but it was producing a fresh carpet of teflon type snow. The timing of this snowfall was perfect for a short lunch break complete with plenty of liquid courage. I was back out just after noon to find more like 2 to 3 inches of fresh teflon.

Magical Ride on the Magic Mile Lift

I went to the top of the Magic Mile where the snowfall was lighter and proceeded to ski from the top of the Magic Mile to the bottom of the Jeff Flood lift. Timberline Trail Map

This approximate 2300’ vertical plunge was absolutely perfect with no people and about 3 inches of fresh teflon powder. I did this route a number of times in total ecstasy realizing that my body, specifically my core and thighs were holding up well. This is the time during your first ski day when your thighs really start talking to you. I felt them for sure, but I also felt like I could ski for the rest of the day. Or maybe I should say I felt like I had to ski the rest of the day. The conditions were just getting better because the temperature was still in the high 20’s and the clear skies had returned. 

Mt Hood’s Glory

I was in ski heaven, it “Hurt so Good” as the day was winding down. I really needed to call it a day when the clouds came back to create that final run in a cloud back down to the Lodge.

As I wound down back at the lodge with a great coffee cocktail I could tell that my body was just tired but not really in pain. However, after a huge ribeye steak for dinner I was sawing logs by 8 pm. The next day my wife and I experimented with snowshoeing to complete the perfect Timberline Adventure.

So yes, I was pleased with how the body performed and I was attributing some of that to my Supernatural exercise, but it was 2 days latter when I fully understood the value from the exercise. I had committed to play golf not thinking about how my body typically feels a couple of days after the first ski day. Normally, I am barely able to walk let alone consider playing golf. But I felt good and had a great round of golf. And that is when I had conclusive proof that my commitment to the Supernatural workouts had changed my body to improve my life. 

I do feel great and I can’t wait to press on to more Adventures. However, I have not realized success in securing a permit for the John Muir Trail yet. My last rejection was for Entry Date: 08/28/2021. I will keep trying through September 10 start but if no luck I am not sure what I will do for a major end of season trek, but there are always options. 

Lost Coast Trail 2021

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.

First Night’s Campsite as it was starting to rain

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.

The Lost Coast Trail Rugged Beauty

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

Oil Shale – Union Oil

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.

Union Oil Shale Site 1981

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.

Grand Junction Valley from Colorado Monument
Grand Junction Valley from Colorado Monument

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.


Next Post:

Adventure via Oculus

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.

First Time on Oculus
First Time on Oculus

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:

Exercise via Your Oculus VR Headset

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.

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