I retire on June 30th, but the term “retire” doesn’t really fit. I’ve tried to label this end of my one year contract to serve as the Interim CIO at Western Washington University as my official retirement. But what is retirement? I think I’m OK with just transitioning into my next job which happens to be the more serious pursuit of or the return to nature. And backpacking is my enabler for doing that.
The common question of what will I be doing next is answered with “I’m going backpacking”, but few have any clue what that really means. And of course going backpacking could be equated to varying definitions. Many ask if that means I will backpack the PCT or the Appalachian Trails. So I try to explain that I just want to be more serious and deliberate about backpacking to wherever opportunities it takes me to. If the conversation progresses it typically ends with some dismay that I actually will be doing this alone with my dog. And I have to admit that I’m not sure how to explain why I want to do this. However, I just read a blog post by Cam Honan, author of “The Hiking Life” entitled “A Natural Progression“ which is the best description I have ever read about why I am drawn to the wilderness. He breaks it down to “From Stanger to Guest to Family Member”. This paragraph from his post sums up why retirement will allow me to return to my “Family”.
From an intangible perspective, feelings of separation have disappeared, replaced instead by a sense of union with your surroundings. You have come home, and in so doing realised that your spirit never really left. Our connection with the natural world is innate, so while it may seem like Mother Nature is teaching, I’ve long suspected she is simply reminding. Providing the key so that we ourselves can unlock a part of us that has always been there. And I can’t think of too many gifts that are greater than that.
I thank Cam for putting into to words what I feel. The opportunity to be a part of this wilderness family is as good as it gets. Tomorrow I will reclimb Goat Mountain to get my own gauge on the snowpack in the North Cascades. The Adventure Continues
I have been off the trail for 2 weeks and it seems like an eternity. I’m not sure if I just miss the wilderness or I am just overly pumped for the upcoming longer commitment. It was insightful to go through the planning steps for coordinating a month on the trail and sending off resupply boxes. I have an even greater respect for the PCT through hikers who figure this out for many months. But I am ready to go. The Spider Gap Buck Creek Loop with friends will be fabulous and then on to Canada on the PCT. Thankfully it appears the forest fires are under control.
In preparation for this next backpacking commitment I have been fortunate to spend about a week down at our townhouse in Neskowin. We have a 1/12 fractional share which is priceless (there may be a share for sale) The weather has been fabulous and the hiking opportunities around Neskowin are as good as it gets for the Oregon Coast. Let me give you a glimpse of my hiking preparation over the last 3 or 4 days.
Hiking the beach is always great exercise by way of distance and solitude. Rarely are there any other humans once you get a mile or so north of Neskowin. Hiking on Cascade Head should always be done either from above or below.
My daughter motivated me to go for a longer hike so we opted for the trails behind Cape Pepetua scenic coastline. On the drive down we needed to stop at Cape Foulweather because the view is awesome. The Cape Perpetua coastline is considered the most beautiful in America and the hiking trails in the Siuslaw National Forest offer exposure to impressive old growth forests.
The unexpected hiking delight turned out to be the Thumb Trail which is a little known trail that starts at the end of Roads End in Lincoln City. A short hike with some serious technical climb to the Thumb but the view is second to none on the coast.
This discovery was extra special since it gave me a view of Cascade Head from the South.
This area is not really setup for serious traffic so please take care of this gem. The top of the Thumb is a bit dangerous especially with strong winds, it drops off on 3 sides.
Is this too good to be true?
|Looking West at “The Husband” peak|
First I would like to thank the Oregon Hikers Organization for providing me with valuable information that helped me and friend Bob put together a great 5 day trip around/through the 3 Sisters peaks. Also this is a trip report from a couple of old guys who were mostly concerned about survival but ended up anxious for more such multi-day trips.
This trip starting and ending at the Lava Lake Trailhead, Sept. 14-18, 2011. We decided to modify the traditional 50 mile loop around the 3 Sisters with a 35 mile version that cuts through the Middle and South Sister via Camp and Chambers Lakes. The choice to go from the East over to the West was determined by believing that finding the trail would be easier once leaving Camp Lake heading west. We found that it probably did not matter, the trail was well defined all the way.
Day one on Sept. 14 (fairly warm day) nearly did me in going 12 miles to Soap Creek. Problem, I was consuming more water than planned and we had been warned that Alder Creek was dry. I did thank God for a strong flowing Alder Creek due to the warm afternoon snow melt. But we did push our old bodies a bit. I’m a 57 year old office guy with 2 artificial hips and Bob is 64. Our packs were about 38 lbs which worked out pretty well, we did end up taking more food then was needed.
First night at Soap Creek junction of the trail to Green Lakes and Camp Lake we met backpacker Jeff, a Medical School Intern at Emory. He also started at Lava Lake and was on his last night. His friends had scared him into believing that bears were a problem so he never cooked anything at night in fear of become a victim of a bear attack. He did say he was heading to Bronco Billy’s for all the ribs he could eat and we to ended up there at the end of our trip.
After re-hydrating and a good night’s sleep day 2 took us to Camp Lake which turned out to be the easiest hiking day. Luckily we got there before a front came in which brought wind, cold and low clouds. But Camp Lake is a treat especially when it is all yours. This was our critical decision point. Would we be able to climb over the steep wall to get out of the Camp Lake basin. The trail led us to a fairly steep ice/snow covered incline we had to climb with just hiking poles and normal boots. I am so glad we decided to do it because the reward of going down the West side along Separation Creek was exceptionally beautiful.
We ended up camping at Reese Lake just North of the trail junction with the PCT. A very scenic location looking up at the South Sister and the lake was warm enough to entice us into a swim. However, that 3rd night was the coldest. We woke up to plenty of frost causing our departure to be a bit delayed.
Our goal for day 4 was to get beyond the Obsidian area hopefully to beyond Opie Dilldock Pass.
With a late start and late afternoon high cold winds we stopped at Sawyer Bar. The winds were strong and the outlook for comfort bleak, but all this changed by morning to give us balmy temperatures to get an early start.
Actually climbing over Opie Dilldock was more work then we expected, but we saved some energy for a climb to the top of Yapoah Crater.
Overall this 5 day 35 mile loop turned out to be a fabulous trip. No rain, plenty of water, awesome mountain scenery and wild flowers at their finest. I highly recommend this Sisters cut through but realize that the window of opportunity is fairly short when snow does not clear until late summer.
My words of wisdom are to set your goal, be persistent with commitment. Be flexible when trying to include others who may not have the same commitment. Do diligence in preparation will pay off. And don’t underestimate what the human body can accomplish especially when survival depends upon it. Or maybe just “No Pain, No Gain“. And be confident that your next adventure will be that much better but no less difficult. Live long and be healthy.