Wednesday, January 25, 2006

1st annual Word-of-the-day!

Definitions of contretemp on the Web:

  • An inopportune or embarrassing occurrence or situation.

  • an awkward clash; "he tried to smooth over his contretemps with the policeman"

  • or as used by my Natrual Resource 455 professor (where I saw the word for the 1st time):

    and the contretemps that arise in addressing environmental issues."

    Canadian Winter Weekend #2 -

    Get me out of this country!

    Where: Southwestern British Columbia - downtown Vancouver, Whistler, Squamish, Pemberton, St. Agnes Wells Hot Springs, Queen Elizabeth Park

    Wait at border: 50 minutes departing, 10 minutes returning

    Price for 18 rolls sushi plate: 5.95 CDN$

    Who: Ian and Michelle

    The rustic and natural hot springs of St. Agnes Well are worth driving 40 miles of muddy Canadian forest roads. When I went to St. Agnes in 1996 they were a bit run-down , though hot and flowing well. Since then the property owners have developed the site it good style. The site now has three perfectly temped tubs and lots of camping along the Lillouet River. It was deserted on the wintery Friday night we camped there, the suggested fee was $5CDN per person, but we made a donation of about $7US. Worth every bit of the long drive. GO!

    Monday, January 16, 2006

    Photos: The fallen giants at Baker Lake, WA

    Tuesday, January 10, 2006

    Here's The Beta -

    Elfin Lakes Backcountry Hut at Diamond Head, British Columbia

    When the weather outlook is snow, rain, and more snow I start digging through my Internet bookmarks for warm places to sleep out in the woods. Relatively warm winter storms in the Cascades will test even the best tents and Gore-Tex and from past experience I know better than to hike into the abyss hoping to keep dry in my old 3-season Mountain Hardwear. When the satellite shows front after front poised to pound the entire west coast I track down directions to a comfy backcountry hut. In this case a handful of calls to BC Parks and frustrating Internet searching leads me to the Elfin Lakes Hut in southwestern BC. The hut, the ranger on the other side of the international line tells me, sleeps 35, rarely fills up, and has propane amenities. It's a steep 11km into Elfin Lakes and the avalanche safe route is marked with snow poles. The fee of ten Canadian dollars per person per night can be paid in the parking lot.

    This is a cool trip! Great mountain scenery, warm shelters, rowdy and fun-loving Canadians, and with enough time, endless backcountry skiing. Ready to go? Here's the beta.

    Drive 20 minutes north on the 5 from Bellingham and you're in a different country. Drive another hour and a half to the town of Squamish, British Columbia and you're on a different planet. From Squamish turn right at the small Garibaldi Provincial Park sign pointing to Diamond Head and climb up the logging road that dead-ends at the trail head for Elfin Lakes. The trailhead, rumored to be the one of the most popular winter spots in lower BC, is full of cars; yours is the only one with Washington plates. Pay the fee, top off the packs with more food (yummy baked goods you'll never find in an American supermarket), and skin up the skis. Now work your way slowly up the abandoned road as hordes of local day skiers and groups of snowshoers pass you with their light packs and Canadian superhero strength.

    At the midway point you'll find a warming shelter at Red Heather Meadows, then the trail steepens and deposits you on Paul Ridge. The skiable terrain falls away to both sides and the mind numbingly long ridge rolls towards the interior of the range and the remote hut. When you find yourself in a whiteout, at dusk, 10 km into the Canadian Cascades, don't worry (even if two old crotchity Canadian tele skiers just told you 'you might not make it'). Just keep following the marked route and eventually you will be deposited at the hut.

    The hut will be nearly full, encampments of tents and snow caves will surround the place. Coming in so late folks will welcome you and point you to the last remaining sleeping spot. If you didn't bring Therma-rests you'll be sleeping on plywood. There's an atmosphere of a adult birthday party, the propane lights and heater make it feel like your in the frontcountry, it's loud, smells like good food being cooked, there's lots of folks to share stories with, everyone is boisterous and has a funny Canadian accent. The stovetops and few pots are being used, but your tiredness makes you content with eating cold things wrapped in a tortilla. Talk and smoke with the locals. Sleep.

    In the morning the clouds will riseto reveal the entirety of the mounatinscape the engulfs the hut. You'd need 5 days rather than 2 to explore the untracked snow that surrounds you. But it's already time to reverse your approach route. In the time it takes to load your pack the snow will return and you will step out of the hut door into the familiar whiteout. Follow the orange poles, get some turns in above the meadow, take your skins off, it takes no time at all to descend the wide trail to the car. Before reaching the US border start dreaming and planning a week-long ski trip to Elfin Lakes. Commit to memory the sunlit hinterland mountaintop that pushed away the dark clouds to beg for a few turns.

    Friday, January 06, 2006

    Bringin' in the New Year Redneck Style -

    Fossil fueled trips to Newberry Crater NM and Crater Lake NP

    What better way to bring in the New Year than to burn some fossil fuels, fill your tummy with food and drinks, and spend times with good friends. During my last three day adventure, slednecking and RVing once again proved themselves a worthy endeavor in rainy and otherwise inhospitable Central Oregon. I must note: during the pre-trip preparations the goal is always snowmobiling, but once we arrived at 10-Mile SnoPark below Pualina Lake snowmobiling was oftentimes the last thing on the list.

    As always, getting a trip like this together takes a lot of prior organization. Josh Harvey, AKA The Captian, was, per usual, instrumental in putting everything together. Josh made reservations for the Diamond Lake cabin, acquired a four-place sled trailer, loaded the motorhome, fueled and maintained the beasts, and gathered the raggedy human team at his SE Bend home to plan for the weekend. Michelle came all the way down from Spokane to join the revelry and I abandoned any hope of finding gainful employment in Bend. With Josh as our crew boss we mixed a few beers with trailering the sleds, finding helmets, buying supplies, checking the weather, etc. Rain and slushy snow had been the norm in Bend for the last week and we crossed our fingers that we would gain ground on the snow level by heading south and up into the caldera at Newberry Crater National Monument.

    In a modern caravan of Ford and Toyota trucks, trailers loaded with sleds, and an old-school Itasca motorhome we crawled our way down Hwy 97 through slush and heavy rain and up into the already nearly full 10-Mile SnoPark. The huge lot was already loaded with motorhomes (ranging from our thrifty Itasca to million dollar coaches) full of revelers leaving the confines of the electrically driven city for the free-wheeling, two-stroke driven encampment just miles below Paulina Lake's New Year's celebration. When we arrived we where lucky in finding space sufficient to park the caravan. We got to work preparing and beautifying base camp I.

    Fire- check; unload the sleds- check; beverages stored in snow- check; get the generator going- check; bake the pizza- check; music- check; large serpent-like snow sculpture that rings the campfire, provides warm seating, and gathers empty beer cans- check!

    Without going into details, our time spent at camp was a blast. Tyler Scrivens and I put hours into creating our icy friend Carl from piles of snow that began as simple seats, Josh lit off some bottle rockets, we played rounds and rounds of the dice game 10,000 (a Farquhar family favorite), Kate challenged us all to our favorite PlayStation game, Michelle mixed drinks and kept me laughing all night, and Scotty's introduction to sledneck-land reminded me of my own. Of course we also buzzed around on Josh's handful of snowmobiles in the rain and snow. Just before 11pm we made our way slowly up the oversnow road 5 miles to the bonfire built from whole trees and the fireworks display at Paulina Lake Lodge. Josh had a slight collision with some jack-ass on a dirt bike, our progression was slowed, but we pushed on to bring in the New Year on the shore of the mighty volcanic lake warmed by dozens of salvaged lodgepole pines.

    New Years' was barely the middle point of the long weekend. The next morning we sent the motor home back to Bend (thanks Kris) and headed down to Diamond Lake Resort to install base camp II. From the comfy cabin at the shore of Cascade ringed Diamond Lake we would have easy access to the bar, and, be just down the road from the north entrance of Crater Lake National Park. Since Josh fell asleep at about 9pm, we would have a motivator the next morning as we prepared to buzz out the 10 miles to the north rim of Crater Lake. Getting to the remote rim of this often overlooked national park is truly an oversnow journey and the only way to make a day trip out of it is at about 45 MPH. The well-marked route is the only path into the park via snowmobile. The fine for leaving the groomed route in $5,000, impoundment of your sled, and loss of your driver's license for a year. We stayed on the trail. When we reached the rim we killed the sleds and headed to the highest point of the snowy headland and watched Wizard Island peak from the clouds. The lakeside cliffs looked huge and magnificent blanketed in the heavy winter snows. The water, through 1000's of feet below, still felt bitter cold and angry. Crater Lake on January 2nd is truly a treat.

    A tour of Oregon's volcanic era calderas, fully supported by Harvey and his amazing combustion engines, fed with good food and drink, and in the presence of good friends is an adventure fit for the date. What can I say: I spent the end of 05 and the beginning of 06 drinkin' beer and using fuel. Hopefully not too different that most of you. Happy New Year to all and especially to all the friends also on the Pro Leisure Tour. The PLT lives on.

    Photos: 5/7th of the crew - Harvey-time, Scrivs, me, Kate, and Michelle