Monday, October 2, 2017

Return to Bullshit Mountain

Elk Mountain is some bullshit. We've established this.

But maybe we just weren't prepared for it last time? Surely with more food, better sleep, more water, and a cooler day, Elk Mountain would be less bullshit?

Nope, Elk Mountain is bullshit. It's a load of bullshit. Elk Mountain deserves nothing but pain and anguish. Elk Mountain has no friends, because Elk Mountain is a giant piece of smelly dingus.

Elk Mountain was picked last for the dodgeball team and targeted first by every single member of both teams. Elk Mountain is a giant piece of donkey ass that has fallen off the donkey, rotted for 3 weeks in a dumpster, then farted.

Elk Mountain should be a new way to describe someone being a shithead. Cut someone off in traffic? Stop being such an Elk Mountain. Harass someone on the street? Quit it, Elk Mountain. Won't shut up about your cats to a co-worker? Go to hell you stupid Elk Mountain.

I hope the giant Cascadia Earthquake hits, but only hits Elk Mountain. All 9.5 of it concentrated on that stupid asshole mountain. I want it to be reduced to paste so the summit is actually downhill. I hope if the nukes start flying, they are all magnetically attracted to Elk Mountain and obliterate it.

Elk Mountain climbs roughly 2788 feet in 1.4 miles. Each step is like stepping in dog poop. This is the nicest compliment on this page.

THERE AREN'T EVEN ANY GODDAMN ELK ON ELK MOUNTAIN. Elk aren't stupid enough to walk up this dumb piece of shit .

Elk Mountain is when your boss walks in just as you are about to leave and drops immediate work on you.

Elk Mountain is when you have to take a shit all day, but every time you try, it doesn't come out, until you have to drive home and suddenly it comes out in the car.

Elk Mountain is dog farts, every day, 2 inches from your face, forever.

Elk Mountain is the 5th circle of hell. The 5th circle is violence. Violence against fun hikes.

Elk Mountain is a horrible upset of your favorite sports team, and then the team goes defunct, then taxes you to buy a new stadium even though they won't play there.

Elk Mountain is falling down the stairs. From the top of the empire state building. As the entire staircase is covered in bird poop. Fresh bird poop. And you have the flu at the time.

Elk Mountain is getting punched by Mike Tyson over and over again, after he bites off both your ears, in an active volcano.

Elk Mountain is being stuck in a tumble dryer with two rabid raccoons on Bath Salts

Elk Mountain is being eaten by a dinosaur in Jurassic park. But not the good Jurassic park. Jurassic Park 3. On betamax. And then you get pooped out and eaten by a different dinosaur from that shitty Disney dinosaur movie that everyone forgot about. Then THAT dinosaur poops you out, and then Mel Gibson rolls around in the poop pile you have become, talking all the while about how much he hates Jews.

Elk Mountain is getting your dick caught in a woodchipper, multiple times

Elk Mountain is being placed in a brass bull torture device and while you burn to a crisp a small TV inside plays  a poorly color-corrected Young Sheldon in HD

Elk Mountain is finding out you have AIDS, the Plague, and leprosy, and then the doctor injects you with ebola just for funsies

Elk Mountain is hiking data that LITERALLY LOOKS LIKE THE DEVIL.

Fuck Elk Mountain.
Never going to climb this piece of shit again.

Here's some pictures

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Cape Horn loop, First Gorge Hike Post-Fire

After what felt like a month of agony, the rains came and the Eagle Creek Fire is out.

Some friends were in town and wanted to hike, so for both fun and for my own personal curiosity about the damage. We went back to do Cape Horn's full loop and I got to see some of the western gorge impact. 

Cape Horn has gotten some work done since me and Keeley did the entire loop a few years ago. Several new viewpoints are official and actually built with a viewing platform and everything. The hike itself is still really good, with a lot of variety. You go uphill through jungle, past two awesome viewpoints, down past a farm to another great viewpoint, down the hill to the west to several more viewpoints, under the road, past a waterfall, down steep rocky switchbacks to a viewpoint near the river cliffs, then back up through a landslide to the base of the waterfall, and then finally up a beautiful farm country road for the final mile. A solid but not exhausting 7 miles.

The farmland under Cape Horn

The damage to Angels Rest is very apparent

Freshly burned Angels Rest

My other purpose was to see what I could of the fire. Since my last post the fire spread to Herman Creek and got to Indian Point and the slopes of Mt. Defiance. At Cape Horn I could only see the far western burn but it was enough to tell some of the damage was pretty bad.

Angels rest got roasted. Devils rest got touched. the Oneonta area got really badly hit. Rock of Ages ridge is toast.

The Oregonian did a gorge flyover, but didn't label the pictures. I'll repost these with labels, as my camera wasn't good enough to capture the gorge from the distance I was at.

Now for the labeled and very sobering images

Angels Rest re-burned everything from the 90's fire. The fire reached Devil's Rest's north side, likely along the ridge the Primrose path follows. We may get a view there now. The trail between Angels Rest and Wahkeena looks burnt. 

Tanner Ridge looks like it got some of the worst burning. Munra Ridge also appears to be toasted. Munra Point is an unofficial trail and the already loose slopes on the approach may landslide into nothing this winter. There should be more views along Tanner and Munra in the distant future though. 

The ridge of Multnomah Basin got hit bad, but the basin itself appears untouched. The fire didn't hit the flat areas. Franklin Ridge is toasted, but that might actually make the trail more interesting, should it survive (it likely will). The approach to Cougar Rock may now be impossible, and the Elevator Shaft may experience another slide if the burnt areas at the top give way.

Nick Eaton ridge was hit but doesn't appear to be too badly. Indian Point looks to have experienced some burn, if it can or should be be reached remains a question.

Yeon Mountain looks toasted. May end up offering views that didn't exist before. Same with Nesmith point, which didn't appear to get hit as badly.

Rock of Ages Ridge got annihilated. I don't see how the unmaintained trail survives this level of instability.

A view into the Oneonta area. Horsetail Ridge is toast. The Devils backbone on Rock of Ages is exposed and bare.
It's heartbreaking. I expect most of the trails to stay closed through the winter and into spring as trained forest professionals figure out the true extent of the damage. We have no good views into the Eagle creek valley itself yet. Triple Falls got roasted. Ruckel Ridge appears to have also been hit really bad. The Benson Plateau seems okay.

It's eventually going to be a great place again, but it's going to be some time before everything is truly over. Before the fire started, I was working on a hiking art piece about Eagle Creek, namely my favorite part: High Bridge. I decided to finish it, knowing it won't look anywhere close to this in the future. I'll put it up as my eulogy.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

My favorite place is burning

My favorite place is burning.

This past weekend my brother in law and his girlfriend came into town for their first Portland visit. We had a great time. On Friday, me and Keeley took them to Multnomah Falls, and we did the Mult-Wahk loop. It was a good hike, we even called in a 911 rescue for an older lady who broke her ankle high on the Wahkeena falls trail. Since this was about the 5th or 6th time I've done this hike (or a variation on it), I didn't bother to take any pictures. I now wish I had, because one week later, none of it may remain.

On Saturday, sometime in the afternoon, some dipshit teenager with no regard for nature was apparently chucking firecrackers into the Eagle Creek Valley. It set some dry brush alight, and now the entire western end of the gorge is on fire. People had to be evacuated from the Eagle Creek Trail, the highway is closed, and Cascade Locks is threatened. After some strong winds overnight, the Multnomah Lodge is now threatened. The fire even jumped onto Archer Mtn, on the Washington side.

It's hitting me so much harder than I ever thought it could.

I fell in love with the Gorge the first moment I saw it. Descending into the far eastern gorge on I-84 when I moved to Oregon in November of 2010. It blew me away. I saw a lot of neat stuff on my cross country trip but this felt different, immediate, somehow secret. I had never heard of the Columbia River Gorge before, I had no idea it existed. Despite millions of people's travels here, it felt like I had discovered something just for me. I'll never forget that drive.

Since that first impression, I've made it my favorite spot. When I need to get away, really get away, that's where I go. There are tons of amazing hiking options in my immediate area, but I'm always drawn to the Gorge. I've gone out of my way to educate myself on the geography, learn the history, and admire the story of this place. There hasn't been a small number of occasions where I've debated trying for a job in the forest service so I can get posted out there and spend every day in it.  I've skipped out on what I'm sure are amazing other hike options by Mt. Hood or the Coast just so I can wander off trail through some bushes near a path no one takes in the Gorge. I love the Gorge. It is my backyard, the adult replacement for my actual childhood backyard woods where I used to wander, alone in thoughts and adventures. I've always found a solace and peace I can't get any other way when I'm off on my own like this.

When I was a kid I'd build forts in the woods and explore. I would go catch falling leaves in the yard for hours on end. In college I discovered biking and would tear through the back farm roads of Rochester by myself, only needing myself, and upon moving out here I found my much needed solitary outlet in hiking. I do it with Keeley as often as I can, but I still consider some of my solitary walks in the woods to be when I am most truly at peace in a way nothing else provides. I've never gone to the coast or Mt. hood by myself. I've only gone to the Gorge and Forest Park, and forest park served as my backup option. The Gorge is my solace. It hurts me, it invigorates me, it challenges me and it makes me happy. And it's burning. 

I've experienced natural disasters before, but mostly just felt curiosity about them. When Annapolis flooded after Hurricane Isabel in high school, I found the results utterly fascinating. There is a distance between how you view disasters when they don't personally affect you. I feel horrible for the people in Houston right now, but there is still a disconnect between me and them. But with this...this actually hurts in a personal way. This feels personal in a way I've never experienced. These are places I've joyously tread, places where I have incredibly fond memories. A part of me feels like it is being lost as the fire burns. I can't imagine what some lifelong outdoorsy Oregonians feel right now.

The Gorge basically reinvigorated my love of hiking and I go out there to hike at minimum once per month year round. I was at Larch Mountain two weeks ago. Multnomah this weekend. Last month we did Ruckel Ridge. I did the Elevator Shaft in April. I hiked Eagle Creek with a friend just in May. I hiked the Triple Falls trail with my work-friends in June. I did Wyeth and Devils Rest too. All of these hikes are going to look very different soon. Depending on if the fire destabilizes the ground, the Ruckel Ridge path may not be hike-able ever again. High Bridge, halfway up Eagle Creek, may not be passable for years if the bridge is damaged. I feel fortunate to have been able to hike as much of this area as I have before this happened. My only real misses in the current fire zone is Tanner Butte, the entire Larch Mountain trail, and a few extensions off Eagle Creek. Outside that plus a few minor niggles, I basically did everything.

It's all going up in flames. Eagle Creek, Ruckel, Wauna, Wachella, and Munra Point are for sure toast. The Benson, Herman Creek and Dry Creek falls, plus Elowah, Nesmith, Oneonta area, they are also burning.

I didn't bother doing all of Bell Creek last week, now it may be gone forever. That's haunting.

All of this because of some dumb kid. I'm not even all that mad at the kid. Fires are natural, even though this was caused by negligence. It wasn't a campfire incorrectly managed. It wasn't a lightning strike. It was intentional ignorance and negligence. I don't want the kid to rot, but I want him to be forced to do service fixing what damage he can feasibly fix for a long time. People may still die here. As of this writing, nobody's dead yet, and most of the damage is to the woods and the trails therein. But ultimately, something like this was always bound to happen, and most of my sadness stems from the knowledge that the place I loved will be forever changed now. It's gone. The remains are literally ash sitting on my car 30 miles away.

I'll post some of my favorite photos here of places that are probably gone or affected. These views will likely never look the same:

Skoonichuk Falls, right in the path of the blaze

Punchbowl Falls, near ground zero

Punchbowl canyon

Punchbowl Canyon

Tunnel Falls, 4 miles upstream from ground zero, likely affected

Loowit Falls, close to High Bridge

Punchbowl from above

On the path to Nesika Lodge

The Elevator Shaft

The Multnomah Spine, the fire has reached past this to the lodge, this ridge is likely bare

Multnomah Basin is probably toast

Nesika Lodge may be lost

The beautiful basin road

Munra Ridge

This valley is on fire

The crumbled outhouse of Nesmith may vanish for good

Oneonta Gorge, a wonderful spot treasured by many

The view from Buck Point, which is likely gone

The base of Munra ridge

Wachella Falls, just a mile west of Eagle Creek, and a place my friends got engaged on my own recommendation

Ponytail Falls

The view on a crisp morning at Rock of Ages

Triple falls, seen by many of my work friends just 3 months ago

The view from rock of ages, a perilous trail that may lose any possible path to reach it once more

Rock of Ages arch, one of the most amazing spots in the gorge

The benson plateau, at the top of ruckel, maybe a mile uphill from ground zero

The eagle creek valley from ruckel ridge

Dublin lake, way up in the hills on the east side of the Eagle creek valley

Angels Rest, not too far from the current flames

Fairy Falls on the Wahkeena Trail

Eagle Creek

Eagle Creek
Tanner butte
The Eagle Creek valley from above
Eagle Creek from Indian Mountain
Eagle Creek Valley

Punchbowl Falls from above
My favorite sunset ever over the Eagle Creek valley

In many years this area will be a whole new kind of beautiful. The dead trees will give up their footholds and landslides will abound, changing the landscape. Wildflowers will flourish, the bare slopes and the views will be even better with half the trees missing. But until then, it's going to be an ugly maze of death and sadness all because some fuckwit teen wanted to set off a flashbang.

I'll be hiking the remains this winter and next year, with a mixture of fascination and sadness. Until then, I guess all I have left are my pictures and my memories of what it looked like before. I'll miss you, old gorge. Time to see what you can come back to.