Climb On Smith Rock: Part 1

Pretty Postcard, Smith Rock

Pretty Postcard, Smith Rock

Back in Jackson, Wyoming in July, I met a couple of guys at the laundromat who were living out of a VW van, hitting all the classic climbing spots from Kentucky to Alaska. They had just come down off the Grand Teton and were heading to Vedauwoo, Wyoming, one of my favorite places. We kept in touch and last week, the three of us met up again at Smith Rock State Park in central Oregon for six days of climbing at this famous crag.

Smith Rock is made up of volcanic tuff, an usually well-cemented type of volcanic ash that makes for fantastic climbing. Smith Rock is famous among rock climbers as the birthplace of modern sport climbing, where climbers follow bolted routes up challenging rock faces. Smith boasts some of the hardest sport routes in the world, including the first 5.14 climb ever completed in the US. I’m a good, competent climber, but no expert so I stuck to the moderate routes but Dan and Thomas have been pushing their climbing limits all summer and I had a great time watching them work some killer lines.

Hiking to the Morning Glory Wall

Hiking along the Crooked River to the Morning Glory Wall

Morning Glory

The Morning Glory Wall. The large pockets are called Huecos.

Huecos & Multipitch

Huecos & Multipitch

Multi-pitch Men. They'll keep going up from here.

Multi-pitch Men. They’ll keep going up from here.

Danimal Leading on the Morning Glory Wall

Danimal Leading on the Morning Glory Wall. The white marks are chalk around the holds used to ascend this route.

Climbing Partners

Climbing Partners: Dan & Thomas

Crag Dogs

Crag Dogs hiding out from the Sun

T-Dawg climbing barefoot

T-Dawg climbing barefoot

Yours truly on the same route

Yours truly on the same route

Stretch! Dan on a burly 11.d route

Stretch! Thomas on a burly 11.d route

Thomas belaying Dan, off the ground, giving him some advice

Thomas belaying Dan.

Crag Men,. Thomas and Dan met on Mountainproject.com and have been traveling in a VW van all summer, hitting all the famous climbing crags in North America.

Crag Men. Thomas and Dan met on Mountainproject.com and have been traveling in a VW van all summer, hitting all the famous climbing crags in North America. I so enjoyed basking in the trust between these two.

Highliner. He is wearing a safety leash. You can just barely see it clipped to the highline behind his heels. I watched him cross back and forth twice and he never fell.

Highliner. He is wearing a safety leash. You can just barely see it clipped to the highline behind his heels. I watched him cross back and forth twice and he never fell.

BB's highline. She's balancing on the top rail of the fence. I think Danimal's impressed.

BB’s highline. She’s balancing on the top rail of the fence. I think Danimal’s impressed.

In my element.

In my element.

Rain incoming over Grey Butte

Rain incoming over Grey Butte

Thomas and BB descending Misery Ridge

Thomas and BB descending Misery Ridge

Smith Rock D.O.G.

Smith Rock D.O.G.

Eagle Watching. There are two golden eagle nests in the cliff wall under the spire on the right. The eagle's aren't here this time of year though, only in the spring and early summer.

Eagle Watching. There are two golden eagle nests in the cliff wall under the spire on the left.

My Office

My Smith Rock Office. Write in the morning, climb in the afternoon!

Stay tuned for an adventure up the Monkey Face! This climb was one of the highlights of my life!!!

Monkey Men on Monkey Face. I didn't sit this one out...

Monkey Men on Monkey Face. You best believe I didn’t sit this one out…

Check out Thomas’ blog about traveling in his van: Travelin in Bertha. The bearded one was honorably discharged from the Army in April after 7 years of service, including two tours in the Middle East and he’s now living the dream on the road.

The Army Man turned Mountain Man. He's not going to shave or cut his hair for a year. 7 months to go...

The Army Man turned Mountain Man. He’s not going to shave or cut his hair for a year. 7 months to go…

Posted in Bowie & D.O.G., Hiking!, Photography, Road tripping!, Sustainable Living, Teardrop Trailer, Vagabonding 101 | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Hiking In Hunting Season

My black bears in Maine, all decked out for hunting season

Fall is my favorite hiking season, with one major drawback: it’s also hunting season. I don’t have a problem sharing the woods with sportsmen, as long as they hunt responsibly, but being around flying bullets does tend to put me on edge, especially with two dogs who look a lot like black bears.

My dogs in turkey mode.

Hunting season doesn’t mean you have to stay home, but it is important to take some precautions before you hit the trail.

First, check the rules for your area. Generally, archery season starts in early October and gun season starts in mid-November and runs through January, but seasons varies from state to state and location to location.

Confusing, right? To be on the safe side, I consider hunting season to run from October through January.

Modeling my blaze orange fall jacket on the way up Ragged Mountain in Maine. The dogs are wearing orange scarves, though they don’t quite show up at this angle. Vests would be better.

The single most important precaution you can take during hunting season is to make sure you are visible by wearing bright, blaze orange. Your orange should be visible 360° around your body, from all angles. I have a blaze orange jacket and a bright orange backpack specifically for fall hiking. You can buy cheap blaze orange vests at any store that sells hiking gear or sporting goods. Target has them for $5. Blaze orange hats are good too. Around Halloween, a lot of places sell bright orange trash bags that you can use as pack covers. Also try to avoid wearing white gloves or socks that might be mistaken for the flash of a deer’s tail.

Dogs should be outfitted with a blaze orange collar, scarf or vest. If your dog runs around off trail or chases game, keep it on a leash. In fact, you should both stay on the trail; hunting season is not the time for bushwhacking. Most trails are considered safe corridors and hunters are supposed to refrain from shooting on or near established footpaths.

Hunting isn't allowed on the AT in Virginia, though it is in other states. Here we're crossing the James River Foot Bridge.

Hunting isn’t allowed on the AT in Virginia, though it is in other states. Here we’re crossing the James River Foot Bridge.

I’ve heard a few horror stories about hikers being bullied by hunters. I was once told quite rudely that I had no business being in the woods if I wasn’t carrying a license and a gun. That’s bullshit, but I don’t argue with people who are armed. If you run into a jerk, remove yourself from the situation as quickly and neutrally as possible. Conversely, it’s also illegal to harass hunters or interfere with their quarries. Public lands are for everybody and we all need to get along out there. Be smart, be safe, be visible, and be nice.

Bowie in Shenandoah

Bowie in Shenandoah National Park

Still nervous? You can always hike in a place that doesn’t allow hunting at all. Most National Parks are hunt-free (always check before you go), many state parks have limited hunts and 11 states – Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia – ban hunting on Sundays.

Blaze Orange Bowie at Ocean Ledges, Camden, Maine

For more information on hunting in your area, visit your state’s Fish & Game department website. Some additional hiking safety resources: the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and Appalachian Mountain Club. Curious about my feelings on guns? Check out my previous post Into the Ojito Wilderness.

Posted in Appalachian Trail, Bowie & D.O.G., Hiking!, Photography, Uncategorized, Vagabonding 101 | 5 Comments

Washington Cascades: Mount Adams!

On the summit of Mount Adams with Mount Saint Helens in the background

Auction Day: On the summit of Mount Adams with Mount Saint Helens in the background

I must admit an error. When I reposted the “Special Auction” post the other day, I was working on my phone, from a free campsite on the flank of Mount Adams and I neglected to remove the paragraph about this being my 24th auction. I didn’t make it home for the auction this year. I was back east for the first two weeks of September, traveling from Maine to West Virginia, visiting friends and family. But I couldn’t leave my dogs with friends in Seattle long enough to stay for the auction and so I missed it; only the second auction I’ve ever missed. On auction day I didn’t want to be sitting around, pining for whoopie pies so I made some pretty epic plans: I climbed Mount Adams!

At 12,280 feet, Mount Adams is the second highest point in Washington, after Mount Rainier. The route is 13 miles round trip, gaining over 7,000 feet of elevation. Above 9,000 feet there is no trail; you must pick your way up vast snowfields and endless scree slopes to the false summit at Piker’s Peak and then slog up another 1,200 feet of switchbacks to the top. The effort requires an ice axe, crampons and constant route finding. It’s not really a mountain I’d want to tackle solo.

Driving up to Mount Adams through the aftermath of the September 2012 Cascade Fire, started by a lightning strike.

Driving up to Mount Adams through the aftermath of the September 2012 Cascade Fire, started by a lightning strike.

Lucky for me on this trip I had partners: the Silagy Brothers! I met Mitchell and Ryan on the summit of Mount Thielsen a few weeks ago and after I beat them both up to the summit and almost beat them back to the parking lot, they invited me to join them on Adams. “You set a pretty fast pace,” Mitchell told me. “We always pass everybody and we never caught up to you!”

The Silagy Brothers & Me on top of Mount Adams

The Silagy Brothers & me on top of Mount Adams. Twins!  I could only tell them apart by their boots!

Mitchell and Ryan just caught the mountain bug this summer. Both avid rock climbers and competitive boulderers, they hoofed it up Mount Saint Helens this spring and then summited Mount Hood and have spent all their summer weekends since tagging high points in the Cascades. They climbed Adams in July, but wanted to take a training run up the mountain before tackling Mount Rainier.

I met the brothers at a free campsite the night before. We set our alarms for 4am and carpooled up to the trailhead in their Jeep with AC/DC blasting Highway to Hell. We got on the trail by 4:45, still full dark. I found my pace behind Ryan and ahead of Mitchell and switched off my headlamp, my good night vision making due with the ambient light from the brothers’ lamps.

First light, Sliver Moon

First Light, Sliver Moon

We reached Lunch Counter, a shoulder with many semi-circular rock shelters where most Adams climbers spend the night on the way up, just after dawn. Most of the tents we passed were still occupied. So much for their Alpine starts! The Silagy Brothers really do pass everybody, even the people who sleep on the mountain!

The Lunch Counter

The Lunch Counter

Here we split up: Ryan, who didn’t have snow spikes, headed up a shoulder of loose rock to bypass the snow while Mitchell and I strapped on our crampons and wielded our ice axes and started up the first of two long, steep snowfields.

Crampons are fierce-looking spikes that lend some traction on icy snow fields.

Crampons are fierce-looking spikes that give traction on icy snow fields. Dio has his own built-in crampons and he didn’t have any trouble on the snow.

Crossing this scalloped snowfield was totally exhausting.

Crossing this scalloped snowfield was totally exhausting.

By the time I made it across the second snow field, I was beat. Ryan was waiting for us at the edge of the rock and Mitchell assured me I was over the icy crux of the climb: the rest of the way up was on rock. Rock sounded better than ice, but then it turned out to be loose scree: for every step up, I slid half a step down. I took to hopping from one boulder to the next, trying to pick rocks big enough that they wouldn’t roll underfoot. I thought a bit about quitting but every few minutes, Mitchell and Ryan would holler encouragement to me, waving their ice axes like wild mountain men. By the time I reached the false summit Piker’s Peak, I had caught a third wind.

Ryan and Mitchell waiting for me at Piker's Peak, pointing out the final summit push.

Ryan pointing out the final summit push from Piker’s Peak.

This rock was struck by lightning on August 21, 1923.

This rock was struck by lightning on August 21, 1923.

You're a Piker if you stop on this summit!

You are a Piker if you stop on this summit! Don’t crab. The mountain was here first. Arthur Jones, August 1923. Carving on the false summit of Piker’s Peak.

Crossing the final snowfield

Crossing the final snowfield

Dio tanking up at the edge of the summit glacier.

Dio tanking up at the edge of the summit glacier.

The summit of Adams is marked by an old mining shack. Apparently they used to bring mules up here?! The crazy things people will do for shiny rocks.

The summit of Adams is marked by an old mining shack. Apparently they used to bring mules up here?! The crazy things people will do for shiny rocks. Notice Mount Hood in the background.

Summit! We climbed up on to the roof of the shack.

Summit! Yep, we climbed up on to the roof of the shack.

The Silagy Brothers on Mount Adams

The Silagy Brothers on the roof of Mount Adams

Looking west towards Mount Saint Helens

Looking west towards Mount Saint Helens

And north towards Mount Rainier.

And north towards Mount Rainier.

Mount Adams D.O.G. with Rainier. Dio did just fine up and down Adams- he's been higher (up to 14,440) but I wouldn't recommend the route for most dogs. All that ice and rock is tough on their feet. Dio was a little footsore, but fine by the next day.

Mount Adams D.O.G. with Rainier. Dio did just fine up and down Adams- he’s been higher (up to 14,440) but I wouldn’t recommend the route for most dogs. All that ice and rock is tough on their feet. Dio was a little footsore, but fine by the next day.

We looped around the summit crater past the Adams Glacier and then headed back down

We looped around the summit crater past the Adams Glacier. That’s the shack at upper right.

Overlooking the Adams Glacier, the second largest glacier in the lower 48.

Overlooking the Adams Glacier, the second largest glacier in the lower 48.

Dirty snow just below the summit. The dirt is from wind blown dust and air pollution. Yuck!

Dirty snow just below the summit. The dirt is from wind blown dust and air pollution. Yuck!

At the summit, the bad news is that you’re only halfway home. The good news is that it’s all downhill from there. Between skiing down the scree slope on our boot heels and then sliding down the snowfields on our butts, we had a blast on the descent! Adams is famous for its glissade: a snowy chute over a mile long! You slide down on your butt, using your boot heels and ice axe as a brake.

Why hike down a mountain when you can slide? Ice axe and boot heels are the brake.

Why hike down a mountain when you can glissade?

P9209497

Mitchell glissading down Adams. This chute was over a mile long! Wheeee!

We got back down to the Lunch Counter by 2 and back down the trailhead by 3, making for a 10 hour day on the mountain. If only I had a whoopie pie waiting for me at the bottom!

I do enjoy the challenge of keeping up with mountain men. Read about my January climb up Santa Fe Baldy and my very first mountaineering epic The Suffer Fest.

*Update- Mitchell and Ryan climbed Mount Rainier the Monday after our hike up Adams! They figured they were acclimatized to the altitude so they might as well take a crack at it. They summited via the Disappointment Cleaver route. Congrats!

Posted in Bowie & D.O.G., Hiking!, Photography, Road tripping!, Teardrop Trailer, Uncategorized, Vagabonding 101 | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

The Impossible Sight of a Ship

First Flight by Sarah McRae Morton

First Flight by Sarah McRae Morton. 6 ft by 9 ft! My favorite from this show.

Apologies for the lack of posts lately. I stashed my dogs and my rig with friends in Seattle and flew east for two weeks. First I flew landed in Maine to attend the opening night of my sister’s show “The Impossible Sight of a Ship” at the Dowling-Walsh Gallery in Rockland, Maine. Sarah has been making her living as a painter for over a decade now and her paintings never cease to enthrall me. I’ll let Sarah’s words and paintings speak for themselves. Here is her artist’s statement:

A family tie brought me to Maine. I have returned, following windy curiosity to see whereseafarers fed my favorite painters, find the “Grim and Wild Maine” described by Thoreau, follow water veins he coursed with Penobscot guides, and hear the wrath of the ocean on the fortress walls of Monhegan.

“Wilding on November 1st, the Worth of a Pig (after ‘Fog Warning’ by Winslow Homer).

“Wilding on November 1st, the Worth of a Pig (after ‘Fog Warning’ by Winslow Homer).

The subjects in “The Impossible Sight of a Ship” are the people from whom I am descended, by blood or by the “marrow of artistic tradition”, all of whom led me to a place and time in Maine. The present, as a culmination of chances, is one lock of a braided theme joining pieces in this suite of work. The other two lineages of the binding braid are the history of a family, and that of a string of artists. From each I have inherited substance to make paintings.

These paintings are maps of retraced steps, records of the roads taken to try to capture images of people long gone. They are invented portraits of the shells of tenacious spirits who have survived because their stories are transmitted around campfires, between rocking chairs, and under moth eaten black skies. They had memorable lives or unforgettable brushes with death and left enough legacy, artifacts or genetic residue to retell their stories. What they all have in common is me, a common descendant.

As there is an optimal viewing distance for every painting, it seems true of history too – perspective clarifies some facts and can obscure what we wish not to see. It’s a metaphor I elude to by rendering some detail finely while blurring other passages within the same frame.

"Wills of Morton and Bonnie – the night he wrote the letter that would be lost for 100 years.”

“Wills of Morton and Bonnie – the night he wrote the letter that would be lost for 100 years.”

My paintings mimic American academic construction. The compositions draw from a canon of western paintings where a common goal was to deceive the viewer- to build a believable window view to an invented scene by an alchemic process using dirt, stone oil, sap, gems and flax. The style of the pieces varies according to the prevalent style of art during each character’s lifetime, displaying facets of aesthetic traditions, or challenges to convention that made American art history.

The process of learning to see gave me the title of the show, “The Impossible Sight of a Ship.” It has been theorized that when European vessels first appeared on the horizon of the Americas, native people could not “see” the ships. Having never laid eyes on such objects before, they were not primed to recognize the shapes of the bow, hull and sails…or see the apparition as portent of a storm.

The concept that it is an acquired ability to recognize objects, illusions, constructions, pictures is a useful analogy for my process of painting. My work is a continuation of the endeavors of others. The ship is impossible for me to see without the ghosts of earlier images on my retinas. I relied on the work of the Wyeths, Homer, Peal, Sully, Eakins to compose these pictures.

The Last Word Before the Joints of the Chair Creaked

The Last Word Before the Joints of the Chair Creaked

My other favorite: Eve of the Blue Grass

My other favorite: Eve of the Blue Grass

These five sold as a set.

These five sold as a set.

"The Ark of the North Country Girl and the Cape of Curiosity"

“The Ark of the North Country Girl and the Cape of Curiosity”

Detail from the Ark of the North Country Girl and the Cape of Curiosity,

Detail from the Ark of the North Country Girl and the Cape of Curiosity. I overheard Sarah telling somebody that the chickens in her paintings represent the ideas that she can’t quite grasp firmly enough to set down on canvas.

Sarah in the gallery among her 38 paintings, representing a year's work.

Sarah in the gallery among her 38 paintings, representing a year’s work.

Sarah’s show is getting rave reviews and she’s selling out! Read more about her show in the Portland Press Herald and visit the gallery’s website here. Her website is mcraemorton.com.

Posted in Sustainable Living, Vagabonding 101 | 12 Comments

A Special Auction

Amishman & Son

My favorite day of the year is always the Third Saturday of September: Auction Day! On this day, every year for the past 24 years, the Amish and Mennonite communities of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania have held a spectacular benefit auction for my parents’ non-profit medical clinic, the Clinic For Special Children.

The Clinic For Special Children was founded in 1989 by my parents, Holmes and Caroline Morton, to care for Amish and Mennonite children with rare genetic disorders. When I was seven years old, the Clinic’s traditional post and beam building was built by volunteers in the style and spirit of an Amish barn raising well off a country road, on the edge of a donated cornfield, in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country.

Home sweet home: Strasburg, Pennsylvania

Most of my childhood was spent at the Clinic, playing in the lab, in the halls, in the surrounding fields and woods. Throughout college, I worked in the Clinic’s busy lab, running a gene sequencer, searching for the elusive single point gene mutations underlying the rare genetic diseases that affect the Plain people.

The Amish are especially susceptible to genetic disorders because of their small gene pool. Everybody in the modern Amish community is descended from a dozen couples that first came to America from northern Europe in the 1700’s. In genetics, this is known as a population bottleneck. The common misconception is that inbreeding is the cause, but in such a limited gene pool, even if two people aren’t first cousins (a union frowned upon in the Amish church) they are still genetically very closely related, greatly increasing the chances that carriers of rare, recessive gene mutations will meet, marry and have children.

Mennonite girls & miniature ponies

To date, the Clinic has defined 108 different genetic disorders within the Amish and Mennonite communities. Most of these disorders are also found the general population, whom the Amish call “the English,” but at a much lower frequency. For example, one recessive metabolic disorder known as glutaric aciduria occurs in 1 in 200,000 “English” births; in the Amish it’s 1 in 200.

Some people see a stark contrast between modern medicine and Plain culture and I can attest that running a gene sequencer while watching our neighbor plow his field with a team of mules outside my window was a surreal experience. But the Clinic exists because of the Plain people and their beliefs, not in spite of them. The Amish are practical people who demand practical medicine and the Clinic specializes in delivering cutting edge, efficient, personalized, affordable medicine. The Clinic is a microcosm of what healthcare can be and should be.

Horse & Buggies

Clinic costs are extremely low because almost everything is done in house: genetic testing, ultrasounds, electrocardiograms, amino acid levels, blood and urine tests. A third of the Clinic’s budget comes from modest patient fees, a third from donations and a third from the auction.

The Amish self-insure through a program they call “Amish Aid”. Families pay bills out of pocket, in cash. When a sick child has to be admitted to a major medical hospital and the family cannot cover the bill, a collection plate is passed around at church and every family donates as much as they can.

Blue Bonnet Girls

The annual benefit auction is an astonishing community-wide version of Amish-Aid. Everything is donated: handmade quilts, farm equipment, furniture, toys, ponies, buggies and harnesses, food, services; there are too many items to list. The sheer scale of the auction is probably best conveyed in the amount of food: in 2010, 15,000 donuts, 3,000 pounds of BBQ chicken, 2,3000 subs, and 500 gallons of ice cream all sold out before 2 o’clock. In this one incredible day, tens of thousands of Plain people and English supporters turn out and raise a third of the Clinic’s annual operating budget. This is community supported medicine at its best.

Amish boys & auction quilt

This will be my 23rd auction; I’ve lived all over the country and have only ever missed one. No matter where I am, I always come home to witness this outpouring of support for my parents’ work. For my family, this day is much more important than Christmas.

My parents have given so much of themselves to the Clinic. Every year on auction day the community gives back. Because of this day, thousands of children have suffered less and led longer and more fulfilling lives. My parents are heroes of medicine and on this day, as every other, I am tremendously proud of them.

Dr. Morton’s speech at last year’s auction

Click here to read more about the Clinic and here to see more photos from last year’s auction. My booklet, Plain Genetics, about genomic medicine at the Clinic can be purchased here. All proceeds go to the Clinic. The auction will be held this Saturday 9/20 from 8 to 4 at the Leola Produce Auction grounds in Leola, Pennsylvania. Donations to the Clinic can be made at www.clinicforspecialchildren.org.

Posted in Photography, Science Writing, Sustainable Living, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 12 Comments

My 500th Post!

"Cirque Dreams" by Craig Muderlak

Up front: “Cirque Dreams” a  print of an ink and watercolor portrait of the Cirque of the Towers in Wyoming’s Wild River Range by Craig Muderlak

Drum roll, please… this is my 500th post on the Blonde Coyote! A look back at my very first post from June 2011:

Until very recently, I resisted starting a blog. I already make my living at the keyboard as a freelance science and travel writer and I didn’t want to commit to spending any more of my time staring at a computer screen. But lately, friends have been asking me for travel tips, especially road tripping advice and since I’ve been living on the road for the past six years, I have a lot to share.

Traveling is more than a hobby for me; it’s a way of life. Everything I own, including my two dogs, fits neatly in my car and I am ready to pack up and hit the road anywhere at anytime. In the past six years my dogs and I have crossed the country ten times, taken countless regional road trips, hiked thousands of miles in the lower 48 states and lived in nine states on both coasts: PA, OR, MD, VA, NM, MT, MI, WV, and ME. I have seen a lot of the world and have no plans to settle down any time soon.

I know not everybody is willing or able to convert to full time vagabonding, but traveling doesn’t have to be exotic or expensive. All you really need is time and a good pair of shoes. I would love for my friends to see more of the world, whether they are exploring their own home towns, a neighboring state, crossing the country or heading overseas. Stay tuned to The Blonde Coyote for travel tips, updates from my adventures on the road and lots more!

A new form of transport for the Teardrop: the Rattler's first ferry boat ride out of the Olympic Peninsula!

A new form of transport for the Teardrop: the Rattler’s first ferry boat ride out to the Olympic Peninsula!

Now, just over three years later, the intent of the Blonde Coyote has remained the same but my own mode of travel has evolved quite a bit. I bought my rolling home on the road in March 2012, as a 30th birthday present to myself. After living out of my car between housesitting gigs for six years, I was craving some personal space but I wasn’t willing to settle down in one place. The trailer has given me exactly that and after my third summer living in it, I have it decorated just so with an eclectic mix of micro-art and mementos from my journey. In celebration of my 500th post, I thought you all might enjoy seeing some updated pix of my dream home on the road.

My work station, where I write most of my posts, surrounded by some of my favorite images and an original painting by my sister.

My work station, where I write most of my posts, surrounded by some of my favorite images and an original painting by my sister.

The painting at lower left was sent to me by a reader who based it off one of my photos of Mount Elbert. The drawing above the window

The painting at lower left was sent to me by a reader who based it off one of my photos of Mount Elbert. Other mementos from Key West, the Rio Grande Gorge, Vedauwoo, Wyoming and the Grand Canyon.

The best Art of all, out the door

The best Art of all…out the door

Stay tuned for 500 more posts! :)

Posted in Appalachian Trail, Bowie & D.O.G., Hiking!, New Mexico, Photography, Road tripping!, Science Writing, Sustainable Living, Teardrop Trailer, Uncategorized, Vagabonding 101 | 17 Comments

Oregon Cascades: Mount Thielsen!

Mount Thielsen

Mount Thielsen at first light

For a few years now, I’ve been calling the Pedernal in New Mexico my favorite mountain. The seemingly insurmountable flat-topped peak, made famous by Georgia O’Keeffe, was one of the first big mountains I onsighted and soloed. I first saw it in one of O’Keeffe’s paintings and said “I want to go up there” and then I drove up to northern New Mexico on my 27th birthday and climbed it. Now I might have a new favorite: Mount Thielsen in the Oregon Cascades!

Selfie with Mount Thielsen. I want to go up there! Three hours later, I was standing on the spire.

Selfie with Mount Thielsen. I want to go up there! Three hours later, I was standing on the spire.

I first saw Thielsen in 2005 on my very first road trip from Pennsylvania to Oregon. The spire is visible from Crater Lake but I’m sure it did not occur to me at the time that I might be able to go up there. In the 9 years since that first road trip, I have evolved from a woman who looks up at the mountains to one who climbs them.

The approach followed a moderately steep trail for 3 miles until it crossed over the Pacific Crest Trail and then followed a ridge up class 2 and 3 talus to the class 4 spire.

The approach followed a moderately steep trail for 3 miles until it crossed over the Pacific Crest Trail and then followed a ridge up class 2 and 3 talus to the class 4 summit spire. The trail runs up to the right of that tree around the right side of the hunk of rock.

Even now, with several years of mountaineering experience under my belt, I didn’t believe I could climb Thielsen until I was actually standing on top of it. That crazy witches hat of a peak is even more intimidating in person! But I’ve learned over the years how to draw power from a mountain, to let it reel me in, pulling me upwards and onwards until there’s no more up to go.

Dio negotiating the class 3 scramble to the summit spire. Diamond Lake and Mount Bailey in the background.

Dio negotiating the class 3 scramble to the summit spire. Diamond Lake and Mount Bailey in the background.

Dio just below Chicken Ledge, where the trail goes from steep class 3 to vertical class 4.

Dio just below Chicken Ledge, where the trail goes from steep class 3 to vertical class 4. I poured out some water for him and laid down my jacket and he waited for me at the base of the spire.  We were the first ones on the trail and the first up the mountain.

Selfie at the base of the summit spire

Selfie at the base of the summit spire. Easy climbing over an exposed, x-rated drop.

The Top!

Self portrait with Norman Thomas just below the top!

USGS marker on the summit

USGS marker on the summit, placed in 1955

Fulgerites aka petrified lightning on the summit spire. Thielsen is nicknamed the Lightning Rod of the Cascades. Glad I was up here on a clear day!

Fulgerites aka petrified lightning on the summit spire. Thielsen is nicknamed the Lightning Rod of the Cascades. Glad I was up here on a clear day!

The sheer 2,000 foot drop down to the Lathrop Glacier

The sheer 2,000 foot drop down to what’s left of the Lathrop Glacier

Self portrait with Diamond Lake

Self portrait with Diamond Lake and Mount Bailey

Hello Crater Lake! On clear days, supposedly uou can see down into the supernaturally blue waters , but there was too much smoke this day.

Hello Crater Lake! On clear days, supposedly you can see down into the supernaturally blue waters from the summit of Thielsen , but there was too much smoke from fires burning in northern CA.

After a month in Oregon, I’m remembering why I ended up living here for a year and a half. I love this state! I’m due in Washington to pick up a friend at the airport for a few days in the Olympics! Stay tuned…

Before heading north, I ran down the steep Cleetwood Cove trail to touch the blue waters of Crater Lake.

Walking on water over one of the Earth’s greatest cataclysms. Before heading north, I ran down the steep Cleetwood Cove trail to touch the blue waters of Crater Lake.

For more on Crater Lake, check out the Travels in Geology feature I wrote for EARTH magazine on Oregon’s only National Park.

 

Posted in Bowie & D.O.G., Hiking!, Photography, Road tripping!, Uncategorized, Vagabonding 101 | Tagged , , | 17 Comments

Mortons At Mary’s Peak

Sisters I

Sisters

My brother, sister and I are all pretty scattered. Sarah lives in Germany, Paul has been in California but is moving to NYC and I’m all over the place. Still, we’re close – we all make our living as freelance artists, a bonding lifestyle to say the least – and every now and then we make an effort to meet up in the same place at the same time. Recently, Sarah and her husband Nik flew into San Francisco and drove north with Paul to Oregon, where we rendezvoused at my aunt and uncle’s farm in Philomath for a few days.

Siblings at Work: Paul playing, Sarah sketching, me documenting

Siblings at Work: Paul playing, Sarah sketching, me documenting

We were together on our parents’ 35th wedding anniversary and since they couldn’t make the trip West, we kids headed up Mary’s Peak in the Oregon Coast Range – one of my all time favorite hikes – and took some photos to send them to celebrate the day. Thanks to Nik for the shots with me in them!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARead about some of our previous family rendezvous in San FranciscoGermany and Scotland and check out Sarah’s art here. Paul’s about to move to NYC to start the Historical Performance program at Juilliard! Thanks, as always, to our amazing parents who have always encouraged our pursuits of the arts in every way possible. Much family Love!

 

Posted in Bowie & D.O.G., Hiking!, Photography, Uncategorized | 11 Comments

Supermoon, Supertide

Good morning, Cape Perpetua!

Good morning, Cape Perpetua!

Overlooking the tide pools at Cape Perpetua

Overlooking the tide pools at Cape Perpetua

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Karen at the Ends of the Earth

Tide Pool D.O.G.

Tide Pool D.O.G.

Starfish Party

Starfish Party

Drama

Seastar

Huge mussels

Huge Mussels!

Anemone Pool

Anemone Pool

Anemone Self Portrait

Anemone Self Portrait

Sand & Fog

Sand & Fog

Scattered Light

Scattered Light

Rays

Ring of Bright Water

Seaweed Palms

Seaweed Palms

Superlow tide at Cook's Chasm

Superlow tide at Cook’s Chasm

Seaspray Salt

Seaspray Salt

Seaweed

Seaweed

Bridge over Cook's Chasm

Bridge over Cook’s Chasm

Dio on the Edge

Dio on the Edge

Psychedelic Anenome

Psychedelic Anemone*

Urchin

Urchin*

Slug

Slug*

* These last three shots were taken in the touch me tide pools at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Oregon.

Posted in Bowie & D.O.G., Hiking!, Photography, Road tripping!, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 13 Comments

The Oregon Cascades: South Sister!

Middle Sister and North Sister volcanoes from the summit of South Sister

Middle Sister and North Sister volcanoes from the summit of South Sister

The first really big mountain I ever summited was a stratovolcano – Ecuador’s 19,347-foot Cotopaxi – and I’ve had a thing for climbing them ever since. Stratovolcanoes boast the classic volcanic profile – a lone, cone-shaped summit, usually snowcapped. Some of the world’s most famous and dangerous volcanoes are stratos including Mount Fuji, Kilimanjaro, Rainier and Mount Saint Helens.

Getting closer...

The approach to South Sister, Oregon’s third highest mountain after Hood and Jefferson

Climbing stratovolcanoes is steep and relentless. The rock is loose, crumbly and dusty and as the slope gets steeper near the top, you slide dishearteningly back down with each upwards step. It’s grueling work but totally worth it for the view: the summit is almost always visible, the route up straightforward, seldom hidden behind trees or jagged shoulders of rock. Looking up at an seemingly impossible objective all day is both intimidating and empowering. It’s always hard to believe you’ll be standing on top until you’re up there and then you realize you’re only halfway home.

Yep, that's the trail

Yep, that’s the trail

First snowfield

Steep snowfield

Oregon’s Cascade volcanoes are all stratovolcanoes, but until just recently, I had never climbed any of them. After a delightful layover in Bend with a couple of Blonde Coyote readers who offered to host me for the weekend (thanks Talia and Duncan!), I headed to the foot of the Three Sisters.

The Three Sisters are three 10,000-foot stratovolcanoes clustered together just west of Bend. The Middle and North Sisters require some technical climbing, but the tallest, South Sister is simply a class 2/3 slog: 12.5 miles out and back up 5,000 feet of elevation to 10,358-feet. South Sister is the easiest of the Cascades: Class 2 and 3 calls for lots of scree scrambling up loose rock, but no vertical climbing.

Lewis Lake at the foot of Lewis Glacier. The trail runs along the left ridge, but the summit isn't visible here. It's on the other side of the caldera.

Lewis Lake at the foot of Lewis Glacier. The trail runs along the left ridge at the edge of the snowline, but the summit isn’t visible here. It’s on the other side of the caldera.

The final climb over red rhyolite- very crumbly rock

The final climb over red rhyolite- very crumbly rock. You can see the trail angling up to the left.

Almost up! Me & Dio on the edge of the caldera

Almost up! Me & Dio on the edge of the caldera

Dio celebrating with Mount Bachelor in the background

Dio celebrating with Mount Bachelor in the background

Final snowfield to the top!

Crossing the final snowfield to the top!

Looking down at the caldera from the summit

Looking down at the caldera from the summit. Those are two tiny hikers cutting across the snowfield. Teardrop Lake, the highest lake in Oregon, is hidden at the foot of the brown patch on the right.

South Sister Summit D.O.G.

South Sister Summit D.O.G.

 

Me & Dio on the summit, taken by fellow summiteer

Me & Dio on the summit, taken by fellow summiteer

Following Joe down the mountain

Skiing down loose cree on the descent. Lewis Lake below with Devil’s Lake and Mount Bachelor in the distance.

Climbing in the Cascades just gets steeper, longer and more technical from here. I’m game for a few more though! Next up: Mount Thielsen!

Leaving Bend, the Rover hit 200,000! It's officially prehistoric! :)

Leaving Bend, the Rover hit 200,000! It’s officially prehistoric! :)

Posted in Bowie & D.O.G., Hiking!, Photography, Road tripping!, Science Writing, Uncategorized, Vagabonding 101 | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments