This is Mt. St. Helens when I arrived at the Observatory.

This is Mt. St. Helens when I arrived at the Observatory.

The ranger at Mt. St. Helens National Monument said, “Well, in answer to your question I’ll tell you about our 6:15 rule.” And he explained that the doors of the Johnston Observatory are closed and locked at 6:00 p.m. In a Murphy’s Law type fashion, the clouds typically clear up around 6:15 p.m. “From what I hear, you have a good chance of seeing the mountain sometime between 6 and 6:30,” he said.

So I waited. I waved goodbye to all the rangers as they left. From the top of an observation hill I watched the parking lot clear out. I found a nice comfortable railing to sit on, beside a trail, with nothing but volcano gorgeousness in front of me… and I waited.

And it paid off.

6:25 p.m. I knew it wouldn't clear by 6:30, but I could tell the clouds were clearing. So I stayed.

6:25 p.m. I knew it wouldn’t clear by 6:30, but I could tell the clouds were clearing. So I stayed.

6:48 p.m.

6:48 p.m.

7:05 p.m.

7:05 p.m.

7:16 p.m. Look at that! What an incredible view. Perfect light, perfect weather. I was rewarded well beyond expectation.

7:16 p.m. Look at that! What an incredible view. Perfect light, perfect weather. I was rewarded well beyond expectation.

The finish line is the row of red floats beneath the Hawthorne Bridge.

The finish line is the row of red floats almost beneath the Hawthorne Bridge.

Tara and I took her friend to the Dragon Boat Festival today. They wanted to go and cheer on another friend who would be on one of the Dragon Boat teams racing, the youth team of the Bridge City Paddling Club. Dragon boating is a team paddling sport that originated in China over 2000 years ago and transformed into an international sport in Hong Kong in 1976.

The Dragon Boat Festival is held in September, and presented by Dragon Sports USA. The boat races are the main event, in which typically 4 dragon boats race side by side for 500 meters in a straight line. Teams include 18 or 20 paddlers, 1 caller and 1 tiller. The teams make it a very fun event, by getting totally fired up in team spirit with temporary tattoos and haircolor to match their team colors, team mottos, and team banners. There was a man walking around selling dragon-boat themed socks.

Paddlers of the Pink Phoenix team - all breast cancer survivors!

Paddlers of the Pink Phoenix team – all breast cancer survivors!

The spectators gather at the finish line, since the boats are small and sit close to the water, making them hard to see at a distance. We can see the black specks on the water when they first line up, but can’t hear the starting horn. Soon enough, the specks grow larger as the boats get closer, paddlers going so fast that water flies everywhere. The caller is allowed to use their own voice or a drum to keep the paddling time, and the tiller keeps them on course.

These boats were different than the others I’ve seen, and have dragon heads about the size of a human head. Still, I love the dragon theme of the boats, with carved heads and tails, and scales painted along the sides.

Boats drawing closer, passing in front of our famous Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

Boats drawing closer, passing in front of our famous Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

Teams blast across the finish line.

Teams blast across the finish line.

When the boats turned, the light was finally right, and I could get a shot of the dragon boat details.

When the boats turned, the light was finally right, and I could get a shot of the dragon boat details. Unfortunately, rather far away for my zoom capability, but you can still sort of see it. (click any image for a larger version)

After the race in which the Bridge City team with their friend took second place (Yay!), the kids played around a little, we hung out at the fabulous Saturday Market, and then they went off to a birthday party. Ah the life of a teenager.

Friends in the water

Friends in the water

This handsome fellow strutted so intentionally in front of the camera, that I knew he was asking to have his photo published.

This handsome fellow strutted so intentionally in front of the camera, that I knew he was asking to have his photo published.

Seeing the different style of boats used in these races reminded me that I began a post last year and never finished it. Those were the Dragon Boat races held during the Portland Rose Festival. I decided to include some of that information to show you the other boats. That time we had gone in support of a friend on a Wilson High School team.

Portland has been racing dragon boats in the Rose Festival for 25 years. We partner with our sister city of Kaohsiung, Taiwan in this endeavor, and the race is hosted by the Portland-Kaohsiung Sister City Association (PKSCA). PKSCA owns eight Taiwan-style dragon boats; each boat accommodates 16 paddlers, 1 tiller, 1 caller, and 1 flag catcher required for each race heat.

These are photos from 2013:

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Tara last year, with her friend from the Wilson team

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My Tara as Princess Tutu

My Tara as Princess Tutu

Monday was the best day for both of us. Tara made some good contacts at the con and I am seeing the light at the end of a tunnel of many tiny tasks that needed to be completed.

I am finally, finally wrapping up the final touches on the Mt. Hood Cherokee newsletter I volunteered to edit. What a relief. I don’t think I’ll ever catch up on your blogs. Good heavens you all write a lot of posts. I love them all and I’ll just have to skim them, so sorry. I’ve been nominated for blogging awards and I’ll bet those lovely ladies think I didn’t even notice! But I *will* get to them, and thank you so very, very much for the love. I finally got things worked out with Oregon DMV and I’ll be getting my plates soon. They will say DRAGNS, isn’t that marvelous? I am so excited to christen the Dragon Wagon II with her new plates.

T got an invite to join a themed group of cosplayers next year. I won’t tell you what they have planned, and it will be a surprise. She hung out with a friend she hadn’t yet spent time with. She enjoyed the awesome weather.

My highlight of the day today? Inigo Montoya battling the Dread Pirate Roberts (cosplayed by Wesley).

"You seem a decent fellow... I hate to kill you. "

“You seem a decent fellow… I hate to kill you. ” “You seem a decent fellow…I hate to die.”

Steam Powered Giraffe!

Steam Powered Giraffe!

black fighter

black fighter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I took a dozen photos

I took a dozen photos, but she is so self-critical. “Ugh, my leg isn’t right. The other one is all wrong.” To her credit, she is on beat-up shoes and the concrete is on a slope. But to my novice eyes, it’s lovely.

Adorable

Adorable

Please see the source here.

Please see the source here. I think she did a great job on her cosplay, what do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can we take your picture?

Can we take your picture?

punishment

punishment

nice interpretation

nice interpretation

Cosplayers in conversation beside a giant fish in Esther Short Park in Vancouver, Washington

Cosplayers in conversation beside a giant fish in Esther Short Park in Vancouver, Washington

It’s that time of year again when Tara heads into Vancouver with thousands of other anime fans in their cosplays. They attend panels, shop for wares, mingle, play games, and delight onlookers.

Kumoricon has stretched to 4 days this year, up from the usual 3. One more day to exhaust all the young people before school starts. It’s one of the few activities we know of that opens up at 8:00 am. Like the others, it stays open till the wee hours of morning. How those kids keep going for so long is a mystery to me, but then… I’m no longer as young as I used to be.

posing for photos

posing for photos

Beetlejuice

Beetlejuice

lethal nail

lethal nail

Tara has two cosplays (costume+play) this year, but most years, and most people, come as a new character each day. I recognize some of the people this year from previous years. When a cosplay is particularly good, it’s saved and used again. I was able to call out to characters by name this year, asking for photos, which means I’m slowly learning this crowd. I don’t buy a pass to get in, but lurk around the outside (with many other photographers, I must note), and snap snap snap.

There is a game that seems to never stop running at one place in Esther Short park, beside the Hilton. Cosplayers stand in a circle, with a few in the center. Those in the center each toss an empty water bottle into the air and wait for it to land. Whomever the bottle points to gets a hug, and the cosplayers trade places so the hugged one gets to toss a bottle next. While this is going on, people take turns shouting, “Guess what?” the crowd answers “What?” And it’s repeated. “Guess what?” “What?” and the person who began it hollers something silly and fun, intended to delight them, such as “Kumoricon loves you!”

I had been standing on the fringes snapping photos. While looking through the viewfinder, I hadn’t noticed that the circle had expanded to include me. I was getting great shots of a cosplayer headed directly for me, and before I knew it, I got hugged by her! “How does it work?” I asked, since at that time I didn’t know. Once she explained, I slung my camera over my shoulder to head for a bottle in the center. After I had dispensed the obligatory hug, I took care to stand well back after that, ha ha.

There is one more day left of Kumoricon, but I’m impatient to show these photos to you.

Game of bottles and hugs and shouting.

Game of bottles and hugs and shouting.

Countries of Hetalia

Countries of Hetalia

Is that natural haircolour?

Is that natural haircolour?

troll

troll

pink & ruffles

pink & ruffles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A whole gang of Pokemon

A whole gang of Pokemon

My lovely Tara

My lovely Tara

I’m a mom. I’ve got to go on about my kid now and then. Can’t help myself.

Tara has been dancing for years and is not among those ballerinas who is fiercely focused and driven and denies herself the pleasures in life to get a landing just right. She dances because it makes her feel good, and because she gets to share in the dancing of her dear friends. At first, that frustrated me, because I am driven and competitive and aggressively pursue skill, as if it has something to do with how valuable I am.

Over the years I have learned from my kid: how to work at something for the love of it. Tara makes sacrifices to be at practices and endless rehearsals, missing out on parties and homework time and eating meals at reasonable hours. But it’s all for the pure joy of it, and in that way, she keeps ballet fun for herself. Years and years of practicing the same moves over and over, and yet the desire to get dressed and go do it again remains strong.

From the steps of the Rose Garden, looking down onto the Washington Park Amphitheatre

From the steps of the Rose Garden, looking down onto the Washington Park Amphitheatre

Tara, before the show. The shank is going out in her pointe shoes, so she is testing another pair to see if they are in better shape.

Tara, before the show. The shank is going out in her pointe shoes, so she is testing another pair to see if they are in better shape.

Saturday we went to Washington Park in Portland, at an outdoor amphitheatre just below the International Rose Test Gardens (did you know Portland is also called the Rose City?). Her studio is Portland Metro Arts, which hosts all kinds of artists including those who paint, who play piano, who Irish step dance, who sing, as well as those who ballet. Saturday’s performance was a showcase of different talents.

The dancers did short pieces from their recent full-length ballet, Alice In Wonderland, with additional classical ballet pieces, and some swing dance. Sadly, the sky was getting pretty dark by the time the swing dancing began. I was sitting far away from the stage and had my lens in full zoom. The exposure was longer because of the dark, and extra-sensitive to movement. This meant that all of the later shots were blurry, but they did make some pretty interesting images, so I included them anyway.

Earlier in the week there had been a threat of rain, and Tara worried about what rain on the stage would do to their ability to dance well. Instead, the weather was brilliant. It was sunny, dry, not windy, and warm. The steps of the amphitheatre filled with people of all ages and the murmurs of talk and laughter filled the green bowl we occupied.

Flowers from Alice. Tara in red in the center.

Flowers from Alice. Tara in red in the center.

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Alice scolds a weed in the back of the flower garden.

Alice scolds a weed in the back of the flower garden.

blurry swing dance

blurry swing dance

taekwondo maybe?

taekwondo maybe?

I am standing with Chief Baker as he presents the Cherokee Warrior Award.

I am standing with Chief Baker as he presents the Cherokee Warrior Award.

Who is this great warrior? Me!

Cherokee Warrior Award

Cherokee Warrior Award

I admit it is awkward and unusual to think of myself as an Indian warrior. But if the Cherokee Principal Chief is comfortable with it, then there is no reason for me to hesitate.

I was given the tremendous honor of being nominated by the board members of the Mt. Hood Cherokees. I am particularly grateful to our leader, David, who talked me into putting my name forward, when the idea of representing the group seemed like more of an honor than I deserved.

My Tara willingly gave up a dress rehearsal for her evening performance so that she could be there with me.

My Uncle Dwight and Aunt Joyce came up from Lebanon, Oregon and were able to see the ceremony.

Chief Bill John Baker presented me with a gorgeous framed certificate showing the Cherokee Warrior’s Memorial in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, as well as a medal he pinned to my blouse. Before I knew what was happening, he popped a microphone into my hand and said, “Do you want to speak?” Answering his question honestly, I answered, “No,” with a smile. “But since I have a microphone in my hand, I will.” And I thanked my Mt. Hood Cherokees for nominating me, and I said how much of an honor it was.

"No, in answer to your question, I do not want to speak to the crowd."

“No, in answer to your question, I do not want to speak to the crowd.”

Chief Baker said to me as I approached him, “Finally, a woman!” And I thanked him for saying that. It may be obvious by my own comment above that even *I* have fallen into accepting the incorrect social stereotype that a warrior is not a woman. And that an honored veteran is not a woman. My own At Large satellite group is sending a message that we aren’t trapped by stereotypes, and I am happy to be the face of that message.

It was a great day for a Cherokee picnic. Many of our Oklahoma Cherokees came out to share information about Indian education and student scholarships, basket-weaving, and voter registration. They were assigning photo ID cards for Cherokee citizens (which I never signed up for: too much going on that day!). We had music from two traditional flutists.

And storytelling.

Me, Robert, Tara

Me, Robert, Tara

Robert tells us a story about clever Jistu (Rabbit)

Robert tells us a story about clever Jistu (Rabbit)

I can’t say which was the best part of the picnic: receiving the warrior award, or seeing our storytelling friend, Robert, again. Both could have made my whole day on their own, together they just buoyed me beyond belief.

I’ve blogged about Robert Lewis in the past. His personal style of telling the tales of Cherokee history is to bring up audience members to tell the story with him. It’s engaging and funny and educational. Robert’s got a huge love of people and joyfulness, and his energy is irresistible. He’s an art teacher at Northeastern State University and has to miss the first day of school on Monday because of this trip to Portland and Seattle. I’m sure he’ll ease right into the school year with grace later on this week.

Then, we ran around and said goodbye to old friends and new friends and my Aunt & Uncle and off we went for the next big even of the day: Tara’s ballet performance at Washington Park! That post will come next.DSC_0884

Mt. Hood radiates the evening sun

Mt. Hood radiates the evening sun

Ok, so we were a night too early for the actual super moon of 2014, but it was still a pretty cool moon.

Tara had a break of enough hours between ballet rehearsals Saturday and Sunday that we were able to fit in a quick overnight camping trip. Portland has had a break from the heat, but was climbing toward 90 again. That made me think of a waterfall hike in the Columbia River Gorge, so I had the idea to camp in the Gorge and hike the cool waterfall glades…

While she was at ballet, I gathered camping gear. All the car-camping stuff this time, which is *so* much easier than packing for backpacking. For car camping, you just cram everything in, and if you bring too much… eh, no big deal. We were in the car and driving toward the Gorge by 2:30 pm.

The first campsite was full. But more than that, the whole area was swarming with people. Cars were parked everywhere it was even mildly safe to park. The heat must have been pulling everyone to the shady forests. The next campsite: totally full. I slowed down as we approached the camp Host, so I could hop out and get some intel. As I slowed, I saw a man waiting patiently behind another man, who was already talking to the camp Host. Good gravy. That was too much; we moved on. Next campground, closed. We started brainstorming, and Tara asked, “Isn’t there a place where we can just drive into the woods and put up our tent?”

Well, we could do that in a National Forest. The closest was Mt. Hood National Forest, and to get there involved some backtracking to get onto a different highway, no longer in the Gorge. No waterfalls, but maybe we would still get to camp. We went to a primitive area we’ve camped before and it was full, and the campground nearby was full. I could think of one more place, which was an absolutely beautiful campsite on this cliff above the Sandy River, with a wide-open view of Mt. Hood. We were hot, and discouraged, and it was 5:30 pm. I had been driving three hours and so far no luck.

Though we passed people camping in the woods every 50 yards along the entire road, and though the trailhead parking lot we parked in was jammed full…no one was camping in the beautiful campsite. It was a miracle.

Yes, that's my silhouette snapping a view of the campsite. Mt. Hood in front, Sandy river down below and to the left.

Yes, that’s my silhouette snapping a view of the campsite. Mt. Hood ahead, Sandy river down below and to the left.

Mossy bank with trail leading to the campsite.

Mossy bank with trail leading to the campsite.

Another Mt. Hood sunset shot.

Another Mt. Hood sunset shot.

The volcano soars above the Sandy River while the evening light lingers.

The volcano soars above the Sandy River while the evening light lingers.

How cool is this with all the orange spark trails!

How cool is this with all the orange spark trails!

As an extra bonus, it was almost the night of the supermoon. Because of the trajectory of the moon’s orbit, this will be the brightest and largest full moon of the year. Whee! The full moon is actually the following night on the 10th, so we saw an almost-full moon. I did not bring my tripod, so I held very still as I took the shots. I’m amazed I got anything out of that experiment.

Moon sparkles across the mountain and makes the river glow.

Moonlight sparkles across the mountain and makes the river glow.

I counted, and the exposure was nearly 5 seconds! I was holding the camera in my hands, so it may be a little blurry, but I think this is a great shot, considering.

Tara in the moonlight. I counted, and the exposure was nearly 5 seconds! I was holding the camera in my hands, so it may be a little blurry, but I think this is a great shot, considering.

Tara dismantles one of the multiple fire pits. (I agree with her. Three fire pits in the same spot is a bad idea.)

The next morning, Tara dismantled one of the multiple fire pits. (I agree with her. Three fire pits in the same spot is a bad idea.)

Keeping my coffee warm in the percolator.

Keeping my coffee warm in the percolator.

 

People spend hours at Faerieworlds just entertaining others.

People spend hours at Faerieworlds just entertaining others.

Bubbles, beaming smiles, and beauty spreads across the faery fields of Oregon.

Bubbles, beaming smiles, and beauty spreads across the faery fields of Oregon.

Tara and I went to Eugene, Oregon over the weekend to find the realm of faeries. We have attended since 2007 and it remains a premier summer event for us. We actually have a section of the garage where our “faery gear” is stored. Wings, masks, scarves, bags, leather cords, feathers, antennae, and all manner of possible accessories fill bins and hang from racks. Our latest wings acquisition must hang from the ceiling for protection, since the wings are stiff and don’t fold up.

Please click any photo for a larger version. And see my posts from previous years. 2013, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008

The festival began in Veneta, Oregon at the lovely little Secret House Winery in 2005. Tapping into that love of magic and love of the creatures dwelling in the realm of faerie that apparently resides in many of us, it quickly became an enormous draw, pulling in people from around the world. Who knew that so many of us still cling to those ancient stories? In 2009 Faerieworlds moved to Mt. Pisgah to accommodate what grew to 5000 people each day of the three-day festival.

Tara, me, and the Leader of the Rebellion (at least that's how she explained it).

Tara, me, and the Leader of the Rebellion (at least that’s how she explained it).

solemn green

solemn green

perched in purple

perched in purple

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy in large ears and small hat.

Happy in large ears and small hat.

Resting her horns in the shade.

Resting her horns in the shade.

It’s a tribal gathering fiercely driven to provide a family-friendly, planet-cherishing environment in which all expressions are appreciated and even praised. Except for illegal substances, that is. Drug use is prohibited, smoking is severely restricted, alcohol is kept behind fences, and bad attitudes are scorned. Imagine: a gathering of thousands in which foul language and crankiness is disparaged! People stop to pick up trash, and interrupt their conversations to praise a stranger’s garb. If a child cries, a dozen heads turn to make sure he is not alone. All ages and all beings find delight in such a safe environment.

If faeries are not what inspires you, there is no rule about what form your personal expression must take. Elderly faeries and witches and sorcerers walk beside young fauns and pirates and superheroes. Pixies in wheelchairs roll among clusters of land-based jellyfish. There are valiant steampunk adventurers and bawdy wenches. There are mermaids with their own pool and horned mermen whose tail transforms to legs when it’s time to explore. We’ve seen unicorns, dragons, Na’vi, storm troopers and Darth Vader. This year there was a panda in a kimono, and Totoro.

Visions of loveliness are in every view.

Visions of loveliness are in every view.

green man

green man

black bird

black bird

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This winged creature is particularly fierce.

This winged creature is particularly fierce.

Every year I find a particular delight in the variety of materials that make up wings. There are fabric wings and metallic wings of shimmering tinsel or welded steel. There are steampunk wings of wooden slats and canvas and rotating gears. There were wings of embroidery hoops, of leafy branches, of black lace, and even of feathers. Mine were made of lacquered paper over wire, and Tara’s were gauzy black fabric, waving in the wind like cobwebs. Sometimes the wings light up, so the scene at night is brand new.

There are multiple music stages, and a puppet stage in the children’s area, nestled in the trees. There is also a simple stage of a cleared area that is commandeered by young actors who write and perform their own plays for fun. (Two young men advertising an upcoming show walked around selling rotten tomatoes to anyone who wanted to hurl tomatoes at a man in the stocks.) The musicians suit the theme of the event, always adorned to fit the setting, and sending their otherworldly sounds across the fields and into the vendors tents. Artists come from Australia, Norway, England, the U.S., and even mix it up among themselves like the band Delhi 2 Dublin.

Sadly, this was the last year at Mt. Pisgah. Due to the very unfaerylike behavior of attendees to a different Eugene festival, local residents complained about trash and noise and disrespect for neighboring properties, and a lawsuit shut all festivals down for good. Next year the fae folk will gather in a new location. Rumor was that it will be in Hillsboro, Oregon in 2015. Anyone who knows faery lore will understand that the realm follows no scientific laws that predict when or where it will appear again. Like the floating market in Neverwhere, we will wait for word, and then we’ll go to whereever the portal between practical life and fantasy is thin enough to walk through.

fungus hips

fungus hips

enormous wings

enormous wings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A tribe of friends share stories and acceptance.

A tribe of friends share stories and acceptance.

I watched this small faery as she investigated the mannequin. The little one held her hand and talked to her awhile.

I watched this small faery as she investigated the mannequin. The little one held her hand and talked to her awhile.

This tailor can handle wing repairs.

This tailor can handle all of your wing repairs.

A bone woman turned out to be less creepy than she looks.

A bone woman turned out to be less creepy than she looks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pirate and witch team up.

Pirate and witch team up.

fox and faun

wolf and faun

sunset faery

sunset faery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each side of the embroidery hoop told a part of a faery story.

Four sides of the embroidery hoop told a part of a faery story.

Tara throws rotten tomatoes.

Tara throws rotten tomatoes.

Characters teach each other juggling tricks.

Characters teach each other juggling tricks.

The fae folk are famous for being tricksters.

The fae folk are famous for being tricksters.

Oh, gosh, I just can’t stop! I took photos and photos and photos. If you’d like to scroll through more, I’ll just add my flickr link. There, you can see Malificent, Totoro, a battle between a black-winged skull demon and a 3-year-old avenger, pirates, angels, revelers, hoola-hoopers, dancers, a member of OMNIA playing a digeridoo, and more.

Backpacker selfie

Backpacker selfie

I was nearly done with my hike when I realized I had no photos of myself in that beautiful wilderness. I had passed a couple of people, and any of them would have been happy to snap a photo, but by the time I remembered to document my presence there, it was only me. So I took a selfie.

At the place where the little road to the trailhead comes out at Highway 299 is a little ghost town of Helena, California. People still live there and are served by the U.S. Postal Service. The place was settled in 1851 to serve the miners in the mountains. Today there are several large, abandoned, and vandalized buildings left near the road.

Once a large and beautiful home

Once a large and beautiful home

My mother would have loved the pine cone wallpaper.

My mother would have loved the pine cone wallpaper.

The old post office building

The old post office building

Staircase inside the home

Staircase inside the home

On my way west along 299, the temperature dropped from 102 to 72 by the time I reached Highway 101 along the coast. I arrived at Tara’s dad’s house with some sunshine and afternoon left in the day. Feeling pleased to have found Humboldt County in sunshine (a truly rare event), I was happy that Tara felt like walking to the beach. We hit the Hammond Trail and passed the gorgeous country fields near McKinleyville in the flat lands around the mouth of the Mad River.

Once I heard it, I have enjoyed telling the story of the naming of the Mad River. In 1850 the Dr. Josiah Gregg Expedition was exploring, mapping, and documenting the area. Gregg, a naturalist, was also interested in cataloging flora and fauna. Their most important work was arguably the mapping of Humboldt Bay, large enough to accommodate ships that could serve miners and trappers of the region. Falling on hard times, the group had a dispute about the best way to return to San Francisco. Gregg could not bring himself to give up on the scientific work and insisted that they must follow the coast home, and continue to work. The larger group of dissenters argued that they would starve to death unless they made their way inland again. Dr. Gregg had a tremendous temper tantrum at the mouth of a river, as his companions left him and a few others on the shore. The Mad River was named in honor of that event. Dr. Gregg eventually realized he needed to move inland as well, and his group began heading toward what is now called Clear Lake. Sadly, he was starving to death at that point, and in his weakness fell off his horse and died.

After enjoying the beach in the waning sun, Tara and I headed back. The next morning we left early in order to make preparations for the following day’s celebrations: My kid turned 17 and was going to have a big birthday bash at the house. I can hardly believe my baby girl is 17 years old. Babyhood a distant memory, Tara is now strong and kind, thoughtful and helpful, smart and oh, so funny. I feel honored that I get to share in her life.

Fields and farmland near McKinleyville, California

Fields and farmland near McKinleyville, California

I'll bet one does not find many snails on the fence posts of Kansas.

I’ll bet one does not find many snails on the fence posts of Kansas.

Walking bridge over the Mad River, along the Hammond Trail

Walking bridge over the Mad River is part of the Hammond Trail

An abandoned barn along our route

An abandoned barn along our route

My Tara dancing on the beach

My Tara dancing on the beach

Purple flowers and grasses as lovely as any arranged basket.

Purple flowers and grasses as lovely as any arranged basket.

A hunter waits patiently in the field.

A hunter waits patiently in the field.

This heron is doing more aggressive hunting, as she stalks gracefully across the grass.

This Great Blue Heron is hunting more aggressively than the cat.

 

Thompson Peak as I slowly made my way closer to it.

Thompson Peak as I slowly made my way closer to it.

When I broke camp I had only a few miles left to go, but also the most difficult part of the trail ahead of me. Since I’m out of shape compared to previous years, I intentionally chose an easy trail. However, the last 2 1/2 miles climb nearly 2000 feet to Grizzly Meadows.

Steep elevation climbs bring the views and the waterfalls that make it all worth the trouble. In no time I was marveling at Thompson Peak holding court at 9000 feet among the shorter, but just as spectacular, peaks nearby. Glaciers on the north face are each noted to be 2 miles across, but the map needs some updating because the snow fields are now tiny. I could only identify one glacier, so perhaps the second is gone forever.

Two fabulously gorgeous and athletic hikers refilled their water bottles at China Creek with me. I contemplated the unfairness of it all: gay men can be some of the most attractive humans on the planet, and they get to hook up with each other. D’oh! They were planning to summit Thompson Peak the next day, and planned to camp at the Meadows with me that night.

Falls on Grizzly Creek

Falls on Grizzly Creek. What do you see at the bottom? That’s right: swimming pool!

Another of the many falls on Grizzly Creek.

Another of the many falls on Grizzly Creek.

“Somewhere between the upper and lower meadow, one of the most incredible mountain vistas I’ve ever witnessed comes into view.” ~Art Bernstein, in Best Hikes of the Trinity Alps

Bernstein was not kidding. This place is amazing.

This is what I go to the mountains for: jaw-dropping views.

This is what I go to the mountains for: jaw-dropping views. Grizzly Meadows in the foreground is surrounded by a shelf holding Grizzly Lake. Thompson Peak rises above it all. To see the falls, click this image for a larger version.

Pool beside my camp.

Pool beside my camp.

I found a place to set up camp beside a pool on Grizzly Creek at the base of the falls. My original intent had been to hit the scramble trail next, following cairns up the cliff. It would be another 1000 feet in one mile. At that point I was exhausted and simply didn’t have the heart for it. I had achieved 18 miles with no injuries, but I was wiped out. I imagined that a good night’s rest could give me the inspiration I needed, and spent the rest of the day playing in the meadow. I dropped my nalgene of wine into the creek to chill.

A doe lingered on the edges of my camp all afternoon. She was even skinnier than the other deer I had seen so far. I hope it means only that it’s early in the season, and not that she is starving.

After a good soaking in the pool beside my tent, in which I even unraveled my braids and let the water run through my hair, I felt good enough to climb over boulders and investigate the woodpeckers and snakes and other delights. In three days I had only one pestering blister, and I had to be grateful that I can still do this kind of thing, when many of my friends suffer with knee and shoulder and spine injuries that are forcing them to slow down in life.

In the evening I sat on a big rock in the center of the creek and let a refreshing breeze blow through my hair. I ate smoked salmon and cream cheese wraps and had a cup of wine. The chilled wine was so good I had a second cup. I had been planning to share the last of the smoked salmon with the gay men, who had camped at the lower meadows, but my hunger finally kicked in and I finished every last bit of the fish, down to licking my fingers.

The falls from Grizzly Lake

The falls from Grizzly Lake

Peaks around Grizzly Meadows

Peaks around Grizzly Meadows

This is the last mile of trail. Bernstein writes, "The trail's slope occasionally exceeds 100% and approaches infinity in a couple of spots." Ha, ha.

This is the 19th mile of trail. Bernstein writes, “The trail’s slope occasionally exceeds 100% and approaches infinity in a couple of spots.” Ha, ha.

I looked at the cliff in front of me and… felt dismay. I could not summon the spirit to climb. Though I would be able to leave the pack at the bottom, I still didn’t have the heart to go on. I suspected I wouldn’t feel any different in the morning. I was so tired. It was so hot. And I was alone. I yearned for the enthusiasm of a friend to bust out with a smile and say, “Come on, Crystal, let’s go! You can do it!” But the deer was only interested in my leftovers, and the couple were conserving their energy for the next day’s climb. It had been nice to relax for hours, and I went to sleep feeling good, despite my misgivings.

The next morning the only thing on my mind was going home. I watched the orange sunrise light up the peaks and then drip down the steep slopes. I put my leftover oatmeal on a rock for the doe. I wished the guys a good climb as I passed their camp (btw, gay men are still gorgeous, even when you catch them brushing their teeth in a creek). Before the sun even touched the meadow I was on my way out. I took more photos.

I turned around to take one last look at the trail through the Meadows.

I turned around to take one last look at the trail through the Meadows.

Gray squirrel looks at me

Gray squirrel looks at me

Ponderosa pine cones

Huge Ponderosa pine cones

The remarkable bark of a Madrone tree.

Remarkable bark of a Madrone

indian paintbrush

Indian paintbrush

It took me two days to get back to the trailhead. I was disappointed to have been so close to the lake and then let it slip away. But by then I had other things to be excited about, because once I got out of the mountains I would be heading to the coast to pick up my kid from her dad’s house. Instead of thinking of my missed opportunity, I thought about how great it would be to see Tara again.

Let me tell you, on day five this sight was aaaaalllmost as awesome as Grizzly Meadows:

Lonely Dragon Wagon 2 at the trailhead.

Lonely Dragon Wagon 2 at the trailhead.

Yes, I’m a nature girl, and yes I love the modern world. I’m a woman of complexity, what can I say? The Jeep seemed the epitome of luxury, with cushioned seats, AC, and satellite radio. I admit the stereo was blaring The Prodigy as I wound my way back out of the Alps, grinning.

 

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