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Monday, June 25, 2007


There probably aren’t a lot of things worse than death, but the onset of dementia or a sudden diminishment of mental functioning - so severe that your ‘you’ is lost - might be two of them. That’s why, when evidence shows that I can still learn by experience, I feel exceedingly pleased with myself. For this hike (the directions to which I found in Douglas Lorain’s 100 Classic Hikes in Oregon: ) I made sure that the entire route was well below the 6000 foot level, and I mentally prepared myself to test any gate I should encounter, closed or not. (See my June 11th entry about how I lost an encounter with a closed gate: ).

While there were no gates to worry about on this trip, possible future lessons to learn might have something to do with just how far you should go into the wilderness with a two-wheel drive vehicle on really crappy dirt ‘roads’, especially if rain is imminent.

Since I was previously sensitized to the plight of trees close to the timberline on the road to the Cloud Cap Trailhead, I was interested to compare them to the trees living close to the 2000 foot level. I know it is appalling, but I’ve realized I don’t really know the names of any trees or plants besides the descriptive generic terms flower, tree and vegetable. I’m trying to think back to when I was younger to determine if I ever knew the names of trees and plants, because if I’ve forgotten them, then maybe that’s a sign of dementia …but I can’t remember.

Despite not having an adequate vocabulary, I will attempt to describe some differences I noted. The higher altitude forest seemed to be composed exclusively of ‘pine’ trees. In clearings on the forest floor, young trees compete for the light that manages to filter through the holes in the canopy opened by fallen elders.

On the Burnt Lake trail however, a whole second layer of deciduous trees were struggling for placement underneath the taller ‘pine’ canopy. In the picture below, a wide stretch of young, broad-leafed trees are mysteriously leaning downhill.

My working hypothesis is that the trees’ posture is the result of being buried under winter’s accumulating snow which may at times even slide down the hillside thereby effectively teaching the trees how to dodge.

Vegetable wise, I saw many plants that looked like they depended on enormous amounts of water to be happy. I wondered if perhaps some of them might not make good salads.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the slightest idea which plants are edible.

And, edible or not, there’s no way I’m eating this thing. (See my recipe for French Tickler Salad below)

View towards East Zigzag Mountain Summit.

When I reached the edge of the ridge that leads either up to the summit of East Zigzag Mountain, or down towards Burnt Lake, I felt immediately rewarded for my long uphill walk with the sudden appearance of Mt. Hood, which had been hidden behind the ridge. True, most of Mt. Hood remained hidden from sight in the clouds, but it was still impressive. A beautiful, dangerous mountain, teasing from within an amorphous shroud of light and shadow causes the same kind of suspense and anticipation that is sometimes created by smart directors of horror films, the kind who don’t actually show their monsters until close to the climax.


I was challenged by a photography enthusiast at work to try out the RAW image format available for my camera. Up until now, I’d been using the highest quality JPEG format that the camera is capable of which typically results in images of approximately three megabytes in size.

It turns out that these JPEG images I’ve been taking are the equivalent of a stenographer’s shorthand notes for what the camera’s sensor is actually capable of recording. The typical file size for the RAW images taken during this particular hike weigh in at about eight megabytes each. Each RAW image file also comes with a secondary file which records the camera’s settings at the time each particular picture is taken. It is this secondary file that translates the RAW image into a JPEG file that is easily recognized by most computers.

The interesting part is that Canon’s supplied software, Digital Photo Professional, makes the record of the camera’s settings at the time of the shot irrelevant. In the picture immediately below, the image appears according to the instructions contained in the secondary file – as it would have appeared at the highest quality JPEG setting. However, since I have saved the complete RAW data, I am able to go back and essentially write my own translation instructions. In this case, I decide that the daylight setting for the camera’s white balance doesn’t support my eerie, almost mystical intuition that the mountain was consorting with heaven behind the shielding wall of clouds.

The second version of the mountain shows how I can ignore the camera’s original translation scheme and choose to alter the white balance output according to color temperature. The warmer colors work better for me. Since the RAW data remains intact and only the translated output changes, there is no image degradation.

Mt. Adams impersonating a cloud

My first view of Burnt Lake

A close up of Burnt Lake from East Zigzag Mountain Trail reveals what appears to be an improbably large duck.

Is this where fishermen go when they die?

View from the shore of Burnt Lake

(I was kidding. There is no recipe for French Tickler Salad.)

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