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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

MT. ADAMS / Iceberg Lake

Hellroaring Canyon Overlook

From 09-03-07 to 09-23-07

This time, determined to reach Iceberg Lake, I opted to take the Climber’s trail (number 20, I think) which follows the edge of the cliff overlooking Hellroaring Canyon. Above the viewpoint area, the grass told a very succinct story about dehydration.

Even though I had a clearer idea of where I needed to go to reach the lake based on my scouting activities weeks earlier, I still found it difficult to follow the ‘trail’ when it veered off into the rocks. More than once, I found myself completely trail-less and in those instances, I used a simple strategy that I call, ‘go up’.

Sometimes I would run across what appeared to be artificially stacked rocks – cairns – that I assumed were constructed to mark ‘the way’ for hikers and climbers. But it takes a little bit of faith to follow them (they could just as well be the work of a retarded Andy Goldsworthy wanna-be), and now, sitting at home with access to a dictionary, I find that they can also be memorials to people who died there.

While I was scrambling among the rocks, I heard the unsettling sound of rocks falling. High on the mountain, in an unstable conglomeration of ice and rock, some significant boulder, aided by the late September sun, escaped the grasp of a glacier and made off for kinder territory. At least that’s what I first surmised. But I had an uneasy feeling…

…and out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw something move. My arch nemesis – the renegade cow? (I simply couldn’t accept it as being possible.)

Eventually I crested a ridge of rocks that formed a broad cup for collecting what I believe is Iceberg Lake.

I based this conclusion on the connection I drew between the name “Iceberg Lake” and the presence of icebergs floating on a lake.

I sat quietly at the edge of the lake for some time and simply listened to it singing and groaning in concert with the wind. It isn’t the happiest song I’ve ever heard and it isn’t performed in the kindest environment, but for those of you who need to write a eulogy and provided the sky is clear and the sun is present to warm your face and hands, this setting comes highly recommended.

I walked around the lake as far as I could, being careful to stay away from the steep areas that promised imminent collapse. I stepped over a little feeder tributary…

…and stirred up sediments that diffused into the otherwise milky water.

It was clear to me that at other times in the season, the lake covers considerably more territory. The dry portions had a strong resemblance to pictures I’ve seen of Mars, were it not for the blue skies.

I found a better trail to follow on the way down…

…but managed to lose it too.

This stream simply springs out of the ground. I think part of the problem I have following trails on Mt. Adams is that when streams like this dry out, they look a lot like paths. At this point, I realize I am veering too far to the South so I take steps to regain visual contact with Hellroaring canyon.

How many narratives can you come up with to explain this circle?

I made it off the trail before dark again.

Because I was early, the outlaw gang of cows was foiled in its attempt to ambush me.

“We weren’t expecting you till after dark,” their white faced boss muttered.

The element of surprise having been lost, they sheepishly disappeared into the woods.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

ART & PERCEPTION 2 - Multi-view images continued

(See also Art and Perception )

I’m continuing to experiment with multi-view images…but remain unsatisfied with how best to juxtapose them. Last time, I tried overlapping images in a kind of a collage, but I guess it should be obvious that putting one image on top of another results in a significant reduction of the first image which begs the question of why you’d bother to use the first image if you’re just going to cover it up.

(Click image to view larger version)

As I climbed up the ridgeline overlooking Hellroaring Canyon on Mt. Adams, I found myself in the realm of mountain goats and krummholz. Though the wind was calm on the day I climbed, the trees were rather insistent that conditions were liable to change, and if they should, I’d want a nice rock windbreak. I’ve tried to present one specimen of stunted tree in a format reminiscent of isometric engineering drawings.

(Click image to view larger version)

On a Wednesday evening about a month ago, on Mt. Tabor, a bicycle racing organization invaded the park (when the roads are closed to motor vehicles) and ran a long series of races. The individual bicyclists, in their competition with each other, together displayed emergent properties of a closely integrated flock – that is, groups formed that flew in complex formations. All of it transpired during a particularly pleasing sunset. A single image couldn’t capture everything…and neither does this triptych.

(Click image to view larger version)

The human phenomenon of sight doesn’t work like a camera, even though the eye works something like a lens. The eye doesn’t see in squares for instance. We have stereo vision - offset images from double lenses. We pick and choose focus points over time. As different artists mulled over the ‘Breaking Up’ article from the Art and Perception site, some suggested that there must be other ways to present the images besides harsh squares and abrupt black lines. In the image above, I’ve taken fuzzy circles of points of interest from several photos and arranged them in what I hope is a scene that reflects the key components of a few minutes in time.

(Click image to view larger version)

This arrangement is probably more of a classic triptych. The central image is the important detail, and the side images are more about the place. I think these colors and textures are, well… ‘pretty’, which is kind of ironic since we’re looking at an oil slick.

(Click image to view larger version)

This multi-view image is about the passage of time. I really like how this one turned out and I hope you do too.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Mt. Adams / Bird Creek Meadows

Mt. Adams as seen from the Cooper Spur trail

I used hike number 36 in William L. Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington as my introduction to the Bird Creek Meadows area on the south-east shoulder of Mt. Adams.

I like the Sullivan Guidebook because it includes the nearby hikes in Washington and also because the actual physical size of the book is 8½” x 5½” x ⅝” – that is, it fits easily in a pack.

I had to leave the Monkey-cam at home.

The Monkey-cam is supposed to be cleaning the apartment and doing the dishes to qualify for probation after the Cooper Spur incident.

Hike number 36 turns out to be two different hikes that have only Bird Creek Meadows in common. The short-hike-way that launches from the Bird Creek Meadows trailhead requires a long drive over a crappy access road. The alternate South Climb Trail is longer, but its access road is supposed to be less crappy. My goal was to reach something called Iceberg Lake and my reading of the rough sketch in the Sullivan book indicated that Iceberg Lake could be reached most efficiently by taking the short hike and extending it up towards Sunrise camp. The problem with Sullivan’s rough sketch is that, at least for me, it doesn’t really make sense until after you actually do the hike and see it for yourself.

Starting from Portland, I headed east on I-84. I had an errand to perform for friends at Skamania Landing so I crossed the Columbia over the Bridge of the Gods and backtracked a little. My friends, aware of my propensity to end up lost in the dark because of my late starts, gifted me with some emergency pepperoni sticks – just in case.

I continued east on the Washington side of the river till I reached Highway 141 and followed the directions as presented in the Sullivan guide. The Sullivan guide says that as you approach Trout Lake, you’ll arrive at a “major fork” where you’ll, “have to choose between pointers for Carson or Randall. Veer right toward Randall.” I’m not sure what was meant by “pointers” and never saw any signage for Randall, but you’ll recognize the “fork” because there’s a cluster of buildings in the triangular island in the middle of the fork including a gas station and some food and tour related structures festooned with hand painted signs advertising huckleberry smoothies.

The access road is pretty rough. Can anyone really explain the washboard effect? Why does dust ever stick to the glossy surface of your car? Shouldn’t highway speeds automatically clean your car – at least the leading surfaces?

I had plenty of time to ponder these questions as I steered the car through a never-ending obstacle course of rollercoaster sized potholes and slippery gravel. I started to get hungry so I began the drawn out process of liberating one of the pepperoni sticks from its Scott proof shrink-wrap. I was looking forward to tasting the pepperoni stick because it is a luxury I can seldom afford.

Something was dreadfully, terribly wrong. Suddenly it felt as if I were tongue wrestling a teriyaki flavored slug. I actually took a second bite just to see if it really tasted as bad as I thought. Finally, convinced, I pulled over determined to read the label.

Here’s the thing. I assumed the reason I got the alleged pepperoni sticks was because they were made out of meat. My friends are in the process of purging such barbaric foods from their diets. Last time I visited, to my delight, they jettisoned all of their chips and pasta, handing it all over to me in a big box. What I hadn’t anticipated was that they might become zealous health-food evangelists or that they might slip me meatless pepperoni sticks.

That’s right, meatless pepperoni. It still makes me shudder.

The Bird Creek Meadows trailhead is on Yakima Nation territory. It costs five dollars to park at the trailhead and the do it yourself pay stations certainly won’t make change for a ten.

At one of the pay stations at Mirror Lake, I read an interesting item concerning renegade cows. Evidently, the wilderness area is surrounded by range land, and sometimes marauding cows defeat the cattle barriers and pillage the landscape. Wanted posters explain that such cows should be turned into the rangers.

Remember these water rich green leaves from the Burnt Lake trail?

Well, the water rich season is evidently over. Fall is on its way.

Different plants, more suited to the drier environment are moving in.

Sullivan’s book recommends following the Around the Mountain trail for almost a mile before turning uphill through the meadows toward Hellroaring viewpoint. The book says to ignore side trails until you reach 0.9 miles. I haven’t really figured out yet how to measure distances that precisely, so every time I come across a side trail, I agonize about whether it is the one I should take or not. There is evidence that there was once elaborate signage along the trail. There are frequent wooden posts standing at intersections. Unfortunately, a good number of these posts display only naked bolts at about eye level while fragments of sign are sometimes arranged below in the grass like jigsaw puzzles for people with attention deficits (really big pieces). When I reached the picnic area side trails, I had the distinct feeling that this might be a good place to turn, but I pulled out my GPS device to see if I couldn’t come up with my actual mileage, and misinterpreted the 0.7 mile reading as meaning I hadn’t yet gone far enough. (Pointer: Waypoint to waypoint measurements are straight lines while trail measurements are probably not.)

I elected to proceed on the Around the Mountain Trail which, in retrospect, starts to make me wonder if I am smart enough to be hiking by myself.

Soon, I got the uncanny sensation that I was being watched.

At first, I couldn’t see anything.

But then I spotted them hiding behind a ridge. Renegade cows.

They told me they didn’t want any trouble. They wanted the tasty meadow grass and they meant to have it. They told me not to be a hero. They said they’d kill me if I even thought about telling a ranger and warned me that they’d be watching. With that, they quietly turned away and disappeared into the forest, like giant lumbering noisy ghosts.

The water at the edge of the little pond was teeming with life.

This scene was evocative on so many levels: The miraculous though somewhat creepy transformation of water-faring tadpoles into land-faring frogs. Competition and natural selection playing out in a battle for prime lounging space. Contemplation of a far off time when a similar scene may have starred primitive chordate fish seeking security or food on a new terrestrial horizon.

When I arrived at crooked creek, I realized I had missed my side trail and was turning my short hike into a medium hike. Even so, I followed the crooked creek trail down to the falls before turning back.

Mt. Adams as seen from the picnic area

I stopped for lunch at the Hellroaring Canyon viewpoint.

Then I followed the ridge up on my quest for Iceberg Lake. This picture makes it look like there is an obvious trail to follow, but the ridgeline soon turns rocky and any trail you’re following starts to sprout tributaries that spin off in wacky directions and often disappear.

Along the ridge are areas thick with stunted pine trees that build head high forest canopies in wind-sheltered pockets. These mini forests are filled with fluttering wing noises and the squeals of Clark’s Nutcrackers.

On the left is a Clark’s Nutcracker doing what it does best. On the right is the same picture after I’ve tried to compensate for the poor exposure. I don’t like the stark white background so I add the top of Mt. Adams in a scene that could have been, but wasn’t exactly. Does that make me a liar?

Higher up on the ridge that skirts Hellroaring canyon, I arrive at an area that looks like it might have had a lake at one time, but is currently nothing but an exhausted snow field. I wonder if I’ve gone far enough, or is Iceberg Lake still higher. I climb up a ridgeline beyond the krummholz ‘forest’ to get a high vantage point, but it is effort wasted in the wrong direction.

A mountain-created still-life

Suddenly, in the distance, I spot the renegade cows. My heart turns to ice. They must have decided to kill me up here and make it look like an accident. “I didn’t tell anyone!” I scream at them desperately across the chasm.

But as I look through my telephoto lens, I realize these are not outlaw cows after all. They are some kind of mountain goats. Further, I am able to identify a trail which must surely be the path to Iceberg Lake.

Usually, in this situation, I would persevere and attempt to reach the lake, but the sun has passed behind the mountain and I know I am running out of time. The trail is treacherous with loose and pointy rocks, and the randomly placed rock cairns here and there will not be very helpful in the dark. Even after this careful analysis, I am still tempted to make the attempt, but then I remember that all I have left to eat, should I be stranded overnight, is one of those pepperoni sticks.

So that’s the story of how a meatless pepperoni stick unwittingly saved my life. Faced with the threat of tasting the ill-conceived vegan protein snack, I chose to return to the trailhead and arrived at the car well before dark.

Mt. Hood as seen from Bird Creek Meadow

The Narrative Image NAVIGATION AID

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