Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Another Rainy Camping Trip....

Roger and I decided to go camping for Father's Day weekend.  We reserved a spot at Timothy Lake, near Mt. Hood - one of our favorite places to camp.  That Friday afternoon, as we were driving towards Mt. Hood, the sky kept getting darker and darker.  Then we noticed a few raindrops on the windshield.  By the time we reached the pass at Government Camp, rain was coming down in buckets!  Uh-oh, this didn't look good for camping!

Roger cooking steaks in the rain

However, the rain let up once we arrived at Timothy Lake.  Roger found our campsite, and quickly unloaded the tent in hopes of getting it set up before another shower hit.  We didn't make it.  It is really no fun trying to putting up a tent in the rain!  Once the tent was up, Roger and I struggled to get our dining canopy erected over the picnic table.  About that time, it really started raining.  I thought "what the heck are we doing here?"

Time for a glass of wine!

The rain tapered off into a misty shower, and Roger got the fire going (even though the wood was wet).  We ate steaks and drank some wine, and then I was feeling better about camping.  We drifted off to sleep that night to the pitter-patter of raindrops on the tent.

Timothy Lake shoreline

The next morning was damp, cloudy and cool, but no precip was coming from the sky.  Roger took the boat out to try his luck fishing.  I decided to explore some of the trails around the lake.

PCT trail sign

We've camped at Timothy Lake many times, and I usually hike the trail to Little Crater Lake, or I hike around Timothy Lake.  This time I wanted to hike a trail I hadn't hiked before.  The Pacific Crest Trail goes by Timothy Lake, so I decided to follow the PCT south of the lake to see where it went. 

The trail beckons..

The trail was beautiful.  It went through a grove of large old growth trees, past fields of wildflowers, and followed a cute little creek for a time.

Forest beauty

Of course, progress was slow due to many photo stops!

Rain speckled leaves

I didn't see another soul on the trail.  I followed the PCT about a mile and a half, and then had to cross a road. 

Beargrass bloom

On the other side of the road, I hiked a short distance and hit an obstacle.  The trail was flooded.  What is probably a small creeklet in late summer had expanded into a wide, fast-flowing stream.  The water was too deep for me to wade, and I didn't see any rocks or logs nearby that I could use to cross over.  Darn!  So much for exploring the PCT.

Raindrops sparkle on the leaves of these blue flowers

Where to go next?  I hated to turn around and hike back on the same trail. I wasn't done exploring yet!  There was another trail heading off the PCT towards a nearby horse campground.  I decided to follow it.

Little cabin in the woods

The trail led me out onto the main road into Timothy Lake.  I knew this road would take me back to the campground.  As I walked along the road, I noticed a small cabin off in the distance.  It was on the edge of a swampy clearing.  Such a picturesque location - I had to hike over and check it out!

This cabin made for some good photo ops

Back through the horse campground, I spied the cabin downhill from one of the campsites.  The location was indeed beautiful.  My camera came out, and I went to work!

If these walls could talk...

The cabin appeared abandoned.  Someone had shot holes in the window glass. I wondered - why was the cabin there?  What had it been used for?  Why was such a nice building being left to rot away?    I lingered for awhile, taking more photos.  Then it started raining again, and I realized I'd better be getting back to camp.

Bear and I dry off by the fire

Back at camp, we cooked some lunch and then just had a lazy afternoon sitting around.  The rain finally let up, and we even got a couple of sunbreaks. 

You would think with it being such a rainy weekend, no one would be out camping, but almost every campsite was taken (and at Timothy Lake there are four campgrounds with approx. 40 sites each).  There were lots of families with kids and many of them were tent camping.  Some of the sites had elaborate tarp - canopy setups that kept the rain off. 

It was nice to hear the sounds of happy kids.  Reminded me of camping trips when my kids were small.  Those were some good memories.  It is weird now to be camping without them. 

Sunset over Timothy Lake

Although the sky cleared up that evening, sometime in the night I awoke to the sound of raindrops on our tent.  Yes, rain again!  The next day was cloudy and misty.  Roger went for one more fishing trip, and Bear and I took a run on the trail around the lake.  Then we packed up all our wet gear, and headed for home!

Our camping track record this year isn't very good - both times we've camped so far it's rained!  Even though this weekend's weather was far from perfect, it was nice to get away.  Being out in nature provides a restorative effect.  And after many years of living in Oregon, I've gotten used to camping in the rain.  Beats sitting at home anytime!  Around here, if you wait for the rain to stop, you won't ever do anything. 

Friday, June 25, 2010

Crazy Horse Volksmarch

The Black Hills of South Dakota are known for Mt. Rushmore, the famous mountain carving of four influential presidents.   However, there is another sculpture in progress located just down the road from Mt. Rushmore.  This nearby mountain is being carved into the likeness of the legendary Lakota leader Crazy Horse.  When completed, Crazy Horse will be the largest sculpture in the world and will dwarf Mt. Rushmore in size.

 A model of the finished sculpture

However, work has been slow to progress.  Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski began work on the Crazy Horse Memorial on June 3, 1948.  Blasting work continued intermittently through the years.  Ziolkowski died on October 20, 1982, his dream unfinished.  Korczak's wife Ruth and seven of their ten children picked up where he left off, and continued working on the sculpture.  The carving continues today, and the memorial and its surrounding campus have become a popular tourist attraction in the Black Hills.  The campus is a very interesting place to visit, and besides observing the mountain, guests can tour the Indian Museum of North America (which is very well done) and Korczak's studio.  The campus also provides conference facilities, a Native American Education and Cultural Center, a restaurant and, of course, a gift shop.

My family at the starting point, ready to hike!

Once a year on the first weekend of June, the memorial sponsors a volksmarch and invites visitors to hike to the top of the mountain.  This is the only time the public is allowed access on Crazy Horse Mountain to view the sculpture-in-progress up close.  Since it's inception, my parents have participated in the volksmarch almost every year.  I've always wanted to do the volksmarch, but my trips to South Dakota never seemed to coincide with this weekend.

Signs along the way.

Then I signed up to run the Mickelson Half Marathon.  Coincidentally, I found out the Crazy Horse volksmarch was the exact same weekend.  This was my chance!  So of course I had to do the volksmarch too.  I figured hiking Crazy Horse on Saturday would be the perfect warm up for my race the next day.

My Dad having a great time.

So myself, my parents, my sister and two of her girls, and two of my brothers, all piled into our cars, and headed for the mountain.  We got there fairly early (9:00) and there was already a large crowd.  We headed to the starting point, checked in and got our cards.  Since this was my first-ever volksmarch, I learned that most volksmarches have checkpoints along the way, and you present a card that gets stamped at each checkpoint.  Apparently the card gets turned in at the finish point.  I think that's how the organizers keep track of the participants and make sure there's no one left on the trail at the end of the day.

Our first glimpse of the mountain

We started out on a nice, wooded trail.  There were crowds of people all around us.  I was amazed - I've never seen so many people in one place in South Dakota!  From listening to the conversations around us, it was apparent that many of these people were not locals.  In fact, I learned this volksmarch is the most popular organized hike in the nation.  People travel here from all over for an opportunity to experience a close-up view of the mountain carving.

The view from Checkpoint 2.

There were four checkpoints on the trail to the top.  At each checkpoint there was water, and the always-necessary port-a-potties.  Boy Scout troops set up concessions and sold snacks. 

The weather that morning started out cloudy and cool. I was kind of disappointed, as I was hoping for sunny blue skies for great photos. But I walked along, clicking photos as I went, and then ran to catch up with my family. My folks commented that it was good I was wearing a bright yellow shirt, so they could find me in the crowd.

The view from checkpoint four.

We reached checkpoint 4, and were greeted with an amazing view of the mountain! You could see the trail snaking up to the very top. There was a steady line of people, trudging up the hill. I could see the viewing area was already getting crowded. My family and I joined the mass of humanity and made the final push to the summit.

Zoomed in view of the face

And then just as we were almost at the top, the sun came out. Hooray! I got my blue sky just in time! The sunlight was at a perfect angle to light up the face. Photographic conditions couldn't have been better.

I'm on top of Crazy Horse mountain!  Woo-hoo!

And the view of the carving was as magnificent as I thought I'd be. The face was huge! And the details in the eyes were incredible.  From up on top, you had a bird's eye view of the Black Hills.  It was a lovely sight.  I went to work taking lots of photos.

Mini golf on Crazy Horse

People-watching was also fun.  There were people of all ages, shapes, and sizes.  A lot of people were posing for pictures holding up a finger.  I finally figured out they were lining themselves up with Crazy Horse's nose, to appear as though they were picking his nose.  Not very respectful.  Also, there was a group of young men who, upon reaching the top, pulled out a putting green and golf clubs from their backpack.  They rolled out their green and posed for some photos.  I'm not sure what that was all about.

The viewing area was totally packed with people.  I could not take a picture without a mass of people in it.  Oh well, the people gave a good scale to the sheer size of the sculpture.  As you can see, the face alone is enormous.

The armpit of Crazy Horse

After getting our fill of views, we headed back down the trail.  The trail wound past the "armpit" of Crazy Horse.  It is now a large tunnel through the mountain.  For many years as I was growing up in SD, this was the only sign of progress on the carving.

The armpit is a really big tunnel!

People were posing for photos in front of this tunnel.  So of course we all took turns getting our pictures taken.  You don't realize how large the "armpit" is until you're almost right next to it.

The trail back down to checkpoint four

Then we all  headed, down, down, down the trail.  A lot easier hiking now!

Snack break on the rocks.

Susan's girls were hungry, so we took a quick break on a large rock that faced the mountain.  We had snacks with a view!

One final view of the mountain

We hiked back down via another path, which gave us a different views of the sculpture.  This photo shows the sheer volume of rock that's been blasted away.  Look at the amount of crushed rock that surrounds the lower portion of the mountain.

The trail took us by a herd of cattle

Towards the end, we hiked by a herd of cattle standing by the side of the trail.  No fence or anything!  Only in South Dakota!

The finish line!

And then - the finish line!  Yay, we did it!  I looked back up at the mountain, and the sky was clouding over.  I was really lucky - the timing was perfect for sunshine at the top.

I hiked 6.2 miles up to the top of a mountain to be face-to-face with a very amazing sculpture.  I got to see what most people only view from the observation deck 3 miles away.  I just may have to schedule next year's visit for this weekend so I can do it again!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mickelson Trail Half Marathon

After running the Hippie Chick Half together last year, and having such a good time, my sister and I decided we needed to join forces again to run another race.  Since I failed at getting Susan into this year's Hippie Chick, she and I began scoping out other race possibilities.  The solution - the Mickelson Trail Half Marathon in the Black Hills of SD.  Right in her own backyard, and a good excuse for me to come home and visit my family!

My race "swag!"

This race features both a marathon and a half marathon.  It takes place on the George S. Mickelson Trail, which runs through the heart of the Black Hills of South Dakota.  This trail was originally the Burlington Northern railroad line that took trains from Edgemont, SD to the northern Black Hills and the gold mines of Deadwood.  The line was abandoned in 1983. A group of outdoor enthusiasts recognized the trails potential, and with support of the then Governor Mickelson, it became the states' first rails to trails project.  The trail's total lengh is 109 miles (but we only ran 13.1 miles of it!) and contains more than 100 converted railroad bridges and 4 rock tunnels.  The race finishes in the town of Deadwood, which is a cool historic mining town.

Susan and her running buddies, ready to go!

However, early this spring, my sis had some bad luck.  While running with her friends one morning, she tripped on the sidewalk, fell, and broke her arm.  The break was bad enough that she had to have her bones surgically repaired.  Even though the cast was scheduled to come off about three weeks before the race, Susan  wasn't sure if she'd be in shape to run.

The starting line crowd

But I had bought my plane ticket, and paid my entry fee, so I was planning to run the race with or without her.  About a week before the race, Susan decided she would try and run it.  But she asked our parents to drive along the route and park at the trailheads along the way, just in case she needed to bail out.  Susan warned me that with her limited training, she would probably run slow and might need to walk once and awhile.  I told her I was totally fine with that, and actually looked forward running at a leisurely pace.  I'd heard the trail was beautiful, and this way I'd be able to fully appreciate the scenery.

Hangin' out with Susan's friends before the start of the race

June 6th dawned, cloudy and cool.  It felt like I'd brought the weather from Portland with me.  Perfect running weather!  My folks dropped Susan, myself, and three of her friends at the starting area.  Susan's friend and co-worker Stacey decided to run with us. She was newly pregnant and needed to take things easy.  Susan's other two friends were trying to beat a 2 hour half, so we knew they'd be ahead of us.

Sister power!

We started the race in the middle of nowhere. But with 1600 runners signed up for the half, there was quite a large mass of people gathered. I was afraid the narrow trail would be crowded at the start, but the race organizers had the pace starting groups lined up and well signed. I thought we'd start in the 10 minute mile group, but, to my surprise, Susan moved us up until we were in between the 8 and 9 minute-mile groups.  Not as leisurely a pace as I'd expected! 

Before I knew it, the crowd was moving. We were off!

Susan mugs for the camera.

Susan took off fast!  The first couple of miles were quite crowded, but we were able to pass the slower people (and the faster people were able to get around us!).   Susan and I resurrected our tradition of doing "the wave" at each mile marker.  We cheered and woo-hooed, but didn't get too many other runners joining in our celebrations.  (I guess my spinning instructor was right, runners are a somber bunch - not much woo-hooing at all!)

Views of the trail

I have to say the scenery along the trail was amazingly beautiful!  We passed flowing creeks, pine forests, rock cuts, and lush green meadows. We ran over some really cool wooden bridges.  This was definitely the most scenic race I've ever run.  I'd forgotten how wonderful the Black Hills really are.

The flag runner

At one point this man passed us waving an American flag.  We cheered him as he ran by.  I saw the man after the race at the finish line, still holding his flag.  He'd ran the entire race carrying this flag!

The scenery was great!

Susan kept on running fast.  It seemed she had rockets under her feet!  After many weeks of being out of action, it probably felt good to be running again.  But we didn't hurry things along otherwise.  We walked through every aid station.  I had to make a potty stop at mile 4.  Susan and Stacey stopped at the mile 6 aid station to suck down some gel (I partook in the wonderful orange slices they offered! The aid stations were the best!)  At one point, Stacey spotted her husband and son in the crowd, and we stopped to say hi.

Runners winding through the canyon

With the good company, the miles seemed to go by fast.  We chatted and waved, and before I knew it, we were coming up on the outskirts of the town of Lead.  Just a couple more miles and we'd be done!  By this point, Susan and Stacey were getting tired, and my left calf was starting to bother me.  We all agreed that when the 12 mile marker came, there would be a loud cheer and big wave!

Susan with her friends Joy and Michelle after the race

We started to wind through the town of Deadwood.  The 12 mile marker came and went.  The crowds along the trail began to get larger.  And then, up ahead, we spied the 13 mile marker.  Almost done!  Woo-hoo!  Susan and I held hands as we crossed the finish line.

Another half in the record books!

When I clicked off my watch, I was surprised to see our time.  We'd run the race in 2:12:54, which was an average of about a 10-minute mile pace.  Much faster than I'd anticipated, especially since we'd made a couple of stops.  For being out of commission and not running for a couple of months, Susan did great!

It was great to run another race with my sister.  I didn't have my best time, but I sure had the most fun!  And it was nice to run for fun, and not worry about meeting a certain time.  This course was so beautiful - and the race very well organized.  I'd love to come back next year and do it again.  And I just might!

P.S.  Check out this youtube link for more on the Mickelson Trail marathon/half marathon:


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wine Labels I Love!

When I was in South Dakota last week, I found these two bottles of wine at a local store.  The names made me laugh, so I just had to buy them!  They were both red wines, and the "Mommy's Time Out" was really good.  I need to look around here in the Portland area and see if I can find it.  Otherwise, I'll have to pick up some more next time I'm in SD!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

4th Annual Memorial Day Campout

It has become a tradition to join my brother Dale and his family camping over Memorial Day weekend.  We always go to the same place - The Cove Palisades State Park in central Oregon.  Since Memorial Day can often times be rainy around the Portland area, we figure we have a better chance of a drier weekend if we camp on the east side of the mountains.

Max, JJ and Nancy make banana boats

This year, we were not so lucky in the "no rain" department.  We arrived on Friday, and just as we were settling in our tents that evening, it began to rain!  It rained all night, but luckily by morning the rain had stopped.  Roger, Dale, and the boys took the boat out to go fishing, and Nancy and I stayed at camp and took the dogs to the dog park.  Saturday stayed rain-free and we even got a little bit of blue sky in the afternoon.

Max and JJ roast marshmallows at the park's evening campfire program

When the men came back for lunch Saturday noon, Roger wanted a beer.  We had placed all our drinks in a separate cooler (pop, and water, but mostly beer).  Roger started looking for the cooler, but it was nowhere to be found.  We looked around our campsite, in both cars, and tried to remember when we'd last seen it.  Finally Roger glanced up into the hills near our campsite, and something caught his eye.  It was the white lid of our cooler.  He found our cooler up on the hill.   The water and pop were still inside, but there was no beer!  We couldn't believe that someone would steal a cooler full of beer.  Roger and Dale thought it was probably some kids that snuck into our campsite late at night.  The funny thing was, Bear was asleep in our tent, and we didn't hear a peep from him!

Dale and Max enjoying their lunch

We finished our lunch, and then Roger and I had to make a beer run (we could not go camping all weekend without beer!).  I persuaded Roger to visit balancing rocks while we were out and about (more about that below).

Max reading by the campfire

Max and JJ went to a campfire program Saturday night, put on by the State Park staff.  We always get the campsite that is right next to the amphitheater, so we never miss a program.  This evening's program was on how to build a fire.  I thought it was kind of interesting that they were teaching young kids how to build a fire!  Hmmmm.....  After the campfire was built, the rangers produced couple bags of the biggest marshmallows I've ever seen, and the kids had a huge marshmallow roast.  Of course, Max and JJ enjoyed this best of all!

The men and dogs take shelter from the rain 

Sunday, the guys went fishing, and Bear and I took a run up on the Tam-a-Lau trail.  I was registered for a half marathon the following week, and needed to get some running in.  I ran 7 miles, and totally wore out Bear.  The trail up on the plateau was interesting to run.  However, after making two loops, I was ready to be done!

What to do on  a rainy day?  Play cards!

That afternoon Roger took me for a boat ride around the lake.  The sky was cloudy and blah, so no good photo opportunities.  It started to rain, so we headed in.  As we were loading the boat, the sky opened up.  Back at camp,  I put Bear in the car to keep him dry (I did not want a wet, muddy dog in the tent!)  I sat in the tent and read, Nancy read the boys stories, and the men played cards under our table canopy (so glad we brought that!).

A wet campfire on Sunday night

The rain  never fully let up all night.  We had  a soggy dinner and campfire.  It rained hard all night, but luckily it let up by morning.  We woke up Monday morning, packed up our wet gear and headed for home.

A Trip to Balancing Rock

The rocks as viewed from the trail

There is a really neat area of unusual rock formations west of the Cove Palisades State Park.  It is unofficially called "Balancing Rock" by the locals.  The trail is not marked, so you have to have directions to find it.  I'd visited the area two years ago, and really wanted to go back.  So I convinced Roger to take me there while we were camping nearby.

Roger admires the large balancing rock

I'm kind of rusty in my geology, but it appears these unusual rocks formed by a softer rock layer eroding under a layer of harder rock.  I'm not sure why the erosion happened the way it did in this isolated area and nowhere else nearby.  Whatever the case, these rocks are amazing examples of nature at work.

Rock "peek-a-boo"

These rocks look very prehistoric.  I felt like I was visiting the Flinstones Bedrock City! 

I'm holding the rock up!

Roger and I walked around the two dozen or so rocks, and I, of course, snapped tons of photos.  Lucky for me, the sun came out and I was able to get some blue sky backgrounds to my photos.  It was the only time we saw blue sky all weekend.

Another example of extreme erosion

I'm glad this area  is not well known.  If it was, I think some people would destroy these natural wonders.  So I'm not disclosing any more information on the whereabouts of balancing rock.

Roger and Bear on the overlook

However, I do wonder how long it will take until erosion causes the top rocks to fall over.  When this happens, balancing rock will cease to exist.  I'm glad I got to see the place before that happens.


I loved this balsamroot bloom

I can't end a blog post without a couple of flower photos!  The balsamroot in bloom, as it always is this time of year.  However, the bloom was not as good as in previous years.  There have been years that the hillsides are a carpet of yellow.  Not this time.  I did manage to find a couple good blooms of this cheerful yellow flower.

Lupine leaves dotted with raindrops

The Monday we left, I took my camera and headed up the hill to photograph a really nice patch of flowers I'd seen on my run the other day.

Lovely purple lupine

The lupine was also blooming nicely.  I found a couple of patches of the bright purple flowers.

Although the weather wasn't as great as we hoped, and we lost a case of really good beer, it was still a successful campout.  It was good to see Dale and his family.  We always have a good time with them.  The first camping trip of the year reminds me that summer is right around the corner.  I'm ready for summer - bring it on!