Monthly Archives: August 2020

Seeing the North Rim of St. Helens – Hiking the boundary trail to Coldwater Peak

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Saturday, 15-Aug-2020

 

This has been a strange year.

Yep.  Profound, that one, isn’t it?  Super unique, no one else has said that about 2020, I’ll bet.

 

While it’s not the most creative statement, it’s still really true for me – I’ve finally started stretching my legs and exploring Oregon again, seeing my home through new lenses, in a new light, and from new vantage points.  I’d run out of ideas for nearby hikes, but thankfully Laurel had a suggestion for us – The Northern side of Mt. St. Helens, hiking out to Coldwater peak…

 

Vital Statistics:

Length – 11.9 miles

Starting elevation – 4,180ft

Elevation gain – 2,785ft

Trail type – out and back

 

It was a bit longer than I’d normally do on my own, but we decided to go for it anyways – The weather in Portland was slated to be extremely hot (above 100 degrees), so any escape from the city would be preferable to staying in town.  We figured that 4,100ft would be enough to bring out some cooler weather to complement the excellent views of St. Helens that we’d be sure to find.

Well, we did find the views.

The heat… we also found that.

Turns out, 4,100ft isn’t actually that high.  Sure, it was cooler… but “cooler” is relative.  When we parked and put the top up on the car, it was solidly into the high 80s.  And on a trail with no shade, as the sun was rising… well, we definitely made it convincingly into the 90s while on the hike.

 

It was worth every second of it, though.  Even the ending part, where I was slowly melting into my boots, and Laurel was nearly dragging me back to the car.  I mean, it wasn’t really that bad, but I was definitely pretty tired and quite toasted by the time we made it back to the car.  The top stayed up for the drive home, if that wasn’t obvious.  Easier to crank the air conditioner.

The hike itself?  It was beautiful!  Excellent views of the North side of St. Helens, beautiful lakes, and a generally pleasant trail the entire way.  Not much shade, of course… but that’s what happens when a massive volcanic eruption decimates the entire landscape.

For those not in the know – The North side of St. Helens is where the majority of the eruption damage occurred.  The exact chain of events (as I learned) was that an earthquake triggered a massive landslide, exposing the core of the volcano, which then erupted into a series of pyroclastic flows.  Where we were hiking was the boundary of the closed-off zone, which is protected for study of wildlife renewal after cataclysmic events.  It’s really cool, and quite humbling to see just how extensive the damage was… and how well the landscape is healing itself.

 

Anyways, that’s a bit of a meandering way of saying that the hiking was beautiful, the company was great, and views were excellent, and the geologic factoids were very interesting.  There was even a cool natural arch, with some fun bouldering lines on it!  Ironically, better rock climbing than we’d found the previous weekend out at Larch Mountain… but let’s stick with the positive, hmm?  The rock quality was great, there was some shade, a good breeze… man, it was good times.

Still meandering… I think that’s about it.  The drive from Portland wasn’t bad, we had good music, and even stopped to get enchiladas and a marionberry shake on the way home.  Good times indeed!

Climbing in a Pandemic – This is a new world, but we’re all learning to live in it.

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Sunday, 09-Aug-2020

 

 

I haven’t been to a climbing gym in months.  Since COVID really hit, at least… and probably before that, though I can’t quite remember.  They’ve been open for a while, actually… but I’d cancelled my membership about a month ago, and hadn’t really planned on restarting it anytime soon.

 

Then a study came out, suggesting that climbing chalk can deactivate the COVID virus nearly immediately upon contact (Ed Note: We’ve posted a link to the article is at the bottom of the post, enjoy!).  I also have a few friends who’ve started climbing again, who let me know what sorts of precautions the gym’s been taking, and how crowded (or not crowded, in fact) the gym has been recently.

I… wasn’t fully convinced.  But I kept tumbling it around in my head… questioning whether I’m really being safe, or if I’m being paranoid.

That’s the name of the game these days, isn’t it?

How much protection should we give ourselves?  What’s safe, and what’s an unnecessary risk?

What’s a sore throat, and what’s COVID?  Is the sneeze because I just split pepper, or inhaled a face full of dust?  Or am I contagious, and risking my and everyone else’s health?

 

We simply don’t know, so we weigh the options and do our best.  Like we always do.  We move forward.

 

I finally moved forward to the gym.  I don’t regret it.

 

Nothing is safe, but climbing at the gym was… acceptably unsafe.  I don’t think there was really any heightened risk outside of the normal “I’m climbing fifty feet into the air, protected by a half-inch thick rope”, and I’m confident that there wasn’t any pandemic-related risk greater than going to the grocery store, or picking up tacos at the local bodega.

Everyone had a mask, and I felt good.

That being said…

Man am I weak.  I finished a few routes, yeah, but… dang, man.  I need to climb more!

 

 

Link to article: https://www.abcwalls.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/Corona-Virus-and-Chalk-Press-release.pdf

My first long bike ride – the Banks – Vernonia trail!

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Friday, 07-Aug-2020

 

Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve gone on a long bike ride?

I think it was fall of… Man, I don’t even know at this point.  I just spent like 20min searching through the archives of this blog looking for it, but couldn’t find any details.  It was the fall of “a long time ago”, when Daniel and I did a long ride around the small towns surrounding Boston… clocking roughly 35 miles between various small farms.

Why’d we go between farms?  For apple cider donuts.  Duh.

 

Today, I didn’t go between apple cider donut farms.  Instead, we took a gloriously chill ride down one of the “Rails to Trails” bike paths.  Fairly flat (sort of), nicely paved (for the most part), and pretty empty (until later in the day), it was a glorious chance for me to stretch my bike-legs, and see how I’d do after pulling a nerve in my back earlier this spring.

Man, did we enjoy the ride.

Like I said, the route was mostly flat… but actually, was really on a slight incline the whole way out.

Which, you know what?  I’d vastly prefer that over the alternative.  We worked hard to get to the end, and then on the way back?  We just cruised.  Seriously – I think I cranked the pedals like… twenty times in nearly 10 miles.  Like I said, glorious.

The ride was beautiful – mostly farmland and forests, with a few small roads that we had to cross.  One big trellis bridge, one steep section, but mostly just lovely cruising.  Just the right intensity that we could hold a conversation… with a few random pauses to catch our breath.

I loved it.

 

We started near Banks, about three miles into the trail, and cruised as far as we could before some trail maintenance blocked our way.  From there, we turned around and headed all the way down to Banks for a quick bite of lunch at a small cafe that we found.  Outdoor seating and hamburgers were our requirements, and they ticked off the boxes for both pretty handily.

Interestingly, the burgers didn’t come with fries.  They came with tater totes mixed in with mac and cheese, and baked with a cheese crust.  Never had it before, but they were definitely pretty solid… if a bit heart-attack-ish.

 

From the cafe, we turned around and headed back – almost exactly 30 miles total under our belts.

Not bad at all for my first big ride of the year.

 

 

 

 

 

Ohh, you wanted to know about the highlight of the ride?

The best part?

By far the coolest thing on the whole trail?

 

We saw three goats, a sheep, and their sheepherd dog.

Hanging out on the side of the trail.

Eating leaves.

I stopped to take a picture, and then when I started biking?  THE DOG FOLLOWED ME.  AND THE GOATS AND SHEEP FOLLOWED THE DOG.

They were just chilling, no cares or worries.  It was… glorious.