Monday, June 29, 2015

Appleton Pass

One of the joys of being retired is being able to spend more time in the Olympics.  I took advantage of that last week and headed for Appleton Pass.  It had been a few years since I had been up there and I wanted to do some exploration of the meadows between there and Spread Eagle Pass.  I left the Boulder Creek trailhead late Monday morning and headed for the pass.  This was my first trip up since the old road to the hot springs had been replaced.  This first 2.5 miles of trail is now broad and gentle with several new bridges.  After the Boulder Creek campground the trail becomes much narrower and very brushy in places, although it is a pleasant trail; especially since there were no people on the trail above the hot springs, except for one couple day hiking up close to the pass.

I made it up to the pass by mid-afternoon and set up my hammock near Oyster Lake, collected some water from the spring below the lake, and then circled around to the peak on the far side of the lake.  The skys were clear and the views spectacular; Olympus was majestic.  Tuesday was spent exploring the meadows and hanging around the lake, soaking in the views and doing a little reading.  And Wednesday morning I packed up and headed out, stopping at the hot springs for a quick soak.  It was a great trip and, once past the hot springs, very isolated.

This is one of the new bridges just below the hot springs.  When you are on the bridge you can look down and still see the old footlog that you used to have to cross.

The upper falls on the south fork of the Boulder creek.  It is just below the log across the creek.

The meadow below Appleton Pass is brushy, but is very colorful.  The trail is easy to follow, but there are times you have to push your way through some dense shrubbery.

Mt Olympus from atop the outlook near the pass.  The outlook is easy to get to and it offers outstanding views.

I am not positive, but I believe the meadow is Soleduck Park, home.  This is also visible from the lookout point as well as the way trail to Spread Eagle Pass.

Mt Appleton as seen from the lookout.

Down the Boulder Creek drainage.

Oyster Lake.  This shot is taken from the ridge that winds up to the lookout point.  My campsite is just into the trees behind the bare spot above the lake.  The trail running down to the bottom of the picture leads to a small spring that provides fresh water.

Sunset over the lake.

The meadows were full of bear grass in bloom.  I watched a deer take the top off one of them in one bite.

Oyster Lake again, this time from the trail and campsite.  You circle around the ridge to the right to the viewpoint behind the lake; about a 15 minute trip.  

This lake is to the east of the way trail to Spread Eagle Pass, over the ridge that is to the left of the trail.  I didn't make it all the way to the lake, but someday will go back and camp there.  

You can just barely see the trail climbing through the meadow on the left toward Spread Eagle Pass.  Once over the pass you would traverse for a bit before coming to Cat Lake.

It was hard to get a good picture, but there were hundreds of butterflies along the shore of Oyster Lake Tuesday evening, seemingly drinking and making baby butterflies.

Oyster Lake has a decent population of tadpoles.  These were clustered in the shallow area near where the outlet would be if the water was high enough.

The lake also had at least 10-12 frogs that seemed to spend their time hanging out on the beach or at the edge of the lake.  Also saw a couple of salamanders.  

I saw this guy, along with his twin and mom walking down the trail from the pass on Tuesday morning.  When I went down the trail Wednesday morning, he was laying motionless in a switchback, not even blinking.  Was he dead, or just hiding in plain sight?  I hope the later, but I got as close as 5 foot away and saw nothing to indicate any life.

As I rounded the switch, there was mom and twin heading down the trail away from me, periodically looking back, maybe to see it they were successfully leading me away from the other fawn.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Retreat at Cedar Lake

Earlier this week I took off for 3 days and went to one of my favorite places in the Olympics, Cedar Lake.  I started from Deer Park and made the long descent to Three Forks and then back up the Gray Wolf to where the shelter used to be; it is just a burned pile of timbers now.  From there a way trail heads off up the Cedar Creek drainage a couple of miles to the lake, which sits in a moderate sized basin.  The lake is about a third of a mile long and surrounded on three side by steep walls.  It has a couple of small campsites when you first come to the lake, and I grabbed the first one because it has the best hanging place for my hammock.

I spent two nights at the lake, with a full day in between and thoroughly enjoyed it, except for the persistent mosquitoes; I have seen much worse, but there were enough to be an irritant.  While there I enjoyed a trip around the lake, a little exploring, a swim, and some reading and meditating.  It's really great to get away to a place like that and just reflect on God, life, and whatever else comes to mind.

On Wednesday I was up fairly early and was on the way by 6:30.  On my first trip into the lake, about 7 years ago, a friend and I had traversed across from a tarn a bit below the Gray Wolf Pass, and I had decided to reverse that trip on the way out.  There is no easy path around the lake.  On one side it is all scree and rock, and sometime so steep that it is challenging, and I opted not to try that with a pack.  The other side is covered in steep meadows and some trees, but is very wet.  Much of it is just oozing water and is pretty slick.  I opted for that side, and of course fell down on one especially slick slope; glad to have gotten that out of my system early.  Once at the other end of the lake I climbed half a mile or so up a relatively easy grade before getting into a steeper section for the upper half of the climb.  I had remembered a bit of a trail coming down from the pass, but found no trace of one this time until I was nearly out.  But the climb was uneventful and offered good views of the lake and basin below.

From the pass there is an occasional track through the heather that leads toward the Gray Wolf pass, past three tarns, and ending behind a fourth tarn that is visible from the Gray Wolf trail a half mile below the pass.  Even without the trail, if you knew the basic direction to head it would be hard to get too lost.  It was probably not much over a mile, and was bounded by a steep ridge on one side and a sharp drop off on the other.  The traverse, while short, was scenic and enjoyable.

Once back to the Gray Wolf, I just followed the trail back to Three Forks and then trudged back up to Deer Park, about 3000 feet of up in 4.5 miles.  All in all, a very good trip.  And the only people I saw the whole time were between Deer Park and Three Forks; right at 48 hours with no people.

This view is taken from near the Deer Park trailhead, as you make the short initial ridge walk. In real life you can easily discern the valleys that the Grand, Cameron and Gray Wolf flow through and see Three Forks, where they all come together.

The inside of this rotted tree trunk on the Gray Wolf looks like a medieval torture chamber.

One of my favorite stretches of trail on the Gray Wolf.  It is only a few hundred yards long, but everything is covered with thick moss.  It just looks so inviting and soft.

The upper trail along the Cedar creek, and around the lower end of the lake basin, was covered in Avalanche lilies.  The wildflowers were beautiful and abundant throughout most of the trip.

Closeup of an Avalanche lily.

Lots of Asters of different sizes and colors.

The Columbine were out in full force as well.  They are hard to get a good picture of  because the flower usually is facing the ground.  

There is a tarn up above the lake that had a pretty healthy population of tadpoles, and one frog.  When I went by they seemed all to be sunning themselves in the shallow fringes of the tarn, hundreds, or maybe even thousands, of them.

Looking back at the lake from up above the south end of the lake, and the tadpole tarn.  Camp was setup near the middle of the clump of trees at the far end of the lake, right next to the exit stream.

At one point, while walking around the lake, I felt something on the back of my leg, and found this little guy taking a break.  First time I can recall having a pet butterfly, even if only for a few minutes.

At the end of this trail you can just see my hammock nestled in the trees.  The lake in ahead and visible to the right.  The creek is behind the trees to the right. While it would have been hard to put much of a tent in here, it is perfect for a hammock.  In fact, that is the spot I saw my first backpacking hammock and was convinced to give them a try.

The big rock in the foreground made a good platform to swim from.  The low point in the far ridge wall was my exit point the next day.

I am not a fisherman, but if I was I would have been eating good.  There were lots of trout in the lake, looking to be around 8-10 inches.

A look back at the lake from the pass out of the basin.

Looking the other way from the same pass, toward the Gray Wolf pass.  The trail heads down the valley in the lower center and then veers to the right.  You can just see on of the tree tarns that you skirt on the way out.

Looking back at one of the little tarns on the way down.

Looking down the Gray Wolf valley, midway through the traverse.

I think I counted 7 foot logs across the Graywolf as well as one across the Cameron and another across the Grand.  This spot actually had two of them, with the one in the background broken at the end and apparently replaced by the other one.

All that's left of the Gray Wolf shelter.  I don't know when it burned, but the first time I came up this valley, probably 17-18 years ago, it was intact.

The footlog across the Cameron has broken in the middle, and both halves have rolled 90 degrees.  A little more challenging to cross, but still easily doable.

Quite a few Candy Sticks were sprouting on the Tree Forks trail.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Why An Imperfect Creation?

I am generally happy with my life and the world I live in.  While I could easily find ways to improve it, it is OK the way it is.  But I know that is not true of everyone, or even the majority of folks.  For many, life is hard and they just barely manage to survive; many failing to do even that.  We live in an imperfect world: natural disaster, disease and human choices, both our own and others, cause untold suffering; not just to people, but to every creature that inhabits this planet.  While, as a race, we might dream of a more perfect place, and take steps to move in that direction, the reality is that we seem to be sliding further and further away from the perfection we all long for.

But why does it fall short of perfection?  Obviously we humans are the cause of much of the imperfection.  But we are not really responsible for earthquakes and hurricanes; those things are a natural part of how the planet works.

I believe that God is the creator, of this world as well as the whole universe.  But if he created it, should it not be perfect?  Is he not smart enough and powerful enough to be able to figure out, and produce, a better way?  Would it really be so challenging to produce a world without mosquitoes?

There are those who will argue that God did indeed create a perfect place for us, and that Adam's sin in the garden of Eden is the reason that it is no longer perfect.  But even if the story of the fall in the garden is taken literally, it seems a reach to claim it caused the earth's crust to fracture into plates and then begin to move; high and low pressure patterns to develop in the atmosphere;  dogs and cats to become meat eaters; or microbes to start preying on humans.

But what if God created a world that was good, but not perfect?  That would certainly be within the capabilities of an omnipotent, omniscient creator.  But why would he intentionally create something that was less than his best; unless it better suited his purpose?  But what purpose could there be in creating an imperfect world, unless maybe it was to create in me a longing for something that was better than what I have here.

If this life were perfect, then I would be perfectly content to live out my days here without giving a thought for anything else.  But if this life is not perfect, if I can imagine a world that is better, then I will long for that.  It may drive me toward making improvements in the world around me; seeking perfection here.  But history has shown that we will likely never reach perfection here; and the trend seems to be in the opposite direction.  So I am left with a longing that cannot find fulfilment in this life.

But the creator does hold out for me the promise of something that is much better than what I have here, something that is beyond my wildest imagination. But that promise comes with a catch.  I must be willing to let go of what this life has to offer, instead choosing to follow Jesus as his disciple.  If I will be his in this life, then I will be his through eternity, sharing in his glory in that perfect place that he has prepared for his own.  The choice is yours: striving for happiness in an imperfect world; or surrendering to Jesus lordship now, in expectation of the glory that will be revealed in the life to come.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.  What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?  For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. - Matthew 16:24-27 NIV