Sunday, August 26, 2012

Oregon Dreaming

Drinking a second bloody mary at the Seaside golf course bar (not pictured). It is a Sunday, God's day of rest and it occurs to me that the first one had been a bit spicier. This one here though contains a pepperoncini that made me cough and upon breach of the green casing, a squirt arced across my lap. I'm with Mitch and Dad, who are over there playing video poker. They've been winning and shouting me drinks. The barman wears a straw hat and a Hawaiian shirt. We have a similar dress code. He reminds me of Bill Murray's under-appreciated brother Brian-Doyle, except more jaundiced. He's got his laptop on the bar next to me and I can see the ebay page he's got up. He's bidding on linen shirts. Looking out the window at the first tee, it's all fogged in. The plan, as ever, is to finish the novel and if it is not successful, write it from the perspective of Peabody's sister Dolores, whose presence in the story is diaphanous at best (Journal, 5 August 2012)

Been awful lucky to see Mitch as much as I have this summer (pictured to the right of me). His joie de vivre was in full effect in Seaside where he bought my Dad a bicycle as a gesture to my parents for all the good they've done, like be his friend and his surrogate parents. A lot of us clapped and there was a pretend ceremony where we all drank tequila and cried and Mitch got adopted for realsies. He said a lot of things were blogworthy, of which a mere fraction have been documented here. Mitch took me to Lake Havasu in May where we stayed at his uncle's house and I saw my first roadrunner. 

We'd sit at the pool and have arguments over music. Mitch had some noisy country on and I said I liked this better than the Johnny Cash he was playing.

"This is Johnny Cash though."

"So I guess this underscores my utter indifference to his music."

He put on some John Prine and i said, "John Prine is not good sitting by the pool music. Seems like what'd you'd listen to hungover as you pile into a pick-up to go hunt squirrels."

"Your cleansing is my infestation," he explained to me at one point,  neatly highlighting our general differences.

A few days at the pool and a few nights on the town and then we headed back to Flagstaff. If I remember correctly it was a three hour drive. 

Portland was busy, but good. Had some sweet excursions with my nieces, hit some good bars and met my sister's boyfriend, who dreamt that he went hunting with my brother. Pictured above is the fogged in coastline caught on camera on a hike with my nieces visiting from Maryland.

Midway to Indian Beach, we encountered what I assumed was an old WWII ruin inside the rainforest.  

I wore my Mother's clothes most of the weekend, which is kinda weird. Dad was upset because I drank his cinnamon whisky and was wearing his wife's clothes. The shirt that I decided to wear to the airport, one of the buttons came off as I was putting on deodorant. I didn't think that it was a bad omen necessarily, just that I had to get it sewn back on to make it complete again. Also that I need to learn how to sew. I didn't have any problems with the buttons coming off my Mom's clothes because they weren't blouses. They were pastel-colored sweatshirts. I only wore one of them out and that was to a rowdy dinner our last night in Seaside. Clam chowder, crab sandwich and two oyster shooters — I could easily go for that on my last day on Earth. Jupiter here we come!

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Notes from the Rockies

My qualified mountaineering guide got us lost in the Rockies looking for the Lake of the Clouds. Trouble was by the time we came out of the woods into a large basin there wasn't any path to speak of. There was a waterfall to the left, but to the Darling Chaser of N Michigan, quaified mountaineering guide, that wasn't good enough. She elected to go away from the waterfall and I dutifully followed her like I was her dog.

In retrospect, the waterfall was probably a pretty good indication that this was where the lake was and not over a boulderfield where it turns out the lake wasn't, but that's where we went. Now I am hardly someone driven by ego to climb a tall mountain to say I climbed a tall mountain, but gosh dang it, I was determined to see this lake after hiking for five hours. We scrambled over a huge boulderfield. According to Chaser, scrambling is when you occasionally use more than your feet, which is what we did getting over those boulders. If the rocks weren't hard to negotiate as is, they were also full of spiders. The lake took another hour, but it was worth it.

In the meantime, we talked. She told me all about the course she just taught nearby in some other mountains. How she endearingly sang Lee Hazlewood's Hey Cowboy the whole time. How one kid said that he believed in a nourished and well fed team, which didn't make a lick of sense when he kept eating everyone's tuna packets, leaving the other kids with nothing but crackers (apparently he was on some weird protein diet). Some other kid got trenchfoot from not changing his shoes or socks for thirty days. Another lost their backpack off a cliff. Others inadvertently created solidarity with each other by shitting themselves. 

Chaser used several actual mountaineering terms to describe the terrain I negotiated on the nine hour hike that we did. Some terms: alpine lake is a tarn. Scree is small bits of rock amid large boulders. Permanent snowfields are self explanatory. Glacial moraine is debris left over from a glacier.

I actually quite enjoyed all nine bleeding hours of the hike. We had done six and amid continuous threats of thunder that we had somehow eluded, I made her stop so I could write down what I felt would be a neat title for the piece I was going to write about our hike: “Too sly for the storm.” I had mumbled the title, mumbling being indicative of a certain type of brain damage. Yet it was a terrific title, or so I thought initially. I have since retracted my thought and decided that it is not so great.

Chaser herself did not think much of this title either and began wondering if the hike had begun to warp me. She explained that many sufferers from long hikes are called DICHEADS, an acronym that means dizzy, irritable, combative with symptoms associated with headaches. I tried to absorb what she was saying, but got distracted by some raspberries bushes that she found. Thunder crackled mightily overhead. We were now on the final stretch, but the final stretch of a long hike is seemingly neverending and the beer always outside of arm's reach.

Let me tell you what happened when we got to the lake. Chaser went off to do some reconnaissance on how the heck we were going to get off the mountain. I had laid down on some grass between rocks overlooking the lake when suddenly a marmot popped up between some rocks with a pika in its mouth. I was confused at first because the pika's tail hanging over the top lip of the marmot looked an awful lot like the moustache on a walrus.

When I told her what happened, Chaser said, “I've seen alpine lakes that are a lot more impressive, but I never seen, nor have I heard of someone seeing a fucking marmot with a pika in its mouth!” She had me eat some alpine Sorel. It was my feeling that it could be used in a lemony cocktail. She said it's a pretty good source of Vitamin C.

We stayed near where we hiked, a campground that was treeless for the most part surrounded by mountains; we would climb the ones on the west. The trees were removed due to what the bark beetle had done to them. They eat the bark and the trees turn a sickly color and die. Used to be that these beetles couldn't survive the winter frost and would all perish by Spring, but climate change changed all that and these little bastards now feast year-round and the parks haven't worked out a way to stop them. What this means for the campground is no trees and more grass and the elk come down and graze and lick everything.

Our last morning, a group of us crowded around an elk, who had Chaser's backpack in her mouth. She got increasingly spasmodic (the elk, not Chaser, who was sleeping) the closer we got, doing frightened circles and raising dust. We were next to the highway and a park ranger had pulled off. He clapped his hands loudly. The sound seemed to dislodge the backpack because it went flying. The elk skedaddled. One of the gang told me afterwards that they'd been coming to this site for five years and it keeps getting worse. "The elk out here are like dogs. Ever since they got rid of the trees, they think of this as their playground."

Chase was happy she stayed in the the van, while I filled an incident report regarding the recalcitrant elk that tried to eat her backpack. I asked the ranger how often these incident reports were filed and she said not often. The last time involved a guy who was walking on the trail by a moose and her calf and the moose charged putting the guy on a log where he received a gash on his leg. It was bad enough that they treated him at the local hospital. They don't like the wild animals getting hostile and to some degree, this ornery elk was not going to give up the backpack. "I don't like that backpack anyway," said Chase, who will always side with the elk. She thought the campground should be shutdown. It was hardly a moneyspinner, as it was thinning out more and more each night. I secretly loved everything about it and had no complaints only the elks who became less interesting and more like pests by our second night.

Chaser and I walked hand in hand over to the dumpster to dive for propane when I noticed my spirit animal.

"Oh my God, a red-winged blackbird!"

"Jesus Christ, Shane!" cried Chaser, who couldn't handle the profundity of witnessing my spirit animal, stubbing her toe on a tree stump.

We found some propane to cook with and made eggs.

Best use of Foreigner's Feels like the first time