Sunday, March 31, 2013

Dry Creek Social Hike

9 miles with 800 feet elevation gain and I'm wasted.. I must be out of shape after winter quarter.  Saw the first Easter lilly of the season the day before Easter.  My 9 year old no longer believes in the Easter bunny.  It's a loss, I've been the Easter bunny for 16 years now.  I was too wasted after my hike to even make the effort to hide eggs.  I'll have to do something later today for my kids.

The trail is not in the best shape, there is two year old windfall still laying on the trail and lots of water on the trail.  I cut back all the limbs that were small enough for my hand saw.

9 miles with 800 feet elevation gain

Looking up to the summit of Mount Rose

Hornwort with no horns that I found at Copalis Crossing this week

Lophozia incisa found on the Dry Creek trail

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Moss on my car

"Mosses function as pollution scavengers in urban environments, removing toxic substances from the water stream."

Ceratodon pupureus and Bryum argentium

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Jungermannia rubra

I was able to key this out with the help of David Wagner's liverword ID CD.  The CD has pictures and is easier for beginners than the standard key.  This is my first Jungermannia find that I have been able to key out.

There are pretty much no pictures of this liverwort in the web, so I decided I would post some.  This is probably the same liverwort that Lalita Calabria found at Glacial on a class field trip.

Sporophyte starting to emerge

Sunday, March 24, 2013

First backpacking trip of the year

Sunrise on the Skokomish
My daughter's first backpacking trip was when she was 4 month old.  By going ultralight I could carry the baby and her father could carry the gear.  Since she was breastfed we only had to pack diapers for her.  Life was good.  Then she got to that awkward stage where she was to big to carry and too small to walk.  So I had to stop taking her backpacking for a few years.  Now she is big enough to hike but her father is far too ill to hike, let alone carry our gear.  Since I backpack ultralight it's still not a problem to take her hiking as long as she is willing to walk.

My youngest daughter's first backpacking trip when she was 4 months old

Last year when I took my little one backpacking she did not do too well.  She made it 2/10th of a mile before she said she was too tired to go any further.  So I said okay, let’s go back to the car then.  She was shocked.  She thought that if she said she could not go on that we would stop and camp right there.  I informed her that it did not matter if we turned back or if we made it to camp; we were still going to have to do some more hiking.  Either hike back to the car and go home or continue on and camp.  Upon hearing that my little one said “well maybe I could go a little bit further” and she made ½ mile to our campsite.   Once at our campsite I was constantly afraid she was going to knock our tarp tent down and it was due to rain that night.  It was a very stressful outing for me and that was the only time I took her backpacking last year.

Yesterday I decided to test her out on the trail again and see if she could do any better.   The plan was to hike about one mile and then camp on the gravel bar of the Skokomish river.  This time she did much better!  She made it 2.5 miles before she said she was tired and she only told me because I asked her. 

On the morning of our trip we left the house at 10am.  I chose a late start because I figured we would not make it far before we camped and I did not want to sit around freezing to death in camp for hours and hours.  We hit the trail at about 11am and had a leisurely hike.  She kept asking me the names of lichens and there was a lot of discussion about Usnea longisimma. 

We hiked and hiked until it looked like we had found a good place to leave the trail and cut down to the river.  I spied the perfect tent site with soft sand by the river.  But when we got closer to the perfect site we found a  beaver pond blocking our way.  We brushed crashed through salmon berry to get around the slough and then crossed on a log. My little one got one of her feet wet, darn it and we never did see that beaver.

Our 40 ounce shelter
Anyway we reached the perfect spot and I pitched the tent.   I noticed that there was a lot of driftwood lying around and it looked like I would be able to start a fire.  I don’t normally like to have a campfire but it was really cold and I decided that a fire would be a good idea for this hike.  There was a lot of fallen cotton wood on the ground. 

 Cotton wood is funny stuff, it’s all water and then when the water is burned off there’s not much wood left.  It’s about the least efficient wood there is to burn, but because it is so light it can be easier to start a fire with than some other types of wood and it’s really easy to break up by hand.  I got a fire going with the help of some dried up Douglas-fir branches and once it was hot enough I piled lots of huge cottonwood logs onto the fire.  The fire was never huge but the pile of logs on the fire was enormous.   That’s how you build a lasting fire with wet cottonwood. 

Most of the wood on the fire is not actually burning, nope, it’s drying.  Then when the wood is dry it goes up really fast.  So you need to have huge pieces of wood on the fire if you want a fire that you don’t want to have to have to constantly babysit. 
getting over stuff like this it not too hard
when you go ultralight
With a pleasant fire and some vodka, the time went by quickly and I was not over annoyed at my daughter for knocking the tarp tent down twice in the first hour.  I pounded a bunch of stakes around the main stake to keep her from taking it all down a 3rd time.
 I was really pissed off  when my daughter threw a rock into the river for the dog right at bed time.  It was going to be long cold night for poor Patches, soaking wet and sleeping on the ground in March.  I really wanted to spank my daughter, but I did not want to destroy the trip.  It was hard to know what to do. 

 I threatened to make my daughter sleep out in the cold and to give  Patches her sleeping bag and spot in the tent.  I think my daughter got the point.  In the night she got up and put her own raincoat over Patches.
For dinner that night we had instant rice with chipped pork (or was it beef?) and home made dehydrated  hummus.  It was really tasty and my daughter ate a lot.  She must be on another growth spurt. 

With a nice fire to cook with I did not have to worry about conserving stove fuel so we had multiple cups of hot chocolate to keep us warm.  I cut off the liquids about two hours before bed time though. 

No use, her sleeping bag is in the dryer right now.

That night I was almost warm enough.  I sleep really cold and I have to do a lot just to try to stay warm.  For starters, I made sure I was warm before I went to bed.  When I went to bed I wore two pairs of wool socks with hand warmers between each pair.  I wore arctic mittens with hand warmers in them, I wore a warm hat and I wore three upper layers and two lower layers.  I also draped a down jacket over my shoulders on top of my sleeping bag.  All of that and I was just barley warm enough. 

My sleeping bag is a down Campmor bag rated at 20 degrees.  The temperature was probably close to 35 degrees.  I think I need to invest in a supersonic sleeping bag.  It does not help that I am too claustrophobic to zip myself all the way into a mummy bag.  I can pull the zipper all the way up, but I panic if I cinch the collar around my neck.
These flies loved this bag for whatever reason

In the morning a beautiful pink light filled the valley and lit up the snowy peaks above us.  I got up at 7:30 and took some pictures before I had to deal with my daughter.  She was cold after her accident and she could not put her mittens on by herself. 

To make matter worse the fire did not want to restart in spite of there being a pretty good layer of coals left over, and my stoking it up once in the night.  So I helped my daughter with her clothes and then I boiled water for hot drinks and cooked breakfast with my alcohol stove.  She felt much better after a hot meal.  After breakfast I managed to get the fire going and life was good again.  We hung around the campsite until about 11 while I slowly packed up.  Right before we left I cooked lunch and made another round of hot drinks.   

Our tarptent got soaked with condensations on the inside, my tarptent has never done that before.  I suppose the lack of a breeze was the problem.  I've had it stay dry while pitched on the ocean beach, but there is always a breeze at the beach.

We took a longer route on the way back so we could avoid the jungle of salmonberry canes.  We made it back out the car a 1pm and we were both pretty tired.  I swear my pack felt heavier on the way out than on the way in.  My pack should have been lighter after we ate the food and burned half the stove fuel.  I guess I was just tired after sleeping on the cold ground.

Tiny fire with massive amount of wood
When I got home I loaded up my track log and deleted all the erroneous waypoints and was surprised to find that we had hiked 5 miles round trip. 
My daughter is ready for backpacking this year!   I’m just going to have to force her to get up with me in the night so we can keep her sleeping bag dry. 

5 miles with about 300 feet elevation gain

Track and elevation log

Friday, March 22, 2013

First backpacking trip of the season

I'm going backpacking with my 9 year old and my dog. My pack is 23 pounds and hers is 8 pounds. 

This includes food (dog and human)  and stove fuel. It does not include the 3 pounds of camera gear and the moss book that I intend to bring.

My daughter is only carrying her sleeping bag and pad, an extra pair of shoes  a hat and her rain gear.  That is the stuff she would need to stay warm and dry if we got separated.  She will also have an emergency whistle around her neck.

I will carry a Shires tarp tent.  A silnylon tarp to sit under during the day if it rains, my sleeping bag and pad, my clothes, most of my daughter's clothes, all the food, the cook pot and stove a GPS a SPOT and the first aid kit.   Hmm actually I might leave the GPS behind...

Neither of us will carry water as it will be everywhere on the trail.  We will be very lucky if we keep our feet dry!   I expect that we will only go one mile and then be sitting around in camp so I will want my camera and a moss book to keep me entertained and some extra warm clothes.  I'd like to go further but I want my little one to have a good time too.  Maybe a little vodka will keep me entertained too.  Hmmm I wonder if Vodka and orange flavored emergen C powder would taste good together?  Well there is only one way to find out!

My pack will be a highly modified REI morning star. I cut a few pounds off the weight of the pack by cutting off and tossing out the top zipper pocket and the two side zipper pockets.  In place of the two side zipper pockets I sewed on mesh pockets.  I also added a mesh pocket to the back of it. All the extra straps have been cut off this pack too.  I have to be careful not to gain weigh or the hip belt will not fit me anymore!

 My daughter will carry a beat up golight dawn.  I used that pack for a few seasons of day hiking and then the collar ripped off!  I sewed the collar back  so  my daughter could use it  for day hiking.  Now when I day hike I exclusively use my Gossmer gear Gorilla pack.  I like the support of an internal frame when I am lugging snowshoes and other winter gear.

  I wish the Gorilla had enough room to hold all my overnight gear, but for now it does not.   If I was only packing for myself it would all fit, but would be a little uncomfortable.   Perhaps when I get one in my size it will fit well enough to carry all my overnight gear comfortably.

I really want to get a lighter sleeping bag for myself and then I can hand down my light sleeping bag to my daughter.  We will both be carrying Campmor brand down bags.  Mine is rated 20 degrees, hers is rated for 30 degrees.  I sleep very cold, so I  also packed my mountaineering gloves a down coat and a super warm hat.  I expect there will be some snow on the ground where we are camping.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Sistema to go gear review

A few months back the folks at Sistema gave me some gear to test.  They make plastic wear that is mostly intended to be used for commuting from home to work.  When I saw this stuff in the store I quickly saw its potential use for lightweight backpacking and day hiking.  I bought a bright orange mug like the one pictured above, but it leaked.  So I wrote Sistema and they replaced my orange mug  plus sent me this other free stuff to test for hiking. 

They sent a water bottle that twists open, a small airtight container and a set of plastic cutlery that included a fork a spoon and chop sticks.   I've been using all of these items since.  I use the orange mug to store my kitchen in and to drink out of.   The mug actually weighs more than my cook pot but it is handy because it holds my entire kitchen and I can drink out of it without burning my lips.  One problem I have found with using an airtight container to store my cook set is that it does not dry out.  I have to store my lighter outside of the cook set since damp lighters don't work. 

 I use the water bottle on the rare occasions that I actually carry water.  So far the bottle has proved to be light weight and durable.  The twist opening is interesting, don't think I 've seen a bottle that opens like that before.  I normally pack an old soda bottle for water since they are very light.  I feel quite spoiled when I carry this bottle instead.  If I need lots of water I pack a platypus.

   I normally go with the lightest option of all and do not pack a water container.  I hike in the rainforest, so water it usually just around every corner and I feel perfectly safe drinking right out of the rivers.  The river water tastes so much better than my tap water.  If I do bring tap water I always dump it out at the first creek I come to and fill my bottle with tasty creek water.

 I sometimes use the small blue container to hold my mix of powdered milk, sugar, instant coffee and cocoa.  A Ziploc bag would work almost as well but it is not kind to the environment or my pocket book to use  and throw away Ziploc bags on every hike.  The container holds enough for about 3 drink mixes and it holds the powder very securely.  A Ziplock would be lighter but not as durable.   I doubt I would take this backpacking, but for day hikes and short backpacking trips the little bit of extra weight is no big deal and saves me money over using Ziploc bags.

Of the cutlery set I only have used the spoon so far.  It feels like luxury to have a spoon on a day hike but the spoon weighs so little and seems quite durable.  I'm impressed with this spoon.  I doubt I would pack the chopsticks as the woods are just full of sticks.  Spoons on the other hand, are harder to find in the woods.

I don't use all of this stuff on every hike but I have been happy with it when I used it.  It has proved to be durable and lightweight.  I recommend it to other hikers and people who are on the go such as students. 

 I bought a second mug for taking my cooked oatmeal to and from school and it worked well for that.  I can't eat when I first wake up, so I take my oatmeal to school at eat it right before class.

Here are a few pictures of this gear in action:

Tea time at Bark Shanty I would have brought my blue Sistema container that
day but I could not find it so I went with a "disposable" Ziplock screw top container.

Just the Mug at Scatter Creek

Mug at Wynoochee river under the bridge with the kitchen that goes inside of it. The spoon
handle is up near the lid the spoon top is on the lid.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sterile Pleuridium subulatum or Bruchia flexuosa?

I think this is sterile Pleuridium subulatum, this is a real challenge to ID with tiny leaves and none of the distinctive immersed sporophytes typical of Plueridium .  It could also be Bruchia flexuosa with the same size and habitat and the pappilose costa.  The key first took me to Bruchia flexuosa

Whole leaf 1.2 x .25mm 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Dicranum howellii

Dicranum howellii : Over a year ago I tried to ID some Dicranum  on a stump  in my yard.  I could only get it down to genus.  Recently David Wagner helped me to ID a different Dicranum howellii  that I was struggling with.  Today I went back to my stump and tried once again to ID the Dicranum on my stump.  It feels good to finally be able to confidently ID it as Dicranum howellii .

Friday, March 15, 2013

Lower South Fork Skokomish

Lunch with some  Antitrichia curtipendula
moss that fell off of a nearby maple tree
The road was snow free all the way.  The pineapple express has done it's job and the rivers are flowing high.  Shortly after starting my hike I realized I did not feel good.  I thought it was just the two small dark ales I had last night and maybe I could walk it off. 
I was out celebrating the end of my college studies.  It was a bittersweet celebration for me.

After I had gone about 3 mile I remembered that I had also been up half the night with a stomach ache.  I then knew that I must be tired and not just hung over, so I wandered off trail until I reached the river and I laid down and had a nap next to a huge clump of moss.  Patches was not impressed, she was hungry and she wanted to hike.  I fed her a snickers bar and that calmed her down for a few minutes. 

I'm not sure if I fell asleep or not but I felt refreshed after my nap, so I suspect I did sleep a little bit.  Shortly it started to sprinkle and the forecast was for showers after 11.  I checked the time, it was 11:30.  I got up and brewed a nice hot cup of tea and enjoyed the river ambiance for a bit.  Then I donned full rain gear and headed back for my car.

(Patches not taking a liking to lichens)

I had some fun playing with the saw I found on this trail about two years ago.  I cut back a lot of brush that was growing over the trail.  The saw sure is sharp.  I have a nice cut on my thumb to prove it.  The cut is not deep enough for stitches, so no worries.
  I'm done going to Mason General for anything, since they are allowed to over charge me with my insurance.  Something about them being in a poor rural area allows them to stick it to folks with my insurance and charge them way more than the assigned rate.  Forget that, I'll go to Providence for all my stitches from  now on!  But not until the strike is over.  Providence workers are on strike and I stopped to take a picture of them when I was on my way out of town.

I walked slowly on the way out taking in the scenery and peering through my hand lens.  I was back at my car by about 2:30.   There were a lot of blow downs on the trail and a couple of washouts.  Some big trees came down and their root balls took the trail with them. 

I found half of a trekking pole near the trail.

5 miles with about 500 feet elevation gain

Antitrichia curtipendula leaf 40x

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Big Creek to Overlook and old logging road

Tourist season has started, time for me to hit the more obscure trails and quit hiking on Saturdays
Mount Washington, I climbed it last summer

Just a quick social hike to clear my head a bit in time for finals week.  Up to the lookout and then down to explore an old logging road. 

After next week I'll get back into my twice a week hiking routine.  If I hike twice a week I lose weight without dieting.

My father gave a camera lens to my daughter and I borrowed it from her for this hike.  I had to clean the fish guts off of it first though.  The lens is a Nikon 28-200 all metal everything.  Very heavy, no vibration reduction and it only stops down to F22.  Still it has twice the zoom as my one and only zoom lens, so it was fun to play with.  I only own two lenses,  I mostly  use the 18-105 stock lens that came with the camera and sometimes. I use the 50 prime lens when I want to take lots of pictures of mushrooms or I want to carry less weight.

We did some trail clearing using the saw I found on the Skokomish river trail last year.  The little saw was impessive!

7.5 miles with 1,800 feet of elevation gain

Little waterfall before the connector trail

Neat looking track log

Friday, March 8, 2013

Winter dayhiking pack weight

Before my last day hike I weighed my pack and it totaled 18 pounds!  That is a lot of weight for a day hike.  I can go out for 2-3 nights with just 28 pounds.  What's going on?  I added up the things I carried and get a total of 15 pounds.  So one problem is my bathroom scale; it's not very accurate.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Lichenomphalia, Basidio lichen and a huge pin lichen

Yay!  I finally found a basidomycete lichen.  This is a lichen:
This was growing on the same rotten wood as the Lichenophalia.  It was releasing spores and
fine hairs (If I liver wort I would call them elator) were in the capsules.  At X30 magnification I could
see the fine hair flexing.  If these are pin lichens they are huge ones.  I guess they must be pins
becasue they are mazidiate (sp?)

Wynoochee Lake North to Bachelor Hair Falls

Underneath the bridge, tarp has sprung a leak.
and the animals I've trapped, have all become my pets.

My family feels neglected when I hike so I left the house really early so I could get back to my family before dark.  I left my house at 6:45 and I started my hike at 16 mile camp on the Wynoochee at 8am.  My starting pack weight was 18 pounds.  That's  a lot of weight for day hike.  I carried three pounds of camera gear, lunch and dog food,  along with extra clothes,  a full set of not to light weight rain gear, my mini kitchen an ultra light first aid kit and some toiletries.  I left my trekking poles behind, they only get in the way when I  have lots of crawling to do.

 It's 45 miles to Wynoochee from my house if you go the back way.   It's 75 miles if you take the highway.  This trip cost me $21 in gas with my Jeep that only gets about 16MPG.  The low and lingering snow has forced me out of my home range this winter.  I can't drive to the South Fork Skokomish or get up to fir lake and believe it or not, I'm getting tired of Mount Rose and the Dry Creek trail.

I knew that fording the nooch today was out of the question since there has been a lot of  rain recently and all the nearby rivers are way up.  Too bad the gauge on the nooch is below the damn, so it really tells me nothing about stream flow, it just tells me how much water Tacoma is letting over the damn.  Still by looking at local rivers like the Satsop I can get an idea of how high the nooch might be.

My goal for the day was Maidenhair Falls.  I made it there by 12 noon and the rain was coming down in sheets.  I was not able to take many picture of the falls or spend much time looking at the falls.  I was going to have lunch at the falls but instead I went back to the road bridge and had my under the bridge and out of the pouring rain.  Wow, it sure can rain in this area.  It rained so hard that even I wondered what the heck I was doing out there, but only briefly.  Then the rain stopped and the birds came back out and I was able to take pictures again.

I saw two cars on the road as the northern section of the trail is very close to the road.  Once I was over the bridge I was past the  wildlife gate and there were no more cars.  I don't think I would like to hike her in the summer, I get the feeling that it's quite crowded at that time of year.

There are a lot of winter blow downs on this trail an a tree had taken out part of the handrail on the bridge over Maidenhair Falls.

On the way back my feet were wet so I did not bother to try to avoid crossing creeks, I just plunged right in.  Wet feet = freedom.  I am very sore this morning due to clambering over, under and around windfall, crashing through the brush looking for places to cross streams and stomping around in the snow.

On the way home I stopped to answer the call of nature by the side of the road and I found 4 deer rib cages, two rotting elk gut piles complete with heads and a dead juvenile coyote..  it smelled terrible!  I won't be using that spot again.

I was done with my hike by 4:00 and home before dark.  My family thought I had only been on a short hike.  I fooled them.

I only hiked 11.5 miles but I got 14 mile work out.

Check out the 4 minute video I made of this hike, you won't be bored.



Not today!

The trail is paved near the dam

Pin lichens or something growing with a basidio lichen

Maidenhair falls, my turn around point for the day

Lunch under the bridge

Conocephalum conicum

Bridge at Maidenhair falls

Antitrichum curtipendula