Thursday, October 31, 2013

Monday, October 28, 2013

North Fork Quinault Trail Backpack

Home for the night at Wolf Bar
With the weather forecast to be dry and sunny I decided to take my 9 year old daughter backpacking.   My daughter is not used to doing a lot of elevation gain, so I thought it would be best to take her on a fairly level hike.
I decided to take her to the North Fork Quinault River because it is level and I’ve only been there once before.  I went on a day hike there in 2005, with the goal of making it to “halfway House”; I did not make my goal due to a fast and dangerous side stream that I was afraid to cross.  I remember that hike well because it was on that hike that I realized I was sensitive to MSG.  With MSG pinpointed as my migraine trigger I was able to eventually end my suffering.
This has been a very dry October and Quinault is a very wet place, it’s best to go there when it’s dry if you want to avoid wet feet and dangerous river crossings.  All the biting bugs are gone for the year by October.
I decided to save gas by taking my little car even though I don’t really like driving my little car on dirt roads.  My route took me through Matlock and then onto Cougar-Smith road and put us on the 101 just south of the town of Humptulips.  The route was 95 miles and did not go through any cities.  I always like to avoid driving through the ticket trap town of McCleary.  Missing the slowdowns in Aberdeen and Hoquim was a bonus and this route saved me 15 miles.  Did I mention that this route also avoids the McCleary ticket trap?  McCleary is a nasty little town that makes it money on writing traffic tickets to folks who pass through.

The drive took 3 hours with a couple of stops.  One stop on Wynoochee Wishkah road gave us a real surprise.  I stopped there and ducked into to bushes only to find half a dozen king boletus and a bunch of chanterelles.  What a mushroom year this is, it seems I can’t go anywhere without tripping over King Boletus.
Bull elk in the brush
(click to enlarge)
When we arrived at Amanda Park, I asked a store clerk if the north shore or south shore road was the best to drive on but the clerk did not hear my question and kept answering questions that I did not ask, so I gave up.  I drove down the south shore road to the trail head.  We saw a herd of elk crossing the road inside the park and I got one good picture.   We took the same road out.

When we arrived at the trail there was one car there and another car pulled up while we were getting ready to hike. 

Moss was growing on a car that was parked at the trail head and moss or algea was growing in the middle of most of the paved part of North Shore Road.

Moss growing on a car and everywhere else at the trailhead

We started our hike at 12:45 and my goal was Halfway house or maybe Wolf Bar.  I knew we would be out for two nights and we would be hiking each day.  Would our first day be our longest day or would our last day be our longest day?  Since my pack is heavy with food on the first day, my inclination is to do the longest hike on the last day when most of the food is gone.  But I remembered how much trouble I had getting my little one to hike on the last day of our Bogachiel trip so I thought maybe we should do our longest hike on the first day when we were fresh.

My daughter immediately started to lag behind and I was constantly scolding her, telling her to keep up and stay in my sight because we were in cougar country and I did not want her to get lost.  

 What was wrong with her this morning?  I had a 30 pound pack, she had a ten pound pack and she should have had no trouble keeping up with the slow pace I was setting.  It was looking like it was going to be a miserable hike and it was too early in the day for me to start drinking.  What's a poor mother to do?  Lie through her teeth I guess.   It’s no fun to carry a heavy pack down the trail while yelling at a child. Something was going to have to change or this hike was going to be ruined for both of us.
Then we heard a woodpecker up in a tree.  My daughter asked what that sound was.  I told her it was a cougar.  She believed me and asked me if it was growling.  I said yes, it was growling at us and the noise continued every few minutes.  She wanted to know why the cougar was growling at us.  I told her the cougar was warning us. 

She is a clever one; she wanted to know why a cougar would bother to warn us? I told her that the cougar did not want to eat us but it was mad because we were in its territory and it wanted us to hike away quickly. 
Okay, I was very bad, but it was so worth it.   For the entire weekend after that, I never had to remind her to stay in my sight.  She hiked quite well, was full of energy and we had a great time.  If I had not told that lie it might have been a miserable hike for both of us.  My little lie energized her.

She found so much energy that she was easily able to hike all the way, five miles in, to Halfway House on the first day.

With our longest hiking day out of the way I knew I could relax a bit.  My daughter wanted to camp in the river bed but I wanted to camp up in the forest where the ground was free of rocks and it would be much easier to pitch the tarp.  She happily agreed to camp in the forest the first night when I promised her we would camp on the gravel the next day back at wolf bar.
Wild Rose creek was the last obstacle before halfway house and it was  quite low but still it was a bit of a challenge to cross it with dry feet.  I was amazed at how deep and scoured out the creek bed was.  That creek must get really big!

We made it to our first camp just 1.5 hours before sunset and 13 hours of darkness arrived.   The moon did not come up until well after midnight. 

I tossed and turne all night long just like I always do when backpacking.  When the moon did come up, I mistook it for sunrise, but after a while I began to wonder why the dawn was so long.  Then I looked at my watch and saw it was only 3am and the light was not sunrise at all, it was moonrise.  Since were on the edge of the river bar and it was foggy the night never get too dark and I was glad for that.  Thirteen hours of darkness is quite a lot when you are camping.

Follow the Drinking Gourd
There was not a drop of condensation inside of my tarp tent in the morning and I thought that was pretty amazing.  I think that the pull out loops at the side helped a lot with ventilation.  Both of those loops ripped right off the tent the very first time I touched them years ago and I did not get around to repairing them until this year.  Pulling out the sides really seems to help with condensation; I wished I had fixed the loops years ago.

In the morning we took our time packing up and then walked back to wolf bar, the hike back to wolf bar went well, but I think it was closer to 3 miles from out camp at halfway house than it was to the expected 2.5 miles.  Once at wolf bar I set up the tarp tent in the sand.

Bears head (Hericium) mushrooms in our campsite at Wolf Bar
Elk tracks in our campsite
We had a fire on the gravel bar and we stayed up until 8pm.  The fire was nice since it got dark at 6:30 and it was a bit chilly.  I keep the fire stoked up all night so I could cook with it in the morning.  We were almost out of stove fuel after I had accidentally dumped two thirds of it into my tea thinking it was water.   
We had to pack up quickly and leave early in the morning because we were almost out of food.  We had a small breakfast that was really left over’s from dinner and then we started to hike out at 9:30.  After that, all we had to eat between the two of us was four power bars and two bags of junk free M and M like candy.  I let my daughter have 3 of the 4 remaining power bars since she does not have the fat reserves that I have.
My daughter ate and ate and ate on this trip.  Each night at bed time she said she was hungry and I had to break into the food back over and over.  I had packed more food than I thought we needed but we ended up eating every scrap of it.  From now on my daughter is going to have to start to carry some food.  The way she eats, I just can’t carry all the food for both of us.
Anyway, after the "cougar" scare my daughter hiked well and we had such a good time.  This might just be my favorite backpacking trip that I took her on this year.   The trip was quite bonding for us.  Next year I hope to get her into the high country.  I am starting to get a bit tired of camping in the river beds with all the sand. 
I sure would like to find another adult and child to join us on these trips.  I always get so spooked as the sun sets that I wish I was at home.  It sure felt good to sleep in my own bed last night!

I stepped on my backpack and broke a small part of it on this trip. L  My  backpack has been on well over 50 hikes and nearly 400 miles and I’m amazed at how strong it is for its weight.  I hope I can get if fixed quickly.

(update, there was no way to get it fixed)
We finished our hike at 11am and then made the long drive back home.  We stopped once in Amada park to buy pop, coffee and pepperoni.  The store clerk in Amanda Park agreed that McCleary is a terrible town to drive through, because you never know when you are going to get a ticket.

When I got home my whole street was clogged up with cars for a soccer game and there was no place for me to park my car except for in the middle of the street.

10 miles with 400 feet elevation gain.

P.S. the soles fell off my daughter's new used shoes on the first day of this hike but she did okay without them.


Moon at halfway house

Amanita muscaria

Lobaria oregona lichen, Amanita muscaria mushroom and Hylocomnium splendens moss

Mushrooms in the fire pit!

This bear keeps peeping into our tent

Creek that stopped me in my tracks last time

King Bolete in Wynoochee Valley
Something ate all the spore capsules off of this Polytrichum moss, leaving just the
stalks (setas) that the capsules were on.  I suspect it was a slug.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Sawyer Mini Squeeze filter give-a-way

Moss Walks is happy to announce what we are giving away a free Sawyer Squeeze Mini Filer. This new filter weighs just 2 ounces and the flow is super fast. To enter the drawing like the Moss Walks Facebook page and share this post and then make a comment below to let us know that you have entered. Good Luck! The winner will be randomly selected by my 9 year old daughter on October 31st.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Tayloria serrata, the other dung moss

 Blogger won't let me use italiacs in the title.   I finally found the other dung moss that grows on the east side of the Olympics.  Tayloria serrata, no sporophytes though.  It caught my eye due to it's dark green color.   I was looking for dung mosses as I knew I was in the right habitat zone.  I picked up this moss and with my hand lens I could see the serrated leaves so I was pretty sure I had Taylora serrata.  But this was a few weeks ago on the Church creek trail and I only got around to inspecting it with my microscope today. 

I've been too busy with mushrooms to spend much time on moss lately, but I know that will change when mushroom season ends.

Tayloria serrata

Friday, October 18, 2013

Elbo Creek By Bus

About two weeks ago I did Mount Walker by Bus

I'm Still looking for ways to save money and keep hiking, so I decided to do another bus trip.  This time I took the same buses one would take to get to Mount Walker, but I went to the Elbo Creek trail. 

I almost did not get to go on this hike, as I had confused the times in my mind.  I was going to leave my house at 8:30 to catch the 8:05 bus.  Whoops.. I caught my mistake at 7:45 and headed out the door with my 9 year old daughter.  My daughter did a great job of getting ready fast, but only after I convinced her that I was not going to miss my hike over a couple of dog hairs on her shirt. 

I walked my daughter to her friend’s house that is on the way to my bus stop.  Her friend is a 9 year old boy who is left alone a lot.  This boy can be trusted to shut the doors and lock up the house after himself.  My daughter who is the same age cannot be trusted to do the same.  Since I don’t trust my daughter  to leave the house alone and my bus leaves way before she needs to leave the house to go to school, I drop her off at a friend’s house. 

  But no dice today, the friend was not home when we got there.  We had rushed out the door and towards the bus stop only to find the friend was not home.  Oh no!  My hike was on the line, my bus was leaving soon.  Now what?

 I remembered that my daughter had another friend who lives on the same street as my bus stop so I rushed her down the street and had her run ahead and knock on her other  friend’s door.  Time was running out, would this new plan work?

My little daughter knocked on the door and her little friend answered the door while I waited on the sidewalk.  The friend’s mother was in the shower but she came out and I explained my situation to her and  asked her if my daughter could walk to the school bus stop with her daughter.  She said yes.  YES! 

My hike was on.  I told my daughter that after school she was to go to the home of the friend whose house we went to first.  Since it was an early release day for her, she was going to get home from school way before I could get home from my hike.   With my daughter sorted out, I went to my bus stop and waited.  I felt I had done a good job of getting my daughter taken care of for the day and I could hike without guilt.

Waiting for the bus from Shelton to Brinnon
My bus arrived right on time and whisked me to Brinnon where another bus was already waiting to whisk me to the trail head. 

Changing buses in Brinnon in the Morning

Elbo Creek trail 9:40 am
I arrived at the trail head at 9:30. Taking the bus only takes 20 minutes more than it would take me to drive my broken down oil geyser of a Jeep, if I made no stops at all along the way.  I always stop somewhere on a trip that long too.

They say that statistically the most dangerous part of a hike is the drive home.  Not the hike, the drive home when you are tired and it might be dark.  I'm happy to leave the driving to Mason Transit so I can avoid the most dangerous part of my hike.

I’ve never been on the Elbo creek trail so I was a bit happy to be exploring a new trail even though I did not expect much from it.  I had never felt it was worth the gas to drive all the way to Quilcene to explore this trail.
  Elbo creek is not very exciting, it goes through skinny second growth, the forest is very closed in and the freeway can be heard at all times.  But if one has the time they could hike all the way up to Buck Mountain from the Elbo creek trail.

The advantages of Elbo Creek over Mount walker are: Solitude, no road walking down 101 to get to the trail head from the bus stop and a wilder trail.  The advantage of Mount Walker is a nicer view at the top, bigger trees to look at a well maintained trail and outhouses on the top.

I went about 2.5 miles up the Elbo creek trail until it came out onto a road and then I road walked to a clearing where I know that some folks like  to have lunch.  But, I did not want to have my lunch on a logging road, so at 12:10 pm I  headed back for the trail and a little view point in the forest. 

My mandatory turnaround time was 12:30, that would give me 3 hours to hike up and 2.5 hours to hike down.  Well I did not need to turn around quite as soon after all, as it only took me about an hour and fifteen minutes to hike down even with stopping to pick mushrooms and look at liverworts.   I found Hookeria moss and Riccardia liverworts I also found one Matsutake, several Helvella and a few milk caps.   I found the Matsutake while I was making the video.  It looked like a Russula, but when I picked it up and sniffed it I knew it was a Matsutake.  SCORE!

  I made it back down to the trail head at 2 pm and had 50 minutes to kill before my bus came.  To pass the time I wandered down the trail on the other side of the road and then I went to a creek and got some water and boiled up some tea.  While I had my tea I inventoried my mushrooms and counted my calories for the day.

The gasket on my Sawyer Squeeze filter failed on my Mildred Lakes hike but I found replacement gaskets at a local hardware store for 45 cents and my filter is working again.

Honey Mushrooms
I found a lot of Helvella mushrooms on the trail.  There are warnings that these contain rocket fuel.  I don’t believe the warnings. !  I think that Helvella has been implicated simply because its cap bears a superficial resemblance to Gyrometra.   Gyromitra does contain a poison that is found in rocket fuel.   I eat Helvella, but I will not eat Gyrometra.   Rocket fuel has never been proven to be in Helvella and Helvella is not even in the same genus as GryromitraI! I only eat about ten Helvella a year.

My Jefferson transit bus arrived promptly at 2:55 pm and whisked me to Brinnon where I had to wait about ten minutes before I could transfer to Mason Transit.  There was a homeless woman with a 9 month old baby who transferred with me, she was on her way to Olympia and had no place to stay there, and she was very talkative and friendly.  I hope she found a place to stay in Olympia last night.

Riding Mason transit is so different from my early experiences of riding the cold unfriendly buses in Seattle.  On a Mason transit bus the people all know each other and all chat with each other.  Even the bus drivers are chatty.  Riding the bus in Mason County is a bit of a social event and is hardly ever boring.   

Another thing about Mason Transit that is different it that there is no logical way to know what side of the road to wait for your bus to pick you up.  The bus had set stops and it goes to all of them zig zagging across the road.  If you want to go to a different stop that is right on the road you have to call ahead. 
A gorilla on the bus
One last thing about Mason Transit that is different, if your ride is in the county you don’t have to pay a fare!  The ride to Brinnon is out of county so I had to pay the reduced fare of 50 cents.  The total cost for my transportation on this hike was $2.00 in bus fares.  This trip is about 100 miles round trip, so I saved about $28 in gas and wear and tear on my car by taking the bus instead of driving my economy car.

When I got home my daughter and my dikaryotic partner were both at home.  It turned out that my daughter’s friend had moved away and she could not go to his house after school.  How odd, as my daughter swore that her friend knew she was coming in the morning.  Perhaps she had fibbed to me.  But all’s well that ends well.

6.5 miles with 2,100 feet elevation gain from bus to bus

Mount Walker from Elbo Creek trail head

Hookeria moss

A gorilla on the trail

The center of this Peltigera lichen turned green when
I dripped water onto it,  it was very dry here.

Lunch view

Road at the top

Having tea at the trail head while waiting for the bus

Tourist season is over in Brinnon

Brinnon store
I did not have to burn any gas today

Track and elevation log

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Home canning wild mushrooms part II

A pressure canner should be used for mushrooms since they are not acidic
My Grandma gave me this canner for my birthday or Christmas or something
many years ago.  I should get the pressure gauge checked someday, but our
local extension service does not do that anymore.  Perhaps I should switch to using
weights instead of a gauge.
My blog post on home canning wild mushrooms is always popular this time of year.  In 2011 and 2012 I was not able to harvest enough mushrooms to can.  But now in 2013 I have more mushrooms that I know what to do with, so I broke out my pressure cooker.

Again, I'm not advising anyone on how to can mushrooms, I'm just sharing what I did three years ago and again this year.

I canned water infused with matsutake essence, aka matsutake soup. In 2010 I used 11 pounds pressure for for 30 minutes and it worked out just fine.  This year I upped the time.  I canned quarts at 11 pounds pressure for 50 minutes.  I am absolutely confident that this is a good method.  Note that I packed the mushrooms very loosely for two reasons. 

One, I am making soup, two if they are packed loose the heat is sure to reach to the core of all my mushroom pieces.  Tightly packed jars of a dense mushroom like matsutake could maybe, possibly be problematic.

To this soup I might add veggies or I might add the soup to rice. I have captured the essence of matsutake in canning jars, what I do with that essence will just depend on how I feel.  All I know for sure is that I am not putting it in whiskey.

The USDA still warns us not to can wild mushrooms, but the USDA is shut down right now, so I guess I'll ignore that.

 No really, the USDA gives some weird advice.  The USDA makes it sound like everything my Great-grandparents, Grandparents and parents canned, was dangerous poison.  Not true, none of  us ever died or ever got sick from food poisoning from our home canned food.

Still, you must follow sterile procedures and not take any short cuts when canning food, especially non-acidic food.  Botulism can live in a canning jar with no air, but acid and very high heat kill botulism.  Mushrooms are not acidic so to get the very high heat one must use a pressure cooker.  A pressure cooker allows one to cook at higher temperatures.  With a pressure cooker one is not limited to the temperature of boiling water.

Here is what I have cannned so far this year:

six quarts pressure canned matsutake soup
If I get a big load of chanterelles I might can some of them too.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

SPOT Messenger - Faulty device, poor support

What's inside
I've been a SPOT customer for 3 years but I think that is about to change. I've had four SPOT units fail on me now and the best Global Star will do for me is offer to sell me a new outdated unit for $50.00. How long will this new unit last? I suspect it will not last very long at all.

When the SPOT quits working like it did on my last backpacking trip, it worries my family.  I'm better off with no SPOT at all then a non-functioning one.

(I wonder if the Delorme Inreach is more reliable?)

I think I'm going to go back to writing down my destination on some paper and listing a set time to call out SAR if I am not heard from.  That will save me $250 a year.  The SPOT service costs $100 and the SPOT device costs $150.  The SPOT device is so poorly made that it breaks down at least once a year.

I asked SPOT to send me a new model for free.  SPOT claimed that they have already given me four free devices.  Not true!  Yes,  I've been through five SPOT devices now, but SPOT only replaced one of them for free. 

The one that was replaced was only 1-2 months old and was replaced under warranty.  I pointed that out to SPOT aka Global star and they admitted that  I was correct, but still the best offer they have is to sell me an outdated SPOT 2 for $50.  No thanks.  If they had offered me a current model SPOT 3, I might have said yes.

SPOT aka Global star also will not cancel my auto-renewing contract for me.  They refuse to cancel it unless I call within  45 days of the auto renewal date.  That is total B.S.!  My contract runs out in February, I will have to remember to call them in December to tell them not to renew it.  Last time I got around the auto-renew by changing my credit card information.  There is no way to opt out of auto-renew when you sign up for the service.  I think that is unethical.

Globalstar claims that the SPOT will break if you have it within 12 inches of another SPOT messenger or transmitting GPS unit.  Also using rechargeable batteries will cause your device to malfunction permanently.  The SPOT really does not seem to be made well.

One rep claimed that my SPOT must have broke because I was hiking with someone else who had a SPOT messenger.  Hmmmmm..  A device that is designed to kill its own kind?

 Click here to see what other people think of this device and the company that sells it.

I took my most recent defective SPOT device apart so I could see what was inside of it.  I have not yet decided for sure what I am going to do.  I still have 4 months of SPOT service left but I really resent the idea of having to buy yet another SPOT device.  It's like throwing good money after bad.

The Delorme inreach looks really nice but the price is way out of my reach..

What's inside

Monday, October 14, 2013

Mildred Lakes Overnighter

Upper Mildred Lake is the largest alpine lake in the Olympics

  We had to go back to Mildred lakes to look for my friends GPS(r), but there just is  not enough daylight for us to make the trip together as a day hike.  I talked my friend into backpacking up to the lake with me. (evil grin)

I was super stoked to get to spend the night up there because I knew that meant I would be there for the sweet light.. YES!!!  As an added bonus I also got to do some night photography.  I wished I had my tripod, but not badly enough to haul it all the way up there.

We went ultra light sleeping under just a tarp and cooking with a pop can stove.  My pack when empty weighs 1 pound 4 ounces.  My friend's pack when empty weighs 8 pounds.  Okay, so only one of us is an ultralight hiker.  But I think my friend is ready to convert now.  He wants the Circuit backpack by ULA.

My SPOT messenger failed me on this trip.  That's the third SPOT device that has failed on me.  I'd like to switch to Delorme but they are very expensive and don't offer sponsorships.  I've asked both companies to sponsor me, but neither will.  At least Delorme offered me a "pro discount" when I asked.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do, I really don't want to buy another SPOT but my contract does not end until February.  Delorme is just too expensive.  I'm on a really tight budget these days.  Maybe I will write to the yellow brick people and see if they will sponsor me.

We took our time hiking up and down.  We arrived at the big lake two hours before sunset and we arrived back at the trail head 1/2 hour after sunset.  This was  tough hike for my friend who is not a backpacker.  I never thought I would backpack to Mildred Lakes, it's one tough hike.  But, by going light / ultra-light we were able to pull it off.

There were hunters everywhere on the road and three hunters headed up the trail at the same time as us.  I was glad that I had chosen to wear my reflective hunter orange shirt for this hike.  I went in front most of the time since my friend was dressed in black and was at risk of being mistaken for a bear.

We did not find my friends GPS(r) but we did find evidence that someone had been in the area where we think he lost it.  My friend is offering a reward for the return of his GPS(r).  If the GPS(r) does not come back in a week or so, it will be reported as stolen.

I'm really glad we made this trip.  I think that going after that GPS(r) is the only way I ever could have talked me friend into such an adventure.  Note the video on my last post where he says he was NEVER going back.  Not only did he go back, but he did it with an overnight pack and only three days later.

10 miles round trip with 3,000 feet total elevation gain on this up and down route.

Mount Lincoln overlooks upper Mildred Lake

Mount Pershing

Mount Skokomish

My pack

No comment

The squeeze trees at the lowest lake
Good Morning Mildred Lakes

Is it worth the effort to get up here?

Leaving camp in the morning

Hunters heading up the trail at the same time as us

My frozen tarp in the morning

Fungi Vs. fungi

Frozen tarn in the morning light

Moon light and star light

The fog cleared and we got our first view of the sawtooths at night

More Matsutake for my pack

Mossy rock

Mount Cruiser