Sunday, August 31, 2014

DeLorme inReach SE 2-Way Satellite Communicator, first impressions and short term review

After having many failures of my SPOT messengers and after SPOT raised the subscription price (they call it free tracking) I decided to dump SPOT and give the Delorme InReach SE a try.

First impressions of the Delorme unit

#1.  It's expensive!  $300 for just the unit
#2   It does a lot of stuff that SPOT does not do
#3   It weighs the same as a SPOT
#4 the USB port cover looks flimsy and the mini USB charging port might   become a problem after repeated use.

The Delorme unit is nicer to use and gives you the ability to send and receive free form text messages, but there is a price.  I signed up for the annual safety plan, that plan gives me unlimited preset check in messages but charges me 50 cents for every free form text message.  The first ten message per month are free, but I found that if I send the same message to my spouses cell phone and email I get double charged.  The free form messages added up much faster than I expected them to before I figured this out.

The Delorme can only be charged via a mini USB port.  The port cover looks very flimsy and mini USB port in general seem to be a weak link in many products.

The Delorme can be synced to your computer so you can program it via the Explore Delorme website.  I'm pretty sure that you have to use the website to select recipients for pre set messages and to type in preset messages.

Syncing the Delorme has been somewhat problematic for me.  About every other time I go to Sync the device there is a required upgrade that I must install.  Sometimes the upgrade is easy to install and other times it is not.  Then after the upgrade is installed sometimes my computer can not see my Delorme and I have to reboot the computer a couple of times to get it to see the Delorme.  So I try to avoid syncing my device very often as the process of upgrading and then syncing can take over half an hour just depending on how well my computer handshakes with the Delorme on a given day.

The battery life of the Delorme is not what I had hoped for.  I have to leave the unit off most of the time or the battery just drains.  I don't use tracking and I dread to think how fast the battery must drain with tracking on.

After about three months of use my Delorme Inreach product began to display an error message.  I was 23 miles in on the PCT with 23 miles to go and my delorme began to display a message that said it was damaged and could no longer send or receive messages. The device said that I needed to contact customer support.  Great, just great.  So my spouse sat at home worried for three days because he was getting no messages from me.

When I used the SPOT he know that the think was very prone to breakage and if he did not get messages he would know that the SPOT had broken yet again.  But we did not expect the Delorme to be so fragile, so he was worried.  Now we know.

I ended my trip early because the Delorme broke and a few other reasons.  When I got home I called Delorme customer support and after spending about 20 minutes on hold I got through to a human.  I told the Delorme rep what had happened, he apologized and said he would rush ship me a new unit.  No questions asked, the new unit arrived after about 4 days.  Setting up the new unit was easy enough and now I'm on my way again.

I hope that the new unit lasts longer.  I fear that the Delorme device may be just as flimsy as the SPOT.  What will happen if this new one breaks in just a few months?  Will the Delorme customer service still be just as good or will they do like SPOT did and accuse me of being too hard on the units?

Note that I carry the same GPS, Digital Camera and IPod on all of my hikes and none of those deviced have ever broke.  I take good care of my gear, it's not my fault that the SPOT kept breaking and it's not my fault that my Delorme has already broken.

I'll keep you all posted and let you know how long this second Delorme unit lasts.  I beginning to think that satellite messengers fry their circuits just a little bit every time they send a message and are maybe only good for about one hundred messages each.

The first bill I got from Delorme was shocking, taxes upon taxes upon taxes, nearly 50% of the first bill was tax.  I was gobsmacked!  The montly bills are not taxed at the same rate, but that first bill was a real shock.

 I thought my inreach would have an adress that I could give to people, but it does not.The only way someone can send a message to my Inreach is to reply to a message that I sent to them or to go to my map page.

The Inreach is does have more sucess sending out messages than my SPOT unit had and sometimes it sends my messages out within seconds.  I have found that in the evening the inreach has more trouble finding satellites as they sink below the southern horizon.  Like the SPOT the Inreach might work better at more southern latitudes.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Snow Lake

Up to the sekrit not so sekrit lake.  The causeway is open, the culverts are repaired, the wild life gate is open.  I drove right to the trail head for the first time ever.  I saw a logging truck on the road next to Lake Cushman.

steep trail

steep trail
 The trial is steeper on the way down than it is on the way up if you have older knees.  It took us one hour and sixteen minutes to pick our way down.

Fishermen left garbage up there.  Why do fishermen litter so much?

Garbage left by fishermen

We found so many blueberries, it was blueberry heaven.  I wished I had brought a bucket.

Blueberry heaven

Patches had a good swim in the lake.

It's nice to be back in the Olympics where there is water everywhere and the plants grow and cover everything.

1.6 miles with 1,300 feet elevation gain

rough skinned newt

Sphagnum squarossum with spore capsules

yep, it's steep

Reshi conk
(I only pick Reshi conks since they die at the end of the year)

Big cedar

Mama and baby grouse through my windshield, there
where three more babies on the other side of the road

Good sized tree, but they do get bigger here when
Simpson does not get to them

Lobaria linita

Marchantia polymorpha

Big Reshi

Whooly Chanterelle button

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Back to the PCT day 6 - no name Lake to Olallie Lake

August 19th
Day 6 Un-named Lake to Olallie Lake
Trail mile 2048 to 2053.5 5.5 miles 

no name lake in the morning mile 2048 PCT
 I woke up at about 5 but stayed in my sleeping bag until about 6:15.  I did not sleep very well.  I got cold in the night and my sleeping bag was covered with condensation.  There was still no sign of Aimless in the morning so I waited until 7:30 and I began my hike into Olallie.  I expected that Aimless would make it into Olallie a few hours after me. 

My soggy sleeping bag at 6:15am
The hike was pretty; it took me past many beautiful stone rimmed lakes.  The hike was also all downhill and I got it done before the heat of the day hit.  I stopped and made a geocache find at Upper Lake. 

Upper Lake

I carried my sleeping bag outside of my pack to try to dry it off.  A few thru-hikers passed me but none of them had seen Aimless. 

At 10:20 I arrived at the trail for Olallie Lake.  When I saw the sign I took a picture and shed a few tears of relief and then headed for the store.  I was not sure what way to turn when the trail met the road and I found another confused hiker with the same problem.  My GPS came to the rescue. 

When I arrived I was very tired and could not think very clearly.  The first thing I did was use the outhouse.  Then I stumbled into the store and looked around and then I stumbled back out without buying anything or picking up the box I had waiting.   I went outside and sat on a picnic table and used the outhouse a bunch and yogied some Imodium from a thru hiker.  I tried to dry out my sleeping bag.  I asked everyone who passed by if they had seen Aimless. 

Ollalie Lake Resort
Then I went back into the store and picked up my box and sorted through it.  The box was filled with wonderful yummy dehydrated dinners.  The box had been provided by Sonya Rodgers.   Thanks Sonya! After sorting through the box I went back into the store and bought a beer.  The beer nearly put me to sleep. 

Later I bought batteries, snickers, a cup of coffee and some hand sanitizers.  The store only had the red heet because it was all that they could get.  It would have to do.  I know that red heet will work, it just does not burn quite as hot and leaves some soot.

I decided that I would hang around all day and wait for Aimless to arrive and then we could find a campsite somewhere nearby where we would take our first zero day.  I asked everyone who passed through if they had seen her, but no one had seen her.   I ate one of the yummy meals from my box while I waited.

Finally at about 2:30 two men told me that they had seen Aimless and she had a bandage wrapped around her thigh.  What?  She had a sprained ankle, why would the bandage be around her thigh?  They said that she had hurt her leg on the snowfields and was last seen at Breitenbush camp, she said she could not make the hike and she was going to the road. 

What hike was it that she could not make?  Could she make it to Olallie and get out on the road there or was she getting out at Breitenbush?   Well now I had sort of an answer about her location but what exactly was going on was not clear.  I decided to stay at Olallie a bit longer and see if other hikers knew what was going on. 

Just a few of the yummy dinners in the box that Sonya left for me
I kept going from the store to the picnic table and back wondering what to do.  The store clerks were very friendly and helpful.  They said that the day use area becomes PCT  hiker overflow camping at 8 so if I waited until 9 to pitch my tent I could stay right there. 

Then Bookworm arrived, she had left camp later than me and she had hiked much slower.  She had no new information about Aimless but she offered to hike with me from Olallie to Timberline and she said that she would hike ten miles a day.  It was a nice offer, but that was too slow for me, I needed to do 14 miles a day to make my food last and I was desperate for a shower and my satellite messenger was broken, I needed to make better time than that.   I probably needed to get off the trail and sort out my satellite messenger, my intestinal troubles and more.

I kept asking hikers if they had see Aimless then a woman named Amy told me she had and that she was instructed to call Aimless' friend on her cell phone and have her come pick her up at Breitenbush Camp because she got injured  on the snow fields and could no longer hike.    There was no cell phone signal, so Amy would make the call about three miles up the trail and after her break at Olallie.

Oh no!  That road was really rough and Aimless friend had limited mobility.  I did not think that was a good idea.  But I told Amy to tell the friend that I was going to hike back to Briteinbush to join Aimless.  Well Amy did not know I had been hiking with Aimless so she asked who I was.  But even after learning that I was hiking with Aimless she still did not seem to want to talk to me.  Maybe I had said or done something wrong,  Amy seemed to be annoyed.  Amy could not be convinced that the road was bad, she was sure that the road conditions were overstated.

Alternately, if you have a tank or a 4-wheel drive truck, you can drive here a slightly different way. Rather than turning off at FR4220, you can drive southeast on 224/46 for 48 miles until you reach an extremely well-marked sign for Olallie Lake at the junction with FR4690. Turn left onto FR4690 for 8 miles, then left onto FR4220 for approximately 11 miles, passing Olallie, Monon and Horseshoe Lakes until you reach Breitenbush Lake. The 2 mile section of road between Horseshoe and Breitenbush Lakes is among the worst sections of road in Oregon, and is not recommended for passenger car drivers with any consideration whatsoever for their vehicle. Seriously, it's really that bad. Consider yourself warned

I went back into the store and got some clarification about the road, the store clerk or maybe the owner, said that the road from Ollalie to Breitenbush was really bad but the road to Breitenbush from the pavement was not as bad.  Okay so maybe Aimless friend could deal with the road.  I heard Amy mumble something about dealing with friends of friends of friends as she came out of the store. 

So I explained to Amy that I was hiking with Aimless, I had rode to the trail in her car and that my car was at her house so I was more that a friend of a friend of a friend.   This seemed to make Amy even more upset, she said in an uncheerful tone of voice “I’m just trying to help”  Then another hiker stepped up and thanked her for helping and then they both went and sat down.  What had just happened?  Why was I being treated like a stranger by the only person who had any real information on Aimless? 

Bookworm was off in her own little world, she came out of the store and told me that she had bought me my entire resupply for the next leg and she kept offering me olives. I was trying to figure out what to do, sure the olives tasted nice, but I was trying to figure out what to do, I was not terribly interested in olives. I wanted to discuss my options, but she kept interrupting me and offering me olives.

I had to get away from the psychosis  in front of the store, that was all that I knew for sure.    I decided that I needed to go back to Brietenbush.  Sure I could have just continued on up the trail but I was worried about Aimless and I had not been in contact with my family for 3 days thanks to my satellite messenger breaking and I really wanted to take a shower, oh and I needed an entire box of Imodium.  That was enough reason for me to bail. 

So I went in an asked the store clerks what was the shortest route back to Breitenbush camp and they showed me how the roads connected up.  I decided that rather than hiking 7 miles back to Breitenbush Lake that I would try to hitchhike.  I bought two snickers for the road and I began to head out.

I saw a couple reading the sign in the parking lot, they were not sure where they were going so I told them about Aimless and that I needed a ride up to Brietenbush Lake.  They said they were sorry but they could not help me.  So I thanked them and headed up to the road to try to hitch a ride.  According to my GPS the road was only 3.5 miles while the trail was 7 miles.  So if I could not hitch a ride I was going to walk up the road.   

The first car that came up the road was the same couple that I had just talked to.  They said that they would help me and they gave me a ride all the way back to Brietenbush Lake Camp where I met up with Aimless.  The road was the worst road I have ever seen and I have seen a lot of dirt roads.  In some places the road was  nothing but boulders sticking out 6-8 inches where there should have been dirt.  I really wish I had taken pictures of this road.  I felt guilty for convincing Brian to drive me up such a road.   Thank you Brian and SO for the ride!  I think I would have been waiting a very long time to hitch a ride up that road. 

Finally reunited with Aimless I was able to get the correct story.  It turned out that Aimless had hurt her leg, lost her pole and hit her face on a rock while crossing Russell Creek at 9:30 the day before.    After 20 mintues she gave up on looking for her pole and continued on.  Eric found her pole in the water and put it on the bank.  When Eric passed Aimless he told her that he had found her pole and put it on the near bank, so she went back for it.

Somehow she managed to limp all the way to Brietenbush Lake Camp before she stopped.  It took her  12 hours of hiking to get there.  She had injured her groin and she could not bend her knee so she had spent the night sleeping on the picnic table to avoid having to crawl in and out of her tent.  I’m not sure why I had been told that she was in “good spirits”, maybe she was, but she was injured too and no one seemed to notice?  
Brietenbush Lake

One of three shelters on the lake
I spent the night at the campground in the rain and wind with Aimless.  I found a king bolete right next to my tent.   Brian came by to check on us in the morning and he said he would take us out of there if Aimless' friend did not arrive by afternoon.  That day at about 1pm the friend came to pick us up.  I taken back to my car in Saint Helens Aimless bought me a chicken quesadilla at Taco Time one the way back to Saint Helens and then she gave me a cup of coffee at her house and I drove home from there, leaving sometime just before dark.  I could have stayed the night and showered and done my laundry, but I was eager to see my family.

King Bolete at Brietenbush Lake Camp

View from my campsite at Brietenbush Lake

My GPS sent me around and around in circles in Long view and it was very scary because it was dark and I was so tired and there were some strange intersections in Longview.  I turned off my GPS and just followed the signs and then I was able to find my way out of Longview.  Then there was road construction at my exit off of highway 101 I was boxed in by semi trucks and I caught myself maybe falling asleep while waiting for the construction to end.  I made it home at about 10:30 pm and my husband was waiting for me on the porch.  Patches did the happy dog dance when I walked in the door. 

The house was a total disaster, the worse I have ever returned to after a hike, but I went to bed and waited until morning to give my family grief about the state of the house.  In the morning I stepped on my bathroom scale and learned that I had lost ten pounds.

I called Delorme the next day and they are sending me a new Inreach device, no questions asked.  I hope the new one is more durable.

packing up to go back to Saint Helens

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Back to the PCT day 5 - Jeff Creek to un-named lake

August 18th
Day 5
Jeff Creek to Un-named Lake
Trail mile 2038-2048 10 miles 
Jeff Creek to un-named lake

I told Aimless that intended to start hiking at 6:30 in the morning because I wilt in the heat and I wanted to make the 2,000 foot climb over the shoulder of Mount Jefferson before the worse heat of the day hit.  Aimless said that she was “on vacation” and she would start at 9:30.  My intention was to take a three hour siesta and during that time I thought that Aimless would catch up to me.  Just in case we did not meet up on the trail we agreed ahead of time to camp at a nameless lake at trail mile 2048.  We looked at our maps and decided that the un-named lake was Upper Lake, but we were wrong.  No matter, neither of us made to Upper Lake. 

Solorina crocea  found at about 4,000 feet in elevation
this lichen is new to me and might even be a little bit rare
Page 313 in Macrolichens of the Pacific Northwest

I was on the trail at 6:30; the first water on the trail would be Russell Creek 1.5 miles from camp and then another creek 3 miles from camp.  It looked like there would be plenty of water on the trail, so I left camp with just one liter of water in my side pocket. 

Russel Creek

Before I knew it I had arrived at Russell Creek and what I saw surprised me.  The creek was flowing quite fast due to being on a very steep slope.  This was a milky white glacial creek too.  I was not sure how I was going to cross it; I also wondered how Aimless was going to cross.  I decided that the water looked too deep where the trail crosses the creek so I opted to go upstream until the creek split into a few braids and did not look so deep.  I did not try to keep my feet dry for the crossing.  Gingerly I stepped into the stream.  I could not see where my feet were going to land; there was no way to know just how deep the creek would be so I was a bit scared.  I kept three points on the ground at all times and slowly inched my way across the creek.  Whew!  I was glad when that was over.   

Looking back at Russell Creek after I crossed it
I wondered what Aimless would do at the creek.  How much creek crossing experience did she have?  Perhaps she would find other people to cross with.  I thought about waiting for her, but that would have meant waiting for three hours and then hiking up the hill in the worst heat of the day.    Well, she’ll either cross or she won’t, I thought to myself.  The situation seemed binary.  I wished that I knew how much experience she had with creeks.  She’s a little older than me and did not start hiking until I was in my 30’s so I felt that chances were good that she had experience with creek crossings. 

After taking a short break to drink water and wash my feet, I worked my way back down the far side of the river until I regained the trail.  Next my hike took me into Jefferson Park where I met a hiker named “Bookworm”.  I chatted with Bookworm for a bit and I told her that Aimless was behind me and that she had an ace bandage on one ankle but she wanted another one for her other ankle.  Bookworm said she was suffering from bad knees and hiking very slow so Aimless was sure to catch up to her and when she did catch up she would give her the ace bandage in her first aid kit. 

Wild flowers at Jefferson Park just before I met Bookworm
I continued through Jefferson Park marveling at the wild flower meadows and the views.  It was so pretty in Jefferson Park; I wished we had camped there instead of at Jeff Creek.  Once the trail left the park it began to climb.  We had a 2,000 foot climb today and the trail was going to takes up to almost 7,000 feet.    The climb was not too bad for me since I got it over before the worst heat of the day and I was buoyed by the views and by the music on my IPod.    The views of Mount Jefferson blew me away. I had a trancendent experience up there. 

At about 10:45 I reached the highpoint and headed down the other side of Mount Jefferson’s shoulder.  I thought about taking my Siesta there at the top, but the air was not yet hot and I don’t feel well at 7,000 feet, so I opted to go down a bit before I took my break. 

Near and just over the high point
There were a few small snowfields to cross on the north face of the shoulder and I wondered how much experience Aimless had with snow banks, I figured she would be safe crossing the snow banks but I wondered if she would be frightened by them.  I also wondered how much trouble she would have with her ankles on the snow banks.  I hoped that she caught up to book worm with her extra ace bandage before she hit the snow. 


I continued down until I reached a breezy pass at 6,100 feet.  The timing was perfect, it was high noon and this was a nice cool place to take a break.  I peeled off my wet socks and laid them on a cairn to dry.  I stayed there for almost three hours resting and eating and trying to sleep and asking passing thru-hikers if they had seen Aimless.   Strangely none of them had seen her. 

Admiring my blister during my break, it had already gone down some.
I treated it with mole foam with a hole cut in the center

Then Eric, the section hiker who had camped with us at Jeff Creek came up the trail.  He said that he had seen Aimless ½ mile past Russell Creek and he stopped her to tell her that he had found her trekking pole in Russell creek, so she was going to back track to get her pole.  I thought it was very odd that Aimless would have lost her pole in the creek and not known it.  The entire story seemed quite odd so I pressed Eric with more questions but he was tired and in a hurry so I never was totally satisfied with the answer. 

I was glad to know that Aimless had made it across the creek safely but I knew she was going to be running really late with having to backtrack.  I was looking forward to hearing from her and learning what had actually happened to her pole. 

At about 3pm I started my 4 mile hike down to the un-named lake.  I might have stayed and waited longer but I was out of water, so down I went in search of water.  It took a while before I found water and the temperature was quite high at this point.  I was hot and thirsty and tired.  The heat really hit me hard, I felt like crap.  Oh well, just 4 miles to the lake and I should get in early enough to rest and eat dinner before bed time. 

Saw Pikachu on the way to the lake

Pikachu lives here


Thru-hikers passed me by all day long, they hike much faster than me and they were hiking extra fast today because they were all headed to Ollalie Lake for resupply and beer.  Finally towards the end of my hiking day some of the thru-hikers that passed me said they had seen Aimless and she was way, way back behind them.  It seemed odd to me that she would be that slow, but I was almost to the lake and I was eager to rest my feet so I carried on down the trail until I reached the lake. 

Marchantia polymorpha liverwort near Breitenbus Lake
When I came out the the juntion of the PCT and the road to Breitenbush lake the way was unclear, but I did not care because I saw and outhouse.  Toilet magic!  Someone with trekking poles approached while I was on the throne, so I had to shut and lock the door real quick.  When I was done I discovered another lost hiker.  Together we found our way back to the trail.  Soon I saw another hiker who was wearing crocks and carrying a half gallon of water in net in a bottle in his hand.  He was almost as slow as I was.

At about 4pm I found the lake at at mile 2048 and then I found a campsite on the far shore and I took a quick dip in the lake so I could cool off.  I was so tired that I did not know what to do first, pitch the tent, cook dinner, and change my clothes, filter water, so many choices.  I opted to lay out my cellophane and sleeping pad and my sleeping bag and just sit.  That is what I did; I just sat there until I had to pee.  I even cooked dinner without getting up. 

Un-named lake at trail mile 2048

At about 7:30 I heard a voice calling out “Mossy Mom, are you there?” 

I called back “Aimless, is that you?”    I was so happy with the thought that she had finally caught up to me.  But it was not to be.  It was Bookworm who was calling my name.  She limped into my camp with her big heavy boots and told me that she had not seen Aimless all day long and they she had even spent a couple of hours waiting for her.    What on earth could this mean?   

Bookworm said that she heard from other hikers that Aimless had made it off the snow fields and that she was in “good spirits” and planned to stop at Brietenbush Lake Camp.  Ahhh, that eased my mind, she had made it through the creek and back to the creek for her pole and over the snow fields and she was doing well.  Maybe she would even make it to our un-named lake at mile 2048. 

Just before dusk a group of Europeans arrived and camped and swam on the far lake shore.
Bookworm stayed with me and fed me the most wonderful junk food. 

Night fell and Aimless did not arrive, so I knew she must be back at Brietenbush Lake Camp.    I cowboy camped on the lake shore and Bookworm hung her hammock in the bushes.  Bookworm was quite the character, filled with manic energy and with almost no sense of boundaries.  I enjoyed the company of Bookworm, but I could sense that one might easily feel totally overwhelmed by her given enough time. 

To tired to pitch my tarp

I knew that cowboy camping would mean getting my sleeping bag covered with condensation, but I did not care.  I was so tired and my sleeping bag is somewhat waterproof.

I got cold in the night so I made hot chocolate without getting up


Day 1:

Day 2:

Day 3:

Day 4:

Day 6: