We decided to do it again and the moon was full...again. Enjoy this video of our time on South Sister.
The Crack in the Ground in Christmas Valley expedition was different than most of the Posse expeditions. That is why we chose it. Sometimes it’s a good idea to shake things up to see how things will shape up. This time instead of going up, we went down, but not a long way down, only a couple of feet. The Crack in the ground is just that, a crack in the ground. Let’s get into this thing and stop the jibber jabber.
The Crack, I will refer to it as the Crack because we all know by now that the crack is in the ground. And you would get just as tired of reading the whole thing as I would typing it. Plus, my typing skills aren’t great, so the less words I have to write the better. You see how I spent two sentences explaining how I will refer to the Crack in the Ground as the Crack? That’s how my brain works, it’s like there’s a crack in my brain and all the linear, sensible thought that should happen, falls into the crack and leaves me with brain wander. That could be why I enjoyed the Crack as much as I did, the whole time we were in the crack, I was on a separate, trippy brain journey. The tumbled down rocks were all my thoughts falling in on themselves. We climbed over those rocks as I climb over random thoughts. If you ever visit the crack, think about how these physical places can be pictures of ourselves and our lives. I think as we travel to more and more locations, the more and more we can see ourselves in those places and appreciate them and maybe ourselves too.
The crack is only a couple of hours from Redmond and the drive is quite enjoyable. Myself and the other two men who make up the Travelers Three, Jose and Apolo, always have good conversation on the drive to and from the expeditions. This time we talked about how Jose and myself cannot utter certain words because we are married, while Apolo can blurt them out whenever he pleases. For example, two words we cannot say are Hot and woman in reference to another female beside our wives. We even concluded that thinking the words is to put our lives on the line. I say this to say that if there are any of the aforementioned people reading this, Apolo is single and wouldn’t mind meeting you so one day he won’t be able to say those words about anyone but you. We talked about dating apps, and that me and Jose would help Apolo out by telling any women we saw on the trail that he had a question for them, and let the fun begin. What would the question be? That question moved us along quite a few miles down the highway.
We made our first stop of the day at Fort Rock. It’s way out in the Oregon Outback and is worth a few beads of sweat if you are on your way to The Crack. It was still early so we had the rock to ourselves for most of our visit. We took the loop inside the rock and climbed a few places off trail for a different perspective. As we stood at the rim overlooking the valley, we continued our conversation about hot and woman. Since it was starting to warm up, Apolo asked if we could use the words to describe a woman that was actually hot. Like hot from the sun. Jose and I took only moments to let Apolo know that this was also forbidden. Jose said that if there was another woman around where he and his wife were and she looked like she was dealing with being overheated, like heat stroke, he would be putting himself on the “hot seat” to say, “That lady looks like she is really hot, could you go over and see if she is ok?”
"If you think she's so hot why don't you have her cook you up some flapjacks on her hot body?"
That's a sentence I don't ever want to hear. I am in the mood for some fluffy pancakes with strawberry syrup all of a sudden though.
Then it turned to cool. Can we say a woman looks cool? Nope. As you can see ladies, Apolo is a blank canvas ready to learn. Of course we were exaggerating but the point has been made. Marriage, for both men and women, can be described as a line in the sand. There are things that you do on one side of the line that you don’t do on the other. Better yet, marriage is like a crack in the ground. Once you walk in, you best get ready to climb over some obstacles and take your time if you need to because if you don’t you might end up waking up a bat sleeping in one of the deeper crevices in the crack and have that thing fly out and get caught in your hair. It’s no place for the weak hearted. It’s for the adventurers. So we left Fort Rock as the sun was starting to make everyone underneath it hot, Except for the women, there were no hot women underneath the sun, you hear that T?
We decided to make Fort Rock the first stop and then move onto the crack. Word had it that temperatures can be up to twenty degrees cooler in the crack and that sounded like the place to be on a day with triple digit temperatures forecast. The road from Christmas valley to the crack is washboard and slow going. It’s about five miles. The trailhead has a toilet and parking. No fees are required to visit to the crack.
The crack is about a half of a mile from the trailhead and when you reach it, it’s not at the end of the crack. I spent a little time wondering why they wouldn’t make the entrance at the end but after going both ways, I understood. If you go to the right, you will go into the most traveled part of the crack. To the left takes you into more rugged, harder terrain. We went right first. This is a fun place to visit. The crack can be deep and the temperatures do drop down there. The first time we felt the sweet reprieve of coolness, we acted like giant klondike bars and chilled out for a bit. We were only a few feet below the surface of the desert but it is very different. Instead of being dry and hot, it was cool and moist. Many times we remarked how it felt like we were in water. The crack meets the surface of the desert and then takes you back down, it’s like a wave. After moving through about half a mile, we came to a place where the sides had fallen in and blocked the way. We tried to get through but it wasn’t to be. We had to backtrack, walk along the top for a bit and find another place to re-enter. We came to another place where the path was blocked. This time, we were able to squeeze and climb our way over the obstacle. It made the hike more adventurous. After that we were able to walk to the end of the crack. The temperature was warming but we walked along the top back to the point we first entered the crack. We thought about not exploring the crack to the left but after a few minutes we decided that since we were already there we should go. It’s funny how quickly we can make a unique thing ordinary. It’s true that the crack does start to look the same and the first ooohs and aaahs go away. That doesn’t take away the fact that it is a spectacular place and the extra time to take it all in is time well spent.
We have discovered that we are blessed many times on our travels. Unexpected things happen just when we show up. I never expect something will happen, but I’m not surprised when they do. We were talking about not going into the other part of the crack when Apolo made the decision for us. We made our way in and the temperature really dropped. It was so refreshing down there, we took a break.
Our conversation was light and lively as we started up a rough section. The way left is not as traveled as the other and it’s easy to see why. There were fallen rocks in the way again and some light climbing was in order. I went first and climbed up to a little platform. Jose said that he noticed that there might be a bird nest right above me. Right on cue, something above me. I thought that it was rock falling, it was hawks. They swooped down on me. We started to get out of there because one of them was a youngster and the other full-grown. We thought for sure the big one was about to open a can of beat down with flashing claws and sharpened beak. There were three of us against the one and we were on the retreat. I was still on the platform and it would take me a minute to get down. I said, “Don’t leave me!”
I felt like the other guy in the old bear chase scenario. You don’t have to outrun the bear, you only have to outrun the other guy. I heard the menacing squawk of the big one behind me. Was it getting closer or moving away from us? Everything was happening so quickly, thoughts enter your mind and get pushed out just as fast by another one and none of them give you the warm fuzzy feels. Would the giant use it’s talons and slice me up like an apple or grab me and take me in the clouds and drop me and let the coyotes pick my bones dry? It was a bleak situation. In the meantime, the young one landed only a few feet from us. It just sat there looking at us. Since one doesn’t have many opportunities to be only inches away from a wild hawk, we stopped and talked with it and took some pictures. It is a beautiful bird and I'm thankful that we were able to share the same space with it for a few moments. The thoughts of my bloody demise were gone and we were giggling and happy as we decided to head back and leave the birds to their nests. It was a great experience. It was a great expedition.
We are known for making a plan and then trying to talk ourselves out of it. Sometimes it’s the change of plan that leads us into unexpected territory. It turns out that following the plan can be the way to cool stuff too. We got back to the car and started talking about where to next. The plan was to camp out at the Green Mountain campground a few miles away, but we started in with what else we could do, where should we go? Again it was Apolo that said we should go to the camp and check it out, if we didn’t like it, we could move on.
We got to the camp in the early afternoon and sat in the shade. For hours we debated with ourselves about staying or going. Jose has created an obsession that has spread through the group like a virus that may or may not be harmful. We probably should mandate masks and make everyone hole up in their houses for this one. It’s the in N out burger virus. Once you get affected by it your brain turns into something much more than what the burgers are made of and the only thing you can think about is the hamburger. We actually looked up how far it was from us to the closest in N out. If it would’ve been two hours or less, we would have been on the road for sure. It was a four-hour drive, that was too far. Finally, around four we decided to stay and we officially set up our tents and made some grub. We call it grub when we are out on the trail, any other time, it’s supper or dinner. The things we eat out there would classify as a terrible meal at home but we make due. If someone was to suggest I eat top ramen at home, I would think they had some sort of hamburger brain disorder. We discussed it over our meal and agree that the ramen has ran it’s course at camp too. Every once in awhile you have to retire certain food or drink and ramen may be about there. One thing that is still going strong is sour patch kids, if anyone ever asks me if I mind babysitting, I say not as long as the kids are of the sour patch variety.
After we finished eating, we hiked up to the top of East Green Mountain. From there we could see over to Green Mountain and the fire watch tower. Jose said he wanted to go over and see if we could go up and see the sights. Only problem is, there’s a chain link fence around it and locks on the gates. Still we climbed Green Mountain. Then it happened again. The person that works in the tower just happened to be down on the ground and walking our way. He came straight to the gate and said that we were welcome to go on up after he changed the fire level sign down at camp. We didn’t even have to ask, he invited us to go in.
Again me and Apolo were giggling, the only time I heard Jose giggle on this expedition was when he was playing sinister cards during UNO.
The lookout was something else. We were allowed on the catwalk around the outside of the building and made two trips around. The views were great and we asked the watchman many questions. We asked him how he deals with people trying to get into the tower uninvited and we kept asking questions about it. Jose said that we should end that line of questioning because it was starting to make us a bit suspicious. Another thing to add on to the list of bonus footage that we have enjoyed on our expeditions. We all agreed that sticking to the plan was the right decision this time around.
Once darkness arrived we drove back to the top of East Green and started taking pictures of the stars. Soon Jose discovered that he could take a selfie with the stars in the background, how cool! The only thing is, you have to stay super still during the shot, which is thirty seconds. We must have spent an hour, maybe more, trying to get the best group selfie shot in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere. We had a blast with it. Tough guy poses in front of the most anti-tough guy car in the world, The Scion. The mark of a good expedition is seeing things that fill you with amazement and getting to act like a kid again. We try so hard to grow up only to try so hard to feel young again.
Over the last three years, while on climbs to mountains and canyons, I have turned to see Jose and Apolo there too. We are The Travelers Three. You never know who will come into your life and when and why. To wonder to much about it would take away the spark of it. These two men are a blessing. They are good friends. They have the heart of a lion and the flowing hair too. Well, maybe not the flowing hair, and if they did I wouldn’t know. Dudes don’t look at other dudes hair. Wait... What? I don’t know, let’s just leave it there. My brain is back in The Crack in the Skull.
When a woman smart enough comes along to snatch up Apolo, she better let him come on these expeditions with us, or better yet, join us. The Peak Posse is always ready to welcome another adventurer. And UNO can be played by a whole mess of people. That may be a new tradition on the trail, we are always restless at camp, UNO was the perfect way to pass the time.
Did I mention that Apolo is single and ready to mingle? I think I did. If not, here goes. “Ladies, I know you are looking for a God-fearing man that will treat you like you should be treated. He was not afraid to climb into the actual Crack in the Ground and if we learned anything from this story it’s that marriage is quite similar to it. When you need a place that’s away from the scorching heat of the world, you can saunter down into the earth a few feet and find refreshment. Don’t worry that the walls look like they may cave in and entomb you, they have been there for hundreds of years and it’s not in a high seismic area, that means not so many earthquakes. And if the bats get a little too close and gets caught up in your hair and you have to go bald for awhile, Apolo will be right there beside you taking midnight selfies. What more could a God-fearing woman ask for?”
Although we didn’t run into the future wife of Apolo during the Crack in the Ground expedition, we enjoyed more of the Good Lords handiwork and the company that the Posse brings. I suggest this as a good place for families and people that don’t want a strenuous trail. It’s not too far from home and could be done in a day. The middle of summer may not be the most optimal time but if you hit it early in the day, you’ll be ok. This expedition is part of the Trio 2021 and if you decide to visit, you will have earned the right to own The Crack in the Ground patch. It’s a good one to start your Trio patch collection.
Up next is a doozy, The Timberline Trail.
Until then, stay safe out there…….
The story of this expedition is being written, until it is finished, enjoy the video of the Posse on this very big, beautiful, mountain.
The story of this expedition is being written. Until it is complete, enjoy the video of our time on these mountains.
The Eagles Nest has become my favorite hike in Smith Rock State Park. The views are spectacular and it tends to be less popular then other places in the park. The way that I discovered it has made it Peak Posse history and we now traditionally climb it once a year. Let's go back to a time in the not too distant past when the Peak Posse wasn't even a thought. We will go back to a chain of events that created this cool little climbing group.
The year was 2018 and a group of co-workers sat in the breakroom talking about climbing mountains. The Three Sisters were visible and I asked one of the guys if it was possible to Climb any of them. He said that South, the biggest of the bunch, has a very easy to follow, non-technical, route to the tippy top. Before break was over we had settled on climbing South Sister. We set a date about a month away, to give us time to prepare. A bunch of pretty much out of shape, slosh belly bunch of dudes gave themselves a month to get ready for a ten thousand foot mountain. You don't need to say anything, we understand now the error of our ways.
In preparation for the climb, one of the group suggested we climb to the Eagles Nest at Smith Rock. It would be a good gauge for us to see if we were ready for South. We decided to go around Smith Rock, see Monkey Face, and then climb the scar trail to the Eagles Nest. Then down Burma Road and home free. It was around a nine mile trek. If you have climbed to the Eagles Nest and to the top of South Sister you know that the two are worlds apart as far as difficulty goes and this is where Eagles Nest starts to become part of the fabric of the Peak Posse. We all made the loop around and saw Smith Rock from a birds eye view and thought we were ready for the somewhat bigger mountain. If you have read our South story or watched the video of the expedition, you know that we all got pants pulled down, blistering the buns, down home, full on, butt whippings by South Sister. That day is the closest I personally have been to being beaten. At the top I spoke out loud that I would never climb another mountain. The torturous idea of having to drag my hide back to the car was the most soul crushing thing, I was angry at having lugged myself up there to realize that I now had to get back down. I had altitude sickness and it was hot. I had packed enough stuff to survive for days. It was a bad joke. A few weeks earlier I had stood proud on the Eagles Nest. That in hindsight has become a very funny inside joke, mostly inside my head. I actually thought that since I had climbed Eagles Nest that I was ready for South Sister.
In the Spring we start the Trio climbing season with a hike up to the Eagles Nest. It has become tradition. A tip of the hat to that first year. A reminder of where we started and the places we have been since. Last year we climbed Mount Adams as part of the Trio and I remember thinking as I climbed up to the nest, "If I can make it to the Eagles Nest I can climb Mount Adams."
I laugh to myself remembering how little we knew about climbing on the giants. The Eagles Nest is not a giant but it has a beauty all its own and it is a challenge to climb, think about climbing up misery ridge twice. Did I mention the views? If you have never been, get yourself out there and do it.
The Eagles Nest is soon to become even more a part of the Peak Posse, we have a special challenge for one thousand willing, generous people and the Nest is at the center of it all. There are folks in our communities that are no longer able to climb up the scar trail to enjoy the Eagles Nest and so we are going to climb it for them and also raise some much needed money to help them out here in the low country. Make sure to like our facebook page and start following the news updates to get involved in the challenge. We are working behind the scenes and have a June first launch date for the Climb Challenge. When it's all said and done, the Eagles Nest will have even more reason to be our favorite spot in Smith Rock State Park.
When you are up there taking in the view, remember, if you can make it to the Eagles Nest, you can climb anything.
Be safe and have fun out there...
I usually write about our expeditions soon after they happen, while the events are still fresh in my mind. I have started the story of Mount Adams a number of times but the timing didn’t feel right, for whatever reason. I think the reason I’m writing about the trip now is we are in the initial preparations for our Mt. Shasta climb and I have many of the same thoughts about Shasta as I did Adams. The difference is Mount Adams has prepared me for Shasta whereas I didn’t feel any climb had prepared me for the different type of mountain that Mount Adams is. It is the mountain that has moved the Posse from the beginner stage. The feel of the altitude and the size of it was unlike any I had felt. It had an overpowering presence. When I was walking across the summit plateau, I noticed the formation of the rocks and how they seemed unmovable up that high. The mountain has stood for so long at such heights that it has pride. Pride like a lion has. We were fortunate to walk on its slopes and paid a price for admission. Since the first climb on South Sister, I haven’t been challenged as I was on Adams. It was a welcome misery.
We left Redmond Oregon around five or six in the morning, it has been so long now I can’t remember the time. We made Hood River and stopped at the Taco Bell that the internet assured us was open. Due to the virus, it was closed. One of my dream meals at base camp is a taco bell bean burrito and I have yet to experience that. It may be just as well. My innards have a hard time dealing with food at 9000 feet and I can’t convince anyone that a fast-food burrito is food in its truest sense. Still, I mourned the burrito. We quickly found a place to gas up and had no problem loading up on convenience store rubble. And off we go again.
When I saw the mountain for the first time, I was expecting a big mountain and Adams fit the bill. It’s the second largest mountain in volume in the Cascade Range, it takes up a lot of space. As we found dirt road and slower going, it started sinking in, this is not like the other mountains we have climbed. We haven’t been here before as far as size and intensity go. Mount Adams was different for us and it was the exact kind of different we were ready for.
The excitement when the motor stops running, where the road ends, is a ritual of action. Time is flowing and pushing you toward the moment when you pop open the rear liftgate and grab your backpack. We all shuffled around, we have done this before and the conversation is light as we all go through our checklists. Do we have this? Are we going to need that? There are always items I bring that never make the cut. I think that the mountain being what it is, makes you redefine what a necessity is. Do I really want to lug this up the mountain? We all put on our packs and made the half mile trek to our first stop, the restrooms. One of the most important things to get timed right on an expedition is having to use the bathroom in a small window of opportunity. You don’t want to undershoot or overshoot this thing because if you have to use the bathroom on Adams, you are going to be packing that stuff out with you. We will do it if we have too. I can tell you that many a hiker has suffered down the trail just to be able to use the facility at the trailhead rather than pack the big blue burrito out with them. What is your trick for making sure you “climb through the window” at the trailhead?
The total length of the journey is eleven and a half miles. Easy enough. The first couple of miles are a slight uphill amid the trees. When you catch a glimpse of the upper part of the mountain, you realize that the more footsteps you make on moderate incline means that there’s less distance to spread out the required elevation gain. When you climb Adams in the summer, the trail follows big old piles of rock with timbers sticking out of them. After three miles, we were at the bottom of the headwall. The summer route goes left and up the ridgeline.
The climb begins.
The Posse is all about the digging in and doing. Most of the time this is when the kidding about and laughing take a back seat to slower steps and lips pouting out. Even after many climbs, your body must reacclimate to the stress you put it under. There is a place in every expedition when things get slanky, and there is the adjustment period to it. It takes a little bit for the bones and muscle to figure out that play time is over. We encountered our first steep section of snow and even though we did not put on our crampons, we knew the scent of the expedition had changed. It was no longer the sweet smell of greezy pizza fresh out of the oven, it was dirt and body odor mixed with one of those pine scented air fresheners you hang on your rearview mirror. If a bar of soap smelled like that scent, it would be called, “Why are you even using this stuff?” We weren’t even above the headwall yet. We were still at the bottom of the ridge that led to the top of the headwall.
One of the cool things about Mount Adams is the many places to pitch a tent and the little communities that form because of their proximity to each other. From the ridge that takes you above the headwall and on to Lunch Counter there are many of these sites with rocks piled up to make for good camping out of the wind. As I was falling asleep that night, I could hear people talking and carrying about and it had a comforting effect for me. Someone even blasted a Bluetooth speaker and the music carried over the mountain wind, it was like we all had an annoying neighbor blasting music in the middle of the night but this time it was fun. No need to call the cops. Imagine how that call would go. “You have a noise complaint where!? Yeah…we will send an officer right over…click.”
For some of the Posse, the climb up to camp was just as tough as the climb from camp to the summit. It was in the heat of the afternoon and the sun was splashing off the snow. The incline was steeper, and it was constant all the way to Lunch Counter. A few of us went up ahead to find a spot with enough tent sites for the group. There was a stream of people heading up and we thought it best to send the scouts on ahead. Turns out, Lunch Counter is huge and there are easily over a hundred tent sites up there. It’s like the worlds coolest KOA. We found our rock wall accommodations with a little run off creek close by. A traveler coming down the mountain had given me the hot tip about the place and assured me that there were enough sites for our group. One thing I noticed was the faces of the travelers going down compared to those of us gaining elevation. The downers were floating and lite, smiles and giggles, the uppers were walking like they had gravel sacks in their socks and certainly not giggling. I thought I heard a giggle from one of the many uppers, it turned out to be the opposite, a google. That’s right a google. That’s when someone on the steep side of a mountain moving in the upward direction is "searching" for a reason why they are putting their mind and body through this torture. The unintentional sound that comes out of their mouth is a google.
It was pure delight the moment I dropped my pack at our campsite, from here on up I didn’t have to lug a full pack. I was tired. Instead of resting, I started munching on some snacks and slurping water while setting up my tent. I wanted to get all the work done so the rest of the day and evening would be rest. The Posse started filtering in and I watched as they chose their spots and made home for the night.
I already realized that this mountain was different from the others we had climbed by the trip to camp. It was like climbing a mountain to get to Lunch Counter and we had much altitude left to gain. We had a clear view of the never-ending slog to Pikers Peak and the only way we knew the little black dots way up there were people was assumption. It was intimidating what our future held. Instead of turning our backs to it, we studied it and formed a game plan for scaling it. It is the steepest, longest section of mountain I have been on. It’s no nonsense, keep going up. There were little rocky sections along the way, and we used them as our resting points. As you scan the route, you see steep sections with some really steep parts mixed in. It just so happened that the steepest of all was the last two hundred yards at the very top. It was this little section that made sleep hard to come by that night. I am amazed at how we put ourselves in situations and places and let time push us farther along into them. We know that things are about to get slanky and we let the current lead us there.
The sunset on Mount Adams was spectacular.
Another thing that marked how different Mount Adams was for us was how the Posse acted at camp. Normally we are much more outspoken and lite hearted. Even during dinner circle, we all were mostly quiet, and I could feel in myself and the others a seriousness. I believe that as an adventure becomes more intense the proper response is to mirror the situation. It does not mean it’s not fun anymore, it means that we acknowledge where we are and give it its due respect. We had been preparing for this expedition, preparing for an unknown and our response was appropriate. As I slept that night, some change fell out of my pocket and was with me in my bed. I really enjoyed the thought that, in that place, money meant nothing. My job and my cars and all the other stuff had no value, they offered me nothing on the mountain. I pictured myself on that steep part just below Pikers Peak, knowing that soon I would be there. I wanted to be there and didn’t at the same time. I guess that’s the recipe for adventure. Go where coins aren’t worth anything. I would sure need them tomorrow, back in the low country, greasy food isn’t free.
The week before the expedition, Keegan threw his back out. He missed work because he was stoved up on his bed, doing his best impression of a piece of jerky. I was convinced that he wouldn’t make the trip at all. He did make the trip and made it to Lunch Counter. That was as far as he would go, and we give him mad props for it. The sun blasting off the snow gave him the worst sunburn of the group. It was weeks before he recovered. When we climbed Mcloughlin in the snow, I burned so bad, I vowed to always carry sunblock. I carried it but didn’t apply it. I didn’t burn at all. At the summit a sunblock angel lady was offering sunblock to everyone and I did apply some to my face. I’m sure that saved me from agony. Keegan had his walkie and kept in contact with us and watched our progress from camp. I don’t have any concrete plans to ever climb Adams again, if I do, it will be with Keegan or Tyler.
Tyler is afraid of heights and his chances of finding the top of Adams was less than fifty percent in my mind. On top of that, he attempted the climb in brand new boots. We were still below the headwall and his boots were already destroying his heels. He was hobbled. He made it to Lunch Counter, and I figured that would be it for him. He had other plans. It was easy to see the discomfort he was in as we made our way to Pikers Peak. He kept going. I forged on ahead of the group to get to the steepest section as I film the expeditions and wanted some footage of the Posse on that spot. Tyler was with Apolo just below Aaron, Christian and Jose. They were at the bottom of the steepest section. It was the most uncomfortable part of the climb for me. It was steep enough that turning around to sit on the mountain and film the group was a bit unnerving. It didn’t feel like I was in danger, but it was knocking on the door. I had an ice axe for arrest if I slipped and there weren’t any rocks below that I would slide into causing injury. It would be frightening to slip but probably nothing more than that. It was fun.
I quickly made my way to Pikers Peak and waited for the travelers. Soon Aaron and Christian arrived. Then I saw Jose pop into view. He gave me the news that Tyler had turned around. I don’t know if the combination of his new boots shredding his feet and fear of heights were the cause or just his fear of heights. I really like to thrash into Tyler because that is how we do. Our relationship is based on making the other look bad and pointing it out to the world. I thoroughly enjoy when Tyler makes me out to be a loser in front of people and he enjoys the same treatment from me. I have found though, that when it comes to mountains, no dice. His fear is very real and to make light of it in printed form isn’t cool. When we are face to face in living color and he starts bragging about how great he is and brings the mountain into the conversation, that’s a different story, let the shame rain down. There are many things I would love to write but will have to save it for in person humiliation. Tyler went farther then I thought he would, he was only a few feet from Pikers Peak and the summit would have been a cakewalk from there. If he ever wants to try again, I have no choice but to join him.
When Jose made it to Pikers Peak, he gave me one of the best photos I have taken. This describes better than words the struggle to Pikers Peak. The summit was finally in view and although it looked a long way off, it was not comparable to what we had already climbed.
Apolo also made Pikers Peak, he climbed the steepest section after having watched Tyler turn around. I have never asked him if he considered turning back at that point. I’m sure there was some struggle to overcome in that moment.
A common occurrence on a mountain expedition is the little groups that form. We like to talk about staying together as one big group, but the reality is that we don’t. We break into little groups of two or three. We maintain contact with each other with walkie talkies. You would think that staying in one big group would be easy, but it’s not. Things start happening on a mountain that aren’t planned, and we all react differently to it. There was a section right at the beginning of the climb that was almost as steep as the Pikers Peak section. We were all close together, making our way up. We got word from Joseph and Vivian that they had to stop and adjust crampons. This created separation. To stop on a steep section doesn’t make sense so we made our way up to our first rocky area for a break. Joseph and Vivian were within sight. Everyone has an internal clock when it comes to breaks and how fast they move. When it’s time to start moving again, you start moving. You may want five minutes and me ten, and that is what happens on a mountain. If we waited for Joseph and Vivian it would be five minutes more and they would need ten to fifteen minutes beyond that. It’s too long, that can make you stiffen up and game over. There is an individual self-preservation involved when things get intense, and we all get it and let each person have it while they rein it in to accommodate the others. It’s one of the things that happen up there. It’s part of it. Aaron and Christian left first, and started climbing straight up. Myself, Jose, Apolo and Tyler decided on a route to the right at an angle and then back to the left to ascend another steep area that was about three football fields long. Another separation. We had line of sight and verbal communication, so we were good. The point is, in a group, prepare for people to break into smaller groups. Make sure that you have a way to communicate from group to group. Mount Adams is not a technical climb, it is a long, hard climb. It is very easy to lose someone on something that big if not properly equipped.
Joseph and Vivian were climbing at the same pace as the rest of us. They weren’t gaining nor losing ground. I was unable to get their story in real time and I regret it. There is so much good stuff happening on our expeditions from a personal point of view and I’m unable to capture it all. We each have physical and mental struggles and they create stories. They change the way we interact with the mountain, other people and even ourselves. I’m sure that if I sat down and talked with each person about this expedition, I would have enough content to write an entire book. Mountains are extraordinary places, and they create extraordinary stories.
From Pikers Peak you can see the final climb to the summit. First you have to make your way across the summit plateau and then lose elevation. My body was tired, the elevation was a factor and my mind wasn’t dealing with it very well. It’s hard to explain what it’s like in those moments. There is anger, frustration, pain. There is mental dialogue that doesn’t make sense, it’s a side of myself that I don’t deal with often. There is also resolve and confidence. I forced myself to stop and look around, I was standing in the sky on a beautiful mountain. The place between the false summit and summit is expansive and vast and personal. When I think about Mount Adams, mostly I think about that place. It’s where me and Mount Adams met. It’s like when two people see each other across the room and everyone else disappears and it’s only them and the music, two hearts beating. Well, not really. It was a good moment for me. It was a mountain moment. Each mountain I climb has one, and never has the moment been on the summit.
When I was only moments from the summit, Joseph told me that Vivian was going to stop her climb at Pikers Peak and he would continue on. Jose, Aaron, Christian and Apolo were between Joseph and myself. About five minutes after I made summit, Jose joined me. Then Joseph. It took me around an hour to go from Pikers to the summit. Joseph did it in fifteen minutes. At that altitude, that’s impressive. We weren’t able to pin down a good trail name for Joseph after many expeditions until that moment. Joseph was given the very fitting trail name, “Speed.”
Aaron and Christian arrived and soon Apolo joined us on the summit of Mount Adams. It was a sunny day with little wind, a perfect climbing day. Twenty to thirty other people were on the mountaintop, a little community of strangers sharing a common destination. I don’t know them, but I do know about them, they are like me and me like them.
The temperature was high enough to get the snow to soften up and the glissading was awesome. It took us hours to get from camp to Pikers Peak. From Pikers Peak to camp, minutes. At camp we loaded up our packs and started the four mile hike back to the cars. I was tired and my mountaineering boots started disagreeing with my feet. I longed for my light, comfy altras that were hanging out in the Xterra. Keegan and Tyler were the first to break camp and head to the cars. They told me that they got a little off trail and had a hairy little time along the way. Aaron, Christian, Joseph and Vivian made it back no problem. Last down was Jose, Apolo and Me.
Mount Adams was a challenge for us. It was the first mountain that required crampons and Ice Axes. We all agree that climbing steep snow is better than steep, loose rocks. The trail is easy to follow and both days we ran into rangers patrolling the route. It’s a good step up from easier mountains. It’s like a giant South Sister, non-technical, big.
When you climb Adams and you reach that point between Pikers Peak and the summit. The place where you go down before you go up, stop for a minute. Look around. You will be standing in the spot that I think about as often as I think about this great mountain. It’s a good place in the world. Then, stop dilly dallying around and get the summit.
Be safe and have fun out there…
Here are some videos from the Adams expedition.
- It was a pretty mild winter day in the jostling little city of Redmond Oregon, the Holidays were in our rearview and we were at the beginning of the long slog to spring. This evening brought a small glimmer of summer hiking and trail fun to the Peak Posse. We congregated in the upstairs room of the Redmond Burger Company for our second Winter Meal, the first being held a year earlier. Our goal for the evening was to choose our Trio of expeditions for 2020. By the time we filed out of the restaurant, our collective voices had been heard. The locations we would visit were all mountains this year. Grizzly Peak near Mt. Jefferson, Eagle Cap in Eastern Oregon and Mount Adams in Washington. Mount Adams is the scene for this story.
We are now in the barefoot months. The months when you go to sleep while the sun is still singing and when the alarm clock blasts at 5 am, it's STILL singing, a different song though. It went down and back up, all whilst we slept. The first of our Trio, Grizzly Peak, was a success. More Posse members joined this expedition than any of the others. Now a smaller group has formed to face the biggest challenge of the year. I have written stories about the adventures of the Peak Posse; they focus on the day or days of the trip. As we have been preparing for Mount Adams, I realize that climbing a mountain of this magnitude, and the story it becomes, wouldn't be complete if I didn't let it stretch out like a tomcat on a deck chair.
In my short time of climbing mountains, I have witnessed a phenomenon that I will call, "Altitude fever". It's what happens in the days and weeks that lead up to the climb. It's a fever because it builds intensity leaving the person struck by it in a deranged sort of state where thinking is muddled because the mind can't release itself from the idea of the expedition. It brings fantasy-like thoughts of standing at a place where there's not a higher place to step after fighting through wind, snow, fatigue, fear and gas pains. Why so many of us eat meals that we have never tried until we are at eight thousand feet is a mystery all its own. Then there are the thoughts of nightmare, falling and rolling down a steep section and injury occurs, getting snowed by a surprise storm, not reaching the top after all the plans. These things and many will be documented in this part of the story. For you reading this, on your deck, with a cool beverage sweating beside you, you may think this part of the story is filler until the real story starts at the foot of Mount Adams. For the Posse that will stand on the summit, the climb has already begun.
What's the big deal?
Let's take a step into the world of mountain climbing to clarify a thing or two. You may have feasted your retina's on some Mount Adams video's on Youtube and reached the conclusion that this whole thing is a big fussy bus over a mountain that doesn't deserve it. You are definitely right on one hand and oh so wrong on the other. I will admit that Adams is a non-technical mountain via the route we are choosing, the south route. Many people climb it each year, is a fact also. We won't be doing anything "special" if you want to compare us to the rest of the climbing world. I'm sure none of the travelers will argue with you on these points, but things take a drastic change when we start focusing in on the small group of adventurers hailing from Central Oregon and calling themselves the Peak Posse.
We are about to challenge ourselves with a monster of a mountain that stands over 12,000 tall. A few years ago, South Sister was a major undertaking that stretched our muscles and minds like never before. Since then, we have climbed some pretty big mountains and challenged ourselves in the dense forest of Mt Jefferson to walk where few have, Valhalla Canyon. Mt. Adams is the next step on the trail of life for these brave souls. For as many people that look at our feat as a simple scamper up a simple mountain, many others believe we are hard core in the same vein as Indiana Jones. This is no small attempt for us, it is a big deal. A mountain isn't changed by the people that climb it as much as the people are from the mountain. We will kick a rock a few feet from where it used to lay and transport some dirt down and off the mountain. My brain smiles when I put on my shoes for the first time after climbing a mountain. The dirt and small rocks that welcome my little piggies is part of the mountain. Those miniscule pieces are some of the greatest gifts that go straight away into the trash can. Mount Adams represents the Peak Posse at it's most daring, it's us on the edge of history. It's a door to what's next, just as Middle Sister was for us last year. We know it's not an attempt to summit K12, we still prepare for it, relish the idea of it, and take it as seriously as any other climber on any other mountain. The checklist isn't as long, it's still a list that needs to be checked. When we stand together on the summit, it will be the sum of individual effort for the accomplishment of a whole. This is the reason that our climb has already started, we understand that our questions, tips, and ideas will be what helps get us there. I will now crack open a door, just a little, and give you a sneaky into the world of this intimate, cool, utterly gorgeous and handsome group. Please no sudden movements or loud noises, you may freak them out.
The first thing that happens when an expedition is nearing is a group text. This has proven to be one of the most important parts of my prep. The discussion that results is educational, entertaining and valuable. I've found many times, when someone is quiet in the group, they have either huge doubts about their abililty or there's a logistical problem that is keeping them from making the trip with us. This is helpful because many times it starts a conversation that finds everyone pitching in to help out or the person backs out of the expedition. Everyone that wants to join us is welcome, it's also important to filter out the folks that don't have their heart in it at the particular time for whatever reason. The group text does this organically, it's good to hit the trail when everybody has the heart for it. An unsure mind at the beginning of the trail is not something we want packed along with us. I admire it when someone starts into the thing wanting to go and then changes their mind during the week leading up to the climb. The thought of being in that space is too much and so they choose not to visit it in reality. There is still an action toward something outside the comfort zone; next time it may result in a step on the trail. The other thing that I get confirmation of is the size of the undertaking. A climb up Mount Adams means we are going to a place we haven't experienced and we do expect it to be a good memorable time, it also carries uncertainty and that isn't a suit that many people like to wear. I would say outfit, but that reminds me of someone else dressing me, like my Mom when I was very young. I don't want to picture my Mom standing at ten thousand feet on Mount Adams with a polyester nightmare in her hands, waiting for me to ,"Try it on."
We all know that once it gets strapped on your body, it's part of the wardrobe rotation. Nobody looks good in highwaters, and when I say nobody, I mean me.
Beside the knowledge coming from the text group, there's straight up entertainment. You never know which text will light the fire, sooner or later, someone starts catching flack about something. Then it seems to stick for awhile. This keeps the mood light and helps to strenghten an already tight group.
The discussion also becomes serious at times, it's important because once we start down the trail we want everyone to have insight into what is to be expected. The facts are the facts and knowing something that doesn't sound like fun is better than meeting it face to face on the trail without prior knoweledge. Can you imagine being invited to a bbq by one of your friends only to find out once you get there that they have become timeshare sales people. That would be the beginning of a long evening that you can never get back. Facts are important, especially if they involve potential danger. We don't want to go to the gunfight at the ok corral with a squirt gun.
The last thing I will mention about our group text is how it really spreads the altitude fever. The last five days before go time, the activity picks up and each text has me thinking, "I wish we were leaving today."
It seems strange that we look forward to an event that causes pain and discomfort to the outside world. This is the very thing that binds us together before, during and after the expeditions.
We have less than two weeks now and I'm already starting to wake up in the night thinking about Mount Adams. What will the trees look like? Will there be any strange situations? How steep is the approach to Pikers' Peak. The pictures in my mind are frightening at times, others make it seem like this will be no big deal. I believe that both will be true, there will be smooth sailing and rough waters on the expedition.
There are some things that have this fact in common with mountain climbing, they are usually things that fall outside the description of normal. Mountain climbing is something that you can do with another person or even a group of people; it's still a solo undertaking. Unless someone is carrying you up the thing, each individual must confront their own fears, struggles, doubts and overcome them by themselves. The encouragement from another person is valuable and may be the difference in going up or turning around. Still the going up or turning around is the decision of each and every person. To say that we are going up as a Posse and leaving it at that, wouldn't get into the cracks and crevices of the story. Each person that ties up their boots and takes the challenge is a story of their own. Let's get to know the travelers.
Christian is the newest member of the Peak Posse. She joined us on the Grizzly Peak expedition and made easy work of it. She has the attitude, here in the low country, that bodes well for climbing a monster. She is in a great spot in the life of an adventurer, this will be her first mountain over ten thousand feet tall. No matter how many pictures you look at or videos you watch, you can't understand the awesome size, the punch in the guts intimidation a mountain like Adams holds. Every mountain that I climb gives me moments of pause. They have all put me in a spot where I must choose. Will I decide to move upward, the way of stress and strain or find the easier choice of turning around, to be my destiny? All my climbs have had me carrying these choices right there in my backpack beside my mango fruit cups. None has been more intense than my first big one, South Sister. Christian will have thoughts and her body may very well be stressed to the point of failure in the very near future. I am looking forward to how she answers the questions that Mount Adams asks her. Mountains are big piles of dirt and rocks, they aren't alive in the normal definition of the word, alive. Mount Adams is alive in an abstract, trippy way and it's about to introduce itself to Christian. Will it be a friendship for the ages or nice to meet you, have a nice life?
I'm a short guy, when I talk to somebody, I'm usually looking up. Aaron is a short guy too, but as I write this, he is at least six feet tall, in my mind. He has a persona, a projected bigness that his physical appearance tries to hide as best it can. Every time I see him, I'm always surprised that he's my height. I'm of the belief that our physical world is not the most real part of existence, we are much more. If I had to offer proof, Aaron would be a good place to start. If you have met the man, you know what I'm saying. I have spent quite a bit of time with him on the trail and have enjoyed it to the fullest. If the mountains formed a band and people were the songs they played, Aaron would be on their greatest hits cd. Mount Adams heard Aaron is coming around and it already has the perfect moment waiting for him. Will I be lurking nearby to try and catch it on video? I couldn't call myself a mountainside reporter if my answer is no. Will you ever see it? Let's see how Aaron answers that one.
Almost everything I know of Apolo, I learned on a trail. He comes and goes out of my life like a Christmas melody. I'm always glad to hear it and wonder why we can't listen to it all year round. One of the best things a person can do is surround themselves with people that love to laugh and love to make others laugh. I describe Apolo. He has a very surprising and quick wit. I say surprising because when we are in moments of challenge and many people are starting to let their complainers let loose, Apolo will say something that is so ordinary yet out a place funny or comical. In the midst of watching him struggle, his internal dialogue makes its' way to our external world. Climbing a mountain can be extremely hard on a body and mind, it can beat you. It makes you, beat you. The closeness to total defeat it presents, is beautiful. When we are all sucking wind and our legs are feeling like watered down ranch dressing, Apolo will take a second out of his misery to bless us with something, something good. It'll make those around him laugh. When I heard he was signing up for this expedition, I started humming a Christmas tune.
Vivian is the next. She is a traveler that makes us better. Addition by subtraction. Where some of the Posse are outspoken and, dare I say, loud. Vivian is quiet and not loud. It's the quiet people that hold the most mystery. She has been on every Trio expedition, it would be very strange to not see her within the group. If you watch our Trio mini movies, you'll see her there; constantly moving. I haven't heard her complain once on these adventures, and she has been in some serious places with the Posse. It cannot be overstated how good it is to have her on the trail. She is the constant calm that counteracts the high's and lows that other personalities possess. Don't think that she is some kind of robot mountain climbing lady, she has a great sense of humor that I'm starting to see more and more of on the trail. Sometimes I get the feeling that we are like a live play that she gets to watch while in the midst of cool places.
If Vivian is the calm sea that reflects the moonlight like a mirror, Tyler is a tsunami of uncertainty. Meaning I can't be certain of what he's going to be saying or doing at any given moment. He was with the first group on South Sister and if you've read the story, you know what I'm talking about. The only Trio expedition that he has been on is the first one, Mt Mcloughlin. It was snowy up on the ridge leading to the summit and Tyler struggled. He is afraid of heights. The last five hundred feet to the summit was steep, the summit was a spine of snow. It is the most challenging mountain I've been on. Once I made the summit, I looked back down, thinking Tyler would be hanging out waiting for us to come down. Nope, he was crawling his way up the crux of the climb, scared out of his skin. That's scared of heights Tyler, the other Tyler is loud, braggy and borderline obnoxious. Borderline, in that he's past the border into obnoxious already. Now, you may say I'm being mean to a man that can't defend himself. When Tyler reads this, he will be proud, happy about what I just wrote. He's the guy in movies that loves to be hated, he goes out of his way to keep his title of dude you don't want to root for. Mount Adams is sure to have Tyler swinging from one extreme to the other and he would have it no other way. He will make this expedition colorful, you won't have to look for him in the movie, he will make sure of that.
Joseph could very well be the poster dude of the Peak Posse. Come to think of it, he is. The little dude on our logo is Joseph. Like Vivian, he has completed all the Trio expeditions. When I think about the travelers that are joining each adventure and see Joseph's name, I don't have any concerns. We have tough times on these expeditions, it's part of the reason we do it, to see what it's like to exist in them. Joseph communicates ideas and solutions if they are needed, he interacts well; he is comfortable chilling in the group as well. I asked him if he was going to join the Adams expedition and he texted back that he wasn't. It was strange thought, to think of him not being there when we see what the top of the mountain looks like, was foreign to me. He quickly texted me back and said his answer, no, was a pocket dial. How weird would it be to have the dude on the logo not be one of the dudes on the trail. Joseph doesn't say many things that I'd describe as poetic. It's not in his nature. One of the coolest things I have read in a long time, is from Joseph. After he confirmed he was joining this expedition he sent me this beauty of a text, "I would climb mountains to climb that mountain (Mount Adams) with you guys."
Joseph, you can add to your resume that you are a poet, a creator of artistic words.
The next two guys that will be on the side of Adams with us are good examples of how a mountain climb is much more than what it seems. They both were on the first South Sister climb; they both failed to reach the summit. You must understand all that the last sentence entails. When you have individuals that aren't about giving up, reaching a place that makes them do just that, is a hardcore place. The cool thing about their stories is what has happened since that day.
Jose told me, when he was on South Sister, his legs stopped working. He wanted them to function, they didn't. I felt a little of that on the first expedition but it wasn't to the point that my legs stopped working. I can't relate to it in it's absolute sense. After the whole thing was in the past, he told me that he had zero interest in climbing another mountain. It was my surprise last year, when the time came to form our group for Middle Sister, Jose signed up. Middle is six miles longer and harder to climb than it's biggest Sister. Jose made it and went on to Posse fame in Valhalla Canyon. He hasn't missed a Trio expedition since. There's a mystery that surrounds Jose, here it is. Any time someone asks me who is going on the bigger expeditions and I start listing the names. When I say Jose, people say, "Jose is going?"
The next thing that happens is they draw the conclusion that either the expedition isn't that tough or that Jose won't be able to make it. I assure them that they are wrong on both opinions. Jose is made of good stuff. I watched this man fail on the side of a mountain, let it defeat him for a moment. The defeat got down into his guts and wrenched around, it caused his soul to have indigestion. You can't buy a tums for this kind of belly ache. You cure it with determination, try, and being willing to put yourself into that same space that the defeat lives in. If you know Jose and think that it's unbelievable when you hear that he climbs big mountains, you don't know Jose. Plus he has a great personality that begs to be in the Posse mini movies.
Keegan also failed to reach the summit of South Sister. He also had to deal with the after affect of the whole thing. The next nine months was impressive. Keegan made it his goal to get into shape so that he could make that climb. Month after month went by and he kept his focus. He had a plan and he executed it. Keegan also has chronic problems with his knees and back. I have given him the title as the youngest old man I know. Last year on Middle Sister, he was right with me all the way to the top. Two weeks later, with a backpack full and heavy, he pitched his tent on the top of South Sister. One of my favorite memories, of the Peak Posse, was when he reached touched the summit of South Sister in the middle of the night. It was exactly one year, to the day, since he had to stop and turn around on the same mountain. With Jose and Keegan, they chose to use a thrashing as a step up. Really, it wasn't defeat at all. A defeat is only inherently permanent in sports, in real life, it's a fork in the road.
Keegan and I share the same love for mountains. We like the idea, the sight, and the experience of them. We are mountain bros. When I told him that I was nominating Mount Adams in hopes of it making as part of the Trio, we got all happy and giggly. The thought of climbing on it, for us, is like telling your kids they get to go to the fair and play the games and ride the rides.
One last piece of the story. Last week, Keegan threw his back out working on a block wall. He had to use trekking poles as crutches to get around his house. I saw him yesterday and he is still walking gingerly. When the convoy leaves for Mount Adams, he will be a part of it.
Me, I'm the Peak Posse Mountainside reporter. I get the fun of living the whole thing and then the challenge of telling the story in a way that compares to the real deal.
So, here we go. A whole bunch of stuff, history, planning, preparing the body and mind, all of it, is about to converge on a big old mountain in Washington. Will Tyler be able to overcome a serious fear of heights and the steep snow covered slopes? Will Christian have a new mountain BFF or will she find the low country and leave the high altitude for the next person? What about Jose? Will he continue his victory tour at 12,280 feet? Will Keegans back keep him from the snowy peak? What will Apolo say up there and will it be because of the altitude or the pain or his brain that follows a different set of sheet music? What will Aaron and Vivian do if Joseph brings a harp in his pack and while he plays it, waxes poetic, words and music so floaty and beautiful that they will lift and carry us to the top of Mount Adams? Woah.
The climb has begun on an unseen level. Soon, boots will be making a very real mark in the dirt of Mount Adams. If our boots make the same signature in the snow at the top, we might just have to have a dance party up there.
Please allow me the space here at the end, to thank the Good Lord, Jesus, for letting me climb on his mountain.
The Trio expeditions have begun. Grizzly Peak was first on the list for us and it was perfect sauce for getting us started. Here are a few stats for you before we get into the good stuff.
* 75 miles from Redmond Oregon
* Pamelia Lake is on the way to the summit
* Trail is 6 miles each way
* Difficulty on a scale of 1-10, 3
* Great views of Mt. Jefferson
* Permit required and can be obtained at recreation.gov
* Parking pass also required
* Part of the Trio for 2020
We had to split this expedition into two groups, the permits are hard to come by. The first group was a fine selection of Posse elite with Aaron, Christian, Joseph, Vivian, Maya, Bryant, Lindsay, Blake and myself included. We set out at the early hour of five am from the Redmond High parking lot. I have to say that the sleepy eyed travelers were probably still in the middle of a dream when we met up. This was true of both expeditions. The morning wasn't doing us any favors and we weren't welcoming it like a fourth of July parade either.
I'm going to mash these two expeditions together. The second group was Jose, Kaitlin, Drew, Keegan, Kenly, Alexis, Chris, Scot and myself. It would have been cool to slam everyone in together, alas, it was not meant to be.
The drive from Redmond to the trailhead was quick. The turn off to Pamelia road that leads to the trail is 11 miles East of Detroit, can't miss it. The rain was misting down on us both days, nothing to get your drawers soaked, a nice Disney mist.
The first two miles to Pamelia Lake are easy ones; a creek welcomed us and at the first sight of it, we all started collecting our photos. It's cool how flowing water seen over and over keeps us captivated. The constant movement is a physical demonstration of our lives; the hours, days and weeks that move us from thumb suckers to paying too much for a cheap car suckers.
We had a number of firsts on the trail, a toddler, baby and some teenagers joined us. Joseph and Bryant win the packmule award; they packed their kids up the mountain. This is a good place to visit if you have younger travelers in your group.
We made Pamelia lake in no time and the only people on the trail was us. We did see some others at the lake camping and milling about. From the lake to the top of the mountain, the trail was ours. It gets moderately steep in places; nothing to serious. Aaron informed us the day before the first trip that it was hike naked day, I can report that we didn't see any nakedness on the trail. I didn't think we would, one never knows when in Oregon though. Aren't we all naked all the time underneath our clothes?
A straight forward path is a good thing sometimes. You can let the easiness of the trail create easy conversation, that's just what we did. How long can a discussion about the proper name for the two end pieces of bread last? We made it about a half mile on that one. No conclusion was reached, it's either the butt or the heel. Keegan came up with the Alpha and the Omega, I like that one. So we talked along and enjoyed a nice stroll in the beauty of our State.
A few things to note are the many logs that are laying across the trail. None of them were of any consequence, just logs doing what logs do. After Pamelia Lake, we came to an outlet stream, on the first trip, we had to find a rock skipping spot to make our way across. A week later, during the second go around, the stream was empty. I was also surprised how quickly the lake dropped. It has emptied out faster than the cupboards in a house full of teenagers.
I rated this trail a three on the difficulty scale. It really should be a bit lower, the distance is the only factor that made me go with the three. The "steep" part is not a good use of the word. It's a nice, meandering trail that gently makes it's way to the summit of Grizzly. Twelve miles of walking may prove to be a bit long for some hikers. We all agreed that it was a great expedition to get the Trio season kicked off. Beyond the lake the trail is cut into the hillside. At times, it's kind of narrow and it adds to the ambience of the place. It's almost like making your own way through an enchanted forest. We were looking down a steep hill when Jose turned around and looked up. Wow, the rock formation set our imaginations ablaze. Jose and Kaitlin said it looked like something out of the movie Frozen. I will take their word for it, as I haven't seen it, I will say this, Jose is a character, I never thought of him as a cartoon character. He was talking about the gel in his hair early on in the hike. I can see him as a Johnny Bravo kind of cartoon now that I approach the subject.
One of my favorite spots was where the foliage overgrew on the trail. We had to duck and walk, still as we hit the leaves, they released little drops of water, a high mountain shower. The morning was cold, the droplets were cold. We let Drew go first and we could hear as the water introduced itself to the backside of his neck. The first trip, Bryant had his son Blake in a backpack. As he walked through the leaves, the water made it's home on the top of Blake's head. He was not amused.
The trail was eroded away in places, footing was still good but a slip down the hillside would have been no laughing matter. There are places where the incline is pretty steep. The first mile above the lake was my favorite part of the expedition. A waterfall, with the trail right at the base of it, was another highlight on the trail. If you are looking for a fun day trip close to Central Oregon, Grizzly Peak is a good choice. Alexis said he will most likely visit this area again, this was his first mountain climbed.
The star of this show isn't a prince or princess, it's a beauty and a beast, Mt. Jefferson. The views along the way and especially from the summit are really spectacular of the Jefferson. On the first trip, we spent some time at the summit, eating and relaxing. I was really captivated by this mountain. It's a giant and it's steep. It's like the kid you knew growing up that was bad to the bone. He didn't have to try to be who he was, he was scary in his DNA. Mt. Jefferson was inviting me to a beatdown, I'm going to climb on that mountain one day. We talked about the route we would take and everyone of them looked fierce. Totally cool.
Unfortunately the clouds rolled in and stayed on the second expedition. If there's anybody that I wanted to see experience the awesomeness of Jefferson from the summit of Grizzly Peak, it's Keegan. We have the same kind of obsession with mountains. Mountains are our scary movies.
I asked Chris if he would climb mount Jefferson and in a casual, laid back manner he said, "Yeah, I'd climb that."
Chris is a sneaky, adventurer. His calm manner hides the heart of a hardcore traveler. His first mountain was an eighteen mile, serious affair last summer, Middle Sister. The whole time, he was in business mode. If he was afraid or ever thought of turning back, I didn't see it. I imagine on some of our difficult trips, I'll look over and see him there. It came as no surprise when asked if he would climb Mt. Jefferson that his answer was the same as if I asked him to grab some lunch at Taco Bell. Although, I'm not sure which of the two is the more dangerous. My lower intestine would say it's the mass produced bean product.
The two groups were very different. The first was more of a couples outing, young love was swirling around like the cold artic blast at the peak of Mount Jefferson. The second was Father/Daughter, Father/son, with a few random dudes thrown in. One of the randoms, beside myself, was the oldest person to embark on a Posse Trio expedition, Scot. I didn't get to talk with him much on the trail, he was up in the front blazing away. Talk about business, I wouldn't have been ataken back at all if he started handing out business cards up there. Scot's no hassle, lead you up a mountain in no time, guide service.
Pamelia Lake is a cold thing. It's what makes it therapeutic. It was warmer on the first trip, we took advantage and jumped in to let the healing begin. About twenty feet from the shore was an old log, floating. We made our way out onto it and then blasted into the cold stuff waiting on the other side. From having my pack on for a number of hours, when I came up out of the water, my upper back and neck went into cramp down. It was freaky, my head was pulled to the left as the muscles contracted. After a minute or so, the muscles released and I have to say, I felt pretty good. If you're one that lives vicariously through the journeys of the Posse, this is one of those things that you have to experience for yourself, it's great. Jumping into a mountain lake takes away all the worries of the day and leaves you with the spirit of a teenager. The water running down our faces, the laughing and giggling when one of the group disappeared underneath the surface, then screaming out as the lake welcomed them to a simple moment of joy. The combination of nice people in a wild setting is something I recommend you do as often as possible.
The second trip was overcast and chilly, Drew was the only one of us brave enough to enjoy the lake in full body contact. Most were happy to dip their feet in and watch Drew.
The Posse is growing and it's good to see new faces on the trail. Lindsay and Christian fit right in. It's cool to see how easily a person can show up and become a part of the Posse. The youngsters that climbed their first mountain, were polite and ready for the challenge. Thanks for getting up early, Kaitlin and Kenly, hopefully this is the first of many expeditions for you. If you ever find that sweet someone that adds frosting to your life, before you let your heart make choices for your brain, invite them to climb a mountain with you. You will come down off that thing with a clear vision of just who you are about to hitch your wagon to. That free advice is applicable to adults as well, you're welcome.
My conclusion of grizzly peak
Grizzly Peak is a great place to visit if you're in the market for a nice hike with great scenery and views of Mt. Jefferson. Pamelia lake would make for a nice camping spot and base camp of sorts for a summit attempt of the beast, I might opt for a camp a little higher myself. The trail conditions are good, it is eroding in spots where the hill is a little steeper, This doesn't pose any sort of danger. Kids will be able to make the climb as well as the less hardcore among your friends and family. The summit is big enough that a group of ten can stretch out and enjoy snacks and maybe a short mountain nap. Don't get too carried away with the snoozing or they may have to rename it Grizzzzzzzzly Peak. If asked about a nice place to visit, I will recommend Grizzly Peak.
Now, fellow travelers, we must turn our attention farther North. A place that my ancestors called, Washington. A very big bundle of trees and dirt and snow and fun and more hair gel awaits. Mount Adams is the next stop in our Trio expeditions. I have a strong feeling in the back of my mind that this one will rate a little higher than three on the difficulty scale.
Here are the video's of our time at Grizzly Peak.
The trio is complete
The Valhalla Canyon expedition was the third and final destination for the Posse Trio. The adventure started on the last day of August. We piled into the vehicles and headed for Detroit, Oregon. We stopped and had our fill of greasy food at the Detroit store and anxiously talked about the upcoming event. One of the big hitting topics was backpacks; Aaron has a scale and he weighed our packs. Joseph was in the low twenties while Apolo came in at forty pounds! That was enough to get the crew buzzing. Apolo emptied his pack and was very gracious as suggestions about what to take and what to leave filled the air. It was fun. The items he had in the pack were varied and random. My mind is fuzzy on everything, I believe there was a rubber ducky and a boat anchor. I kid of course. We all were laughing and enjoying the moment. The comradery on Posse expeditions is well worth the sweat and pain endured on the trail. When it was all finished, Apolo's pack was right around thirty pounds.
It's really weird to think that only twenty some miles from Detroit is a very remote, secluded place. So close, yet a whole other kind of world. If you are reading this in hopes of visiting Valhalla, let me throw down some facts. There's no trail. It is very steep and rugged. Cell reception is non-existent. Any small twist of an ankle or crack on your skull has the potential to become a big problem. You are on your own out there. I'm not trying to talk you out of Valhalla. I'm saying, be prepared. The travelers on the expedition were just that. Aaron was our leader in and out of the canyon. He had been there before. Second in command was Dustin. They prepared us for what lay ahead. Somewhat prepared. I say that because what I was picturing in my head wasn't what reality dished up. It's like when you go out dancing and think you're really putting on some moves, when in reality, the display is like a peg legged pirate dancing on a skating rink. The words they used to describe the conditions were accurate my brain movie was not. Enough of the intro; let's journey into Valhalla Canyon.
secluded and remote
We parked along Forest Service Road 4220 and made final preparations. Still excited, yet something more was swirling about. A tone of seriousness, heaviness was present. When you have a trail to follow, there's a clear cut way in and out. No trail, creates an atmosphere of adventure. We started out making our way beside a pond. Two minutes in, the sight of the road or any man made thing was gone. The vegetation was thick beside the pond; it soon changed to trees. The going was slow. Talking about the expedition later, Joseph mentioned that he didn't like how we would stomp and climb over things for quite awhile, then turn around to see we made little progress in the way of distance. The first neat part of the trip was a boulder field situated on a fairly steep hill. After that the terrain became only steeper and more and more fallen trees to navigate.
Once we reached the stream we would follow to our campsite, the going was real slow. The water was swift and there were obstacles all over the place. There really was no bank beside the thing. Dustin took the water route, he used the stream as his trail. The rest of us decided to stay out of the water. Jose later made the point that we should've all been in the water. We had the gear for it, yet we skirted along the edge the whole way to camp. I was following Apolo, and he slipped and fell hard on the rocks. If not for his backpack to break his fall, he may have jacked himself up real good. That was a reality check for me. Any injury can become a major thing in a remote setting. An extra level of focus is needed on a trip to Valhalla Canyon. The scene was really something else. At one point I felt like I was in a jungle. A far cry from an alpine mountain. The whole trip was a sensory sensation.
I mentioned earlier about the laser focus and the need for it. We were nearing our camp location and I stepped on a slick area. Instantly, I was on my butt. My pack padded my fall. Gravity takes over quickly. I was glad when we reached camp. We had traveled only a few miles; it took it's toll. Mountains are difficult because you travel up and then up some more. This was difficult in other ways. The obstacles and the water, the steepness of the terrain. Valhalla Canyon would claim a pound of flesh in one way or another. Two weeks after the trip, Aaron showed me his shins. They looked like a couple feral cats all cheezed up on catnip had jumped in his sleeping bag with him. My legs and arms were scratched too; I had bruises on my knees and arms from flopping around in the forest and creek. The others also paid the price with injuries. More on that to come. This kind of travel was new to most of us. Yet, the whole time everybody was happy and enjoying the experience. Come to think of it, beside our first trip up South Sister, the Peak Posse isn't a complaining group. Could be that we complained enough that day to last a lifetime.
We gave each other trail names on this expedition. Some were names already acquired, others were born enroute to Valhalla. It started when Dustin kept having issues with a compass. It seemed natural that he be called, North. Jose repeatedly requested no low trees to crawl under. He was named Too Tall. Since he was indeed the tallest of the bunch at a mighty five foot ten inches, we named the expedition, "Valhalla and the seven dwarfs"
Not super original, still fun. Vivian was Swede, Apolo was Instagram, Joseph was Karma. Named that because a conversation we had where he said he didn't believe in it. Aaron is Tonka and I'm Billy Goat. Trail names are used on the trail. There is an unspoken code that says you don't use them in the land of the living. It's funny what we consider living, isn't it? Many people spend their downtime motionless and quiet. Interacting with screens is our mode of operation. Once you get into a spot where cell service fails, a nice feeling of freedom floats over you. We spent the afternoon lounging and munching on food. It was a bit weird because we would check the time and it seemed like it was moving so slow; we didn't have anywhere to go but we were restless. I believe it was because time was moving us toward the next morning. The slog up the creek to the canyon was a big question mark. We wanted night to arrive; we didn't want the night to arrive. We trapped ourselves in a time dilemma and time got freaked out and slowed down. Can I prove it scientifically? No, Bigfoot can. Soon night did fall and we scuddled into our tents.
The gates of valhalla
Let me start this section by giving mad props to Dustin. He had been to the canyon before and he maneuvered us through the maze of log jams, thick brush and slick rocks like a pro. We left camp and made our way a mile up the creek. The banks on each side were steep and as we approached Valhalla the sides closed in. Most of that mile was spent in the water. Slippery rocks are one thing; slippery rocks with a thirty pound pack is another. Your weight and balance are thrown out of wack. It's as if I'm walking through a banana store carrying a prize bunch of banana's when all the sudden an escaped monkey from the zoo climbs up my back and starts peeling my shirt like a banana. Curious George on a mean streak. I was slipping and flapping my way up the creek. I felt like an old hobbit with my helmet on with my baggy waterproof pants and jacket. The others looked all sleak and cool. Not really. We all had a special fashion statement going on. That made the expedition feel different. It gave it a fun vibe. We couldn't take ourselves too seriously dressed as we were. So our group, which is always corny and giggly was dressed corny and giggly but acting more serious than other expeditions. The balance was maintained. I really started to get a sense of togetherness during this part of the trip. It was there the day before, more intense now. The initial anxiousness of forging up the creek was gone; a building excitement for the Gates of Valhalla took it's place. A mountain is open and the feeling is expansive. In the creek and then the Canyon, it was confining. Everything was wet and green. The constant sound of the creek, was like a confession being whispered in my ear during a heavy metal concert. I felt some unease being in that place. We were allowed in a private spot for a temporary visit. Barely welcomed, tolerated visitors. I didn't feel unsafe though; I did feel alone. Not alone physically, of course, it was the spirit of the place. Alone is not a negative thing; sometimes being alone is the best place to be. A mountain allows everyone to see it. Valhalla is the opposite of that. Therein lies the beauty of this place.
From the pictures, the creek looks small and harmless. For the most part, it was, some places, it was pretty swift. The log jams were tense at times. A slip and fall could end badly on a log jam. The creek had mood swings. One second, calm and cool. The next, raging like a kid that just had his xbox controller taken from him. The water that was swirling around our legs had been in Valhalla and now we were approaching. The final obstacle was the biggest log jam of them all. Climbing over it, I was taken back by the force the little creek must posses during spring meltdown. There are some giant trees being bullied by the water during the melt. My mind took me to that spot during the spring thaw. Fear gripped me. All that water forced inside a little canyon would be fierce. I was standing there, and even though the water wasn't at that state, I could sense it's merciless nature. Heavy. I have to admit that by the time we reached Valhalla, I had enough of stumbling through the creek.
When we reached the Gates of Valhalla, it seemed surreal. It was like being in a picture. The place was unassuming, the water moved through it as it has for hundreds upon hundreds of years. Not many people have stood there. That thought entered my head. That's not what makes it different, special. Humans don't give or take the essence of a place like this. Even if thousands saw it every year, it would still be cool. I picture Valhalla as it is now or as it was the minutes before we rounded the corner to first see it. It was not changed then or now by us being there. I was and still am changed by it. Sitting here typing this story, a part of me is still standing in the water, green all around. My memory isn't static, it's alive. Imagine reaching down and picking up a rock from the creek. The cold water entombs your hand. The slippery texture of the rock makes your grip tighten around it. For those of us that made the trip to the canyon that day, we can go back to Valhalla riding on a memory. It's the gift that special places give us.
When I go out into the wilderness with the Posse, I learn things about myself and also about my fellow travelers. This expedition was no exception. The journey out of Valhalla was something else. It was so intense that I had to put off writing this tale for a few months because standing in the canyon was insignificant in my short term memory compared to the events that took place on the way home. I had to let the dust settle on this whole thing.
We made our way back down the creek 'bout an eighth of a mile. Then we lost the water sandals and donned our trail shoes. From there, it was steep terrain to reach a flatter section of forest. Standing at the creek you could see a rocky section just underneath a cliff. The goal was to climb up to the bottom of the cliff, skirt around to the left and continue up in a very steep valley. It was much steeper than the route into the canyon. The reason for a different route out was to be able to get above the canyon and walk along the edge and see some of it that was inaccessible from inside. Aaron had prepared us for the steepness and had a rope for the steepest areas. It kept getting steeper and steeper. As we entered the valley, we started to fan out to find the best route up. This was the first time that I realized that to get to the top would require putting ourselves in harms way. Jose and I moved to the left and upward, it looked promising. A very steep, dirt slope that made its' way onto a ridge. It was steep and the handholds were roots and branches. Jose continued more left and I climbed straight upwards. Above us, it turned into basically a dirt cliff. Aaron and Dustin stayed to the right, in fact Dustin was already at the top of the climb. He had made it without a rope. It did look promising initially moving toward the left. Hindsight said we should have followed Aaron. As Jose and I moved upward, Apolo, Vivian and Joseph followed. I kept climbing, hoping, I was past the crux of the thing. I was wishful thinking. It kept getting more and more dangerous. By the time I realized I was in a bad spot, I had been in a bad spot for quite some time. It's intriguing how quickly things go from good to bad. It's mental more than anything. I was at a point where I could go no higher. Believe me, I tried different routes. It was here that I almost lost my grip and was about to take a serious ride down a very mean, steep slide. It was unnerving. Apolo, Joseph and Vivian had changed course and followed Aaron.
I was keeping tabs with Jose. I couldn't see him, he was on the opposite side of the ridge. We were talking in short sentences to each other. Plus the others were checking up on us with yells. making sure we were ok. This communication was invaluable to me. After I had my near fall, I was shaken up. The Posse asking me if I was ok and my having to reply helped calm me back down for the descent back to the other route.
As I started down, which was more difficult than up. Jose popped up on the ridge to my left and above me. I'm not sure if it was me projecting my fear; it seemed he was pretty shaken up, by the sound of his voice. I don't know what he encountered to make him turn around, if it was similar to what I had ran into, I understand why he would be fearful. He thought he could take the ridge and reach the top. It was really very close, thirty to fifty vertical feet. He felt coming back down to me was a tougher proposition than going up. The ridge was very narrow. A few feet. It was dirt and loose. As I watched him move upward and saw the looseness of everything around him, I felt a dread. If he slipped, he would be seriously injured at best. His fall down to me would be thirty feet of sheer cliff. Then hundreds of feet of very steep tumbling. I started to get a bit shaky. I had made it down past the steepest section and was resting, and watched Jose. At the steepest section, he reached up for a handhold and it crumbled in his hand. I said, "Don't try to go up, you have to come down." It was agony watching him downclimb. He reached a spot right across from me. Just below him was a drop and between us was steep terrain with no handholds. I'm not sure how he did it, he made it look easy. He traversed over to where I was. I felt relieved. By this time, the others had all made it to the top. The whole time they kept asking how we were doing. We made our way to the right. Aaron was waiting with the rope for us. If we had just followed Aaron, everything would have been so much easier. I already said that, I know, thinking about that day again makes me see so clearly the mistake made.
We climbed up and stood on the trunks of some trees. It was so steep that as the trees grew, they went outward at an angle and then grew up toward the sky. This makes for a nice place to stand, rest. Aaron was directly across from me waiting with the rope. In between us was twenty feet of steep dirt, with a few roots for hand and footholds. I was uncomfortable with the situation. I felt like I would slip trying to get over to where he was. Doubt was living inside.
We were again, thirty to fifty feet from the top. I asked if I could have them pull my pack up using the rope so I could make the climb without it. I attached the rope to the pack and they pulled it up. It was a relief to have thirty less pounds pulling me backward.
As Dustin was pulling my pack up, a rock close to the top dislodged. I heard him yell, Rock!" I was looking above Aaron and the rock was moving very fast in the short distance it had traveled. I thought it would head in my direction but move downward before reaching Jose and myself. I was wrong. I watched it go by Aaron and it bounced off the ground directly in front of me. The only way I can describe it, a death fly-by. The rock flew past me about chest level. I didn't have time to turn my head to see it travel down the hill, I heard Jose scream out in pain. The rock had hit his knee. Thankfully he didn't get knocked off his spot and take a mad tumble down. We were all so fortunate that this didn't end much differently. Someone could have not come down from that mountain that day.
My first thought after the rock hit Jose was how to get him down to safer, more level ground. The size and speed at which it was moving, had caused serious injury, so I thought. After a few moments, Jose was able to stand and bend his knee! When the rock hit him, he must have rolled with the punch, so to speak, and the damage was minimized.
Once we determined he could go on up, we saw a route that took us straight up rather than to the right and up toward Aaron. Without the pack, it was easy for me. Then Jose made his way to the top as well. What was a hairy situation, ended as quickly as it began as we stood on level ground. I thank God that we were safe. Clear sailing lay before us all the way to the trailhead. Clear as a small boat called the minnow as it set out on a three hour tour.
We were all very happy now. A few miles of victory hiking and we would be at the vehicles. Jose was limping, but moving. The relief that we were floating on was taking us on a whimsical journey. We were all talking about the climb from our own point of view. I was very impressed with how we all kept a very positive attitude on the trail. The whole thing had tired me out. I came down off the adrenalin high. We still had miles to cover and the setting was still as remote as ever. It didn't take long and we were in the middle of another situation. Have you ever started eating some very tasty food and once you get into the belly groove you keep stuffing and gorging? You finally reach a point when you stop for a second to unbutton your pants; you realize that the hours coming up are going to be uncomfortable, to say the least. You have gone and pigged yourself out to the max. As you sit or lay in agony, you think, never again will I put my skin and bones through this kind of punishment. We were past the appetizer and on to one of the main courses on the road home.
I was walking alongside Apolo, when all the sudden he grabs my arm and pulls me to the right. "Run, it's bees!" That's when I start running and noticed that Vivian and Joseph up ahead were doing a mix of running and some kind of strange trail dancing. Joseph tells me that he's not a dancer; the moves he was putting on amongst those trees makes me believe differently. There was jumping and slapping and screaming. I was running still, thought I had cleared the danger zone. I felt a fire light on the lower left side of my back. "They got me!" I screamed out. Not really. I wish I had. That would've been dramatic and cool. Instead I started doing my own slap dance. It was more fun watching Joseph shake his groove thing, less painful too. Those yellow jacket stings keep on burning. Come to think of it, they kind of look like feisty little Michael Jacksons. It's the jacket that gives them that vibe. No wonder they inspire dancing. I wouldn't be surprised if they have Beat it playing on their little boom boxes down inside their nests. They sing along, "Beat it, beat it, here comes a human let's sting it." Vicious things!
Dustin was in the front at the time and he escaped the wrath. Joseph, Vivian, Apolo and myself, took the brunt of the onslaught. Joseph got the worst of it. A sting on his hand made it swell up almost to the point of elephant man. It took days for his hand to return to normal. He found out he is allergic. It could have been really bad if he was highly allergic. We were miles from help and no cell service. Again we were fortunate that this didn't turn into a serious problem.
One thing that I still haven't figured out, but have a good guess. After we all cleared the nest, Aaron comes sauntering through the "kill zone" unharmed. What! I believe that when they saw him, one of the them said, "Hey! Here comes another one. Let's get him!"
One of the others' said, "No man, that's Tonka, he's cool. He's cool."
Did I see Aaron High fiving some of those Michael Jackets as he went by? Maybe I did, maybe I didn't.
So we are on the other side of the stingfest and everybody is joking and moving along. I can't tell you how important that was. We were all getting tired, Jose had a knee that was swelling and Joseph was dealing with his stings. For the group to band together and collectively keep a positive attitude was a testament to the character of the individuals. It's a good thing, we weren't in the clear just yet.
We arrived at a huge, steep, boulder field. Again, there were cliffs at the top of the thing. We started up and just as before it became steeper and steeper. It was a replay of the scene we had already been in. I sure didn't want to relive it, we decided to go back down and find another route up. It was here that we had to do something you never want to do on an expedition. One of the group separated from the rest of us. Dustin had no choice, he was up ahead and, sure enough the route became a climb on a cliff. We couldn't see him, there were trees blocking our field of vision. We could communicate with him. He was unable to climb down safely, the plan was he would make the top, then follow the cliff line to the right. We would go down and right, find an easier way up and meet at the top. The separation happened.
We trudged our way down and then prodded over the boulder field, looking for a favorable way up. It was afternoon, being on the exposed rock was draining. Our conversation died down. We all withdrew into ourselves a bit. The whole thing had taken it's toll on us. The size of the climb before us was substantial. Still, no complaining. As we made our way into tree cover and out of the rock field, Joseph was walking with me. It was steep again. We started talking about water. I had very little. Jose and Apolo were out and Aaron had some, not a lot. I may be wrong on Aaron's supply, it's what I believe he had. Joseph and Vivian had the most and they gave a very good amount to Jose and Apolo. It was Joseph who brought the topic up with me. He was looking out for the group. Very cool.
We finally made it to the top of the climb, it was a doozy. I was in the lead by quite a margin. I couldn't see the others, we were yelling back and forth. I wanted to see if this route made it to the top without having to climb a cliff. If we had to turn back again, I didn't want the rest of the group to waste the energy only to turn around. Thankfully, we were able to walk up, no rope required. When I yelled down to them that I was at the top, I could tell it lifted their spirits. It sure lifted mine. Some good news.
The bad news, no Dustin to meet us. I downed the remainder of my water and as the rest of the group made the top, we rested. We decided the best plan would be to get everyone to the cars, hopefully Dustin would be waiting for us there. We were still an hour and a half to the cars and we were tired out. It wasn't long before we came upon a small creek. For a few moments I thought, " I don't want to take off my pack and filter water, too tired."
It felt like my soul had been put in a wringer and wrung out. It was sloshing around in the bottom of the mop bucket. So what took only a few minutes to fill my bottle, was seen as a chore. Being in a challenging situation let's you understand how easily it is to make dumb choices, or at the least have dumb thoughts. That fresh water was good. Good for my body and good for my sloshy soul.
As we made our way out the mood was heavy. We kept calling out for Dustin and Aaron was blowing a whistle, still no response. I had thoughts of Dustin lying there all broken up from a fall or even worse. It wasn't all morbid thoughts. I believed he would be at the cars when we arrived too. We had already had two serious incidents on the way out, this last one was making me consider things a person doesn't want to have to. All the joy from this trip had been sucked right out of me on a very short trip out of the canyon. We had covered only a few miles. This was the first time I had met Dustin. Aaron and him have been friends for years, Aaron was very heavy of heart. We topped yet another hill and found that the road to the cars was still a bit away. I could feel a drop in our moods as we stood on a plateau and looked out across the forest. The best thing to do in a situation like that is keep on moving. That's exactly what we did.
We climbed over more rocks and pushed our way through thick trees and still no road. No Dustin. When the road did appear, it was suddenly. Thick forest, wow, here's the road. Aaron took off ahead of us to see if his friend was at the cars, chillin'. When we reached them, Dustin was not there to meet us.
Aaron was already in his truck. He would drive up the road and see if he ran into him, while the rest of us piled into Joseph's truck. We would make it to Detroit and call search and rescue. It was already past five pm.
One thing I have to mention. About thirty minutes from the cars, my phone started ringing. It was my wife. I was able to talk to her and then the others used my phone to call family. Those calls helped us out. Nobody mentioned that Dustin was missing. Maybe we thought that by not talking about it, it was going to be ok. Once somebody outside the group knew, it became different. It would be more real. It would start to affect the world outside of our group.
Jose's knee was swollen up and Joseph's hand was swelling too. That wasn't the concern on our minds. Night was only hours away and one of the group was unaccounted for. We were living in one of the worst outcomes of a foray into the wilderness. Again I thought about what Dustin was dealing with. The drive to Detroit was the longest 20 miles ever.
At the Detroit store, I called 911. Soon I was talking with a search and rescue officer. He gathered details and told us to hold tight; he would be with us in twenty minutes. I went inside the store to get a snack. Joseph bursted in the door of the store as I waited in line and told me that Dustin had called Jose. Snap and smile, that's the news we wanted to hear. When I had went into the store, everyone was somber. Rejoining them outside, we were one happy bunch. The officer arrived and we told him the news. He wanted to speak with Dustin personally on the phone before he was satisfied. We asked him questions about his job and experiences he's had. He talked about the area we had been in. He said it's so remote and the terrain is such that when they have to do a search there, outside agencies better equipped than the local office are called in. Plus it's not a matter of hiking in, a command center of sorts is formed and then the search begins. This means that in most cases, the lost person or persons are looking at an overnight stay. Something to keep in mind if you ever visit a back country spot.
When Aaron arrived with Dustin, it was a great reunion. Hugging and laughing. What started out the day before in the parking lot of the Detroit store, ended there. Thankfully we were just as happy when it was all said and done as when we started out...
Thank God we made it out in one piece.
I didn't mention Vivian and Apolo much in this story. These two were straight up business during this whole thing. I could see them struggling on the way out, but they kept truggling along. When you struggle but don't let it get to you, you are truggling. In case you were wondering. Vivian loved this expedition and Apolo was up for what came his way. This was only his second Posse adventure and he has become a fixture already. His sense of humor and willingness to listen to the more experienced members, makes him a great trailmate.
At the end of this story is a video of our trip to the Canyon. Here's some bonus footage of the voyage home.
The most important lesson I learned from Valhalla is that these expeditions are inherently dangerous. When my boots hit the trail, there's a chance I could fall, twist, strain, sprain, cut, smash, break, dislocate, bruise, freeze, dehydrate, burn, something along the way. To think, "It won't happen to me." Is simply ignorant.
Before I fill my backpack, charge my gopro batteries of anything else on the long list to prepare for an expedition, I am going to accept the facts. If I start packing, I am willing to live with the outcome of the trip. I suggest you think really seriously about things too because adventure and danger walk hand in hand. This Peak Posse stuff is fun; it's also hardcore.
I know a song called, "Never come back again." The songsmith talks about wanting to sail the ocean, climb a mountain, fall in love so he can know what it feels like to never come back again. At first listen, one may think that he actually wants to leave and not return physically. What he is actually singing about is experience. There are things that we do that are substantial enough that once we have lived through it, we will never come back again. It changes us from the inside. We will never be the same thanks to the event. An interesting thing about it is that we have to surrender ourselves to the experience. We allow the thing to change us, we welcome the change, for better or worse. It's the spirit of an adventurer. I have climbed several mountains this year and they have changed me. This expedition into Valhalla was no exception, I am grateful for it. There are members of the Posse that didn't go on the Valhalla trip, I am very glad they didn't make it. I'm glad they were out of harms' way. As for me, now that I'm on the other side of it. Safe in my house, writing this story. I wouldn't change anything about it. Sure we could go back in there and take a more safe route out. Safer doesn't mean better. I don't think any expedition to Valhalla Canyon could top the one I was a part of with Dustin, Aaron, Joseph, Vivian, Apolo and Jose.
A month after the events of those days, we held the Posse end of Summer BBQ. It's a great evening of food and fun. The highlight for me is the story circle. We take turns talking about the Trio expeditions we held that year. It's really cool to see how each place forms bonds between the travelers. Mt Mcloughlin and Middle Sister were fantastic and unforgettable. When it came time to tell our Valhalla stories, the atmosphere in the room changed. Listening to each person talk made me realize that these places we visit and the people that embrace the challenge, it creates something I would describe as unique. Possibly because the Canyon pushed us to limits the others didn't, the energy, the intensity of the bond was palpable among the seven of us. Even though there were some present that didn't go to Valhalla, and they were listening to the stories. There was a current flowing through the seven dwarfs that words can't capture. It's something that is ours and ours alone. Thank you Valhalla Canyon and thank you, you six beautiful souls. I know what it feels like to never come back again.
The penultimate expedition for 2019 was something really special. It was a salute to the past and a glimpse into what lay ahead. The fact that the mountain was South Sister seemed only fitting. This one is almost bedtime story material. Put on your pajamas, and one of those funny hats people used to wear in bed, a night cap, pile under your covers and get ready for the tale of the South Sister Sleepover.
The group of travelers was small this time. Myself, Keegan, Aaron and Andrew. Keegan had floated the idea of sleeping on top of South, and since some of us have our heads in the clouds anyway. The idea floated into the ear canal and rang like an alarm clock inside the brain. The thought of sleeping on a mountaintop is pudding pie. Sweet! So the date was set and the planning started. One of the first thoughts I had was, "You mean I have to lug all my gear to the top?!" That was easily overcome by the fact that all one has to do is get to the top and then a night of rest follows. No Problem. Another interesting point is that mountains can generate their own weather patterns. It may be clear on the lowlands, storming in the mountains. This only encouraged my excitement; how cool would lightning look from a mountain? If you ever want to climb a mountain, you must possess the ability to put yourself at the mercy of nature while using common sense to function therein. The outdoors is so cool. When you were younger, and had a raging crush on someone. Remember when they would come around and you had a close encounter of the tingling kind? The shaky, nervous conversation and instant sweat fest. The best you can hope for is to leave the situation intact and the other party impressed enough with your babbling that it may happen again in the future. The whole thing is a necessary part of love. You have to two personalities trying to co-exist in the same airspace. So it is with climbing a mountain. It has personality and it has been known to flirt. It has been known to shoot the eager climber down and send them home rejected, heartbroken. Don't give up, young Romeo or Juliet. There's always another day. Maybe somewhere down the road, things change, and instead of being shot down into the mud puddle of lonesome you are swimming in the river of love. Aren't you glad you didn't give up? What does all this have to do with the South Sister? Plenty. It's a love story you want, that's what you get.
r South Sister is a very popular mountain. Hundreds of people were headed down as we moved on up. A word of note, I met many a traveler that was hobbling down in pain. Their knees had never been an issue until that day. I suggest taking a knee brace with you just in case, when you climb South. The faces of the travelers was comical to me. Many reminded me of a young kid after they've been told to clean their plate or no dessert. A few were worse. It's hard to look at total defeat. The fact that I was happy and joking around seemed to pour salt into the wound. It's not that I can't sympathize, the year before, when we were descending South, Tyler was bounding around as gitty as a goat stuck in the hay barn. He told me to turn around and look at South. I said, "I don't want to see it!" I was pitiful, pathetic. In my mind it was a one and done event. One can climb a mountain and end up feeling like the mountain climbed you.
The first two miles of the climb is an elevation gain. There's no honeymoon phase on this trail. It's in the trees and it really is an inviting scene. I met a few forest rangers, they checked my papers. I asked about the new program for limiting the number of people on the trail; they confirmed that it is happening next year and there will be a fee when filling out an RSVP for the mountain. The info will be available soon via rec.gov.
After two miles, the mountain appears through the trees. It's a gorgeous thing. The trail flattens out a bit and the views are something else. If I was to tread down this trail countless times, my appetite would not wain for the eyeball breakfast served up.
The afternoon was not too hot and the weather was so good for us. After four miles, I joined the others in the group. Keegan was ready to get to the top as was Aaron. Andrew had obtained a blister on his foot and that was cause for concern. From the four mile mark, the climb proper begins. It's a strenuous two miles. We barreled our way up. Before long, we were at the glacial lake with the summit push ahead.
The other travelers we saw on the trail, paint a picture of motivation. Some do it to prove something to themselves, others love the outdoors and it's another day spent doing what they love. The outdoors makes them tick. Some do it to take pictures to put on their dogs' Instagram page. It's enjoyable to see these stories play out before my eyes. South Sister is a dramatic place. There's adventure, struggle, pain, victory and defeat, painted on the trail. In the case of the dog, comedy. A dog with an Instagram page made me laugh then and I'm still chuckling about it now. I love it all.
Speaking of dogs. I've been up South twice, both times, there were dogs in a bad way up there. Granted, I also see dogs having no problems. One never knows how an individual will react to the stress of climbing a mountain. Dogs can be out of shape, couch potatos as much as humans. If you plan on climbing a mountain and your dog hasn't been exercising on a regular basis, leave him home. Let him live the experience through Instagram.
I spoke of a love story earlier. It's time we dive into it...
Last year we attempted this climb. Some made it, others did not. Keegan was one of the did nots. He achieved the glacial lake and no more. South Sister gave him his walking papers. Rejection. Was there crying? Did he go home and spend a week in sweatpants watching Dirty Dancing, eating ice cream and dreaming about what could've been? Possibly. After that, he made it a goal to redeem himself. I won't go into detail about the changes he made in his life, I will tell you that it took discipline and a fighting spirit. Watching Keegan make the summit was a very cool part of this expedition. South Sister wasn't the only reason he did what he did; it was part of it. There was a couple on the summit crater spending their honeymoon on the mountain. The year before, a lady in a wedding dress was having her big day on a big mountain. Although not as huge, I believe Keegan and South had a moment when he reached the top. All love isn't the romantic kind. I can attest to that as I watched a love story reach its' happily ever after, that evening. Keegan went out and bought his clothes for this expedition. The Tiger Woods comeback colors.
Aaron is a climbing machine. He climbed Bachelor, Tumalo and South that weekend. He was at the South Sister expedition a year earlier that inspired the Peak Posse into existence. It was the day I met Aaron. He is full of information and is not afraid to use it. A big part of the success of our group is Mr. Tipler. We are planning an expedition to Valhalla, Aaron is our leader for it. Once you become a part of the Posse, you'll get to spend some time on the trail with this adventurer. Time well spent.
Andrew had too many obstacles to overcome to reach the summit. He camped down by the lake. The positive thing that is already happening is he is planning on finishing what he started this year, next year. You know what that means? South Sister Sleepover 2020!
Since we were climbing in the evening. We enjoyed a mountain, that is usually loaded with people, not loaded with people. The sun was going down and I was affected it. Mountains have an energy to them. It isn't simply the size that draws us. It's the savoir-faire they possess. Being there at night is quite astonishing. I had very little sleep. When I am blessed to have a night on the top of a mountain. I'm not going to spend it sleeping. When I first arrived at the summit crater, the sun was about gone. I called my wife and snapped pictures and took video at the same time. I love that I can facetime with her on top of a mountain. She shares these moments with me. We watched the sun disappear and she said, " I can't believe you're standing on top of a mountain right now!" To hear those words combined with the whole scene was like a bomb exploding inside. Not an atom bomb. It was like when you ate poprocks and drank a coke. I love South Sister. The mountain has had a profound effect on my life. South is the reason I was seeing such a beautiful sight. It was a year to the day that we had first ascended its' slopes. Since then we have climbed Mt. Mcloughlin, Middle Sister and soon Valhalla Canyon. I have met new people, and am excited to see how many more travelers I blaze trails with in the future. It's a powerful thing that can do such things. That, my friends, is a mountain.
We set up camp just below the summit. After dinner, I ventured up. The moon was close to full but was still low in the sky. I spent some time talking with God and decided a midnight visit would have more light. I caught a short snooze and headed back up around 2 am. It was bright enough that I could see the other two sisters. Keegan was there; in the middle of the night, on a mountain that is visited by thousands of people every year. He touched the summit in the dark; a private moment. It couldn't have ended in a better way.
The next morning Aaron and myself stood at the summit with a straggle of folks. We witnessed the dawn of another day at ten thousand feet. To say it was cool is an understatement. Photographs of this expedition are alright. It's the hope of this mountainside reporter that my words and pictures inspire you to live the whole thing yourself. Not sure you can do it? I know a group of travelers that will help you out.
There is a video of this expedition at the bottom of this post.