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Posts Tagged ‘Jim Mercure’

Acrophobia is an extreme or irrational fear of heights.

27 Mar

Acrophobia (from the Greek: ἄκρον, ákron , meaning “peak, summit, edge” and φόβος, phóbos, “fear”) is an extreme or irrational fear of heights. It belongs to a category of specific phobias, called space and motion discomfort that share both similar etiology and options for treatment.  Most people experience a degree of natural fear when exposed to heights, especially if there is little or no protection.  Acrophobia sufferers can experience a panic attack in a high place and become too agitated to get themselves down safely.

The Napali Coast

The Napali Coast

This story begins at Ke’e Beach at the trail head of The Kalalau Trail, along the Napali Coast in Kauai, Hawaii considered by Backpacker Magazine and one of the top 10 most dangerous hikes in the USA.  Well, it actually started weeks before when we booked our flight to Kauai to do this hike.  In my old age I’ve become increasingly fearful of heights.  I’ve never been a big fan, but I would never consider it a full blown phobia.  The day we arrive in Kauai it was raining and we’re told it’s been raining for the past 3 weeks straight.  We have also been told the trail is even more dangerous when it’s been raining.  To exacerbate my already heightened anxiety we talk to a few people coming off the trail that look as if they just wallowed in a pigpen.  I mean they’re covered in thick red sticky mud from head to toe.  One guy tells me that “Crawler’s Ledge” wasn’t even the most scary part.  The slick as snot red clay hills are, which there are two, perched on top of dangerously steep cliffs.  Another guy tells me that “I wouldn’t do it if it’s raining.  I’d turn around”  My brain starts to conjure up thousands of different ways I’m going to fall to my death.

Kalalau Trail

Kalalau Trail

The next day we get started out on the 11 mile one way hike with large amount of elevation gained and lost.  It looks like it’s going to be a beautiful day and it was, but I was still very nervous about my ability to do this dangerous section of the trail.  The trail immediately starts to ascend and round knife edge ridges 500′ above the raging surf far below.  So far so good, because the trail is wide and the exposure so far has been within my tolerance level.

Kalalau Trail Profile

Kalalau Trail Profile

We arrive at the half way campsite in the jungle of Hanakoa Valley and it’s a great disappointment, because of all the trash left behind from amateur hikers, the muddy campsites and the lack of a good view, but we make the most of it with a hike to a nearby 2,000′ waterfall.  We come back and have H. H. and while sitting there enjoying our cocktails of Rum and Gatorade in walks a hot young blonde woman wearing nothing but a pair of sandals, a backpack and a smile.  She seems to be going to the waterfalls we just hiked to, which I thought was a bit ambitious, because it would be an additional 4 miles, and she mentions in passing that she was doing the whole trail that night.  (without headlamp)  I don’t know how some people survive out there in the wilderness, but this girl was quite literally a “Babe in the Woods.”

Hanakoa Valley Campsite

Hanakoa Valley Campsite

The night starts to fall so we make a fire, only to see our young ambitious hiker pass through our camp site again.  By the big smile and the look on her face it seemed like she wanted to strike up a conversation, but Jen must have gave her some kind of secret girl vs girl gang sign that said “keep on going“, cause she left immediately after looking Jen’s way.  Off she goes into the fading flickering light of our camp fire as if she is some sort of mythical woodland nymph.

Woodland Nymph Meets the Ocean

Woodland Nymph Meets the Ocean

We have a couple more drinks and finish up our gourmet meal of freeze dried Lasagna.  The fire being feed with driest waterlogged branches I could find keeps wanting to go out, but I’m determined to keep it going.  In almost complete darkness in walks James silently out of the jungle and into our campsite with dreads down past his butt, barefoot and without a headlamp.  He’s British and a well established world traveler.  He seems famished for conversation, which is good because I could use a little distraction from tomorrow’s impending doom.  James is witty, light hearted and has a good sense of humor, so the hour long conversation was entertaining even though I cannot recall a single thing from it, maybe because I have other things on my mind.

James

James

We end the evening nicely saying goodnight to James and go to bed early when the terror starts brewing in my mind once it’s silent, and I have time to think about the next leg and most dangerous section of our journey.  Like an epic battle between rational and irrational fear I picture myself in great detail in thousands of different scenarios of falling to my imminent death.  These nightmares play over and over again in a constant rotation of a never ending stream of personalized horror stories like a faucet of pure terror.  I toss and turn in a cold sweat in the middle of the night like a prisoner condemned to death on the last night before their execution.  Some of these nightmares are so real I can still feel the breeze in my hair and the angry bees in my stomach as I’m falling for like ever to the rocks thousands of feet below.  As irrational as it may seem to someone un-afflicted by this phobia, it is all too real for me at that moment.  I am overcome by it and it has taken full control of my mind.  I cannot shake it no matter how hard I try.  It’s a never ending state of panic, an all engulfing fear of surely falling to my death, which my mind does not even question it’s inevitability.  I run through the various scenarios of what I would be thinking, feeling or how long I would suffer once I hit the ground.  Would it be a split second, minutes or hours before I die?  Would I be seeing my life flash before my eyes or would they be shut in a fading scream as I fall?  Trying to calm myself down I let my irrational fears think it’s won the battle by saying “I just wouldn’t go” so I could get some sleep before dawn breaks, which was about the time I finally did fall asleep.

Crawler's Ledge

Crawler’s Ledge

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The dawn breaks and we get up and start getting packed, but I cannot contain my fear any longer and tell Jen “I don’t think I can do it.”  At this moment I was willing to give her anything not to.  On the other hand there is nothing anyone could give me to do it.  I am totally overcome by this fear that has been building up for months, stoked by movies like (please watch this clip when they’re doing Crawler’s Ledge) “A Perfect Getaway“, internet reviews and the fact that it’s Backpacker’s Top 10 Most Dangerous Trails.  I think I’m having a nervous breakdown, quite literally!  We are both crying for two very different reasons.  Me, because I’m in the total grip Acrophobia and Jen because she’ll be alone in Paradise.  We reluctantly agree to go our separate ways after a long difficult discussion.  Me back to the car with my tail between my legs in complete shame and humiliation, and Jen onto a dream she’s been dreaming about for months.  I’ve already got it figured out that I’d sleep in the car and she’d spend a day out there and come back the next day.  Our bags are packed up and I’m feeling something I’ve never, ever felt before in my entire life, an epic and complete mental failure to control my fear.  At this time I am willing to face the shame and humiliation of family, friends and even recent acquaintances at the campground we’ve been staying at.  No matter how hard I try I cannot over come it’s grip on me.  At this point, I’ve just given in and we kiss goodbye with tears in our eyes.  We are about to go our separate ways when I suddenly feel that constant flow of fear that has been plaguing me for the past 24 hours has suddenly shut off like a kink in a garden hose.  The building pressure is strong and I can feel it in my racing pulse, but the sheer terror has almost completely stopped.  As I turn, about to take my first step in the direction towards the car I say “Well, I’m this close I’ll just go and take a look, since it’s just another mile to “Crawler’s Ledge.”  I can feel the fear immediately start creeping back, but somehow I’m able to shut it out.  I take a few steps forward not knowing if I’ll be able to do it, but also highly aware that I’ll have to do the same series of ledges and cliffs on the way back.  I tell myself that I can do this, and strongly believe that if I don’t it could be the start of a very bad and dangerous downward spiral of not facing up to my fears, or having it turn into something else like Agoraphobia, or worse yet becoming a general disappointment to someone I love.

Crawler's Ledge

Crawler’s Ledge

I take the first step past the sign saying “Dangerous Cliffs” ahead.  It’s terrifying, but I completely shut down that part of my brain and just stare at the ground ahead of my feet like a zombie, even though the scenery is amazingly beautiful.  The trail looks like it leads straight down to raging surf with cliffs for miles in both directions, so if somehow I do survive the fall into the ocean, I’d just be a swimming pile of fresh bloody chum for the sharks to eat alive.  We get past “Crawler’s Ledge“, but according to the guy at the parking lot the worse is yet to come.  Jen says “Yeah you did it“, but I keep looking down at the trail not wanting to celebrate until we get there.  We press on past one gorgeous view after another from high atop knife like ridges, but alls I can do is look down at the trail.

Another Gorgeous View

Another Gorgeous View

The sheer drops feel like they’re trying to pull me over the edge like a force stronger than gravity alone, but I hold tight to any exposed root, branch or tree I can get my hands on.  This hike is not easy, even though 11 miles would be a normal hiking day for us back home in WA, but this trail just keeps on going and going with little seen progress.  Plus, it’s nearly 80 degrees out and coming from 40 degree Seattle, the heat is nearly killing me.  We don’t see anyone coming or going, so huh could it be they all died trying?  “Keep calm Jim” I keep saying to myself in the third person.  We press on past one glorious view point after another.  The North Shore is lush green jungle clinging to dramatically steep cliffs and ridges kept that way because of daily rain in the winter months.  The dramatic views are extraordinary when I do look up.  I mean they’re breathe takingly beautiful and I take a snapshot or two when I’m feeling brave enough, but rarely do because my camera blocks my view of the trail and somehow my balance.  Not a reassuring feeling when you’re at the edge of a 500′ sheer drop into the ocean below.

Kalalau Beach

Kalalau Beach

The end is near and I feel like I just had accomplished a major milestone in my life.  I’m not kidding when I say that, because I never felt more relieved or had such a sincere sense of accomplishment in a long time.  I just conquered one of my biggest fears and now I am being rewarded by entry into this secret secluded Naked Beach Club Paradise.  I feel like I’m starring as Leonardo in the Beach, except now one dies in this one.  This place is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen in my life.  Nothing like it before and we’ve done a lot of great hikes and adventures around the country in the past.  I feel like I’ve just turned a big mistake into gold.  We march on with great anticipation.  We’re immediately greeted by a group of three beautiful naked young ladies who literally welcome us to Paradise.  We continue on past more beautiful naked hippies and wonderful campsites until we see one near the end of the beach next to a large drinking water fresh clear and cold waterfall, which we drank from unfiltered for 5 days without incident.  We choose this choice campsite perched high on a bluff above the beach with a view of the entire Kalalau beach below.  It’s gorgeous spot and as soon as we setup our tent  a young man named Spencer wearing a backpack on his chest says he “likes our style” and offers us a cold beer.  Wow, a cold beer in Paradise, thanks!  Now I’m wondering is this Paradise or did I really die and this is my version of Heaven?  “Please GOD which ever it is please do not make me go back!

Kalalau Beach Campsite

Kalalau Beach Campsite

 
 

The long slog home…

30 May

Yeah, it’s Memorial Day Weekend and the start of camping season!
Like always we take full advantage of the long weekend and go someplace remote, far away and/or someplace  really hard to get to.  It’s a tradition that has served us well until now.  Well, don’t get me wrong, it was an awesome new adventure, but I knew right from the start this would be difficult, not because of the constant rain forecasted, or the distance traveled (30 miles in 3 days), nor the extremely heavy pack full of crap that I never did use, but for the long, slick, muddy hike out.  This was an out and back trip, so the tricky part is the game plan.  Do we hike the entire 13.5 miles in one day and just do day trips or tackle the majority of the mileage the first day, have a short second day and then the long slog home?  We choose the later.  In the end it was well worth it, but sitting here typing 4 days later my legs, knees and feet are still sore, so there is something to be said about over doing it.  Although, everything from here till Labor Day will be gravy.  I am sure we will continue to be overly ambitious in the future, but I will certainly not bring 5 lbs of clothes again no matter what the forecast calls for, because I always seem to wear the same outfit the entire time.  What was I thinking?  Anyway, here are some snaps for our Memorial Day Weekend hike into the Enchanted Valley in the Olympic National Park 05/26/2013.

All and all it was a great trip and I wouldn’t have changed a thing, except for maybe investing in a waterproof bag for my camera, so I could have taken some of the most incredible landscape shots on our hike out.  There was a brief moment where is was raining heavily and then suddenly the sun broke through the clouds to reveal a scene of incredible beauty for less than a minute that will be forever burned into my brain cells.  I would like to try to describe here, but would only fail miserably in lack of accurate enough words to describe it’s true spectacle…  Moments like that will keep me going back out there for more and more…

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The Inverse Effect

31 Jan

It’s been a typical Seattle winter, rain, rain and yup, you guessed it more rain.  It’s a never ending cold, dark, damp, drizzle.  This last week has been the very oddly foggy and freezing cold.  I mean so foggy it was hard to drive or see more than a few yards in front of you even at high noon.  The weatherman says there is some weird “Inversion layer” hanging over us and it will be like this for another week.  Another week?  I cannot even remember the last time I seen the sun.  So when Jen said we should go snowshoeing at Mt. Rainier next weekend and I was like “Yeah, sure sounds like fun” in my most sarcastic voice.

Well, Saturday morning arrives quickly and we throw a bunch of clothes and our snowshoes in the truck and hit the road at the crack of noon.  It’s 28 degrees and thick fog and it’s a 2 hour drive.  I’m not looking forward to this, but the mood lightens as we listen David Sadaris on the radio read from his book “Me Talk Pretty One Day“.  He helps pass the time with his hilarious observations as we groan on about what we’re gonna do all weekend if it’s gonna be like this.  There is not a chance in hell we will be able to see anything, except for maybe a couple of beers at some redneck bar in Elbe, WA.   One thing to look forward to is Jen had made a reservations a couple days ago to spend a night near Mt. Rainer, and in of all places a tree house with access to a wood fire hot tub and sauna.   Yes, a tree house and odder yet the place is owned by our old roommate Sky’s hippy mother Sunny at Well Springs Spa.  It sounds like our kinda place, but we skip check in and head right for the Paradise, because of our late start.

We had been driving in thick fog the entire time, until we round one corner near Ashford, WA near the Paradise entrance of Mt. Rainier and it’s all of sudden crystal clear out and we can see the entire mountain in all of it’s glory.  It’s sunny and unusually warm out in a blink of an eye.  I mean mid 50’s if not close to 60 out and swear to Gawd it’s T-shirt weather.  WTF is going on here?  We grab a quick six’er at the last store before the park entrance just in case of sudden “dehydration” from all that snowshoeing at high altitudes.

Jim_Mercure_iPhone_1

Mount Rainier and all of it’s 14,410′ glory.

Wow, I kinda forgot what nice weather was like or the sun for that matter and major bonus is that there is absolutely no wind.  It’s like we’re on drugs, (from what I’ve heard) its so nice out.  The ranger at the gate tells us that it was 62 degrees at Paradise visitor’s center on Thursday 01/17/2013.  We quickly pack a lunch and get going up, up and away.  Holy shit, am I outta shape.  We quickly strip a layer and I luckily thought ahead and pull out my iPod.  If I’m gonna make it up this thing I’m going to need to distract myself from this relentless uphill battle of will and monotony.  It’s hard to get a sense of scale or perspective when you’re staring up at a mountain that is 14,410′ tall and the summit is probably less than a mile away.

Jim Mercure Mt. Rainier 2013

As we climb we can feel it getting warmer and warmer, which normally the direct opposite of what you would expect.  As we approach the last very steep section before our destination of Panorama Point I tell Jen that she should take off her snowshoes because everyone else has kick stepped a staircase up to the point, but does she listen?  When I say steep I mean everyone else around use is wearing crampons and/or ice axes.  It’s scary steep and it’s a long slide, although going up isn’t as hard as going down.  But I have a plan where on the way up I scoped out a long round about loop route that looks “fail safe” from avalanches or getting lost.

The view from Panorama Point.

The view from Panorama Point.

Well, surprise, surprise there is a steeper section (basically a cliff) on the backside of Panorama Point and we would have to climb a lot higher to go around, so that slight flutter of butterfly’s we felt in our stomach about going up such a steeps section starts to feel like angry bees.  It’s a feeling where we’ve got ourselves into this mess, now let’s get ourselves out.  We had planned on eating lunch on top, but I felt it was best to use this time when the snow is at it’s softest to get down to a safe spot before we eat.  Although, having a “last meal” before we die thought had crossed my mind.

Our lunch spot with a great view.

Our lunch spot with a great view.

As a reward for surviving we treat ourselves to a nice cold micro brew.  I’ve got to say those beers never tasted so good.  We sat there for a good long time just staring at things big, small and ginormous.  I found myself taking pictures of the same thing with just the minimal amount of change like it’s going to be some miraculous work of art or Ansel for that matter.  Then I realized that there is nothing to put things into perspective in this land of giants, except for maybe the random passer by.  I take this picture below and I thought it turned out so well I went over and offered to send it to them.  He appreciated the gesture so much he returned the favor.  (photo credit above Glen Grover)

Random Passer By'er

Random Passer By’er

Wow, look at the time and we still have an appoint with a wood fired hot tube and sauna to get to.  We arrive and quickly pull all of our supplies up to the tree house 15′ above by a bucket on a rope and pulley.  A quick change into our suits and we’re off to the wood fired hot tub.  It’s couldn’t be better and all of those aches and pains are slowly fading away with each passing minute and cocktail.  If there was a way to bottle this feeling I’d be a rich man.
If you ever get a chance to stay at Well Spring Spa in Ashford, WA I would highly recommend it.  It’s right there at the gates of Mt. Rainier’s Paradise entrance.

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Random people just for perspective.

So the moral of this story is to get out there despite the weather, because it maybe better than you could have ever imagined.

Jen and I

Jen and I

 

 
 

The Shakedown

28 Mar

Well, we’ve heard all the warnings about traveling through Mexico; from the State Department’s official website, to the constant news reports of drug violence on TV, as well as from friends and family who share this sentiment and think we’re nuts.  Sure, there’s some major problems along the border towns, but for the most part its drug on drug violence and they do not target tourist.  Traveling is never safe and it never will be, but you’re more likely to get in an accident within ten miles of your home than you are traveling abroad.  Plus iff you look at the statistics there is more violent crime per capita in the USA than any other place in the world.  Mexico is #12th.

Life is risky and its dangerous just walking outside your door everyday, but with risk comes reward.  When we travel we take precautions, keep our eyes open, minimize our exposure by keeping valuables secured and watch each others backs.  It only takes one incident to learn your lesson, so we’ve already had our wake up call and have made adjustments.  Sure, we’ve had a stolen bike seat here, a pair of flip flops missing there, but we’ve had our closest call in San Diego, so it can happen anywhere.  The scariest part about that “smash and grab” of my laptop in San Diego is that we were sleeping in the RV just upstairs and still couldn’t do a thing about it.  And this happened in broad daylight at 9:00 on a Sunday morning in a nice neighborhood.  These crack smokers were able to smash the driver’s side window and jump half way into the rig and grab the strap of my laptop bag all within seconds.  Although, given one more second that punk would be missing a hand, since I sleep with a machete under my pillow and I more than happy to use it.  I have since added a slingshot to my arsenal and a zip lock baggie full of perfectly round rocks for the next thief who has the huevos to flip me off while making their escape.

Smash and Grab

Smash and Grab

The reason I bring this up is because after 2 months of traveling through Mexico we’ve never really had a problem or felt unsafe.  A stolen bike seat was our biggest loss and being a cyclist I was way more upset about my seat than my laptop, because it wasn’t a normal size seat post and would be nearly impossible to replace while in Mexico.  I made due by tying my tennis shoe over the post’s stub to prevent a catastrophe if I happened to slip a pedal.  Anyway, as we were traveling north we came across an “unofficial” toll booth in the last large town of Hermosillo, Mexico.  We were at a stop light and as the light turned green we were taking off with the rest of the traffic, a man in a yellow reflective vest jumps out in front of us and motions for us to pull over.  I see his beat up, non-descript white van on the side of the road with some unofficial looking type on the hood “transito policia”, but it’s missing a couple letters, so I’m immediately suspicious.  The man pictured below comes up to my window and asks for my driver’s license.

Hermosillo, Mexico Hiway Robbery

Hermosillo, Mexico Hiway Robbery

At first he tells me that we were speeding.  Anyone who’s ever driven an RV knows that they’re not known for their jack rabbit starts and we were well behind the rest of the pack of cars, so that’s his first lie.  He then tells me that I wasn’t wearing my seat belt, but I had just unbuckled it to go and get my driver’s license at his request, lie #2.  I hand him my license thinking he’s just going to hit us up for a few bucks, which he immediately does.  He tells me that the price for “not” wearing my seat belt in Spanish is $–.  I tell him I do not understand $– and then he writes $70 in the air.  I ask Jen to grab some pesos from the lock box.  I fold up a $100 peso ($8.30 US) and try to hand it to him.  He refuses and says another number $— in Spanish.  I tell him I do not speak Spanish, so this time he writes $750 on the back of his metal ticket box.  I’m not even sure we have that much in pesos, since we just filled up with gas and we intentionally didn’t want to be left with a bunch of pesos before we crossed the border.

Hermosillo, Mexico Shakedown

Hermosillo, Mexico Shakedown

Now Jen starts to get upset, because she realizes that we’re getting ripped off.  As soon as she starts to raise her voice he immediately says in perfect English that she wasn’t wearing her seat belt either and the fine is now $1,000 pesos.  We argue that we were wearing them, and then he tells us he doesn’t speak English.  He tells us we must go down to the police station to pay the fine and retrieve my driver’s license.  I ask him “cuando, donde?”  As the argument is escalating I notice that he is looking all around the inside of the RV.  He is peaking his head into the cab and looks in my lap, at my feet and inside the ash tray an in the back.  I don’t know if he trying to catch us on some potentially bigger violation or if he’s just looking for something he may want to take as a bribe.

Hermosillo, Mexico ticket

Hermosillo, Mexico ticket

After I notice this peculiar behavior I take a closer look at him and realize he’s not wearing a badge, a name tag or any sort of official police uniform.  Upon closer inspection I notice that he’s not carrying a gun, his radar gun doesn’t work, because there are no lights on and his “official” looking tool belt contains nothing more than a mag flash light and could be purchased at any Army Surplus store.  I then ask him for some ID.  When he refuses I whisper to Jen to grab my camera, which is locked away in the back.  As he’s writing out the ticket I snap few shots of him just because there is no other way to identify him if he take off with my driver’s license.  Right then I noticed an RV driving by, I try, but cannot get their attention.  I get out of the RV hoping there’s a caravan of RV coming who might be able to help.  Frustrated, he asks me to sign the ticket.  I scribble a sig on the line and he hands me back my driver’s licenses.  Not trusting him enough to turn my back I walk sideways keeping an eye on him as I walk back to the RV.  I waste no time leaving.  We both breathe a deep sigh of relief as we drive away without so much as a peso lost.  To this day I’m still not too sure if he was legit or not, but I suspect not.

 

Violent crime statistics

Violent crime statistics

 
 

When in Rome…

21 Mar

We’ve all heard the old saying “When in Rome (do as the Romans do).”  Well, we only have a week left of vacation and time has flown by without accomplishing everything we’ve wanted to, so we’ve decided to start getting busy having some authentic fun with the locals.  To tell you the truth we should have left for home by now, but we’re only a couple days away from Carnival, so we decided to extend our stay by another week.

Carnival in Mazatlan, Mexico

Carnival Poster – Return of the Muses

Pacific Pearl Cover

Pacific Pearl Cover

It’s Sunday and every Sunday morning at Punta Cerritos RV park there is usually a group of people who meet at the gate and ride their bikes to a local place to have breakfast together.  This time the group must have had their extra cup of coffee, because we rode all the way down to old downtown Mazatlan.  It’s a beautiful day and it feels good to get in some exercise so early.  We stop into an old restaurant that has a big patio facing the ocean with enough room to accommodate our large group.  It’s a neat place with lots of history and old photos of famous actors from the 40’s and 50’s.  I can picture John Wayne, James Dean or Errol Flynn having a whiskey and a smoke out here on the deck back in the day.

Carnival Mazatlan, Mexico

Carnival Mazatlan, Mexico

We all have a good breakfast and the group goes their separate ways.  Jen and I decide to go check out the big market that we’ve heard so much about.  We walk around the shops that seem to sell all of the same old tourist crap.  I don’t understand how that works, but it obviously does, because they’re still in business.  Anyway, I forgot that I’ve given up on figuring out why things are done the way they are here in Mexico, and instead just enjoy the experience.  We walk through the meat market next and at first I thought I’d be totally grossed out by the blood, guts and smell, but I wasn’t.  It smelled fresh, clean and real.  No artificial colors, preservatives or steroids added here.  Some of the more peculiar items I wonder how they were consumed such as chicken’s feet, pig noses and ox tails, but I’m just not that brave to attempt such fate to give them a try.

Old Town Mazatlan, Mexico

Old Town Mazatlan, Mexico

Next stop: the oldest barber shop in Mazatlan
We just stumbled upon it as we were searching the outskirts of the town square.  I’m in desperate need of a shave and a haircut, cause I’ve ran out of sharp razors, or more like Jen started using them on her legs, about a week ago, so I’ve got a week old beard that’s starting to get really itchy.  I ask how much it cost and how long before I can get in.  They tell me it’s $50 pesos for the hair cut and $30 peso for a shave.  The young barber tells me to come back in 30 minutes and they’ll be ready for me.  I forgot it’s “Mexico” time and it was more like an hour, but it was good to take a break from walking and watch the locals do their thing.  Finally it’s my turn, and usually I like getting my hair cut; it’s relaxing, so I thought having a shave would be equally as relaxing, if not more.  Wrong, there’s nothing like having a total stranger holding a straight edge razor to your jugular vein to make you feel relaxed.  Not only that, but while I was waiting several cars had back fired and I thought for sure it would happen now and my throat would be slit from ear to ear.  I was so nervous that I really started to sweat.  I mean really sweat and my palms could have been used as little humming bird baths from all the sweat collecting in them.  It was the closest shave I’ve ever had in my life and didn’t need to shave for another 3 days afterward, but I’ll never do that again.

Old Town Mazatlan, Mexico

A view of Mazatlan, Mexico from the Lighthouse.

Next stop: Yoopers
Yes, that’s right Yooper’s bar right in downtown Mazatlan.  If you don’t know I grew up in Upper Peninsula of Michigan who are kindly referred to as UP’ers or better known as Yoopers.  I went in there thinking it might look a bit like Deer Camp, and it did in a Mexican sort of way.  Lot’s of Green Bay Packer paraphernalia and old photos of the owners in their younger days holding up trophy fish, deer or elk…  I tell the bartender that I’m a Yooper.  He’s not really sure what the hell I just said, but as I try to explain with my elaborate hand gestures I’ve mastered while down here in Mexico, he says “Oh yes, your from Michigan, Mucho Gusto” and then gives me a free bumper sticker.  It’s not exactly what I was expecting, but I would imagine every Yooper who has ever come through those doors has tried to get a free beer here.

Old Downtown Mazatlan, Mexico

Old Downtown Mazatlan, Mexico

Next stop:  Tourist Info
Better known as the Time Share Tourist Trap, but we’ve heard from our neighbor that some previous travelers at the park made the “Time Share” circuit and made $1,500 in a week.  We got all the low down on what to say to get through the initial screening process and from there on just say “No.”  We thought a couple hundred buck it would be worth slogging through their 90 minute sales pitch.  Besides, we get a free breakfast, lunch and $200 US would pay for our gas back to the border. As we were walking out of the Yooper’s bar we came across one of these “Tourist Information” booths and the salesman instantly notices me checking out his glossy 8×10 photos.  He immediately goes into his sales pitch about how great these places are and says he’ll throw in a free breakfast.  I tell him “No way, we’re on vacation and it’s going to take a lot more than breakfast to get us to sit through that”.  Well,  he says “How about $100 US?”  I said “each?”  He says “Yes.”  I ask him can he sweeten the deal any more?  He says he can give us a $50 credit for food and drinks and that’s the best he can do.  We sign up for a tour for the next day at 9:00am at the Emerald Bay Resort, which is just down the beach from where we’re staying.  We would have walked, but one of the requirements is that we had to be staying at one of the hundreds of hotels in the area, but since we’re in an RV park we had to fib just a bit.  (I had my fingers crossed)  He tells me to just call a cab and the valet will reimburse the cab driver at the lobby when he drops us off.  Perfect, maybe we should stay another week!

Mazatlan Beach

A deserted beach in Mazatlan, Mexico

The place looks just like a set from “Fantasy Island”.  It’s gorgeous, complete with pink flamingos, Greek goddess statues, perfectly manicured lawns and crystal clear blue swimming pools every where you look.  If you only have a week of vacation and more money than brains, this is the place for you.  It will serve all of your needs, but it’s not going to be cheap.  Our guide Esmeralda is a true pro and does her best to try to squeeze water (money) from a stone (my wallet), but she soon realizes we’re a waste of her time.  But giving it her best she slices the price of the time share in half, and then in half again, but finally giving up in disgust she throws the cash voucher on the table and tells us to have a nice day.  And we do, thanks to her.  We walk back to the RV park along the beach against the recommendation of the front desk clerk who tells us it’s “Muey Peligroso.”  Yeah, I guess with a pocket full of cash it is, but we’ve done this short little hike several times before without seeing so much as a foot print, so we enjoy our stroll back home along the deserted beach smiling all the way.

Mazatlan Bull Ring

Mazatlan Bull Ring

Next stop:  The Bull Fight
Some of my friends will definitely frown on this little excursion, but it’s something we would like to see.  It’s not like we’re actually killing the poor beast and it’s going to happen weather or not we’re here, so “When in Rome.”  The arena is a lot smaller than what I would have imagined and we can sit just about anywhere.  The food and beer prices are cheaper than what you can find on the streets, bars or local mini supers, so all in all it’s a good deal.  The show starts and there’s a long introduction and this being a Portuguese type bull fight the fighters are on horses.  These pretty boys looks like a couple of major pricks with egos that barely fit into this small stadium, but what would you expect from someone who fights bulls for a living, making millions of dollars do so.  Maybe, I’m just a bit jealous, because all the ladies seem to like these guys, but I’m sticking by my initial assessment until proven wrong.  Aside from my prejudice of these guys, they really can ride.  They’re not the best bull fighters according to the lack of applause from the crowd, and their failure to make a clean kill, but their riding skills make up for it.

Mazatlan Bull Fight

Mazatlan Bull Fighter

Now for one of the more bizarre aspects of the show.  There are about 8 guys who literally flip into the ring from the sidelines and they all line up in a single row separated by about 20′.  The poor little fellow who drew the shortest straw marches proudly out to center ring, and yells loudly “Toro” to the bull who is still facing away from him.  The little guy takes a couple more big brazen steps towards the bull and again loudly yells out “Toro”.  This time the bull hears this and turns quickly to face him pawing the ground angrily.  The little guy again takes a few more exaggerated steps towards him and yells out again “Toro”.  This time the bull charges full steam towards him hitting him directly in the gut.  The second guys quickly is hit and then the third, who is quickly swept under getting trampled and kicked in the face and groin along the way.  The forth, fifth, sixth pile on trying desperately to stop this freight train of an angry bull.  The last guy finally grabs hold of the bull’s tail and is being twirled around like a rag doll, but he gracefully holds on sliding through the dirt as if he’s weightless in one 360 degree circle after another until the bull gives up.  He turns his back to the bull and takes a deep bow just a few feet in front of the breathless bull and then proudly exits the ring. It’s one of the craziest things I’ve ever witnessed.

Mazatlan Bull Fight

Mazatlan Bull Fight

Then the bull takes on the second guy.

Mazatlan Bull Fighters

Then the 3rd guy gets hit

Mazatlan Bull Fighters

and he goes down

Mazatlan Bull Fighters

and under the bull.

Mazatlan Bull Fighters

He’s probably thinking he should start looking for a new job.

Mazatlan, Mexico Bull Fight

A desk job doesn’t sound so bad right about now.

Mazatlan, Mexico Bull Fight

Looks like he gets kicked in the face.

Mazatlan, Mexico Bull Fight

Where do I sign up for this?

Mazatlan, Mexico Bull Fight

Wow, now that’s a show!
Thanks goes out to our neighbors Lorne, Bonnie and Loraine for sharing.

 
 

It’s the little things

24 Feb

As I was sipping my last drink of the night and desperately trying to soak in the last few fleeting days of freedom, aka vacation, I watch as our caretaker’s girls are called in for the evening. The 3 of them march diligently across the dirt courtyard into the house and just as the big black steel door is creaking shut, the youngest shyly peers her head around the door and sweetly waves to me, goodnight.

Soaking in the last few days

Soaking in the last few days

As I type this I try to think about all of the little things that make traveling so much fun.  In the background I can hear a man singing at the construction site just next door.  He is carrying a heavy load of bricks up three stories in the hot sun, but he has been singing every morning for the past week.  He’s not all that good, but I enjoy listening and appreciate his enthusiasm.  I can also hear the fisherman just off shore passing by in their panga, joking with each other and laughing loudly.  I have no clue of what they’re saying, but when they all laugh loudly together I chuckle along with them.  Just outside the gate I can hear children in the nearby town square chasing each other around and screaming with excitement, dogs barking in hot pursuit as to applaud their joy.  It’s witnessing these different cultures, learning how and why they live the way they do, and to see how they utilize what they have available to make it all happen that makes traveling such an adventure for me.  It may not be the most efficient, but it’s what they have and they make due.

Mexican Fisherman

Mexican Fisherman

Like the fisherman who was fishing next to me the next morning who’s made his own lure out of a piece of led and some glitter glued to a piece of old bicycle inner tube tied to a hook.  He is hand lining it, but he’s casting his lure 2 times as far as I can with my brand new reel and 10 foot pole.  We didn’t catch anything that day, but I’ve seen him come back with literally a hundred pounds of fish a few days later.  I have yet to catch one that’s worth keeping.

Mexican Fisherman

Mexican Fisherman

As I travel throughout the West Coast of Mexico I try to be the American that we were so respected for in the past.  Not the ugly Americans of today who repeats their English request, or more like orders, louder, slower and more pronounced so the Mexican who speaks no English can understand.  If I hear “grassyass” one more time I think I’m going to break a bottle over their head.  Don’t worry I usually have one in hand or nearby.  So to put it into perspective lets turn the tables.  If a Mexican came up to you asking questions in the states, speaking Spanish and you just shrugged your shoulders and said “no, I don’t understand.”  Then this person gets in your face and repeats their request, but this time only closer, slower and louder, so you can magically understand.  You’d think that person was insane, but yet I’ve seen this time and time again.

Typical Beach Scene

Typical Beach Scene

As an American witnessing such things it’s a major embarrassment to me as a fellow countrymen.  Americans just don’t travel as much as the rest of the world and that’s another thing that should be a national disgrace, but it’s not.  It’s almost considered shameful to be traveling in such a bad economy, and it’s always a bad economy, except for bankers, lawyers and stock brokers. In an effort to live up to this higher ideal I’ve thought about this ahead time and brought down extra items that not only could help us on our journey, but to give away these items to people who could use them the most.  My first gift was an air pressure gauge to the gas station attendant in the middle of nowhere.  I ask in my limited Spanish if he can check the air in a leaky front tire.  He tells me no, he doesn’t have any way to check the pressure when I suddenly realize I had picked one up at Les Shwab for free right before we left, but it doesn’t go up high enough to my recommended tire pressure, so it was basically useless in our RV.  I knew right where it was, so after paying the man for gas I presented the gift and tucked it into his shirt pocket.  He immediately removes it to inspect it, and the look on this grown man’s face was like a kid on Christmas morning.  He thanks me and then immediately shows it off to his co-workers as he waves goodbye.

The next gift was an extra set of jumper cables to one of our campground host who had to push start his car, because of an weak battery.  Same sort of expression, but only after I showed him that I had a duplicate set.  The next an extra roll of duct tape to the grounds keeper who I know could use it.  His reaction was the typical back handed salute with a nob of the head in appreciation.  The next an extra winter hat to the night security guard who was complaining about how cold it was and who’s face I’ve never completely seen, because I’ve only met him at night, but as we were pulling out of town he ran across the street waving to us unusually excited and pointed to my hat he was wearing in 80 degree heat.  Again, he gave the back handed salute and head nod.  I waved back once I realized it was him and could see him in the rear view waving until we were out of sight. And then an extra volleyball and nerf football to our neighbors who were collecting items for the local orphanage.  I pretty sure it will be used as a soccer ball, but better than nothing.  I can only imaging the joy it might bring to those kids who have nothing.  Next a few extra steel fishing leaders to a local kid fishing nearby.  A spare bike pump to man who runs a bike club for kids in the small fishing village were we stayed for two weeks.  His family also serves the best Chili Renos in town.

One of the small fishing villages we stayed at.

One of the small fishing villages we stayed at.

Another gift was to offer my services as a photographer to the couple who were about to get married the next day.  They didn’t have a photographer and since I didn’t have anything going on that afternoon I thought it would be fun.  Also, I’ve always wondered if I could do it.  I’ve always been pretty good at shooting portraits, but a wedding is a whole other beast.  It was fun and the photos turned out great.  They got married on the beach and the bride was delivered to the alter on a white horse led by her father.  Later that evening we got invited to the reception dinner and I thought it would be a huge event with lots of people like a typical Mexican wedding, but we were the only non-family members invited.  They were speaking German and Spanish, but threw in a few words in English so we didn’t feel too awkward.  It was a real treat and I felt honored to attend. All together a great experience and I’m glad to know that I can do this wedding thing pretty well.

The Wedding

The Wedding

The Wedding

The Wedding

My biggest gift was a surgical kit I purchased at a g-sale that I thought I could re-sell, but had no luck in the 4 months I’ve tried, so I asked my biker buddy who I gave the pump to who could use it the most.  He told me the free clinic could make the best use of it.  They treat people from all over the neighboring villages and run only on donations.  He went with me and translated my intentions to the nurse at the front desk.  She probably has seen more blood, guts and pain than anyone I know, except for maybe a war veteran, but I could tell she was shocked when I opened it up on her desk.  I think she was expecting me to then ask for money they didn’t have by the look on her face, but as I was walking out and saying my last goodbyes I turned back to take another look at her and she gave me a look with a tear in her eye.

The Wedding

The Wedding

I’ve also stopped to help two people who were hopelessly stuck in the sand on two separate occasion in the exact same place.  The bridge near by has been washed away by sever flooding last fall, so locals try to make it around a nearly impossible bypass through deep sand and always get stuck.  The first person I helped was a 350 lbs man in a very tiny car.  The contrast was striking and I wish I had my camera handy, but it’s pretty easy to picture.  His tiny little car was so buried his wheels were no longer touching the ground.  I helped dig for a few minutes, but I could tell from previous experience it’s pointless.  I ask him if he has a jack.  He does, so we jack the car up and place wooden board from the nearby broken bridge to stick under the tires.  He is out and on his way within ten minutes.  The people watching this fiasco are stunned. The next person who was stuck in the exact same place a few days later had been desperately trying to get out and by the dark blue cloud of burning rubber hanging overhead I could pretty much tell he had given up thinking rationally.  I offered to help and after a few minutes of digging and getting prior permission to drive, he was out of there.  The trick I tell him is to dig out in front of the tires and pull forward, so you can get some momentum.  “You are my hero” the young man says while I’m walking away.  “Da Nada” I replied.  He immediately pulls out a fresh fish from the back of his truck offering it up as a reward, but I tell him we’ve already have dinner waiting, but thank him for the offer.

I don’t mention these gifts because they’re significant, or I feel sorry for them, because that far from my intent.  The Mexicans I’ve met on this trip are honest, hard working and friendly to a fault.  They’re also very ingeniousness, happy and family orientated.  One of my favorite days of the week is Sundays just to watch all of the families spend the entire day together.  They laugh, eat and drink together for the entire day.  It’s a joy to watch.  I mention these things not because I think I’m a Saint or a do gooder, but to inspire and be the positive change I want to see in the world and that’s what it’s all about.

Typical Street Scene in the places we visited

A typical Street Scene in the places we visited.

 
 

A long trek through the dark jungle

30 Jan

Following some vague directions from our neighbors Jen and I set out to find a hidden beach several miles through a thick dark jungle.  We find the trail that’s behind a weather sign saying “propiedad privada” and go through the barbed wire gate.

JimMercure_1541

Another day of adventure

It’s a pretty established path, so I feel like we’re on the right track.  We follow it to a newly grated road that reminds me of a scene out of Avatar, where it just seems so wrong to have road torn through such pristine nature.   There is another sign that is decidedly ambiguous pointing halfway in between the new road and the jungle.  I cannot see a path through the jungle so we head down the road.  Within a half mile the road splits, so we take the one that looks more established.  We’re soon greeted by another barbed wire fence, but this one doesn’t have a gate, so we turn back  and take a right at the fork.  There is a lot of cow patties around and I’m hoping we don’t come across an angry bull.  We continue on through steep ravines where one unlucky cow was unable to climb back out.  After a couple more ravines we can now hear the crash of pounding surf in the far off distance.

Jim_Mercure_1547

The gateway to a lost paradise

At the edge of one last ravine we’re startled by something crashing down through the palm tree within a few feet of us, but I have my walking stick at the ready to smash whatever might appear out of the brush.  Luckily, it’s a “Coatimundi” a racoon looking creature with a long ringed tail that makes a quick getaway.  We come to a trail that looks promising, so we take it and are next greeted by an Armadillo rooting through the leaves and thin, dry underbrush.

Jim_Mercure_1611

Curious little creature

He doesn’t seem too concerned about our presence, but as soon as I get my camera out he decides to make a run for it.  I get a couple good snaps of him as he disappears into the now thinning jungle.  We finally go through a natural gate of thick green broad leafed stout trees which guarding a dramatically large, deserted beach with big 10′ crashing surf.  There is a rocky point just to the North and a 2+ mile long steeply sloped blonde sand beach to the South.  We decide to go North, since there looks like there could be some interesting hidden coves just around the point.  As soon as we climb over the first rocky point we see a pod of dolphins feeding very close to shore.  As soon as we get to a good view point they start leaping out of the water like crazy.  Sometimes 3 or 4 at a time.  They’re leaping 15′ or more out of the water in perfectly arched dives like you’ve seen on Flipper, Sea World or some nature show.  Once again as soon as I get my camera out the show stops almost immediately, but I think I might have got one or two good snaps.

Jim_Mercure_1549

This beautiful deserted beach is about to be the next Mega Resort.

The show doesn’t stop there.  As we look a little farther off the coast we can see whales doing their best to leap out of the water, but are definitely not as graceful as the dolphins, but a good show nonetheless given their mass.  And not wanting to be left out of the act several manta rays are doing flips just to stage left.

Jim_Mercure_1587

This beautiful beach must be at least 3 miles long.

All in all a very good reward for a eight mile hike.  We return to our beach and grab a cold cervaza and walk the few feet down to the beach to watch the sunset.  Ah, another good day on the road.

JimMercure_1632

 
 

Well, my life isn’t one big epic adventure…

10 Oct

Hello y’all,
I know it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything, but it’s not that I haven’t had the desire or anything worth writing about.  It’s because I feel the need to have an epic story to tell, something big, something exciting or ground breaking and nothing less will do.  Well, my life isn’t one big epic adventure, even though sometimes I like to think it is.  Actually, most days are quite boring.  Lately, it’s the little things that have meant more to me that the big events.  These big events or great adventures are kinda like the equivalent to New Year’s Eve.  It’s never as fun as its made out to be and it’s amateur hour at its finest.  Getting all excited over a brief moment in time is fine from time to time, but it’s unsustainable.  I’ve come to appreciate the journey, more than the destination.

Oh my GAWD, that sounds just like a paragraph out of some new age self help book, which it is not, or maybe it is, since I never actually read one.  What I’m trying to say is that my fear of becoming boring or writing about things so bland that no one will ever read it has overtaken my enthusiasm to just write, express my ideas, or share a random thought or two.  It’s has become so bad that I’ve just completely given up writing anything at all, and that’s not good.  So from now on I’m going to try to just write more often, even if I don’t hit the publish button.  Writing should be fun and so that’s what I’m setting out to do.  Bring back the fun, the funky or just a spontaneous idea and get it down on paper or pixel.  So that’s what I’m going to do is “Just Do It” as the Nike Ad says.

Jim & Jen with Mt. Baker in the background

Jim & Jen with Mt. Baker in the background

Well, it’s been a very rainy summer here in Seattle, so when I recently saw the weather forecast calling for a few days of sun and warm temps last week, Jen and I jumped into the RV and headed up to Mt. Baker.  Usually Mt. Baker is just too far to go for a day hike and since it’s been so rainy, especially on weekends we haven’t gone up there this year.  We packed quickly and headed straight to Artist Point which is at the end of highway 542.  It’s aptly named for is gorgeous 360 degree views of Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan.

Ptarmigan Ridge Trail

Ptarmigan Ridge Trail

Milky Way over Mt. Baker

Milky Way over Mt. Baker

Mt. Shuksan

It’s a really long drive, especially in an RV, so we didn’t get there til late, but we catch the sunset and decide to park for the night right there in the parking lot.  There are no signs saying that we can’t so we decide to risk it.  It was a warm, clear night with no wind or clouds in the sky and we have the place to ourselves.  It’s an unusually warm October night and I’m excited to shoot the stars, because they’re unusually bright from being so high up at 5,150′ and with no moon.  I’ve been trying to shoot stars lately and it’s a lot harder than just pointing the camera to the sky and letting the shutter stay open for a few minutes or hours.  Plain old star trails are boring IMHO.  I usually like to include something in the foreground to give a sense of perspective and then I had this humorous idea after my last star trail session.  I’ll let you be the judge, so please send in your comments, cause I’d like to hear back from you about this photo posted below.

They're Here!

They're Here!

Personally, I think it’s hysterical, but that’s just me.
Anyway, I’ve got lots more to write about this trip, but I’m going to save it for my next post, so please check back soon to read about our hike, my idea of “Building a Better Mouse Trap” and the “Mouse Murder Mystery”…

It’s a good story and you may actually use this mouse trap in your home, cabin or RV.

Cheers,
Jim

They're Here!

They're Here!

 
 

Holy Hard Hike Robin

17 Aug
Hot weather forcast

Hot weather forcast

Summer’s hot weather has finally arrived in Seattle, so to beat the heat we decided to go kayaking in the San Juan Islands to one of my favorite islands, Clark Island last weekend.  We were all packed up and ready to go on Thursday night when I decided I should check the marine forecast just in case of a high wind advisory or fog, which sometimes happens when we have hot weather, and sure enough a “…SMALL CRAFT ADVISORY IN EFFECT THROUGH MONDAY… ” warning in bright red bold letters.

Damn it, but at least it’s better to know that now than when we’re standing on the shore looking across Rosario Strait full of white caps and a very hairy 3 mile crossing.  Some people may not realize, but capsizing out there is a life threatening situation.  The water temp of the Puget Sound is a bone chilling 49 degrees in summer and if you’re not able to right yourself in your kayak you’ll have about 40 minutes until you repeat the scene in the movie Titanic when Leonardo disappears into the deep.  Well, it’s not quite as cold as the North Atlantic, but it’s a real and present danger when we’re kayaking and I do not take it lightly.  Actually after a recent close call we’ve started wearing our wetsuits if we have a big crossing.

Leonardo

Leonardo

Well enough about death and more about living, so our new plan was to hike up to Tuck and Robin Lakes in the North Cascades just outside of Salmon La Sac, WA.  We’ve done this hike once before a couple years ago in late September and it snowed on us.  It got so cold that night the lake started to steam.  That sometimes happens in the mountains in early fall, so we vowed to come back some time when there’s a better chance for good weather.  Well I didn’t think it would be on the hottest day of the summer, since it’s a really hard steep hike and it’s not just the 3,200′ of elevation gain in 8 miles, but the trail itself.  It’s literally straight up a mountain side with loose rock, roots, big drops and is completely exposed to the sun on the hardest part of the hike.

The rocky trail to Tuck and Robin Lakes

The rocky trail to Tuck and Robin Lakes

Ok, so I know it’s gonna be really long, hard, hot hike, so you’d think that I’d pack light.  Sure that’s logical, but nooooohhhh, I’ve got to drag my Canon 5D, 17-35mm, 70-200mm and a tripod up there along with the extra water, and one celebratory beer for making it.  Luckily I knew that I was going to need some extra motivation for this hike and normally I’d never think about bringing my ipod on a hike, but this is going to be a 5.5 hour slog up a hot dusty trail with a heavy pack, so I though it would be better than listening to my own heavy breathing.  Wow, what a difference that made.  Nothing like some old school rock to get you moving and I really liked the songs the shuffle was dishing up.  It really made that grueling climb so much more enjoyable, so that’s my tip for this entry.  That and Gatorade.

Our camp site at Robin Lake.

Our camp site at Robin Lake.

The shot above is of our camp site, which was gorgeous.  The lake was diamond clear, but mind numbing cold as I found out after diving as soon as we got there.  Now that I’ve got my pack off and the tent is set up I’m ready to get my camera and go explore.  I’ve heard there were lots of mountain goats in the area and right on que I see two walking very close to our neighbor’s tent.  I see it as a good photo op, so I grab my camera gear and go.  After a quick hike around the lake I get within 30 yards of two goats, but as soon as the bigger of the two sees me, he charges me.  I mean he’s running right for me at speed and I’m not sure what he’s going to do.  I’ve been within arms length of mountain goats a dozen of times, but I’ve never been charged before.  I’m not too sure what that was about, but he gave me the stare down and just kept on going.

Yes, he is that close!

Mr. Curious Mountain Goat

I know these goat crave salt, so they’ll eat the dirt where you pee, so it’s best to do your business on a rock or dirt, since they’ll tear up any plants or grass that have been peed on, which causes an enormous amount of erosion and plant damage.

Since I was in the area I introduced myself to our neighbors who had a great camp site with a panoramic view of Mt. Daniel, but it seems to have even more bugs than our site closer to the lake if that is at all possible.  The bugs here were bad, I mean swarming around your head in a black cloud bad.  I’ve found that jumping in after a hard hike really helps reduce the bug nuisance, but so does Deet, so I opt for a good dose of both.

Robin Lakes

Robin Lakes

Our neighbors

Our neighbors

North Cascades Sunset

North Cascades Sunset

Our night watch goat

Our night watch goat

Our star filled night sky

Our star filled night sky

The rest of the day went fast and we sat and watched the sky turn pink to deep blue while eating our deluxe Mac and Cheese and H.H. of rum and fruit flavored Gatorade.  With the night sky filled with stars and with no threat of rain we slept without the rain fly on our tent to enjoy the stars and the occasional meteor.

We slept well despite the goats tromping around our tent at night and awoke to another glorious day.  We made a leisurely breakfast, since the bugs seem to be sleeping in that day and sit there soaking up the gorgeous views bathed in soft morning light.  Looking at the surrounding mountains we get decided to go for a little hike.  Well, a little hike turned into a big hike to the top of Granite Peak, but the views were well worth the effort.  On the way up we got to see a whole family of mountain goats and this little kid goat was just so adorable that I had to take several shots of him crying out for his mamma.

Kid mountain goat

Kid mountain goat

Another mountain goat

Another mountain goat

Jen and I at the summit

Jen and I at the summit

Robin Lake with Mt. Daniel in the background.

Robin Lake with Mt. Daniel in the background.

One last shot of the sun setting over Mt. Daniel on our hike out.

Sun setting over Mt. Daniel

Sun setting over Mt. Daniel

Even though it was a really hard hike and the bugs were terrible we had an absolutely fantastic time and I’d highly recommend it.
We topped off this weekend with a well deserved beer and pizza at Village Pizza in Roslyn WA.

Mmm, hot pizza and cold beer!!!
Yes, there is a heaven on Earth.

Cheers,
Jim

 
 

Mt. Rainier Weekend 07/16/2010

21 Jul

One the road to Paradise

On the road to Paradise

On the road to Paradise

So Jen had last Friday off, so we took advantage of the long weekend and headed down to Mt. Rainier Thursday night.  We had plans to go to the coast, but the weather forecast wasn’t too pretty, so we opted for Mt. Rainier at the last minute.  Well, I didn’t know you could reserve camp sites at Cougar Rock campground, but I’d recommend it, cause we got the last “first come, first served” camping sites in the place.  We drove through the entire campground and not one was available, even though the next morning almost 50% were still unoccupied.  I’m not a big fan of this system, since to most people the fee is so nominal it doesn’t really matter if they go or not.  Also, the first come, first served sites are not even 5% of the 171 sites available.

Enough about my bitch for now and more about the fun.

View from the road to Paradise

View from the road to Paradise

Nothing to report on our way down, except that the signs for Mt. Rainier are not that easy to spot, so I’d recommend mapping it out before you leave or use your GPS.

Our road ride up to Paradise
Our road ride up to Paradise

Friday morning we had a nice breakfast and then quickly changed into our riding gear and headed up to Paradise on our road bikes.  Mt. Rainier was our first stop on epic road trip last summer, so we’ve done this ride to Paradise twice before and it’s one of my favorite road rides.  The scenery is just unbelievable and the down hill goes on and on for some 12+ miles.  I’d recommend taking the long route down.  Just go past the main Paradise parking lot to the back side over flow parking, which adds another 4 miles of downhill on a glorious twisty turny road with little traffic and glorious views.  I remember letting out several unintentional hoots as I carved a perfect hairpin turn at 40 mph, but what out for pea gravel.

Oh, I should also mention that you should do this ride on a weekday only, cause weekend drivers are idiots.

It’s usually the idiots who pass me within inches driving like the volcano is going to explode only to get passed by me again 10 minutes later as they park their SUV halfway into the road to take a picture of a chipmunk without even making the effort to get out of their vehicle.  You people suck.

If you’re one of these people who honk at bicyclist only to get passed again 10 minutes later, please punch yourself as hard as you can in the face for me…

Paradise Lodge - Mt. Rainier Washington
Paradise Lodge – Mt. Rainier Washington
Mt. Rainier's 14,410' summit

Mt. Rainier's 14,410' summit

As usual when you’re having fun the day passed quickly and we had a nice night by the camp fire.
The next morning we were floundering on what to do that day, because the snow level was still at 5,550′ and all the high country would be under several feet of snow.  After talking with a couple rangers we picked Eagle Peak, which we could ride our bikes to the trail head.  And we could see it from our camp site looking pretty much straight up 3,750′ in 3.6 miles.  A hard hike for sure, but I like it when it’s short and sweet.  Plus the views was spectacular.

View from Eagle Peak

View from Eagle Peak - can of Rainier photoshopped in as a joke.

The views would have been actually better if we climbed to the actual top of Eagle’s Peak, but it was too exposed for my comfort, but next time I think I’ll try to find a safe route to the top.  This shot above is actually just a beer can shaped snowball that I added the can of Rainier beer in later as a way to illustrate an inside joke to a friend who’s traveling abroad.

Beer Joke

Beer Joke

He has been sending photos of himself drinking beer in exotic places, so this is my retort.
I know, I know, but it was funny to me at the time.  And when I’m on a long hard hike I find myself dreaming up silly things like this.  Well, maybe that’s why I like to hike so much.  Anyway, as you can see the West side of Mt. Rainier is cut off by the summit of Eagle Peak, so I was pretty PO’ed that we wimped out, but I guess it’s better to be safe than sorry.  I think the next time we’ll have to drop our packs and poles, so we have a good firm grip on the rock face, cause falling a few hundred feet onto the jagged rocks below doesn’t sound like my idea of a good time.  Not to mention my phobia of heights.

More on this trip soon, but I want to post this before I forget what happened or I’ll just start making shit up. =^ )

Cheers,
Jim

Westward view from Eagle Peak

Westward view from Eagle Peak

View of Mt. Adams from Eagle Peak - Mt. Rainier

View of Mt. Adams from Eagle Peak - Mt. Rainier

View of Mt. St. Helens from Eagle Peak - Mt. Rainier

View of Mt. St. Helens from Eagle Peak - Mt. Rainier