Thursday, August 28, 2008

It's a boy, not a lizard...

Bill Cosby once said that when a newborn baby comes out it looks like a lizard and often needs to be put back in to "cook more". This is what I expected when I went to the hospital to meet my newest nephew. Fortunately, Luke Apollo Hoppe neither looks like a lizard nor needs to cook longer. He's a pretty cute little guy

Granted, I did see a few pictures that Athena, my 10 year old niece who attended the birth ("I got to play with the placenta! It was slippery!") took when he first came out. He did look a little purple and slimy, but we must cut him a little slack. None of us ever looks our best when we first wake up.

Friday, August 22, 2008

I Walked How Far For This????

The idea to hike to the Blue Glacier seemed like a good one. I thought it would be good for me to get out and do a backpacking trip by myself - clear my head- get some exercise - finally get to a really freaking big glacier. So two weeks ago I made the plan. I packed my bag. I borrowed a bivy sack so I wouldn't have to pack in a big tent. And I set off.

It's about 17 miles up the Hoh River Trail to get to the Blue Glacier. I was planning on doing the trip in 3 days - hiking in 10.5 miles to Lewis Meadows, hiking up to the glacier and back the next day, camping at Lewis Meadows again, and then hiking out.
The first thing I noticed as I set off was that the rainforest looks pretty similar no matter where you are in it.
The next thing I noticed was that I hike a lot faster by myself than I do with other people. I got to camp in about 3 hours - about 5 pm. And it started raining. Great. So I climbed into my bivy sack at 5pm (which is not set up for sitting -you have to lay down and not move very much) with my 0 degree down sleeping bag, opened up my book, took out my bag of gummy bears and a soggy sandwich (no stove to go light), and proceeded to lay there and read and sweat in the rain for the next 4 hours until it was dark enough to go to sleep. Fun.

The weather predictors had said the next day would be blue and beautiful, and, surprisingly enough, they were right. So I set off. I kept thinking that as I rose in elevation I would start getting views of this great mountain I was heading to. Just more rainforest. I did find a good reason why there are few permanent structures in the Olympic backcountry.

But it took me getting within about 2 miles of the end of the trail before I actually got a view. Good thing it was a nice view or I would have been a little miffed.
Glacier Meadows is the end point of the trail before you start picking your way up the moraine towards the Blue Glacier overlook. Now, a name like Glacier Meadows to me implies open alpine views. Again, More trees. Some pretty flowers, but no real alpine views to speak of.

My hard work was rewarded, though, by the Blue Glacier. After trudging up the moraine and pausing for awhile to watch an outdoor adventure group made up of 50-something men and a few teenagers learn how to self-arrest on snow ("Watch out you don't stab yourself with the ice axe on your way down!") I came over a ridge to the scene below.

I think I almost wept. To see a glacier that big that close was amazing and overwhelming and humbling. And to drink in the cool almost alpine air after being in the rainforest for an excruciating 16 miles was just as good.

After tottering down to the glacier and kissing it (just to say I'd done it), I sat down to stare at its massiveness for awhile. I thought about walking back to Lewis Meadows. I thought about how hot and sticky I was. I thought about the second soggy sandwich I had for dinner and the fact that I had finished the only book I had brought last night. And I was out of gummy bears. It was then that I decided that I could not spend another night sweating in a bivy sack. I wanted a shower and a beer and my king size bed. So I hitched up my pack and walked out. Through mile after mile after mile after endless mile of green dripping ferns, nurselogs, and hemlocks. It was like the Heart of Darkness backwards. Stupid Rainforest.

25.5 miles for the day all in all. 11 hours. My personal best. Only 3 enormous blisters to show for it and I was home in time to watch the Olympics with a burger, a milkshake, and a happy dog. Glad I went, but glad to be home.

Some people feel like going backpacking by themselves gives them time to think and be by themselves and commune with nature. I definitely enjoyed the challenge and the reward of getting to see that amazing glacier. I even enjoyed the rainforest. But I live by myself in a national park. I spend lots of time thinking by myself and communing with nature. Maybe next time I'll just do a dayhike.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

No Tattoos...but Pigs!

I went to the big city of Seattle to find a good tattoo artist. Yes, it's about that time to add another piece of symbolic body art to my collection.

Alas, I found no tattoo shops. Perhaps I didn't look in the right places oweing to my pedestrian status. What I did find, however, was a great little brew pub and a plethora of pig statues. Beer and pigs. Two things that always make me smile.

I happen to have a great affection for inanimate pigs since my grandma Hoppe sent me Porkchop, the lifesized pink resin pig that now greets all visitors to Casa Hoppe.

And it struck me that, like Porkchop greets visitors to my humble abode, perhaps Seattle was serving up some sort of porcine offering of hospitality to me. After all, it's not every city where you can watch an Estelle Getty look-alike heave herself atop a bronze porker, wave her hand in the air and yell "Yee-haw".

I am no longer a city person. The hairs on the back of my neck stand a little straighter amid the cement postpiles and dirty streets of the urban arena. And yet, here were these pigs saying, "See, it's not so bad."

So although I didn't come back with the tattoo I wanted, as I drove along the banks of Lake Crescent, I realized I had come back with a few valuable things: an appreciation for Seattle, four stolen deckels from the brew pub to use on my coffee table, and a renewed appreciation for the remoteness, solitude, and quiet of my own home.

And Porkchop was there waiting to welcome me...