May 29, 2020

Shelter In Place

"The world is getting through a period of crisis, but whether we look at it as a crisis or as an opportunity to reshape our thinking, depends on us. So use this period as a lesson on how to live life with a concern for all of humankind."
Abhijit Naskar
"Life is under no obligation to give us what we expect." But who would have known that news in the early months of 2020 would be dominated by the pandemic Covid-19 and a new term for all of us..."shelter in place?" And who would have known that our new fashion trends would be wearing gloves and a mask (Yes, we do believe in wearing our mask in public places) and that our preferred scent would be...that of hand sanitizers? Life as we knew it has been turned upside down by fears of the spreading disease, a tanking economy, record unemployment and the "novelty" of self isolation. The emotional tolls that all these issues have caused can be riveting. 
Yet, in truth nothing is bringing people together in mass numbers like this invisible threat. We yearn more than ever to see and embrace family and friends. "I" is seemingly being supplanted with us. So now the model of what our way of life was like yesterday, is being changed with the question, how do we conceive and embrace our new world, these new uncharted waters? The natural beauty surrounding us can soothe our trials by providing peace to our inner turmoil. Being able to take outside walks close to "home" offer that therapy.
Fortunately, so very fortunate, this terrible pandemic found us sheltered and alone on the beautiful central coast of California. This Pacific coastline has been our home for almost 23 years, so it is not by accident that we are nestled here. As we have been community and State Park volunteers for over 20 years, deciding to serve a few months as Camp Hosts at Hearst San Simeon State Park was a natural fit when we became full-timers again last year. So yes, it was fortuitous indeed that this year's stint found us here at this time. We've named our motorhome, WeBeGon, but for the the past 5 months it is WeBeHere. 
Great Horned Owlets alert and vigil
Great Horned Owlets fed and asleep
With our park being temporarily closed and very empty of campers since March 25th, wildlife is once again flourishing. Red Foxes and their family of kits have a new den close to us, quail can be seen at every turn, a Great Horned Owl and her two owlets live in the trees above, small herds of deer fearlessly stroll the roads and colonies of rabbits abound.
But even in our Camelot, we feel the fear, pain, suffering and the uncertainty of others. Many days our town looks like a ghost town, as restaurants and retail stores are all closed. We cannot ignore seeing the efforts of parents trying to provide their families with regular meals and shelter. Daily we see the unemployed, the hungry and homeless. More than any period in our lives, we live in a world of many trials and tribulations.  We watch with trepidation as our little village tries to safely reopen and deal with the many that wish to visit. We hope for respect, kindness and compassion in this process but often find ourselves combing the trail with our litter picker and bucket.
This is a time where love, courage and commitment rises to the top of our communities. First responders, medical staff, grocery workers, delivery personnel, and mail carriers have become our heroes. So are all those who in every possible way, are finding new means to navigate. We are observing our small town band together to honoring the health directives of the state (as difficult as it is), providing services to the elderly, continuing to support restaurants via take out service and collecting donations to provide groceries to the less fortunate. 
We are witnessing a huge shift in consciousness toward the once simple way of daily living. Over the next year we will need to be fluid, creative and in a mental platform to embrace change. And with thoughtful preparation we are convinced that we will be up to the challenge. As each day winds down, we retire for the evening optimistic that all our combined love, faith and determination will reach a critical mass, empowering all of us to know these hard times will indeed pass.

At Waypoint 35.5836° N-121.1217° W

January 2, 2020

Fire Mountains of the Cascades

"Though broken by crags, bluff, and some deep canyons, the long swell of the 
Cascades is generally seen as a green pedestal for majestic white volcanoes...
Viewed from certain vantage points, these giants start out in solitary splendor,
but they stand only slightly apart from a breathless company of mountain giants,
all looking romantically steep, unattainable and top heavy with ice." 
Dorothy Krell
Volcanoes...just another graphic description of Nature's wildness or just its beauty making love-beats of its heart. 
Within the Cascades you will behold a range of exhausted volcanoes, not a flame on any majestic crest...but many a fire burns beneath the ground. A dormant fire mountain is only temporary, as proven in May 1980, when the most disastrous volcanic eruption in US history occurred. 
Mount St. Helens is located in the Cascade Range and is part of the Cascade Volcanic Arc, a segment of the Pacific Ring of Fire that includes over 160 active volcanoes. 
The collapse of the northern flank of Mount St. Helens is still quite visible today.
Life has returned to the valley surrounding the volcanoe.
Scars of landslide still exist.
A 5.1 earthquake at Mount St. Helens on Sunday, May 18th 1980 triggered the entire north face to slide away. In reducing the elevation of the mountain's summit by over 1,300 feet, the quake created the largest landslide ever recorded. Molten high pressure gas and steam rich gas in the volcano exploded northward and rose 80,000 feet into the atmosphere, depositing ash in 11 western states. When it was all over, approximately 57 people were killed directly from the lateral blast, mudslides or flooding.
We camped at Seaquest State Park, a 475 acre forested park along the shoreline of Silver Lake. It was 47 miles to the Johnston Ridge Observatorylocated in the heart of the blast zone, which is a wonderful interpretive center with spectacular views of the crater. Our site was surrounded by a thick canopy of moss filled trees and had "islands" of new growth of grass, which kept Sydney and Kiah mud free (most of the time) between rain storms.
Coldwater Lake Trail
Interpretive boardwalk at Coldwater Lake
One mile boardwalk trail around Silver Lake Wetlands
Coldwater Lake, Castle Lake, Spirit Lake and Silver Lake were all created by eruptions of Mount St. Helens. Imkelina and her loyal pack took every "dry" opportunity to explore off the beaten track the many wetland and woodland trails. With the colors of fall creeping in throughout the forest canopy, these nature paths were even more spectacular.  
Clouds shroud the face of Mt. Rainer
and there are more clouds
"Of all the fire-mountains which, like beacons, once blazed along the Pacific Coast, Mount Rainier is the noblest." 
John Muir
We made attempt after attempt to gain an audience with majestic Mount Rainer in hopes of seeing magical views of brilliantly colored meadows, dazzling, roaring falls and mighty snow covered pinnacles. But alas, after four full days of going up to the mountain we only saw the veil of clouds that protected and blocked that breathtaking peak.

Skyline Trail
Grove of the Patriarchs Nature Trail 

Myrtle Falls
Reflection Lake
At the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center at Paradise, steps carved with a welcome from John Muir lead you to many trailheads, meadows and falls nestled throughout Mount Rainier. You will behold all the splendor and wonderment within this stunning National Park. During our brief time at Rainer, meadows upon meadows were just beginning to be filled with brilliant color. Wildflowers in every shade swayed in the breeze, bringing life to the hillside.
The Blue Hole
With its proximity to Mount Rainer, we camped at La Wis Wis Forest Service Campground during our stay. It turned out to be an excellent base to explore. Situated at the confluence of three waterways, the campground is nestled under a lush canopy of towering Douglas firs and red cedars. Our riverbank site in the Hatchery Loop accommodated our WeBeGone with room to spare, but the campground lets you know that roads through it are narrow with large trees lining it's boundary and before you cross the river bridge you best practice squeezing your butt cheeks. Turns are very, very tight. Many motorhome side panels have felt the teeth of the bridge as they tried to make the turn onto its ramp. A short hike from our campsite was the Blue Hole, a beautiful pool located on the Ohanapecosh River that locals are bold enough to plunge into from the cliffs above.
And than there is the wildlife...
While on the trail, we came upon Hoary Marmots posing on the hillsides. Huge piles of bear scat on the trail warned us to be on the lookout for foraging black bears. Our vigilance paid off as a short distance up the trail we came upon one of Mt. Rainier's largest carnivores. Based on the size of this bear, we assumed this was a huge male and we gave the big boy a wide berth.
Our Mount Rainer experience was incomplete, so a return visit is a must. Heck, this is THE mountain that's emblazoned on every Washington license plate and being the US fifth highest peak, is visible throughout much of the western state. Rainier is awe-inspiring and we are hooked.  
Mount Rainier as captured by Danny Seldman
This photo represents what we envision seeing upon our return to Mount Rainer.

Heading south we decided to check out Cove Palisades State Park on Billy Chinook Reservoir in Culver, Oregon. The last time we stopped here, the lake was bustling with boaters, fisherman, campers and hikers. The hordes of people resembled and compared to stirring up an ant colony. Not a time for nourishment, quiet evenings and nature songs. As this was the off season, we decided it was a good time to try staying at one of their facilities, Crooked River Campground, encompassing the Deschutes and Crooked River Canyons. Perfect timing too...with over 200 campsites, we found only about a half dozen occupied. We secured the most awesome campsite that offered a magical view of the second highest mountain in Oregon, the stratovolcano Mount Jefferson. 
Mount Jefferson
And as history has proven, the awakening of a slumbering fire mountain can be so spectacular with its erupting...showing its raw destructive power capable of so much destruction. There must be a connection between the mountains, forest and we often gravitate to them. Imke and I crave for solace deep in our hearts and we find that in those natural wonderlands. And we find peace in the silence and beauty that these magical surroundings offer. We do love the PNW.

Lenticular Clouds over Mount St. Helens

At Waypoint 46.8523º N, 121.7603º W