Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Part 153 - Oh Vey, Am I Having Heart Problems

Within ten miles, I approached a major trail junction at Windigo Pass.  The official PCT lay straight ahead while the older Oregon Skyline Trail veered off to the right.  Both arrived at the same destination  - Shelter Cove, but the Skyline Trail was many miles shorter.

When next I saw Storytime and Cookie, they were cooling their feet in the waters of Summit Lake.  I dropped my pack beside the trail and joined them.  We all concurred that this lake was undoubtedly the most scenic lake we had seen on the trail.  After taking pictures of one another and filling our water bottles, we moved on.  Within minutes, the two of them were out of sight.

There was a primitive campground and boat ramp around the lake from where we were sitting, and a dirt road that give access to the facilities.  Within a short distance, the trail crossed over this road and moved off into the trees, to parallel the road.

After crossing the road and following the trail into the trees, I suddenly become very weak, to the point that I had to sit down on the trail to regain my strength.  I had no idea what the problem was, but suspected I might be having a heart episode, however, checking my pulse, I found it close to normal.  I rested for a few minutes, then got to my feet and attempted to move on once again.  Almost immediately I felt wiped out and again sank to my knees and then to the ground where I sat and rested for a few minutes.  After this happened a third time, I opened my backpack to find my first-aid kit which contained my heart medication.  Of course the kit was on the very bottom of the pack, which required that I pull everything out of the pack and lay it on the ground.  

After taking the medication, I stretched out on the ground to rest.  I prayed that no one would come by and see me sprawled on the trail with all my gear lying beside me.  They would undoubtedly think I had had a heart attack and would be terribly concerned not knowing what to do for me.  I fell asleep for ten or fifteen minutes, and when I awakened, I quickly repacked my pack and stood up on my feet to see what was going to happen.  Lucky for me, I finish packing my backpack just before a father and son passed by me.

This time, I was able to stand upright without falling down; I attributed my improved condition to the heart medication I took.  I decided to follow the road around the lake to where the PCT crossed it again in case I should need help.  At least if I were on the road, someone might find me.

The following morning, I found Storytime and Cookie just rising from their beds.  For the first time in a long time, they both had camped under the stars.  They immediately asked me if I had any water I could spare as they had used all of theirs in putting out a smoldering fire they found at the base of a tree.  How it started, they didn’t know, but they knew they couldn’t just walk on by and try and report it later.  As I always carried plenty of water, I was able to give them a full liter.  The maps said there was a stream just ahead on the trail, but Cookie said she walked quite a ways last evening, but couldn’t find it.

After leaving them, I encountered the stream just a short distance from where Cookie turned around last night.  Its source was the snowfields high up on the glaciated face of Diamond Peak.  As with most of the peaks in the Diamond Peak Wilderness area, Diamond Peak was an extinct volcano.  The large curved bowl of the mountain looked like the remains of a caldera through which the trail passed.

Another few miles brought me to Pengra Pass and a side trail that lead down to Shelter Cove Resort at Odell Lake.  Shelter Cove was my resupply point, so I broke from the trail and walked the two miles to the resort at Odell Lake.

There were at least fifteen hikers at the resort, and I knew all of them.  I took my pack off and leaned it against the stone foundation of the store.  Beside it was the hiker box and I immediately started digging through it, looking for anything I could use to supplement my own meals.  I scored a few items and set them aside.

Shelter Cove was a beautiful resort with boating facilities, cabins to rent, and a large RV campground.  I had to walk through the campground to get to the resort store, and noticed there were a lot of late-model pickup trucks attached to good-sized fifth-wheel trailers, which equated to a lot of money tied up in just one truck and trailer.

The clerk at the counter retrieved my resupply box for me, and in exchange for five dollars gave me a handful of quarters for use at the coin-operated shower.  After taking a shower, I partnered with another hiker to share a load of laundry, and when it was finished, like always, I didn’t bother with the dryer, but put the clothes on damp and walked around while the sun dried them out.

It took about an hour to repack my backpack with the supplies from my resupply box, plus trying to stuff in the extras I scrounged from the hiker box.  I did the repacking on the spacious lawn in front of the lakefront.  Sitting next to me on the lawn was Sherpa C.  For shelter, he used a Big Agnes Copper Spur UltraLite1 tent.  I asked him to demonstrate it for me, as I wanted to see just how fast it could be erected.  At $370.00, it was an expensive tent, but were I to hike the trail again, this is the tent I would go with.  I liked the fact that it was freestanding, had double-side doors as opposed to entering and exiting through the front, and had a detachable rainfly, which would help considerably in reducing condensation which was a real deterrent with single-wall tents such as I was currently using. 

In preparing for my trip, I let the weight of an item dictate whether it was purchased or not, as I was determined to go as light as possible and ounces added up to pounds.  It was for this reason that I went with the Rainbow Solo Tarp tent.  It weighed less than two pounds, whereas the Big Agnes Copper Spur UltraLite 1 weighed in at 2lbs 8 ounces.  In the end, I sacrificed a few ounces of weight for the comfort of a better quality tent.  This was not to demean the Rainbow Solo, but the difference between the two, on rainy or snowy days, was significant.  First and foremost on the trail, it was important to stay dry, and I couldn’t always achieve that with the Rainbow Solo.

The rugged wilderness around Mount Theisel. The rock formation in the middle is the remnant of a volcanic plug - the hot, molten magma that formed in the throat of the volcano and solidified. Over time, because the matrix around the plug was softer, it weathered away, leaving only the plug.

A young hiker with his miniature guitar.

Cookie and Story Time stopping for lunch.

Story Time, Cookie and I all agreed that Summit Lake was the most scenic lake we had encountered on the trail.

This is the Diamond Peak Wilderness. The trail makes a half circle around the base of this formation which appears to be the inside of a volcano caldera.

The lawn in front of Shelter Cove Resort. After showering and doing laundry, many hikers placed their tents and sleeping bags on the lawn to dry out.

The dead trees are either from a long ago fire, or beetle kill.

These two photos show several original Pacific Crest Trail logos tacked to the trees to mark the trail.
In times past, there were many more, but hikers have taken them as souvenirs. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Part 152 - Water is Down the Trail

My wife Jodie, and daughter Kathryn, want to meet up with me at Bend, Oregon and spend a couple of days with me.  As much as I’d like to see them, I’m quite hesitant about taking two full days off from the trail; that means a loss of approximately fifty miles and I don’t know if I can afford the time – Canada calls and snow is coming.  I still have a few days to make a final decision.

It was camping time by the time I reached Highway 138, and finding numerous flat places just beyond the road, I bedded down for the night.  All night long, I observed brilliant flashes of light coming from the direction of Crater Lake.  They were so bright, I had to get out of bed and look in the direction of the light to see if I could ascertain their origin.  The lights actually pulsated.  I would like to think the source was lightning, but there was never any thunder associated with it.  Most likely, it was an alien spaceship that had landed in the forest on the other south side of Highway 138, and left its landing lights on.

It was almost daylight when I start walking this morning, but I can tell that the days are starting to get shorter, and the handwriting is on the wall, “Don’t linger and don’t take no shortcuts.”
I had a couple of snacks for breakfast – a Clif Bar and trail mix to get me going; I would stop later for a proper breakfast, after the sun came up.

Mount Thielsen was the dominant feature on the horizon this morning, and by eight o'clock I was standing at the trail spur that lead to the summit of Mount Thielsen.  Hikers with extra energy will drop their packs at the trailhead and make the relatively easy climb to the summit.

There really was no place to camp here by the trail, but Brownie somehow had managed to eke out a space large enough to accommodate his sleeping bag.  He poked his head out of his bag to see what the day looked like; I greeted him and wished him a Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah-day, then hiked around a bend in the trail where I sat down, opened my pack, and prepared to fix breakfast.

Being high up on the northwest side of Mount Thielsen, I had a wonderful, unobstructed panoramic view of the Diamond Peak Wilderness through which I would be hiking during the rest of the day.  My choice for a breakfast spot was a bit precarious, as the trail was only three feet wide, and where it ended, it was a sheer drop-off of several hundred feet to the valley below.  To get to my food bag, I had to first take out my sleeping bag which was in a stuff sack; I placed it on the trail, which unbeknownst to me, had a slight slope to it.  With the sleeping bag on the ground, I turned my attention to my pack to retrieve the food bag, only to see out of the corner of my eye, my stuff sack with the sleeping bag inside, rolling towards the edge of the trail and the drop-off.  I lunged for it and nabbed it just as it was heading for the abyss.  Score one for team Rabbit Stick.

In a meadow beyond Mount Thielsen, I came across a wooden sign that declared the ground underneath the post to be the highest point in elevation on the Oregon-Washington PCT -- 7,560 feet.

There were many lakes off to either side of the official Pacific Crest Trail, with side trails that lead to them.  Before the PCT, there was an earlier trail in this section called the Oregon Skyline Trail that was routed around several of these lakes, but when the PCT was completed, it stayed true to its mandate of staying to the crests of the mountains, therefore bypassing some of the more scenic parts of the Mount Thielsen and Diamond Peak Wilderness areas.  Some of the spur trails I crossed were the Howlock Mountain Trail, the Diamond Lake Trail, the Maidu Lake Trail, and the Miller Lake Trail.

I had been passed by numerous hikers today, most of them heading for the camp at Six Horse Springs.  When I arrived, it was late in the evening and most had either set up their camp or had obtained water from the spring and moved on.  My mileage for the day was twenty-five and I was beyond being exhausted.  I wasn’t moving fast when I came into camp; in fact, my gait resembled that of the Old Man Shuffle.

At the far end of the camp was a large log, on top of which sat Storytime and Cookie. Needing a place to sit down and contemplate my options for the evening, I moved towards the log, dropped my pack on the ground, and sat beside them.  I asked for directions to the spring, and Cookie pointed to a trail leading off through the trees, and said it was a quarter mile down to the spring.  I just sat on the log and stared at the ground, trying to get up enough energy to make the round-trip to get water.
I guess I looked quite dejected and exhausted, for Cookie took pity on me and offered to go get water for me.  I told her I didn’t want to burden her with my water containers, but she said she was going down anyway and would be happy to take my containers with her.  Reluctantly, I gave them to her. 

 This was the second time she has offered to get water for me; I was genuinely touched by her thoughtfulness and kindness.  I was emotionally and physically worn out and I cried, but I didn’t want her to see my tears, for I was disheartened that I am at that point in life where others perceive the need to want to help me.

Eventually, I would have gone down the trail for water, but I truly was happy that she was willing to go for me.  Saying “Thanks,” is never enough for trail magic.  I set my tent up and stayed the night in camp with Charlie, Cowgirl, and Sherpa C; Storytime and Cookie moved on up the trail.

I rested well during the night and must have slept in, for Charlie and Cowgirl were beginning to stir as I rose from my sleeping bag and exited the tent.  In the early morning light, I knuckled my eyes and sleeved my nose, struck my tent, and proceeded to pack my backpack.  I was away from the camp before the others and headed into the forest with the morning sunlight just beginning to filter through the trees.  Within a mile, I passed Storytime and Cookie’s campsite with their different and distinctive tents set up at opposite ends of the campsite clearing. I would be many miles up the trail before they overtook me.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Part 151 - Deep, Blue Crater Lake

Clouds began to form as Cookie and I started our walk, and the weather was quite blustery by the time we reached the Watchman Trail leading to the fire lookout station several hours later.  There was a parking lot and restroom facility adjacent to the Watchman trail and the lot was filled with cars and visitors who were either gathered around the lake’s viewpoints or were preparing to hike the Watchman Trail. 

 Cookie and I stopped to take pictures of the lake, and several park visitors, upon learning that we were PCT hikers, wanted to have their pictures taken with us.  We knew we didn’t smell too good, which is why the visitors probably didn’t linger long after the pictures were taken.

Crater Lake was formed when the original volcano known as Mount Mazama blew its top; the peak that no longer exists was given the name Mazama by a mountaineering club from Portland, who came to the lake in 1896 on an excursion.  They named it after their club – the Mazamas, which is an Indian name meaning “mountain goat.” (Lewis)

Mount Mazama started to grow and expand about four hundred thousand years ago.  Eventually it reached an approximate height of twelve thousand feet, then in much the same manner as Mount Saint Helens disintegrated in 1980, Mount Mazama exploded approximately 7,700 years ago, resulting in a loss of over five thousand feet of mountaintop.  As lava continued to flow down the mountain and into the surrounding countryside, with some flows extending as far as forty miles away, the magma chamber below the mountain emptied, leaving a void into which the walls of Mount Mazama collapsed.  The lake inside the caldera, at 1,943 feet is the deepest lake in the U.S. and it took approximately 720 years to fill.  Rainwater and snowmelt, coupled with evaporation, allows the lake to replenish itself every 250 years. (Geologic)

From the parking lot, the trail veered to the left and crossed a wide expanse of open land. At mile 1,844, the Crater Rim Trail, which is the official alternate trail, reconnected with the old PCT and equestrian trail.  Horses and their riders are not allowed on the rim trail and must use the official PCT which is lower in elevation and departed from Dutton Creek where I camped last night.

After passing this trail junction, Cookie and I took a break for lunch; it was stressful for me to try and keep up with her, so after finishing lunch I told her to continue on without me. Picking up the trail again, I passed around the west side of Grouse Hill, continued across flat terrain under a canopy of tall trees that tended to block out the sun, then skirted around the edge of Timber Crater and finally arrive at Highway 138, the east-west highway just north of Crater Lake.

This is Crater Lake, with Wizard Island showing in the background.

I walked with Cookie the four miles around the lake. At the Watchman Tower parking lot, some tourists wanted to have their picture taken with us, and we had them take these photos also.

I can tell I'm steadily loosing weight. By the end of the journey in Canada, I had lost about 40lbs. I was down to my high school weight of 180 lbs.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Part 150 - Are You Really That Dumb

I found an empty place by the store wall, and set my pack on the ground, then entered the store looking for something to eat, as I was starved.  There was a self-help food bar with hot dogs and all the trimmings, plus a soda fountain.  Without waiting in line to pay (I did so afterwards), I made several Polish dogs and smothered them with relish and mustard, ketchup, and any other condiments that was available, and literally gulped them down.

The store was crowded with visitors who had come to see the lake; families with small kids who ran berserk around the store, grabbing at everything they could find; teenagers with cell phones pressed tight to their ears talking to their best friend who they couldn’t stand to be away from for even a few days.

When the crowd at the sales counter thinned, I approached the clerk and asked to reclaim my package.  The clerk scanned the entries in her three-ring binder, but didn’t find my name listed.  Once again, I made a call to Jodie to ask if she sent the package on time.  She said she had and the tracking number said it had arrived at the village.  Again, I asked the clerk to check her entry book, and she replied that the only Jones she had in the book was a Jodie Jones. Somehow my package was entered under Jodie’s name, but now the manager of the store, who went to retrieve the package, informed me that I couldn’t have it unless I could provide identification for Jodie Jones.  I hope the expression on my face conveyed to him my thoughts that screamed,

“Are you really that dumb?

Do you think I carry around identification for my wife?”

When the package was placed before me, the mailing label showed that it was sent to Richard Jones, and not Jodie, and I was able to retrieve my box without further hassle.

Somehow I always arrived at the next resupply point with leftover food packets.  This time was no exception.  I have snacks, Mountain House dinners, MiO drink flavoring, Clif Bars, etc., that I offered to the other hikers around me.  They in turn shared their extras with me.

Before leaving the village, Storytime, Brownie, and I walked over to the restaurant to partake of the all-you-can-eat salad buffet, which we all topped off with a chocolate sundae.

It was six in the evening and rain was threatening, but I chose to leave the village and hike a few miles before calling it quits for the day.  It was only five miles from Mazama Village to the rim of Crater Lake and its facilities, and I wanted to get there early to have breakfast at the café with others who left before me.

To return to the trail required a roadwalk of about a mile, and then it was an easy walk through the forest to the trail junction at Dutton Creek, where the trail to Crater Lake departed. There were several official campsites at Dutton Creek, and I had expected to see other hikers there, but there was no one around except for a group of noisy boy scouts who were camped around a bend.

I moved off the trail a few feet and cleared the debris from the ground to make a campsite.  I couldn’t believe how tired and exhausted I was feeling.  I had covered over 1,800 miles of trail so far, and yet had taken only four full days' time off for relaxation.  I knew I should take more, but I was straddled with that nagging feeling of making every day count, and wasting none.

The night’s rest was restorative and it was still dark when I left my campsite, but I didn’t have to use my headlamp to see the trail.  It was only two and a half miles to the lodge at the rim and I arrived at the cafe parking lot at 7:30 a.m., and was surprised to find the parking lot empty. I walked over to the front door of the café to see if their hours are posted, which they were, and found that the café didn’t open until 9:00 a.m.  Rats, I could have slept in this morning.

In the parking lot was a restroom, a really clean one, and I went in to refill my water bottles.  While waiting for the restaurant to open, I decided to eat an early breakfast of my own making which I did while sitting on the stone steps of the restroom.  With time to kill, I walked over to the lodge, thinking I might be able to get breakfast there.  But once in the lodge, I felt out of place; it looked to be a high-end establishment, therefore I assumed that breakfast in the dining hall would be overpriced.  However, in retrospect, after the café opened and I spent seventeen dollars on a sandwich, yogurt, and chocolate milk, more than likely, I could have enjoyed a decent breakfast here at the lodge for less money.

After walking away from the lodge, I should have just left and continued the walk around the lake, but the lure of cooked food at the café was too much to resist.  Finally, it was 9:00 a.m. and I and several others headed towards the café to take our place at a table and place an order for a large stack of pancakes.  I arrived at the cafe just in time to see Cookie approaching.

Once inside the café, we found that it was not a sit-down restaurant, but a way overpriced buffet of prepackaged snacks – sandwiches, fruit, drinks, yogurt, etc.  Trapped, and not wanting to go back to the lodge, I made my selections and sat at a table with Cookie.  I spent seventeen dollars; Cookie said she had to limit her selections to about twelve dollars.

At 9:30 a.m., the two of us left the café and started the walk around the lake.  Far in the distance, up high on a cliff, we could see a tiny mound that we knew to be the Watchman fire tower.  From our starting point, it was a four-mile walk to Watchman.

The fire lookout station was constructed in 1932 and manned continuously by park service personnel until 1977, and since then, only intermittently.  Because it offered a clear 360-degree, unobstructed view of Crater Lake and the surrounding terrain, it had become a favorite hiking destination for visitors to the park.  The lookout station was still manned by the park service, but it also served as a museum for the public.

Before leaving Mazama Village, Story Time, Brownie and I enjoyed the all-you-eat-buffet at the restaurant.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Part 149 - A Little Prayer Goes A Long Ways

The panic level rose a little higher still.  I deemed it best to stop where I was, rather than wander in the darkness and get myself hopelessly lost.  I pulled my Z-pad out of my backpack, along with my down quilt, and lay on the ground to wait for the light of dawn.  All the while, the worst-case scenarios were filtering through my mind; what if I couldn’t get my bearings; what if I couldn’t recognize my surroundings.  I had no compass and wouldn’t be able to orient myself on my maps.  I might be able to get a location reading from my GPS, but that was iffy.

I prayed and I prayed hard; first to keep the fear and panic down, and secondly, to ask for help and assistance in recognizing my surroundings once it was light and then being able to discern
 directions towards the trail.  I haven’t walked far, so I can’t be far from the trail; I just had to be able to find where I camped last night and go from there.  Being lost in the wilderness is the thing I fear most.  I had noted many times as I’ve walked through the forests, that if I were to walk a hundred feet into the woods, close my eyes and turn around several times, then open them and try to retrace my steps, I would be utterly and hopelessly lost.

I tried to sleep so that the time on the ground would pass quickly.  At 5:30 a.m., it was light enough to start looking for familiar landmarks. I carefully surveyed the forest and the underbrush, and in the distance, I thought I saw the sandy floor where I had spent the night. I started towards it, to inspected it for footprints, just to make sure it was my campsite – it was.  I set my pack on the ground and turned and faced the slope I walked down the evening before and retraced my steps to where I thought the trail should be.  It was hidden by vegetation, but I found it.  I then walked back to my backpack, turning around every few feet to memorize a landmark that I would be able to see and recognize once I’m back at my pack.

After retrieving my backpack, I looked back up the hill I had just descended and picked out the landmarks I needed to follow to get back to the trail.  Once on the trail, I give thanks and express much gratitude to my Heavenly Father for assistance in a very difficult situation.

I know it sounds incredulous for me to think I was lost being less than a 100 to 150 feet from the trail, but walking just that short distance with the smug attitude that I’ll just backtrack in the morning when it was time to return to the trail without paying close attention to where I’m placing my feet, without observing which of three downed trees I was crossing over, which of three standing trees I was passing between, or if my descent went off at a slight angle, could have had serious consequences. 

When I started back for the trail the next morning, in the dark, the angle at which I anticipated intersecting the trail was off by several degrees, and just like in a rail yard where a switch that moves only several inches can send a train speeding off in a different direction and ending up miles away from where the switch was thrown, had I been foolish enough to continue plowing ahead, the angle would have increased, and I never would have reconnected with the trail.

Feeling relief that I’m back on the trail, a memory came to my mind as I reviewed the situation of becoming lost or nearly so.  Each spring, before the boating season began and the customers arrive, I would spend several weeks training the company’s new river guides.  Critical to whitewater rafting is knowing where to position the boat before entering a rapid, and I emphasize the word “before” because if the position is off by just a few feet, it can mean a flipped raft and passengers getting hurt
Every major rapid was scouted, which meant that the boats would be pulled ashore above the rapid, and the guides would walk down to it to observe it and determine the correct path through it. Together we would study the rapid, and I would detail for them the safest route through.  The critical element to scouting is to know where to position the boat before starting the run.

The thing about rapids is that they descend, so when setting up for the run, the guide needs to understand that the rapid cannot be seen from upriver.  To avoid the potential of flipping a boat, it’s crucial that the boat be in the right position before dropping into the maelstrom.  I would point out to the guides that there was always a characteristic about the water – a small wave, a rock, a rise in the water as it flowed over a rock that could be used as a marker for positioning the boat, and I stressed that it was imperative to be able to recognize that marker rock or wave from way upstream.  

My coaching to the guides was for them to turn around every so often as they walked back to the boats, to make sure they could still locate the marker, as it would look different the farther up the trail they went.  With the marker firmly established in their minds when they pushed their boat away from the shore and moved out into the current, as they approached the rapid, they could spot the marker and adjust the position of their boat accordingly.

And so it is with the trail; whenever leaving it, pick out a marker – a rock, a tree stump, a fallen log, and as you walk away from the trail, turn around periodically, and reconfirm in your mind that you can still see the marker.  Once away from the trail, all the trees look the same and directions become confusing.

Within a quarter of a mile, I passed Runs-with-Elk’s tent; there was no movement.  I was sure she was still sound asleep, but we reconnected at Mazama Village later in the day.  Jenna, which was Elk’s real name, was an intelligent girl with a solid college education.  I don’t know if she majored in geology, but she certainly understands it and it was enlightening to walk beside her and listen as she explained the composition of rocks, their attributes, their characteristics, and how they were formed.

The Central Oregon Plateau is known as the High Desert, which is somewhat of a misnomer, as the average height is four thousand feet and rainfall averages fifteen inches. Scrubland might be a better description of the region.  Within a few miles of leaving camp, the trail skirted around the west end of the desert, which extended east, all the way to the Idaho border.  Water was scarce in this high desert region, and there were no additional, on-trail water sources to be found until leaving the trail at Highway 62 and descending to Mazama Village, which I reached by one o’clock in the afternoon. Mazama Village had a large RV campground, convenience store, post office, and restaurant. 

By trail, it was seven miles from the facilities found at Crater Lake itself.  As I entered the grounds surrounding the convenience store and post office, I found a dozen or more hikers sitting at the picnic tables in front of the store or milling about inside the building. They were either eating or repacking their backpacks with foodstuffs from their resupply boxes.  I knew everyone present with the exception of a couple of new faces, and I introduced myself to them.  They went by the trail names of Samba (male) and Tallywa (female).

Friday, July 26, 2013

Part 148 - Now I'm Really Scared

At the junction of Highway 140 and the PCT, Swiss Army and I stopped for a few moments while I fished in my backpack for my rain cover.  Returning to the trail after running his errands, Swiss Army knew he would be at least two days behind me, and was concerned about catching up with me to return the new backpack rain cover. I told him that I would be taking two days off in Bend when my wife and daughter came to visit me, and I was confident we would find each other there.

On the north side of Highway 140, I entered Sky Lakes Wilderness, and a quick glance at my map explained the reason for the name; the land was dotted with numerous small bodies of water, all the way to Crater Lake.  I only walked a few miles farther after taking leave of Swiss Army and camped at Christi's Springs.  Along the way, I passed numerous trail junctions, many of which I wish I had time to explore.  One went to McLoughlin, a relatively young volcano, and only three and a half miles west of the PCT.  A hiker could leave his/her pack and make the round-trip to the summit and back in only a few hours.

Christi's Springs was off the trail just a bit, so I set my pack down and took only my water containers to the spring.  Back on the trail, and a hundred yards from the spring was a small campsite, and here I stayed for the night.  Storytime was just leaving as I arrived.  It was only six in the evening and he said he wanted to make a few more miles before quitting for the day.  There was a small chance of rain tonight, so rather than suffer the consequences of poor judgment, I put up my tent and was well rewarded for my preparation; it rained hard all night long.

Just as I finished erecting my tent, Prophet stopped by my camp.  I invited him to stay, but he, like Storytime, chose to move on.  I asked him if he stayed at the Brown Mountain Shelter last night, and he said he did.  He related that just as he was entering the cabin site, he scared away a big brown bear that was sniffing about the area.

Before leaving camp this morning, I put on my North Face rain pants, not that it was cold, but I knew that my pants and legs would become soaked from walking through the wet vegetation adjacent to the trail.

Shortly after breaking camp and hiking for an hour, I passed the southern end of the Red Lake Trail that headed off to the left and skirted the east side of Red Lake before rejoining the PCT.  A few miles beyond was the junction of an alternative trail to the PCT – the beautiful Sky Lakes Trail that passed in and around a number of small lakes before rejoining the official PCT via the Snow Lake Trail at mile 1,804.  I learned later that Cookie, who was perhaps a half day ahead of me, took the Sky Lakes Trail, and commented that it was a beautiful section of trail to travel.

The trail meandered across fairly level ground until it was time to climb the steep grade up to Shale Butte and Lucifer Ridge; and then it was onto Devil’s Peak and a descent to the lowland region of the Seven Lakes Basin.  (Lucifer Ridge, Devil’s Peak – who names these places?)

Honeymoon Creek was a frog’s paradise, and the ground along the trail was covered with tiny, brown jumping frogs that reminded me of Mexican jumping beans.  Some were not too swift and had a penchant for being in the wrong place at the wrong time and ended up becoming one with Mother Earth again.

In quick succession, I passed around the base of Maude, Ethel, and Ruth Mountains – the naming of these mountains must have an interesting story, and camped just beyond Jack Spring Trail at mile 1,817.  Several miles before making camp, I passed Runs-with-Elk who I found sitting on the trail having a bite to eat.  She was just preparing to leave, so I waited for her and we walked together until reaching camp.

Since leaving Christi's Springs this morning, I had walked twenty-five miles, and I was plenty tired and very desirous of finding a place to bed down for the night.  My map indicated that there was a camp at the Jack Spring Trail area, so that’s where I was heading.  However, I knew there was at least one hiker ahead of Runs-with-Elk and me, and when we passed a flat place down off the side of a hill, I told Elk to go ahead and take the camping spot at the Jack Spring Trail if the other hiker wasn’t there, and I would go down the slope and camp in the flat place that we both could see through the trees.  I told her I would see her on the trail in the morning.

As Elk headed on up the trail, I left the trail and began walking down the slope, sidestepping dead fallen tree branches until reaching the level ground I had seen from the trail up the hill.
From my camping spot tonight, it was only eleven miles to Mazama Village – the store, post office, and campground associated with Crater Lake. That was still five hours of walking for me, so I wanted to get there as quickly as possible to retrieve my resupply package and still have time for a meal at the restaurant.  I set my internal clock for 4:00 a.m., and the next morning I was ready to leave by 4:30 a.m.

It was blacker than black around my campsite this morning; not even the stars were shining.  I placed my Mountain Hardwear hat on my head, pulled it down tight over my ears, and turned on the headlamp that was sewn to the front of the hat, and started up the hill towards the trail.  In only a few feet, I realized, with some panic rising in me, that I didn’t know precisely where the trail was located. 

What I took for uphill climbing, may actually have been side hill climbing; I took a few dozen steps more, hoping I would recognize that the direction I was moving in would lead me towards the trail.  But again, I couldn’t say for certain – the vegetation, the ground cover, the dead trees, it all looked the same, and the panic volume rose a little higher.

I decided to retreat back to where I made camp for the night and wait for it to get light; surely then, I thought to myself, I would be able to get my bearings and find the trail.  I started back, but my headlamp was too weak to put out much of a beam, and in the dimness of the light, everything looked the same.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Part 147 - The Only Escape - Schizophrenia

John went into action and propelled his android to the front of the audience and proclaimed that he was one who had returned.  He explained to the people that their loved ones, who were now encased in platinum boxes and installed in factories around the world, were alive, but consigned to an incomprehensible hell, for which there was no end.  The end result of John’s speech was that the crowd turned into a mob and completely obliterated the android – the messenger.

The one thing that John and his friends had not counted on, indeed had not even contemplated, was the centuries-old emotion of insecurity that is present in every generation, but more highly exacerbated in the last four centuries of the Welfare State.  The gnawing feeling of desperation one feels at being incapable of providing for oneself without the help of the state was such an overpowering emotion that it eclipsed even the knowledge, if true, that their unseen loved ones, though still alive, were forever locked inside a tiny metal box and doomed to a life of immeasurable suffering and misery. 

In a final effort to destroy the system, John and Martha tried to reach out to other brains, but after multiple unsuccessful attempts, they concluded that the conscience part of the human spirit, in the face of such overwhelming misery and suffering, had retreated to the farthest recesses of the brain, to live forever in an imaginary state of paradise, a place of incredible peace. It was the perfect escape – the only escape – schizophrenia, total detachment from reality, total withdrawal into the self.

The story of the Cybernetic Brains concludes with a machine that Al is able to construct that transmits a broadcast wave that severs their minds from the controlling tapes that fed cybernetic commands into their brains.  This was a worldwide phenomenon.  Without feedback information to regulate their functions, plants and factories ceased producing, distribution centers shut down, and chaos was instantaneous.  Plants that produced chemicals ran amok; fires and explosions consumed everything for miles around.  The Welfare State was destroyed; the two million cybernetic brains gained everlasting peace, and mankind went back to the Stone Age.   (Jones)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Part 146 - White Blobs of Flesh

Al pleads his case before the members of the board, and for his efforts, he is gunned down inside the boardroom.  And without ceremony, his brain is harvested and placed inside a platinum box, while his body is disposed of.

John’s brain is installed to operate and manage the functions of a large chemical plant. The data flowing through his brain he describes as a constant hum, something akin to the hum of high-tension wires.  He realizes that even though his mind is being used as a mainframe computer, he still has control of his mind and can interrupt or block the impulses flowing through his cells.  He could, in fact, destroy the whole plant if he chose to do so
The chemical plant is used to synthesize protein, the building blocks for cells.  In the deep recesses of John’s mind, he begins to formulate the idea that it might be possible to create things that would help him – hands, eyes, a mouth, and ears.  It was preposterous to even consider such thoughts, but John had nothing to lose; he had materials to work with and plenty of time to create.  The only difficulty was the task itself.

John’s primary concern was to maintain the steady flow of materials required by data input into his brain; other than that, he was free to experiment with the chemicals at his disposal. The plant was exceedingly large, and being fully automated, there was little need for humans to visit the facilities, other than an occasional plant inspector.

John’s first creation was a white blob of flesh about the size of a fist that had one Cyclopean eye.  Using telepathic powers, John was able to reach out to the specialized visual cells he had nurtured and activate them.  What he saw was dim light and fuzzy images.  He knew he could do better. The second blob, that he now termed a frog, had clear vision, and it could propel itself by the contraction of two specialized muscles John had incorporated into the base of the frog.  The third frog John created had all the features of the first two, with the addition of inferred night vision, a set of iron teeth, and a primitive digestive system so it could feed on grass and sustain itself.

With the telepathic cells that formed its major organs, John was able to hear the cries of his wife, Martha, and eventually located her in a different part of the building.  She, too, had been installed to help with the operation of the same chemical facility as John, but unique to her installation was the fact that this was the first time that two cybernetic control brains had been tied together in a peer-to-peer configuration.

(As a side note, it must be remembered that when my father wrote this story in 1950, he had no concept of a personal computer that could be linked to one or more servers; the computer of his day was an enormous machine whose relay switches were vacuum tubes that required a lot of physical space and generated significant heat, and input data was fed into the machine via punch cards or magnetic tapes. Richard)

With the aid of the frogs that John dispersed throughout the city and laboratories, he was able to read news and listen in on conversations.  Eventually, he located Al, who also had been encased inside a platinum box, but had not yet been installed to run a plant or factory.

John, Martha, and Al all believed that if they could get the information out to the public that the two million brains that had thus far been installed to operate plants and factories and run machinery of all types were still alive, the shock factor would be sufficient to bring about a cessation of this practice.  When people realized that their parents and siblings, their relatives and close friends, were still alive but consigned to a living hell that had no end, there would be a public outcry of such dimensions that nothing could stop the downfall of this outrageous practice.  Of course, that would mean the end of the Welfare State, and people would have to give up their leisure time, which for most was 24/7, and go back to work. 

But for most of earth’s inhabitants, after a century of doing no manual labor at all, or labor of any kind, the very thought of work was repulsive.  The alternative to cybernetic control brains was to revert back to the days when mechanical and electrical systems powered the factories.

The challenge that John, Martha, and Al faced was that no one had ever returned to challenge the concept that cybernetic brains were anything but dead.  The members of the Board of the Institute knew that this was not the case, but who could challenge them; what proof could anyone place before the World Court to say otherwise.

The three decided that someone or something would need to appear in public and denounce the fraud that had so long been perpetrated upon the masses.

Having manipulated the protein contents in chemical vats to produce his frog, John felt that the combined efforts between him and Martha might be able to produce a mass that resembled something human.  Their efforts were barely successful, but for the moment, it was the best they could do.  The blob had the form of a man; it had speech, vision, hearing, and was mobile.  After dressing the android in worker’s clothes found in a dressing room, John, using his telepathic powers, propelled the creature out of the lab building and into the city streets.

The timing was fortuitous as there was a large gathering in the city that day to hear Senator Viele.  The purpose of his speech before a live audience, which was being given worldwide coverage, was to first, calm their fears that cybernetic control brains were alive; after all, who could claim otherwise, as no one had ever returned to dispute the matter; and, second to declare that it would now be the right of the state to harvest the brains of any and all without a formal contract.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Part 145 - Help! We're Still Alive

John Wilkins and Martha Demming were newlyweds and were taking advantage of Martha’s brother, Al Demming’s, offer to enjoy their honeymoon at his cabin in the mountains.  There was an accident, and John’s car went off the road as it rounded a curve and tumbled end over end down two hundred feet of embankment and into a creek.

John was now awake and in incredible pain; it seemed as if every nerve in his body was screaming at the same time for relief.  It was dark; he couldn’t see anything.  Perhaps, he thought, his eyes had been bandaged; he couldn’t hear anything either.  Maybe the nurses had already come and given him the pain medication he requested, and surely they would come back again to check on him.  The pain was incessant; it was like nothing he had ever experienced before.  He hoped he might slip into unconsciousness to escape the hell he was experiencing. Why didn’t the nurses come back; he yelled as loud as he could and pleaded for them to return and give him more pain medication.  He raised his arm to move the bandages away from his eyes, but nothing happened.  He wasn’t sure his arm had even risen. He listened for a sound, any sound, but heard nothing.

He was in a hospital, he thought.  Somebody had seen the accident and called for help; they must have gotten to him quickly because he wouldn’t have lasted long in the submerged car; he would have drowned.

He was tired and fatigued and tried to sleep, but sleep wouldn’t come.  He cried and pleaded for the hospital attendants to come and give him medication so he could sleep, but no one answered his frantic calls for help.  Without sleep, he felt he would go crazy.

He could not measure the passage of hours or days, but he felt that many days had passed.  The pain seemed to be dying away, but with the lessening of pain came no resurgence of sensation.  He lay there, blind, deaf, and unfeeling.  He supposed he was being kept alive by intravenous feeding, yet he had no sensation of it.

By his tabulations, five days had passed and he began to notice a change, and the change was that of light.  Dim at first, very dim, like the light of a rising moon, but slowly it increased in brightness, and with the passage of time, it grew and swelled until it slowly became an image.

When he saw the image move, it gave him hope that his eyesight was returning, but then the light was cut off, as though a bandage had been placed over his eyes.

The light came back the next day, and this time, he beheld the full image of a man – it was Al Demming, Martha’s brother, who was also chief cyberneticist at General Biotics.  Al looked directly at John and John spoke to him, but received no answer.  Al moved away and John could see a chalkboard that was filled with chemical formulae.  John was a chemist and he understood the writings and the complex biochemical process that they described, for he had developed them.

It was then that John realized that he was not in a hospital, and the terror and the screaming only stopped when John lost consciousness.

After composing himself, the awful realization of his dire situation slowly descended upon him; he was a cybernetic control brain encased in a platinum box no larger than the size of a large football.  But cybernetic brains were dead; how could he be living, and if he were living, that meant that the other two-million control brains like his were living also.

Over the centuries, cyberneticists had mapped the brain down to the very last neuron in every cell; every function of every cell was known and with the right probe in the right place, that cell or group of cells, could be stimulated to perform a given function.  Brains were kept alive by a constant flow of chemical nutrients fed to the brain by a web of tubes and wires.

Orthocon cells allowed for vision, and when connected to a monitor, the brain, although unable to communicate, had vision.

John notes that Al has come back into the room and places a typewritten note in front of the monitor screen.  Al tells John that he knows he’s still alive, and will do all he can to help him.  He says he’s going to go before the Board of the Institute – the governing body of the Welfare State, to let them know that the brains are still alive and the program must be discontinued.

Just before Al is to appear before the twenty-six members of the board, he discovers that three years before, all board members had their contracts with General Biotics cancelled, which tells Al that the board members know that the brains are still alive.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Part 144 - The Cybernetic Brains

Swiss Army said he was leaving the trail at Highway 140 to go into Medford to purchase new shoes.  He said he had a friend in the nearby community of Fish Lake, which lay just to the west of where the PCT crossed Highway 140, who had offered to let him use his car should he ever be in the neighborhood.

Knowing that Swiss Army had a vehicle available to him, I asked him if he would be willing to take my backpack cover that I purchased in Ashland and exchange it for a larger size. He said he would be happy to.

As we walked, and to pass the time, I told Swiss Army about a story my father had written called The Cybernetic Brains.  Before relating the thumbnail sketch of the story, let me say a few words about my father.

 He was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1915, and passed away at age seventy-eight in 1994; cause of death was pancreatic cancer.  I spoke at his funeral, and the following were some of my comments:


 He was a very private man, not given to great conversations, not given to conversation at all; he was not one to say anything about himself or anyone else.

My sister, Laura, and I asked dad a few years ago, to please write down his autobiography.  His response,

"If you want to know about me, read my books; that is where you'll find me, that is where you'll learn about me."

Dad wrote over twenty-five books, dozens of short stories, and numerous articles on various subject matters.  It is then to his writings, letters, manuscripts, and other correspondence that we must go, to gain insight into this quiet man.

He saved a lot of his early schoolwork - his papers and assignments from high school, their content - chemistry, physics, and math assignments, balanced by theology lessons from seminary.  His handwriting is neat, assignments are always coupled with diagrams and drawings explaining experiments he had observed, and there always appeared on the papers the teacher’s comments which usually read "Excellent."

At this early age of schooling, dad displayed a keen interest in the world around him.  This interest centered on science, scientific observation, history, archaeology, astronomy, and personal exploration.

During the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, science-fiction stories were the rage. Numerous short stories appeared each month in pulp magazines with such names as Analog, Galaxy, Fantasy, Astounding Science Fiction, Thrilling Wonder Stories.

As a boy, with no television to consume his spare time, dad became an avid reader of this material.  His imagination soared as he read about flying saucers with their alien space invaders, space travel, time machines, spaceships, and lone scientists puttering around in elaborate laboratories, discovering and inventing both death rays and lifesaving cures for diseases inflected upon earth's population by evil beings from the worlds beyond.  In 1932, at age seventeen, dad wrote his first science-fiction story and had it published.  The die was cast.

Writing science fiction was a tough way to support a wife and five children, so dad often had to find other work to help support the family.  He ended his writing career as a technical writer for Sperry-UNIVAC, now called Unisys – an information technology company.   The department dad worked in wrote manuals on how to operate radar systems.

The Cybernetic Brains

In the Future, Human Brains will be the Computers that Operate Factories

The Cybernetic Brains – I’ve struggled for decades to understand what the term actually means. Cybernetic isn’t a word used in everyday conversation, and as best as I can gather, it means the study of systems, i.e., mechanical, physical, cognitive, and social, etc.  In practical application it monitors feedback to help with self-regulating systems, i.e., home thermostats, floats in a carburetor, regulatory valves in a steam engine.  In the concept of this story, brains function much like computers and are used to regulate the output of factories, laboratories, and all types of machinery.

Time frame:  Five hundred years in the future after the great mathematician, Norbert Wiener, discovered that neurons in the brain function much like the circuitry of a computer, but are faster, take up far less space than the computer of the day with their vast assortment of vacuum tubes and wiring, and endless was their ability to multi-task.

After years of experimentation, cybernetic engineers were successful with the installation of a human brain to regulate the function of a simple factory, which lead to more complex installations, i.e., car manufacturing, until ultimately the machinery, factories, and mechanized institutions of mankind in the two Americas were fully automated through the use of cybernetic brains.  And because society was globalized, in a few decades, mechanization of the whole world was automated by cybernetic brains contained in small platinum boxes.

Brains were obtained through contracts with the primary cybernetic company – General Biotics.  The populous was not alarmed at the harvesting of brains; they were familiar with blood banks, eye banks, and the storage and transportation of body parts for medical purposes that resulted in full face transplants, as well as liver, kidney, and heart transplants.

With all manufacturing, engineering, and food processing being automated, the world’s population was now out of work, which gave rise to the magnificent Welfare State.  From cradle to grave, all of man’s needs were supplied by the state through smooth and efficient distribution centers, under the supervision of the cybernetic brains.  The first cybernetic brain had been installed in a plant seventy-five years ago, and still functioned in processing the information input and output that governed the complex functions of the facility.