Wednesday, August 11, 2010

In which photos of the Oregon Wilderness are shared with all y'all

Our Great Adventure this year was based around Waldo Lake in the mountains of Central Oregon.

Waldo Lake is the second largest lake in Oregon (anybody wanna guess which is bigger?) and covers about 10 square miles. Because it does not get water from any other lakes or rivers, it is also one of the cleanest, purest bodies of water in the world.

The State of Oregon (finally) resolved last year to disallow gasoline motors on the lake in order to maintain the purity of the water. Good.

I found it interesting that the Forest Service says that Waldo Lake was isolated from humans until the late 1800s, yet the information on the map of the area (which is published by the very same Forest Service) notes that there is evidence of native tribal groups camping and hunting in the area dating back a few thousand years.

Yeah. I'm not gonna touch that.

Lemme tell you what we did and what we saw!

Our original intent was to follow the South Waldo trail for a few miles, and then head uphill on the High Divide trail to some meadow areas. The goal was to get above the standing water (i.e. the lake) and the mosquitos that live there. We quickly discovered that the High Divide trail is not maintained. There were all kinds of trees and logs over the trail. We went around and over for a few miles, and then we got a little smarter and Sky climbed down off her horse to scout the trail ahead.

A few minutes later, she returned: the trail ahead was worse, and there were trees completely blocking the way.

Sigh.

So, back down the hill we went, to the lake. We passed this spot only about 2 miles from the parkinglot. Small, but pretty. Close to the lake--which means it's handy for getting water to the horses, but also close to the bugs. We decided to keep walking to see what else we could find another camping spot. It was a pretty day, anyhow.
Lots of bridges. Last year the horses might have objected to crossing all those bridges, but an extra year of good practice has made both of them very steady trail mounts.

We went along a narrow, scary trail (no photos!) to the abandoned Klovdahl Dam site. In 1905, private investors wanted to use water from Waldo Lake for irrigation and hydro power. The location of the lake made the project not financially feasible, and the Dam was abandoned in 1914. Personally, I think that's just fine. The trail to the Dam remains, but it's dam (sic) skinny and I'm glad that my good trail horse figured out how to turn around and head back out of the dead-end trail!

After travelling about 8 miles without finding a good camping spot,

Sky and I decided to turn around and return to the little place we had seen on the walk in. This place became Camp 1.

There wasn't really enough grass at Camp 1 to sustain the horses for more than a day, though, so after a lovely evening and a lovely morning we packed everything up, intending to walk back to the truck, load up, and head to another area that we'd seen on the map. However, not more than 1/4 mile from Camp 1, we found Camp 2! Lots of grass! Lots of trees for highlining and building corrals. And...

a beautiful, sandy beach.

What a beautiful place to stay! The grey jays ("camp-robbers") liked it too.

We went skinny-dipping in the morning, before the hikers and canoes were out and about (no photos). Later, I went wading in my riding tights. This tree may be the prettiest laundry line I've ever used in my life. (a plug for Kerrits tights, by the way: they dried in the sun in about an hour...and I've been washing and drying them in camp for years in this manner, and they are still my favorites)

We lazed around the new camp for a few hours, and then it was time to ride out and explore!

A big gold "trailmaster star" is awarded to the folks who built the trail between Waldo Lake and Bobby Lake. What a great trail: clear sight-lines, no fall-lines, and a beautifully stable tread. We flew!

Wahoooo! Up to the Pacific Crest Trail, we go! The horses took a break when we got to the lake, and Sky and I scampered around on these huge rocks. Very cool.

In camp that evening, we could see smoke from the Rooster Rock forestfire. Far away, but still close enough to see.
All that pollution in the air makes for pretty sunsets.
Hikers walking by on the trail the next day wanted to know if the Forest Service hired us to camp in the meadow "to provide ambience." We thought later that we should've charged them $5 per photo...to donate to the Forest Service, you know.

We also discovered something new that morning:
If you store your map in the same pocket as your used-up glowsticks, you may be unhappy. That pink stuff inside is greasy and smells weird.


Learn from someone else's mistakes, sez me.


Sky's back was hurting from all the riding and stuff we'd been doing, so she opted to stay in camp and enjoy the quiet, while Fiddle and I headed north on the Waldo Lake Trail to explore.
The lake water is so clear that I could see rocks on the bottom from waaaaaaay up on the trail.
Rhododendrons at the side of the trail--the Washington State flower! (The Oregonians figure it's just another plant, I guess).
Fiddle looked very carefully to make sure that the thing on the lake is a canoe. Not a dragon. She was very careful in her looking.



After all this pretty stuff, we headed back to the trailer.
I can hardly wait
for next year's Adventure!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

In which we girls head for the hills, and packing up is(n't) hard to do

As we have done for the past three years, Sky and I begin our Annual Adventure in her carport:

Every year we get a little better at packing stuff.

We add new gear, we take out stuff we didn't use last year, we strap everything together a little more efficiently, and we take notes along the way so that we'll remember what we've learned.

I've had those large black packs for yonks...I got them when I did a little packing with Story back in the Olden Days. They are great for trail repair work, because I can fit all kinds of tools and stuff in them. The purple packs are "new" -- I picked them up cheaply at a used tack sale last winter. And they are even purple!

Santa brought Sky some new teal packs last December, and this was her first opportunity to use them. I am deeply jealous. Look at all the room she has in those packs for her sleeping bag and stuff! I'm beginning to think that some larger packs might be needful before I head back out again.

Poor Fiddle looks like a bag lady, with all that gear tied onto her patient self. It worked fine this time, but on a rainy trip like we endured in 2008, all that stuff would get soaked. Hmmm. Something to consider.

Packing the gear onto the horses takes 60 to 90 minutes, starting with empty packs. The books I read about packing horses and mules recommend that the large bags in back be filled with bulky but not heavy items. That means clothing, sleeping bags, and the tent, as well as the freeze-dried and other lightweight foods we've packed for ourselves, like tea and coffee and snacks.
The front packs carry the horse's food (beet pulp, mostly, plus a small amount of grain), and little, heavier stuff like the stove's fuel, water bottles, and some books and maps.
We both brought canvas water scoops this year, which are useful as feed buckets as well as water buckets. Several of the lakes we visited didn't have safe access for the horses, so we carried water up to them, and they pretty quickly learned how to smash their dainty noses down inside to get what they wanted!The scoops are also exactly the right size for carrying an Easyboot--how convenient.

Into the corners and crannies of the packs, we cram the tent poles, the water filter (a new addition to the pile of gear this time, and it's a wonderful thing!)

and heaps of rope, which we use for tying the food above "bear height"
and for high-lining Fiddle at night.Cricket is a "puller-backer" so she gets tied to a tree at night, and spends time in a "fake hotwire" fence when it's time to graze. Cricket is perfectly happy to stay within the confines of the non-electrified tape, but Fiddle would bust through it in minutes. Instead, I put her on hobbles (which don't really work well for Cricket, as she proved last year)

Fiddle not only enjoys the freedom to wander around camp for hours, she enjoys the physical and mental challenge that the hobbles provide. She can do whatever she wants when she's hobbled...if she can only figure out how to do it. That's my mare's idea of a good time.



(I had seen her do this maneuver the previous night, but hadn't captured it with the camera. I was delighted to help her repeat the performance)
One of the essential skills of packing is making multiple use of stuff. Therefore, Fee's fleece blanket is a good backrest for me during the day, and keeps her warm and somewhat protected from mosquitos at night. Her saddle pad also serves as the pad under my sleeping bag (my Thermorest is off in the wilderness with Willy this summer!) and my sitting-on-the-beach pad. Sky brought a "navaho" saddle blanket this year, which was really handy as a sleeping pad as well as a saddle pad. That's something to remember for next year!

We're done packing up at last...it's time to head down the trail. Coming soon:

Where We Went and What We Saw.

Life. It's good.