Archive for September, 2009

Fire in the Sky

Posted by julie on Wednesday, 23 September 2009, 10:54

The green double jogger, parked in the backyard last night, has a coating of ash on it this morning, fine particles that crumble when I touch them. The air smells like fire, albeit relatively far-away fire, just a hint of smoke, like campfires on the next campground loop. While the western sky is nearly clear, the eastern sky hazes to white near the horizon. I looked up Oregon’s current forest fires when I noticed the flat orange sky yesterday afternoon. It looks like the Tumblebug is the nearest, so it’s probably the one coloring our skies; it’s burning southeast of Oakridge. (click on the northernmost fire icon, then on the fire’s name, the Tumblebug complex, to find information, updated daily, about the fire).

When I walked out and sniffed the air this morning, it quickly brought me back to my former life, when I was only responsible for ten screaming college students. In 2003, I instructed a course that crossed from the west side of northern Washington’s North Cascades east across the Pasayten Wilderness, on the dry side of the mountains. This was my favorite course in five years of on-and-off working for the National Outdoor Leadership School: great co-instructor, fun student group, and, boy, what a beautiful and varied route. In late June, we launched into the cold, camping on thick, wet snow the first night. As we headed east, we crossed through many different bioregions, from west-side rainforests to mountain hemlock krummholz and passes above treeline, then into the grass and gravel of the Pasayten.

Our first views of the Pasayten fire, 2003

Our first views of the Pasayten fire, 2003

We hiked through much evidence of forest fire, both recent (within the last two years) and from the late 80s. At our second re-ration, the horsepacker gave us maps from our program supervisor for British Columbia’s Cathedral Park, our escape(!) if we couldn’t hike around or through the fire burning east of us, toward which we were walking. We supervised our students closely, making sure we knew where they were as they traveled without us during the last four days. A single ridge separated us from the conflagration in the end, as we awaited our pick-up at the trailhead. If the fire had come over the mountain, we were set to start walking, quickly, down along the gravel road out of the mountains. The nearest water was a mile back along the trail, a trickle.

The last night

The last night in the Pasayten

To Whet Your Birthday Appetite

Posted by julie on Saturday, 12 September 2009, 0:15

In anticipation of Sylvan’s big day tomorrow, his fourth birthday, here are some shots of him, on or near his birthday over the past five years.

All cleaned up and asleep in Aunt Jenn's arms after the difficult business of being born

All cleaned up and asleep in Aunt Jenn's arms after the difficult business of being born

First birthday: reading a birthday book

First birthday: reading a birthday book

Second birthday: balloon madness

Second birthday: balloon madness

Third birthday: opening presents

Third birthday: opening presents, eating pretzels

Nearly four: watching a wet parade last week

Nearly four: watching a wet parade last week

Chris, my sister Jenn, and I hiked up Mt. Pisgah the day before Sylvan was born. It was September 11, and I was silently grateful that my unborn child apparently wasn’t going to share a birthday with a tragedy whose date figures rather prominently whenever it’s mentioned, but I did want to spur things along. It was five days past my due date (a date Chris reminds me is arbitrary, since our human gestation time of 40 weeks was simply made up; he might tell you more about that if you ask nicely).

Sylvan Alexander Jones was born at 4:45 p.m. the following day. The blackberries, 2 mile steep uphill hike, corresponding 2 mile pounding downhill hike, and happy thoughts apparently did the trick. To commemorate this successful hike, I thought we’d hike up Mt. Pisgah the day before each of Sylvan’s birthdays. In true parental fashion, I managed to make that work for birthday #1. Birthday #2′s hike was a week and a half late, birthday #3′s didn’t happen at all, and #4? Well, Sylvan put the kibosh on it tonight. Maybe within the next few weeks? Here are some photos of the little Sylvan I could still easily carry up to the top.

Almost 1, looking through sculpture at top (and resembling Elena)

Almost 1, looking through sculpture at top (and resembling Elena)

Just over 2, dropping rocks into the sculpture at the summit (and resembling a tiger)

Just over 2, dropping rocks into the sculpture at the summit (and resembling a tiger)