Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas Letter 2013

Dear Friends and Family,

Merry Christmas from the coast of Northern California! It’s been a wonderful year for the three of us. Here are some of the highlights…

January: In the silence of a late afternoon winter day, we skied into the wilds of Lassen National Forest in Northern California, Jasper clinging to his daddy’s back. The sky was brilliant blue and the surrounding mountains covered in a mantle of snow. Soon, Jasper was giggling with delight!

February: With sunset came a sudden explosion of pink on the surrounding desert landscape near Dumont Dunes. Mike’s job as a BLM ranger continues to take him on many adventures, mostly locally on the beaches and in coastal mountains of Northern California, but also occasionally on details to the deserts of Nevada and Southern California.

March: With a big smile on his face, Jasper splashed around the pool…a now familiar scene to him as he completed his 1st swimming class.

April: The scene was perfect for a celebration: turquoise-blue river, a surrounding hillside of redwood trees and a cozy cabin. We were on the edge of the Chetco River in Southern Oregon for a celebration of Jasper’s first year of life!

May: As the sun dropped into the Pacific Ocean, we climbed to the rocky summit of Bear Basin Butte, then spent the night in the nearby lookout cabin.

June: Jagged, snowy mountains shot into the sky in every direction. A thick layer of fog hung over a small snowfield, but brilliant blue sky dominated everywhere else. Two marmots scampered among the rocks on the wild and stunningly scenic Hurricane Ridge in Olympic NP, Washington.

July: Wildflowers danced in the warm sunshine and cool breeze at the edge of a stunning sub-alpine lake in the heart of the Trinity Mountains, our home for the night. It was one of those glorious summer days that seem to go on forever. Slowly, the sun dropped past the mountains to the west, the sky turned a deep red and faded to black as countless stars appeared.

August: After four days of lonely ridges and wild lakes, a view like no other lay before me. Crater Lake is a jewel rimmed by rugged mountains…a scene no words can truly describe. Susanna, Jasper and our friend Rori camped in the area for 8 nights while acting as our support crew, as my brother and I had an epic Pacific Crest Trail adventure in the wilderness of Southern Oregon.

September: The mighty Potomac River thundered through a gorge that makes up Great Falls Park in Virginia. Jasper pointed to the water in awe. We were at the very start of a wonderful, 3-week journey to New England to visit family and friends and once again discover the magic of autumn!

October: Dark clouds swirled about the rocky, rugged peaks of the White Mountains in New Hampshire. We walked slowly around a small lake gazing at the brilliant yellow leaves surrounding us.

November: A light rain was falling as we turned the corner into a steep-walled canyon. Elk tracks dotted the nearby meadow and massive redwood trees covered the surrounding hills. There was a late-fall hush in the wilds of Fern Canyon in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.

December: A deep quiet has descended upon the redwoods of Northern California. The cold, wet winter has begun. Even inside our cozy home, I can hear the roar of the ocean, just a mile or so away. We thank God every day for our wonderful family and the beauty of His creation all around us.

We hope you have all had an incredible 2013 and hope to see you in 2014!

Mike, Susanna and Jasper

Friday, November 8, 2013

Autumn in New England

For three weeks, from late September to mid October, we traveled to New England in the hopes of finding Autumn!  In the process, Jasper added 12 new states to his rapidly growing list of states visited!  Our adventure began in Maryland.  With my brother John and family as tour guides, we visited Great Falls Park (in Virginia) and Catoctin Mountain Park (Maryland). 

Virginia:  Great Falls Park
Maryland:  Catoctin Mountain Park
We then drove north, through Maryland, a corner of Delaware, across New Jersey, through New York City, Connecticut and finally Rhode Island where we camped at Burlingame State Park.  It was after dark by the time we arrived in a mostly vacant campground.  The barred owls were close throughout the night.  We woke up next to a beautiful, northern lake with brilliant red and yellow leaves on the trees surrounding the lake.  Welcome to Autumn!
Rhode Island:  Burlingame State Park
On we went, in to Massachusetts, to visit Susanna's childhood friend Emma, in Scituate.  We had a wonderful time getting to know Emma and her family.  Jasper especially loved playing with Emma's kids along the edge of a new ocean for him, the Atlantic! 
Massachusetts:  The edge of the Atlantic in Scituate
The following day, we drove straight through the heart of Boston, through a corner of New Hampshire and on in to Maine.  We spent three nights in Maine, one at Camden Hills State Park and the other two adjacent to Acadia National Park.  We had a marvelous time exploring the coastal forest and rocky mountains.  The colors were coming on beautifully and the warm, sunny weather dominated. 
Maine:  Camden Hills State Park

Maine:  Emerald Lake, Acadia National Park
On in to New Hampshire.  The White Mountains felt as wild as the changing weather.  After a night camping at Moose Brook State Park, we took several hikes in the mountains.  Brilliant colors dominated the forest.  The clouds were dark and ominous and a cold wind whipped the exposed granite. 
New Hampshire:  Crawford Notch State Park, White Mountains
We ventured on in to Vermont and happily set up camp in a condo at Killington in the heart of the Green Mountains.  We spent a wonderful 6 days in Vermont, based out of this condo.  During this time, we hiked each day along either the Appalachian Trail or the Long Trail.  We also visited Quechee Gorge, a maple syrup and cheese farm, the Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream factory, a cider mill and Gifford Woods State Park. 
Vermont:  rural scene along highway 100 in the Green Mountains
Our adventure continued on in to northern New York.  We drove north along the edge of Lake Champlain and camped for a night at Ausable Point.  The moon rose spectacularly over the lake in the evening and the morning sunrise was beyond words.  The next day, we drove through the heart of the Adirondacks to a cabin in the southern part of the park near the town of Wells.  Here, we met up with my parents for three days of fun near the edge of Algonquin Lake. 
New York:  Ausable Chasm, near Lake Champlain

New York:  Adirondack Park
After four nights in northern New York, we turned south and entered Pennsylvania.  Our final adventure was in Rickets Glen State Park.  We camped one last night surrounded by golden leaves at the edge of a lake.  In the morning we hiked past numerous waterfalls, with the sights and smells of autumn at it's peak. 
Pennsylvania:  Rickets Glen State Park
Pennsylvania:  ahhh...Fall!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A trail across Lassen

In the very end of August, I set out with a friend from work (Dave) to hike on the PCT from one end of Lassen Volcanic National Park to the other.  Susanna and Jasper met up with Kristen and Madeline (Dave's family) to car camp in the park and help with rides too and from the trailhead. 

We began on a small dirt road north of the park and hiked south.  With increasingly beautiful views, we entered in to the park and stopped for the night at Badger Flat (above photo).  We watched dusk settle on a wild scene.  Soon, an ancient sky of stars hung like diamonds above.  Occasional stars would streak across the black sky.  

The next day, we continued our hike south through recent burn areas, past sparkling lakes, along meadows, canyons and old growth trees.  We swam in Swan Lake.  Our campsite was just south of the park at a spectacular little rocky outcropping with views of Lassen Peak, Terminal Geyser and Willow Lake way below.  As dusk settled, several Sandhill Cranes began to call, the sound echoing across the silent valley.  Once again, the stars lit up a black, ancient sky.  The scene was so utterly perfect it is hard to describe. 

On our final day, we continued our hike south along ridges and valleys, past flowing rivers and mountains, to our final destination of highway 36, nearly 40 miles from the start.  What a trip!
Dave and I about to begin our adventure...

Some of our first views of Lassen Peak just north of the park

One of the Cluster Lakes with the charred forest surrounding it

Lower Twin Lake

Dropping in to Warner Valley

A dramatic view of the Boiling Springs Lake with Lassen Peak to the north

Dawn light from Rocky Knob, our second campsite

Sweeping views of Lassen Peak and the surrounding mountains on day 3

Friday, August 16, 2013

On the PCT from Crater Lake to Willamette Pass

 (See previous blog for first half of the trip!) 

Our trail continued on day 5 along the rim of Crater Lake.  Our progress was slow as we kept stopping, taking photos and saying the word, "wow" in as many different ways as possible.  It was an incredible morning, but all too soon, we were hiking north away from the lake  and towards the wilds of Central Oregon.

We met back up with Susanna, Jasper and Rori just past highway 138 for some food and a much needed resupply of water.  In late afternoon, we continued on in to Mt. Thielsen Wilderness. 

Over the next four days, we hiked north another 78 miles past more mountains than we could count.  In between the mountains were glorious lakes, some so small we could throw a rock over, some so large that we could only faintly see what was along the far shore. 

Finally, with rain threatening, we climbed up to a rocky overlook of Odell Lake.  Our final destination (Willamette Pass) was less than a mile away.  Suddenly, a bald eagle flew by...perfect end to such an incredible trip!
"The Watchman" (elevation 8,013 feet), the high point along the rim of Crater Lake

Taking in the view above Crater Lake

The trail north of Crater Lake...Mt. Thielsen off in the distance

A classic old PCT trail symbol on a huge, old tree

Mt. Thielsen

Campsite on a ridgeline with incredible views of Thielsen

Thielsen Creek with Mt. Thielsen beyond

Tipsoo Peak

Cowhorn Peak 

Diamond Peak looms huge beyond Summit Lake

Backpacking along Diamond Peak on our final day

On the PCT from Fish Lake to the rim of Crater Lake

For 8 days in late July and early August, my brother John and I backpacked about 140 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail in Southern and Central Oregon.  During this time backpacking, Susanna and Jasper, with the help of our friend Rori from Wisconsin, worked as "trail angels" to resupply us with food and water. 

On July 31, I met up with John at a PCT trailhead near Fish Lake.  John had just completed a 36 mile segment from Green Springs Summit to Fish Lake  (a segment I had already completed).  Susanna and Jasper wished us luck and off we hiked, northbound, in to the Sky Lakes Wilderness.  Over the next four days, we backpacked a little more than 61 miles.  The land was spectacular, a mix of old forest, sparkling blue lakes and jagged mountains.  On the morning of day four, we exited Sky Lakes Wilderness and entered Crater Lake Wilderness. 

In the mid afternoon of day four, we met up with Susanna, Jasper and Rori along the rim of one of the most spectacular scenes in the world:  Crater Lake!  The first half of our journey was complete...
Campsite on the shore of Trapper Lake

Trapper Lake with a perfect morning reflection

One of the Snow Lakes

Climbing up Shale Butte in the heart of Sky Lakes Wilderness

View of Devil's Peak from our lunch spot on day 3

Perfect lake for a swim (Cliff Lake)

Union Peak

Far off view of the mountains along the rim of Crater Lake

Crater Lake...certainly one of the most stunning scenes on earth!

Backpacking high above Crater Lake