Ok, where was I? Ah yes, Saturday morning, time to go kayaking. As I mentioned, it was a lot of fun. Spent about 2 hours on the river, mostly just kind of drifting lazily downstream. Very peaceful. Saw a herd of elk on the bank ahead of us once. About 15 or so in the group. They let us get surprisingly close before they ran off. That was about it (except for some birds, of course) on the wildlife front. We stopped mid-trip for a little snack (Snickers was my candy of choice), and played briefly in a little swimming hole. Some advantages of being the only paying customer (our group consisted of myself, John the guide, and Joel, the teenaged son of the owner, out to get some more time on the river), was that I could chat with the guide the whole way down, and that he was able to relax a bit, since he didn’t have to keep an eye on 4 or 5 people. I only flipped once, and that was a calculated risk. The preceding minutes went like this:
John: “Ok, up here I’m going to pull off to the left and play for a bit. You pull off to the right and hold in the still water there. If you go off to the left you’ll probably end up taking a swim”.
Being a prudent fellow, I pulled off to the right to watch. John then gave Joel some pointers on cutting into an eddy. After seeing how it was done, I decided I didn’t want to just watch, and that it was a risk worth taking. Worst thing that would happen would be that I flip, right? And the downstream area was pretty free of obstacles. I decided to paddle over to downstream of John’s position and come up on the same approach.
Let me jump back an hour or so to the pre-launch instruction I received from John. In the case where you might happen to flip your kayak, one thing that your body will want to do, which you should NOT do, is to stand up. As he pointed out, a single gallon of water weighs 8 pounds. Without boring you with the math (since I have no idea how many gallons of water pass by you in a second, so my math would mostly consist of things like “well, there’s _a lot_ of gallons of water going by each second, so your legs would be subjected to *8* lots of pounds of pressure a second!”), it’s considerably more force than legs like mine can withstand.
Not that this is going to be important in a second or anything…..
So, after my kayak flips, dumping me, I start to paddle to the side, in complete accordance with my contingency plan. I do find myself going downstream a great deal faster than it had seemed from the _top_ of the water. Still, I’ve got a grip on my kayak (though my efforts to right it manually are proving entirely fruitless), I’m wearing a vest (flotation, not cardigan), nothing to worry about. Then I notice “hey, it’s not that deep here at all, maybe I could at least use my feet to help push me shoreward”. Let’s just say that I was lucky there was nothing at the bottom for my legs to get caught in. trust me, 8 lots of gallons of water is a LOT of….wait a second, something’s gone wrong with my math there. Anyway, nothing doing. In a few more seconds Joel had paddle over and grabbed the other end of my kayak, helping me make it actually _to_ the shore. Once there, it occurred to me that I’d just set a “personal best” for “most winded in least amount of time” from my brief swimming effort. I chose not to look on it as an improvement.
After returning to camp, I pretty much just made myself lunch, then hung out and read for the rest of the day (“The Sparrow”, by Mary Doria Walker. Definitely a book I’d recommend). I would have liked to go for a bike ride, but I hadn’t yet had a chance to get replacement shifters for my bike. Didn’t feel like breaking camp to drive up to the National Park, either. The result of this was that around 8:00 I started feeling pretty antsy. I was actually pacing while reading my book, needing _some_ kind of exercise or something. That night was probably the first time I’d had any trouble getting to sleep on the entire trip. I resolved that on Sunday I would _definitely _ go up to the park and find some trail to hike on, just to make sure I would be able to fall asleep the next day.
Sunday, I drove up to a visitor center area, and saw that one of the hikes listed was the route to the glacier. Too long to do on round-trip on a day hike, but guaranteed to give me all the hiking I’d _want_ to do. So I downed a can of coke (my increased caffeine consumption the whole week was probably also a factor in my Saturday antsyness), put on my little hip pouch (with room for my camera, some munchies, and 2 water bottles), and headed off down the trail. Fast. Not actually running, usually (though on the occasional unoccupied straightaway I’d go for it), but walking so fast that a number of people made “man on a mission”-type comments. It felt really good to be using up the excess energy. I wasn’t _seeing_ much, of course, but it didn’t matter. My eyes were still getting light that was reflecting off my surroundings; my ears were picking up the sounds of the forest; my lungs were breathing in the air of the forest; my feet were feeling the roots, mud, and rock of the trail; my hands and elbows were feeling the mud of the trail, the one time my foot felt the roots of the trail from an angle other than the one I’d planned; I may not have been experiencing the forest the way many people would consider ideal, but the forest was a definite _part_ of my experience, and helped shape it. And I was achieving my primary goal, to exhaust myself. Ended up going 18 miles round-trip (there was a ranger station at the 9 mile point, and I figured that the only way I’d know how far I hiked was to make sure I got out to it. Also, with 2 water bottles on me, it seemed to make sense to turn around when I emptied the first bottle). Got a lot of composing done, too.
I think I’ll explain that last bit. Whenever I’ve got a problem or idea I’m trying to work though, I find it helps me to go driving, or riding, or walking; to not be in one place, basically. This thought usually takes the form of “internal essays”. It helps me to reason through something more thoroughly. None of these little “treatises” (the name I’ve given them since the late ‘80’s) ever ends up getting written down. That’s not the point of them. Label them “For Internal Use Only”, if you like ;-) . For the most part, they’re just my attempts to understand the world. Once I decide I have something that will pass for a reasonable grasp on whatever the subject is, I basically just discard the thought process (maybe I’ll keep some key points in case I ever want to reconsider my stance) and work on adding the conclusion I’ve reached to my general makeup. One thing I’m going to try to do on this trip is to get some of these thoughts down in writing for a change. I’ll probably post a lot of them. Hope they don’t come of as self-important or sanctimonious or anything like that. But to be honest, I don’t really mind _that_ much if I do. I mean, if you can’t be the top dog in your own head, where _can_ you, eh?
(oh, it’s not just larger things that I run through and refine. A lot of my silly little journal postings get worked through at these times too, for example. I had actually written most the paragraph 2 prior (beginning with the word “Sunday”) in the first 2 miles of the trip. The bits about the length of the trip, for example, came later, naturally)
There’s a very interesting phenomenon you get in the forest that you don’t in the city or on dry lakes (possibly other forms of desert, but it seems unlikely, other than with grasslands). It’s basically hearing a breeze roll in. You’ll just be walking along, and then you’ll start to hear the trees rustle. Not the ones near you, though, just sort of “out there”. This will then get louder and louder, until the trees in your area join the chorus (they usually seem to do this a few seconds before you actually feel it, though I have no idea), and you get hit by the breeze. It’s a lot of fun, actually.
One of the joys of the trail I was on is that I was constantly passing through different microclimates. It seemed like every 500 feet would look very different than the previous area. It tended to jump between meadow-y areas, heavily wooded, mossy areas, and sort of marshy areas. Got a _really_ good view of a deer, as I turned a corner and almost ran smack-dab into it. Camera took too long to get out of my pack to get a decent picture of it, though. Also came across a Llama train that was packing supplies out to the ranger station.
Sunday night will be detailed in a separate document.
Monday morning I broke camp (which is really just making sure everything is in it’s proper storage place and undoing the stabilizer jacks in the back of Vacilador (and yes, I’m geeky enough to pretty much find humor in it at every new site to mentally give the order “deploy rear stabilizers!”)) and headed back out to the coast to continue my tour of the Olympic Peninsula.
Next on my itinerary was a trip out to Port Ludlow (near the North-Eastern tip of the peninsula), to visit Kevin, the friend mentioned at the end of my first entry, and his wife and son, Laura and Logan (respectively). I worked with Kevin for a while when I was teaching English in Japan. Doing the math, this would make the last time I had seen him be in the fall of 1993. I’ve stayed in touch with him in the meantime, though. On the way to their house, I drove by Crescent Lake (I’m working on pasting together a panorama to do it justice), then went partway up to Hurricane Ridge. When I arrived in Port Ludlow, I was treated to sparkling wine and sparkling conversation. I also broke with my tradition and, for the first (and to date _only_) time on my trip, I actually slept in the house of someone I was visiting.
What pushed me over the edge wasn’t the fact that I still had and invader living in my home (details when I discuss the previous Sunday), though that helped.
It wasn’t the fact that I’d have my own bathroom and shower, though _that_ helped.
It was the triple-threat of feather mattress-cover, feather comforter, and feather pillows.
I’m only human.
Anyway, stayed there for 3 nights, did my laundry, went to see “Atlantis” with Kevin, updated my web site, and repaid their hospitality in part by making my first-ever (and a surprisingly successful) Bagne Calda, (along with Chicken Parmasean, one of my specialties), discovering the secret of starting their Jacuzzi-tub (sadly, not until the day I was leaving), and giving them the power of man’s red flower, so they can be like me (umm, fire-making tips for their fireplace).
Thursday morning I said my farewells and headed out to catch a ferry to Seattle. I then drove north to visit my Uncle Don. It was pretty much a requirement in my mind to visit Don: not just because I hadn’t seen him in 8 years, though that would have been reason enough. It was critical in my mind since my even being on this trip in the first place is at least partially his fault. When my brother and I were kids, he would often spend holidays with our family, and I always heard stories of his time in Africa with the Peace Corps, traveling through S.E. Asia, biking across the northern U.S., teaching in Costa Rica, etc. Definitely helped trigger the wanderlust (which was probably in the genes anyway from both of my parents, but they slowed down on the traveling when they had kids, which was right around the time I first met them).
Hung out with Don all day on Thursday, and played with his _enormous-headed_ dog, “Judge”, an incredibly sweet-natured mastiff. Had dinner with Don and his wife, Becky, that evening (and got all of his computer stuff sorted out while he cooked).
Friday I headed into Seattle to visit the zoo (they have a reciprocity agreement with the LA Zoo, so I didn’t have to pay to get in), then met up with some people I used to work with, one of whom currently works at Microsoft, and the other of whom was up interviewing that day (he got an offer, but I don’t know if he’s accepted it, so I won’t put his name up). Had dinner with them, saw the interviewee off to the airport, and hung out with Tony, the one who’s already working for MS. Parked outside his place that night, hung out some more the next day, then back up to visit my uncle and his wife. Sunday morning I left for…Canada.