Herman Creek

Herman Creek

Tears and ash fall into my lunch today
An Empress with her realm in flames, my creatures dying by the tens of thousands again
If not for my ribs and skin, my heart would surely fall of its own weight at my feet
I beseech, no, I beg of the Goddesses, please let this one be
Please let this jewel shine, please see it’s incomparable beauty persist
Please let the waters fall, please let the skies open and deliver salvation to our land
Please let tall cedars greet future visitors, strong and broad, unburnt
Please, if these things cannot be, please, please, please, let my creatures flee!
Please, PLEASE, do not make them pay for the actions of people who cannot see

 

2017-09-07 07_12_54-Map produced by Gmap4 from mappingsupport.com

 

During the Eagle Creek fire, thousands of acres burned, from Eagle Creek all the way West to Corbett.  During the first several days of the fire, it was pretty clear that Herman Creek had escaped the initial conflagration.  Then, it all changed as the wind shifted and the fires roared East, threatening Hood River and burning all the way to Mount Defiance and Starvation Ridge.  Herman Creek trail took a big hit, burning several miles into the interior, and up Groton Creek and Nick Eaton.  

I wrote this poem sitting in Portland, eating a burrito outside at lunch.  Ashes were falling in the hazy sunshine, choked with smoke from the Gorge. I think the determination that carried me through all of 2018, working in the burn damage on Herman Creek Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail, it was born that day.  Ten months later, the work largely completed, the trail was open and I did laps of all the PCT to HCT and in reverse, two 26 mile trips with 5700′ e.g. in two weeks.  For me, this poem truly encapsulates the hopelessness I felt back in September 2017, sitting miles away as the Gorge burned. 

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HCT and Nick Eaton to the right here, severely burned area.

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Nick Eaton Falls before the fire

The One Who Watches

When you burn my heart to ashes
I will renew it with unconditional love
When you exhaust my eyes with crying
I will look upon others with great kindness
When you smother my voice and I cannot speak
I will let my deeds speak in compassionate volumes
When you cover me in deep darkness
I will be the light that shines brightly
When you ravage my heart and mind with loss,
I will remember, I am not my heart or mind
When you try to deprive me of happiness
I will be the one who watches

#whenyourmomdies #poetry #grief #loss #michaelsinger

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THE LEGEND OF TSAGAGLALAL

THERE are several versions of the legend, but the one that was told to us by the Wishram people is as follows:

A woman had a house where the village of Nixluidix was later built. She was chief of all who lived in the region. That was a long time before Coyote came up the river and changed things and people were not yet real people.  After a time Coyote in his travels came to this place and asked the inhabitants if they were living well or ill. They sent him to their chief who lived up on the rocks, where she could look down on the village and know what was going on.

Coyote climbed up to the house on the rocks and asked “What kind of living do you give these people? Do you treat them well or are you one of those evil women?” “I am teaching them to live well and build good houses,” she said.

“Soon the world will change,” said Coyote, “and women will no longer be chiefs.” Then he changed her into a rock with the command, “You shall stay here and watch over the people who live here.”

All the people know that Tsagaglalal sees all things, for whenever they are looking at her those large eyes are watching them.

-“Stone Age on the Columbia River” by Emory Strong, 1959

Useful links:

https://www.oregonhikers.org/field_guide/She_Who_Watches_Hike

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This Tattered Landscape

Grief swells, crashing against the sand of my psyche
Waves pummelling the landscape of my heart
Topography altered in the hot, searing pain of loss
Mind, in retreat, too wary of the ongoing maelstrom
Warm memories of her shine light into the dark
I look across this tattered landscape of sadness
Eyes so tired of crying they can find no tears
I stumble in this unfamiliar, charred terrain
Following the path of the unknown, into the wilderness
Planting flowers of love in the ashen soil
Willing Spring’s celebration of life to heal my soul

#whenyourmomdies #grief #loss

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April’s Clouds

April’s Clouds

April brings fresh storms after the fool’s day
April rain pours into my heart, yet it does not dull the pain
April whispers ‘I’m here again, just as you knew I’d be’
April presents the pain of loss anew, so savagely
April demands the memories that must be seen
April’s unkindness lays manifest upon my psyche
April’s last words, ‘I love you, Susan’ falling in my ear
April rains stream from my eyes, inflaming my heart
April clouds are covering me, so I cannot see
April sun, oh, where are you?
April please just let me be, please let me preserve my sanity

Mothers Day 2017

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I love you, Mom.

#grief #loss T_T

Dance of the Wigglebutts

By the time I was ten years old, my parents fled the rapidly expanding suburbs of Beaverton, Oregon, moving to the remote hilly forests of Mason Hill, outside North Plains, Oregon. Our new family home sat on twenty-plus acres of forest, also abutting hundreds of acres of ‘Government Land’, a full section (640 acres) of forest managed by the BLM. The nearest store of any type was seven miles away, the West Union General Store. Our nearest neighbor was a working farm.Honestly, it was heaven.

I didn’t see it at ten, but it was the best place to grow up in. My Mom, seemingly always a step ahead of things, counteracted the impending boredom of her ex-burbian kids in various ways. In my case, she got me a perfect energetic match, an Australian Shepard and Border Collie mix puppy. I named my bundle of joy ‘Lucy’, the perfect bookend to our wandering orange tomcat, Charlie.Lucy_Dog_Aug_77Lucy at six years old in North Plains, OR ❤

I built a pen in my downstairs bedroom out of two-by-fours and plywood, put an old green wool blanket in it. I watched my new companion grow and grow, a bundle full of energy and love. For Lucy, everything was a game, every day a chance to roam and chase squirrels in the forest. We explored, she and I, for the joy of it, cementing my lifelong love of forests, nature, and dogs. She slept on my bed at night, chased me on my bike, and protected us from all enemies, real or imagined. She taught me unconditional love.

Lucy stayed with Mom when I went off to college, having tea parties with my younger sister, and being our loving family companion. Lucy gave me her best wiggle-butt dance when I came home to visit, my childhood companion overcome with joy just to be with me again.

How bout that 70’s kitchen?

My parents divorced, sold the house and land, shortly after I left. Lucy lived a long time, passing at eighteen years old after living her twilight years with my Mom, back in Rock Creek now, in front of a wood stove at night.

The last few years as hiking has consumed so much of my focus, passion, and time. I’ve hiked a lot with other people’s dogs. Tristan, Bernie, and Luc here at Cooper Spur trail belong to my friend Vicky, they are such beautiful trail companions. Vicky has six Aussies now, an astounding feat I still can’t quite wrap my head around. One is a heck of a lot of work, they’re so energetic, they need a lot of exercise.

IMG_20170820_184307_389Aussie Wrangling at Cooper Spur, 2017 ❤ ❤ ❤

IMG_20170821_075536_560Bernie is not impressed with my Down Dog, Mt Hood at Tilly Jane

The Aussie bug bit hard. I started ghosting Facebook groups about Aussies. I took every opportunity to walk or hike with them. One fateful November morning, Vicky pointed out puppies available in Oregon at Whiterose Farms.

20180923_175053Tristan and Luke almost posing with me

There were two puppies available, a tri-color and a blue merle female. I looked at the photos and my heart grew another half size. I fell face-first, head over heels in love at first sight with the blue merle.46470515_10215482168721315_7869751224516476928_n46521745_10215487274968968_2626295655949139968_nTheir mom, Cinnamon Toast, and their dad, Titan of Eaglecrest, were two of the most striking Aussies I’d ever seen.

46501836_2199975036687822_5308270361685524480_nWhiterose Cinnamon Toast, Love personified (dog-fied?) ❤

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Titan of Eaglecrest, I mean, just wow. Prettier than me.

My partner, Kelley, wasn’t yet totally on board with upending our lives with a puppy. There was persuasion. There may have been tears. In the end, we drove down to see her, on a gray November day.We never stood a chance. She was so adorable, so filled with life and love. I filled out some paperwork, and we went home to prepare for her.

20181123_14043120181123_135718We’d planned on two weeks between seeing her and picking her up, but heart throb cut that down to one week. We headed back South to pick up Miss Whiterose Astrid Luna (Luna), dog crate now at home in my VW SUV, with a little apprehension. Kelley had not raised a puppy before, and it had been awhile for me.

Toast knew what was up, and she seemed a little resigned as Luna said her goodbyes to Mom and sister, and the farm that she had know since late September as home.

20181202_155349‘Be good to my little girl, hooman.’20181202_155353So much love ❤47577683_774056196274103_6286468563716800512_o

As I look today at how completely Luna is embedded in our lives, it’s hard to imagine it’s only been four months since she arrived. Luna has been to the Oregon Coast, Mount Hood, Mount Saint Helens, Mount Hebo near Tillamook, on the Pacific Crest Trail in the Columbia River Gorge, she’s been to places I never saw as a kid. I’ve carried her on snowshoes for miles, my pack now has the permanent allure of dog treats, extra water, and dog food bowls.

20181228_111416Luna loves snow

20190121_114438.jpgOn Lamberson Spur trail with Luna ❤

20190311_145202Luna at Six Months, ~40 lbs now. She grew so fast!

The memories keep flooding back, as Luna does something in the same way as Lucy, or takes up a guard stance against sudden noises, gives big wet sloppy kisses. She’s so expressive, so loving, and so energetic! She’s such a goofball, everything has game potential. I’m told that I have my Mom voice back, too, somewhat on vacation since my adult children moved away.

Now, in the morning, or coming home from work, there’s that ritual again. Lucy would hear the bus and run up through the woods to meet me on my walk home. As she closed the distance, she’d drop into the dance. As all available energy was focused in one place, her butt would wiggle back and forth, as she danced the dance of joy and love. We’d run together the mile or so back down into the forest to the house.

Today, I dance the Wigglebutt Dance again, my heart singing a duet of love and joy with my soul, a new song of unconditional love, with Luna. Somewhere, over the Rainbow Bridge, I like to think Lucy sits, smiling, waiting for us, to dance again. That will really be quite something, our Wigglebutt Redux, as we all run off into the Sunset, together again, butts wiggling in tune to the universe.

20190322_181838“Ri ruv, ru, Ruzan” ❤

Eagle Creek Fire

I am sorry for the Eagles this day
I am sorry for the owls, ravens, hawks, songbirds, even the noisy jay
I am sorry for the pikas, chipmunks, squirrels, who would steal my lunch scraps
I am sorry for the majestic Elk, the deer, bobcats and lions of the mountains, I marvel at the rare sight of you, moving with ease and beauty
I am sorry for the fish, the snakes, my beautiful lowly banana slugs, the bees and butterflies
I am sorry that Man alone, of all creatures on this Earth, has lost the knowledge how to live in harmony with Nature
I am sorry that Man again has filled your magical home with smoke, fire, and death
I am sorry, I would do anything to reverse this, to restore your lives and homes
I am sorry, I honor your lives, extinguished by the thousands every hour of this terrible day
I am sorry, I hear and feel your souls, all crying out in fear, pain, and mortal agony
I am so very, very, terribly sorry, I pray that the universe will forgive us.

– Me, September 2017

😭 I read this poem and a few others at Mother Foucault’s Bookstore in Portland last year. My partner’s poetry and art were featured in an anthology. Both of us now participate in the 31 Days of August Postcard Poetry Fest. There’s a signup then you get a list of 31 names in your group. It was so fun and writing every day while traveling and playing in the summer sunshine gave extra inspiration. ❤

100 logs on the Pacific Crest Trail

“We were able to reopen these trails thanks to many volunteer hours put in by our trail partners such as the Pacific Crest Trail Association and Trailkeepers of Oregon.”

Lynn Burditt, Area Manager, CRGNSA
 
As I sorted my gear for a challenging two-day overnight logout on the Pacific Crest Trail in Oregon between the Gorge and Mt Hood last June, I received word that the Pacific Crest Trail and Herman Creek Trail would be opening that same weekend. 
 
I’d been working in (and out of) the burn since January 2018, clearing the massive debris piles of rock and wood from the trails, repairing root burn holes, doing treadwork, and cutting logs to remove them from the trail.  Scouting counted over 100 downed trees of cutting size, along a 16-mile section, our job was to remove them all, or as many as we could in two days. 
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My First Logout, March 2018 on Herman Creek Trail ❤ 
 
There’s no way we could have done much of the work that Spring with the trail open, as we trigger rockfall, butt-scoot logs into oblivion down the hill, and roll fire-weakened boulders off-trail, watching their curvy, fire-hardened pieces as they explode into bits on their downhill travels.  We could only safely do much of the work with careful radio coordination, and keeping track of everyone out there.  In theory, that’s just us, but we did have occasional closure ban scofflaws show up during our work parties that Spring.  When that happens, we stop work, and one Crew Leader has to walk them out. 
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 Herman Creek Trail, as we found it, March 2018
 
So I added to my anxiety, that we’d have random humans walking up from the Gorge, as we worked out way down from Wahtum Lake, camping at Benson Way near the origin of Ruckel Creek.  I was already anxious as it was my first actual backpacking trip, and I had to carry enough water for two days because water status was unknown along the Benson plateau, no one had scouted out our overnight spot.  Teakettle Springs had water, but that was a day two spot, down from Benson Plateau.  We’d already been there the prior month, and it was pretty crisp. 
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Brian clearing out debris and filling water as Frank Jahn looks on at Teakettle Springs, May 2018
 
As we sorted out saws and tools, we were waiting on the nephew of one of the Thunder Island Brewing owners, who then showed up with a pile of growlers filled with hard cider, beer, and ales for after work on Saturday.  Taking one for the team (I don’t drink alcohol), I packed a 32 oz hard cider into my already too-heavy load.  I had four liters of water, the long crosscut saw ‘Herman Creek’ (saws all have names), my Katana-Boy 650mm folding saw, wedges, and handles for the crosscut, in addition to my overnight gear.  My pack was over 50 lbs, with tools and water.  After our car shuttle, I hefted it the first time and said to myself, “I hope I feel superhumanly strong today, because that’s damn heavy!” 
 
As we left the parking lot and the lush unburnt greenery of Wahtum Lake, we hiked into some of the worst burn I’ve seen in the Gorge from the Eagle Creek Fire. After months, you think you’re immune to the sadness of massive destruction of natural habitat, but as one of my thru-hiker friends later told me, ‘this was the saddest section of the PCT’ they had seen from Mexico to Canada. I still agree, it’s so toasted there. 
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That’s what we call a Complex Log. 
 
We chucked piles of burned bark off the trail, focusing on the logs and not the tread.  Soon falling into a rhythm, we broke into two teams of 3-4 each and started clearing.  Drop the pack, assemble the saw if needed, swamp out the site (clear the branches and debris), prep the log (remove burned bark as it dulls the saw), then cut with the Katana or crosscut.  Push or carry the pieces off the trail, fix the tread as well as we can, and move on. 
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I love my Katana-Boy, it rocks. 
 
Roberta asked us to count logs we personally finished that morning, so we’d have a strong count of how many we’ve removed.  I stopped at twenty-one, there were just so many.  Every time I dropped pack, deployed tools, worked, and picked that pack up again, it was a little harder.  
 
We finally broke for lunch at an overlook just before you climb up into Benson Plateau (Northbound), looking out into the watershed of the West Branch of Herman Creek, which escaped the fire.  No man-made trails there, it’s pristine green forest. 
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I remember thinking ‘well, at least it’s not raining’, not long before the thunderstorms moved in.  Hot air pushed by East winds off the Oregon interior met less warm, moisture laden air coming from the West. It got dark fast, as packs were covered and shells came out, ready to keep working.  The rain was steady as we moved further North. 
 
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Looking North toward Mt. Adams from the PCT as the t-storms march in 
 
There was a tremendous feeling of accomplishment, as we left miles of now log-free trail open behind us.  We didn’t see a soul that first day, as we worked past Smokey Springs, right above Eagle Creek’s Tunnel Falls.  Looking down into Eagle Creek watershed was sobering, the area near Tunnel took a big hit from the fires. 
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Smokey Springs looking toward Eagle Creek and Tanner from the PCT 
 
Thankfully, the burn thinned by Benson Way, and we were in untouched forest. Most of the Benson Plateau escaped damage. We wrapped up our day’s work by 5 pm, and we left the PCT for our overnight, heading to setup camp and look for water.  I setup my tent that I’d never seen in just a few minutes (thank you, Kate, and Big Agnes!)
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My happy camp at Benson Camp
 
It’s not far from the PCT to Benson Camp, I so recommend it for thru-hikers. Fabulous clear water, just expect mosquitoes. 
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Headwaters of Ruckel Creek 
 
Camp established, we had a mission from the Forest Service to put up signs near closed junctions for Ruckel Creek Trail, so off we went after dinner on another short hike down to Hunter’s Camp.  
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Max can always count on us to have his back
 
Hunter’s Camp is SO beautiful, I must go back and camp there. 
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Growlers were heavy but oh so appreciated! Thank you, Thunder Island Brewery! 
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Sore, cold, and tired, I’m so damn happy here.  Thanks for the loan, Kate!
 
It rained all night after I went to bed.  Cold, windy rain lashed my tent, as we camped at around 3500′ asl.  Sunday morning, I made oatmeal mixed with fruit, a pouch of steaming hot love I’d been coveting since about 5AM.  We split into two groups, five of us heading North to continue the logout, the rest working the tread as they hiked back to Wahtum Lake to retrieve cars. 
 
The sun broke through as we broke camp and headed back North on the PCT. Mosquitoes were crazy thick getting out of Benson Camp, I was really wishing for helmet netting.  We were a bit tired, wet, sore, with another very full day ahead of us.  I knew about three complex logs down-trail that we left working up from the Gorge in May, and sure enough, they hadn’t grown legs and left. Bummer. 
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Sunday’s first test was a multi-hour adventure, a massive Doug Fir fallen mostly lengthwise right onto a narrow section of the trail, completely blocking it.  The branches were thicker than my arms. We ended up cutting it out in three sections.  We did extensive treadwork on the area around it, too.  You can still see the remnants as you walk by. The tread looked fabulous when we were done. Tree gone, trail almost back to spec width. 
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We hiked to the Red Rock viewpoint for lunch. That charred ridge in the distance behind me is what’s left of Nick Eaton and Groton Creek trails, some of the worst damaged in the burn. Herman Creek Trail is in the valley below. 
 
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I’ve been told I’m really enthusiastic. All I know is I’m SO happy here, so in my element. 
 
In the afternoon, We worked our way down to our last large and complex log, on the switchbacks below Teakettle.  We’d started on the beast a month prior, cutting out branches so people could at least pass underneath it on our last logout coming up from the Gorge in May. 
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Look at the size of those branches! #crosscutparty
 
Unfortunately, the thunderstorms made a repeat appearance, and this time lightning and thunder made us reconsider how long we wanted to spend on this log that day with wind, thunder, and lightning, so we packed it in and left one damn log.  ONE log! Our now very tired party marched mostly in silence as the evening approached, down the switchbacks to Herman Creek Bridge trail, to the HCT TH, and packed up. 
 
We ended up the weekend at Thunder Island Brewery, eating, drinking, and remembering.  We tallied up the miles of trails cleared, over 100 logs gone that thru-hikers wouldn’t have to step over or climb around, 16 miles of trail cleared down to the tread, holes filled, and now finally, OPEN.  
 
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I thought a lot about the past nine months as I sat there, from my first training for Crew Leader on a rainy day across the river back in November 2017, to the massive undertaking we had just completed.  Our mission was to clear the trail that was opening, and we did it.  I still remember that feeling, of sawing all day, lifting the pack over and over again as we moved work sites.  It hurt, it was hard, and I needed to do it, so I did. I’m perhaps inordinately proud of that, I didn’t allow fear to make me back away from a big challenge. 
 
When the Eagle Creek Fire roared through 49,000 acres of pristine Gorge forests in September 2017, I cried a river.  Ashes fell at home and in Portland, as daily we watched another favorite place go up in smoke. When I first walked into Herman Creek to work in March, when it was still closed, I took a ‘bio-break’ to sit and cry for what was lost.  
 
My thinking has really evolved since then. The Eagle Creek fire changed my trajectory in life from a consumer, a hiker, who uses trails, to a Steward.  When I hike today, my Silky 300 saw goes with me, and I pick up branches off the trail, cut out low-hanging ones, even clear small logs.  If there’s a significant problem on the PCT, I note it and pass it along. 
 
I’ve made wonderful new friends, learned so many skills, and I can say that I made a difference. I don’t see that changing soon, and truthfully, it’s a pretty darn great place to be.  
 
#Namaste 
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Helpful links if you want to volunteer:
 
Locally, Mount Hood Chapter PCTA:
 
Pacific Crest Trail Association Volunteer Page: