Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Some magazine (The Washingtonian, which I'm sure is absolutely free of regional bias) says my high school is the best.

Good News, Trails

I won't make a pun using the word "dam" instead of "damn," but I am stoked about this story. Four dams are coming down on the Klamath.

UPDATE: This story seems to be part of a series. A few days ago there was bad news about possible future construction.

I heard about a new long distance trail, the Bigfoot trail, from a friend named Squatch (because he's so into bigfoot stuff). I've looked into a route like this before, because there is public land all the way from Clearlake, CA to the Oregon border through Mendocino, Shasta-Trinity, and Klamath National Forests. However, it seemed like a lot of roadwalking and real danger of running into pot farms. Normally I discount that danger (and all other "dangerous" outdoor things like bears) but maybe not in this region.

For years I've been dreaming of an AZ-UT-ID border to border route. I mostly kept it to myself, even though I knew it had been done before. I just didn't know it had been done by Ray Jardine. My route would certainly be different--something along the lines of the Arizona Trail, Hayduke trail to Moab, west and then north up the Wasatch and the Bear River range until you hit the Snake, float the Snake west until Hammett or Glenns Ferry to connect with the Idaho Centennial Trail and up to Canada (then if I had time, east on the Pacific Northwest Trail over to Glacier and north on the Great Divide Trail.) When I will have time for any of this, I have no idea.

Monday, September 28, 2009

ALDHA-West 2009

I spent the weekend at a camp in Oregon near Mt. Hood for the 2009 ALDHA-West gathering. It was like most all hiker gatherings. At first, you're a little bummed because hiker X didn't show up even though he lives only an hour away, then you see some cool presentations, and then before you know it, it's two in the morning and you're doing one-armed pushups and cheerleading stunts while your friend is regaling a room full of people with a hilarious account of his vasectomy and train-hopping and so on and so forth. Then the weekend ends and you have to go home and your football teams lost and you have to go back to work. So fun, so bittersweet.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Are You Interested in Hating Everything?

I finally finished reading Marc Reisner's Cadillac Desert: The American West and its Disappearing Water. If you have not read this book, you absolutely must. I guess people that have both never been west of the Mississippi and don't care about the environment probably won't be interested (but then, why would you reading my blog?), but everyone else must read it. It's pretty dense at times, so it took me a long time to get through it, but that's basically because it's very well researched and thorough.

Summary: William Mulholland and LA stole (legally, mostly) all the water from the Owens Valley, the Colorado River has been thoroughly violated, and the Bureau of Reclamation (in competition with the Army Corps of Engineers) built way too many dams using absolutely fraudulent cost-benefit calculations and now sell the water to corporate farms (that are far larger than the legal size-limit to be allowed to purchase the water) for $7.50 an acre-foot (far less than residential customers pay), losing billions of dollars in the process as well as decimating fish populations and rapidly killing the soil with salt buildup. Also, the high plains states are draining the Ogallala aquifer. Also, humans suck.

That was basically my takeaway. It was confirmed while driving home on I-5 through the central valley paralleling the California aqueduct past gigantic CAFO's.

Memorable quotes:

Gov. Pat Brown on considering building the California Aqueduct to divert northern California's Feather River thousands of miles south (I just think this one's funny, since I love NorCal and dislike SoCal):
"Brown suggested another motive that had made him, a northern Californian by birth, want so badly to build a project which would send a lot of northern California's water southward: "Some of my advisors came to me and said, ' Now governor, don't bring the water to the people, let the people go to the water. That's a desert down there. Ecologically, it can't sustain the number of people that will come if you bring the water project in there.'
"I weighed this very, very thoughtfully before I started going all out for the water project. Some of my advisors said to me, 'Yes, but people are going to come to southern California anyway.' Somebody said, 'Well, send them up to northern California.' I knew I wouldn't be governor forever. I didn't think I'd ever come down to southern California and I said to myself, 'I don't want all these people to go to northern California.'

Granted, this dam (the Narrows Dam on Colorado's South Platte river) was never constructed, but congress passed appropriations for it and it very nearly was built:
"Here was a dam that the state engineer said would deliver only a third of the water it promised and could conceivably collapse; a project whose official cost estimate--if what two officials of the Union Pacific had privately suggested was correct--would barely suffice to relocate twenty-six miles of railroad track; a project whose real cost, whatever it turned out to be, would therefore be written off, in substantial measure, to "recreation," though the water would be unsafe to touch; a project whose prevailing interest rate (crucial to justifying the whole scheme) was one-fifth the rates banks were charging in the late 1970's; a projects many of whose beneficiaries owned more land than the law permitted in order to receive subsidized water (even after the acreage limit was stretched to 960 acres in 1982); a project that might, if the state engineer was correct, seep enough water to turn the town of Fort Morgan into a marsh; a project that would pile more debt onto the Bureau's Missouri Basin Account; a project that would generate not a single kilowatt of hydroelectric power and would be all but worthless for flood control."

From the afterword:
"You need seven or eight feet of water in the hot deserts to keep grass alive, which means that you need almost fifty thousand pounds of water to raise one pound of cow...California has a shortage of water because it has a surfeit of cows--it's really almost as simple as that."

Read up a little to make sure this project never happens:
Rampart Dam in Alaska.

Trailwork Report

Like I said in my last post, I went down to San Jacinto to a trail work training session. I puked on the drive down (bad gas station deli hard boiled eggs or just really windy dirt Black Mountain Road), then spent Friday, Saturday, and half of Sunday learning to work a griphoist. Basically this is a fancy winch device capable of controlled tension and release of a wire rope under up to 4,000 pounds of pressure. Anchor the griphoist on a tree, attach the wire rope to a big rock, crank the handle, and the rock moves. If the rock is really heavy, put a block (pulley) on the rock, thread the wire rope through the block and anchor it back on the same tree in order to get a 2:1 mechanical advantage. Or instead of doing a direct or directional pull, you can set up a high line or high lead and fly (a very generous term, they're not actually flying or even moving that fast if you're being remotely safe) big granite boulders down a slope.

Anyway, I had a pretty good time. The training was run by the Student Conservation Association (SCA), with PCTA, Forest Service, LA Conservation Corps, and California Conservation Corps participants. That made for a very different makeup than my previous trailwork experience, but the only bad thing about that was the attempt at forced enthusiasm/cheering/get-to-know-you games that clearly is not my style.

Here are a few pics:
This rock fin is pretty recognizable, about 3/4 mile south of Black Mountain Road.
Rigging a chain basket around a nice 700-lb. piece of granite
Pulling same rock down high lead

And a few thoughts:
When hiking, I am annoyed by, in order, 1)overgrown brush, 2)non-existent and thus hard-to-follow tread, 3)downed trees over the trail, and a distant 4) poor rock placement. I have a really small sample size (two), but I haven't super-loved my trailwork experiences because I hiked right through the areas where we were going to work and thought the trail was in fine shape since conditions (1), (2), and (3) were all fine. Apparently, however, horses and donkeys weigh a lot, cannot take sharp corners, and like there to be big granite steps all over the trail. I actually dislike steps since the 1.5 to 2 foot drops are jarring to the knees. But the group spends the whole time working on a really small section of trail that I didn't think needed any improvement in the first place, meanwhile I know for a fact the next 8 miles of trail is overgrown and impossible to hike without getting your arms and legs really scratched and covered in sticky plant oils.

There are really only two points to this. One, I need to sign up for brushing or logging trail work instead of rock stuff (or just ask my friend to machine me a pair of loppers with carbon-fiber handles, strap them to my pack, and go running/maintaining by myself). And two, I have no love of creating fine craftsmanship, I don't care about details, and I prefer quantity over quality. So please, if you know of quantity-based trail projects, let me know.

P.S. Granite weighs approximately 96 pounds per cubic foot.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

San Jacinto Rock Work

I'm headed to San Jacinto to get some training in rock-based trail work from the SCA. I think I'll probably end up thinking that I'd much rather be doing brushing or logging for hikers than rock work for donkeys, but I assume I'll still enjoy it.

I'll actually have AC for this drive. Thank goodness I didn't need a new compressor and got what was actually wrong fixed for pretty cheap, and my car mechanic (thanks VM for the rec) says I got new brake pads just in time.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Night Running (deserves a quiet night)

I turned 30 years old yesterday. I don't know how I feel about that (I haven't done squat for research since orals and it's not looking like I'll get much of it done this semester with all my teaching, this isn't great for morale), but I had to teach until 7 PM, then I went out for a ~5 hour run in the dark. I haven't been in a while, so my right knee acted up a little/lot. I saw a bunch of raccoons and a grey fox (the only canine that can climb trees). Why haven't any of my running friends told me how fun night running is? The only times I've run or hiked at night is after having run or hiked all day long, so I was really tired at night, but if you don't start until 8 PM, it's actually pretty cool. It certainly doesn't hurt to have the killer views of the SF skyline and the fog.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Conservatives Respond to Krugman Article I Mentioned

Chicago econs respond to Krugman.

Krugman non-responds to the response because he's traveling and hasn't had time yet.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Techie Gear Dork or Laziness

1. I saw Ponyo this weekend. Why is it that only Pixar can make kids movies that aren't agonizing for adults to sit through?

2. I took a sea kayaking lesson on Saturday from the UC Aquatic Center. Learned basic strokes, a few rescues, etc. I enjoyed it (especially the few minutes in which we went outside the breaks of the marina and rode a few waves) enough to think about buying their last used kayak for $300. (Despite saying you should definitely, definitely try out many kayaks before buying one, the instructor also said I could easily resell this for more than I would pay for it.) My concern is that I'm too lazy to go kayaking with any regularity. I have ignored several outdoor sports (kayaking, cycling, rock climbing, ice climbing, skiing, snowboarding, fly fishing, basically any sport that's not running/hiking) for years and viewed them as "techie gear dork" sports, meaning it was more about the machine than the man. Part of me likes the beauty of low/no-gear pursuits that don't require driving, but part of me thinks I'm just lazy. I can barely get out the door to go running, and all you have to do for that is change your shorts. If I had to put the kayak in the truck, tie it down, drive to the marina, put on a wetsuit, skirt, and spray jacket before getting started, I'd never get started. Part of me thinks it's stupid to have to drive to Tahoe to be able to do a sport (anything involving snow) and I can't get my head around the idea of "being into" a sport when you can only find the time to do it 6 times a year at most. The other part of me thinks I should get over that and that it would be rad to kayak all the way around the coast of Baja.

3. I had a mustache for about 6 hours on Friday.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Economics for Planet Earth as Opposed to Planet Vulcan

Paul Krugman had a great article in the NYT magazine explaining the history of the last 70 years of macroeconomic thought in relation to current events and reminding me once again that I am so glad that I didn't go to the University of Chicago. (Many thanks to the Chicago prof whose first words out of his mouth upon my admit visit were: "How can I help you Garret, and why aren't you just going to Berkeley?") I have never been a particularly big fan of macro; I remember once being incensed upon learning the Real Business Cycle model (explained in the article) and being told that I didn't really observe involuntary unemployment, I just thought I did. However, I'm now teaching my second semester of macro and given the horrible times we're experiencing and the views of the professors here, it's certainly more interesting.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Enchanted Gorge Trip Details

"The Enchanted Gorge is where intimidation and challenge meet head on. This is not a place for the faint-hearted, the poorly conditioned, or the unadventuresome. Here is the proving ground for the Ultimate Sierra backpacker."
--Phil Arnot, blowing smoke out his rear-end in his High Sierra: John Muir's Range of Light

"The only thing "enchanted" about Enchanted Gorge is its name."
--R.J. Secor, telling it like it is, is his must-own The High Sierra: Peaks, Passes, and Trails

I spent Labor Day Weekend doing an off-trail backpacking trip in Sierra National Forest and Kings Canyon National Park. (Skip the words and look at the pictures.) I read about the Enchanted Gorge in Steve Roper's Sierra High Route guidebook (he calls it "one of the wildest canyons in the range") and I immediately wanted to do it. I started Friday at Florence Lake and hiked maintained trail following the South San Joaquin up Goddard Canyon to Martha Lake. I camped on a bench maybe 200 feet above Martha Lake and had to set up on snow/still-frozen hail--the rain that had been falling lightly during the day must've been coming down frozen at higher altitudes. Saturday I went east over Goddard Creek Pass into the Ionian Basin, down Enchanted Gorge, and maybe 1/3 of the way up Goddard Creek (note that Goddard Creek is not in Goddard Canyon). I ended the day with a 150 foot climb up exposed class 3, maybe 4, next to a waterfall just as it was getting too dark to continue. You know, for kicks.

Sunday I continued up Goddard Creek, then went over Reinstein Pass and back to Martha Lake. Then instead of following the easy trail down Goddard Canyon, I went west over Hell for Sure pass. Mostly because of the name, which it definitely does not deserve. The trail from Goddard Canyon is on a cool bench, and the final approach is all pretty grass. My TI map shows trails going by Reddys Hole through Red Rock Basin to Thompson Pass and down to Florence Lake. Sunday night I could not find the turn-off near Lower Indian Lake, so I cross-countried to the pass near Fleming Mountain and spent the night there. Monday I verified that the Reddys Hole Trail absolutely does not exist, and the Thompson Pass trail only barely exists, in the form of frequent cairns with zero tread. From Fleming Mountain pass to Thompson pass was nice--high enough elevation that the plant growth was never that dense, and there were several pretty meadows. From Thompson Pass down to Florence Lake was hotter with lots of deadfall, so that was less fun.

Overall, it was definitely a good trip. I'd say that Secor is more accurate in his description of Enchanted Gorge than Arnot. It wasn't that pretty, and the dense brush is pretty annoying. Don't get me wrong, it was a fun challenge, but it's not walking-the-divide-in-the-Wind-River-Range/break-into-tears-at-the-majesty-of-it-all awesome, it's more just gnarly in a bushwhacking sense. And Ionian Basin left me a little underwhelmed too. Yes, the lakes are gorgeous and perfect for a near-freezing swim, but you never get a broad view of more than one of them at a time. Goddard Creek, however, was awesome. You get wide views up and down canyon, and the scrambling that you have to do, although sometimes steep, is on solid easily-done cliffs, whereas the slopes of Enchanted Gorge are mixtures of dirt, talus, and stinging nettles, and it's just a test of how well you can walk with your body at a 45-degree sideways angle with one hand on the ground.

Here are a few photos. There are several more on Picasa.
Ionian Basin

Looking back up Enchanted Gorge
Reaction to stinging nettle, plus my legs are really hairy

Lake at the top of Goddard Canyon

View of Reinstein Pass

I did a quick job of mapping my route, shown below. Topo! is pretty weak software, but I drew the route on the 1:100K series, then reduced it by 50% to fit it on one page. Solid red line is me on-trail, dashed is off. In the field I used NatGeo TI maps #205 and #809. Mapping it in Topo! and printing out a bunch of 7.5-minute stuff would be nice, but I prefer the ease of pre-printed TI's, and my GPS makes up for the loss of scale. lmportantly, I also xeroxed a few pages from Arnot and Secor, but Arnot is mostly redundant.

My route. Click to Enlarge.

On a side note, my camper shell slid halfway off while driving out on Kaiser Pass road (the narrow road that goes to Florence Lake, Lake Edison, and Vermilion Valley Resort). I guess it's time to ditch the c-clamps and open the packaging on that fancy new drill I bought so I can bolt the sucker on.

Also, can everyone please start using the phrase "nar-nar?" A friend introduced me to it this summer, and I'm a fan. It means (obviously?) "really gnarly," thus I suppose it could also be spelled "gnar-gnar," but we'll let the good folks at Webster's worry about that. Example: "Once you go over the pass, you're in the nar-nar for real."

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Enchanted Gorge

Later today I'm headed to do a gnarly x-country route for the weekend. Starting at Florence Lake, up the Muir Trail, up Goddard Canyon to Martha Lake, east over Goddard Creek Pass into the Ionian Basin, down Enchanted Gorge, up Goddard Creek, over Reinstein Pass, back down Goddard Canyon, and if there's time over Hell for Sure Pass and back to Florence Lake. It's 22 miles on trail to Martha Lake. Enchanted Gorge is around 7 miles long, but I expect it to be hellishly slow and choked with thistles and nearly impassable brush. Good times. Back on Tuesday, most likely.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

New House, New Router

I moved into a place of my own for the first time since June 1. I was a little underwhelmed with my new place at first, but then one of my roommates pointed out that the vacuum actually did work, I just had to switch it to the floor as opposed to the hose setting. Then he offered me good beer and homemade seitan, and I decided I really liked the place.

I bought a wireless router to go with our newly installed Comcast Interwebs. It was slightly frustrating that I couldn't find a single router with uniformly positive reviews, so at some point I decided to stop caring and just ordered a D-Link DIR 615.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


Thanks to OO for sending me this video about two of my favorite things: long distance hiking and facial hair.

The Longest Way 1.0 - one year walk/beard grow time lapse from Christoph Rehage on Vimeo.

If you're curious, I haven't cut or trimmed my hair since June 1. It's starting to bug me a little.

Free Book with Truck

Somebody left a copy of Candice Millard's book River of Doubt in the truck my sister gave me, and I just finished reading it. It's about a river trip Teddy Roosevelt took after he lost the 1912 election, in which he mapped a previously unknown 1,000-mile long tributary of the Amazon. I am not a huge fan of TR (he seems to be a really big fan of war) but I appreciate the fact that he was a tough dude. Like pretty much every adventure narrative, it diverges from the main story to describe the science or history behind the obstacles the adventure faces, but it does so in a slightly repetitive manner. The Amazon has lots of crazy insects. I get it.

Anyway, I'd say the book is above average adventure narrative, but not amazing. It was interesting to read about a politician doing some serious adventuring, and it was interesting to learn something completely new about somebody you've obviously been hearing about (but for different reasons) your whole life.