Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Confessions of a Bibliophilic Hiker

By Andy Zahn  

      When I was twelve years old, I found a book while digging through the spider infested boxes in our garage. It was called 100 hikes in the South Cascades and Olympics by Harvey Manning and Ira Spring. Ten years later, my collection has expanded to over 70 books covering trails in every corner of the mountains of the West Coast. One of my projects during the long dreary months of this winter was to move all my books from a sagging, overburdened shelf to a new set of shelves. In the process, I realized that just as these books shaped the shelf, they have shaped many aspects of my life.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

From Behemoths to Bantams: Backpacking through the ages

Grandad with his pack basket
      As my uncle heaved his pack up over a 6 foot high granite ledge to me, I realized the reason for his weariness. This ancient wicker behemoth with who-knows-what filling its cavernous depths must have weighed a ton! The two shoulder straps were padded only by thin, decaying leather-there was no hip strap, no pockets, frame or high tech air-cooling trampoline. It was a relic of a simpler age of backpacking.

     This ancient piece of equipment once belonged to my grandfather, a veteran of World War II. He was a foot soldier in that war-trudging through the mud and blood of the battlefields of France. There he carried an 80 pound machine gun in addition to his own gear, so he was no stranger to heavy loads.

       After the war, Grandad became a fire lookout in Idaho. Being a lookout in those days was not a job for day-dreaming poets. When he spotted a fire, Grandad would set out cross country with a Pulaski, radio, and rations, among other equipment, all of which weighed over 70 pounds, to fight the fire himself. When his lookout days were over, he took up backpacking with his family. Their gear was army surplus, and Grandad carried almost everything in that wicker pack that my uncle still carries- two 20 pound down sleeping bags and cast iron cookware (my mother and her sisters carried only small rucksacks with their own cotton sleeping bags), but after carrying machine guns during the war and firefighting gear on the lookout, Grandad wouldn’t have complained about the weight.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Timelapse: Winter in Southwest Washington

The lowlands of Southwest Washington don't get much of what most people would think of as winter; mostly it just rains.....and rains, and continues raining for months on end! However last weekend it finally snowed, and I recorded our 5 day winter here in a 2 minute timelapse video. I plan on doing the same in the spring, summer, and fall-so stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Winter camping in the Hoh Rainforest

The gentle patter of rain on the roof of a tent is a calming sound that lulls weary campers into deep and welcome sleep. Awaking to find oneself immersed in a small lake formed overnight by aforementioned seemingly gentle, but constant, rainfall is somewhat less appealing. Winter backpacking on the Olympic Peninsula can hardly be described as a comfortable or even pleasant experience, but when Cabin Fever descends during the interminably dull winter months that characterize Western Washington, an insane lust for adventure may seize the heart, and the mystery of the Olympic Rainforest offers ample opportunity to quench that desire.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Building a Green House: a timelapse construction

We built this greenhouse last summer over a period of about a month, I used a waterproof Pentax camera to capture the whole thing in a time-lapse video and condensed it down to a length of just over 3 minutes.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Snow at last in the Mt. St. Helens High Country.

Late afternoon sunshine on fresh snow in the Mt. St. Helens high country.

An imposing bank of fog.
      For most of the winter the mountains around Mt. St. Helens have seen little snow. However, recent storms have laid down several feet of the white stuff, and the hills are now covered in a comforting blanket, lessening fears of a summer drought. Thick fog banks cloaked many of the high peaks Sunday, and the low angle of the sun caused valley hugging fluff to suddenly go dark and thunderous one moment and then collapse in a wave of ethereal tendrils the next.

Swirling clouds and snow-coated trees.