Oct 21

Hollywood Propaganda; How TV, Movies, and Music Shape Our Culture, by Mark Dice ★★★★★

Mark Dice has been making a series of books about modern culture, the most recent being The True Story of Fake News, Liberalism: Find a Cure and the Liberal Media Industrial Complex. The format of these books are all the same. I’ve written reviews on each of them already. In this book, Mark attacks the entertainment industry, showing how they have intentionally written script into their shows to persuade the public toward a particular end. Mark covers various things, such as making the public accepting of abortion, LGBTQ issues, Feminist issues, immigration issues, and political issues, such as painting a negative spin on Donald Trump. Hollywood is deeply influenced and affected by the state, including the military, FBI and CIA, and other government agencies. Hollywood has been very strong at promoting an anti-USA agenda, and stirring up race issues, creating a war against white people. There is no corner left unturned, and even sports have become political via Hollywood. Mark laments how late-night comedies have gone from equal opportunity attacks against both Republicans and Democrats with Johnny Carson to a full all-out attack on conservativism by recent talk show hosts. The book contains hundreds of examples of how Hollywood has intentionally scripted its shows with the intent to influence the beliefs and thinking of the general public. He doesn’t offer solutions, save for turning off your tv. That is what our family has done, beginning about 1995. We couldn’t have been better off.

This is a great book. It doesn’t have a plot. It doesn’t have progression in a storyline. But, it is a concerted attack against what the radio preacher Oliver Greene would call “the sewer pipe from Hollywood”. What was amazing to me was Mark Dice pointing out how deep this Cesspool of filth was in the Hollywood circuit, and how seriously it may be affecting how we think and what we believe. This is a good book to read, which I highly recommend. I’m sure my brother Dennis would stand with me on this one.

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Oct 18

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, by Jon Meacham ★★

I published this book review on 10/18/2020, but after some forethought and starting yet another period history book on the War of 1812, am realizing that this book does not deserve the faint praise that I gave to it. I also added additional reasons why I truly disliked this text.

This book unsurprisingly details the life and thoughts of our third president, Thomas Jefferson. I had already read the biographies of Washington, John Adams and Hamilton before attacking this book. I had awaiting me yet a history of the war of 1812, Andrew Jackson, as well as that of Madison and Monroe. After that, I will return to studies on the Civil War. This book was not as well liked by me, and does not stand up to the standard set by the other biographies mentioned above. I realize that this book might have been a NYT best seller and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, yet truth be told, such accolades are essentially meaningless. This text is much shorter than other period biographies in several ways. There are multiple short chapters, each chapter named in standard fashion by some brief snippet of text found within that chapter. This book has a lengthy reference section, yet the text itself is only 505 pages, and the type face is 12 point on 15 point leading (larger than the typical 10/13 or 11/14 point type found in most texts), in narrower than typical columns, thus deceptively making the reader believe they are getting as much content as a typical biography text.

As would be expected, Meacham starts with the birth and early years of Jefferson’s life, being born on his father’s land at Shadwell, VA which lies in the shadow of Monticello. He attended college in Williamsburg, and there demonstrated some of his brilliance that led him to rise to echelons of power. His teachers and acquaintances at William and Mary college eventually put him into revolutionary circles. Meacham does not point out any illustrative traits that would suggest Jefferson’s greatness, and instead avoids laudatory praise at this stage in his life. Jefferson was eventually assigned the duty of writing the Declaration of Independence, though with the help and corrections of other founding fathers. During the Revolutionary War, there are large lacunae in Jefferson’s life, save for an episode in 1781, where Benedict Arnold and a troop of Redcoats moved on Monticello, with Jefferson running for his life, branding him a coward by many. Jefferson, having a love for all things French, became involved as an ambassador to France, and was assigned to be the secretary of state by Washington. Meacham omits much of the struggles between him and Hamilton while serving on Washington’s cabinet. Jefferson’s time in France and his interactions with John Adams in England are chronicled.

Jefferson was described repeatedly as a man that loved agriculture and loved the land. He designed and built, and then rebuilt the mansion at Monticello, and had his best moments while at Monticello, or at his vacation home at Poplar Forest. Jefferson was non-confrontational. He was not a Trump. Jefferson enjoyed the art of hospitality while at Monticello. Meacham speaks about Jefferson’s family. Jefferson lost his wife fairly early on and never was remarried. Jefferson’s sexual escapades included Sally Hemings, one of his “slaves” (though more white than black) who he took to France with him. He had a number of children from his real wife, though only two survived early childhood. With Sally, Jefferson also had children who were freed at Jefferson’s death and then went on to productive lives in the north as whites.

The presidency of Jefferson was notable for three events. First was the Louisiana purchase. Almost simultaneously was the commissioning of Lewis and Clark for their expedition. Thirdly was the trade embargo with England in hopes of avoiding a war with England. Sadly, many details were missing from each of these episodes. This is true of many other events in Jefferson’s life, making it very frustrating to read this book. Meacham did not master the art of story-telling.

Up until now, Jefferson’s life had not been portrayed by Meacham in glowing terms. Meacham was open about the many inconsistencies of Jefferson and tended to disparage him all along. Most notable was Jefferson’s inability to remain consistent with his ideology. Jefferson soundly condemned Hamilton’s banking system, yet realized he could not live without it and left it essentially unchanged. Jefferson condemned strong federal functions, yet purchased the Louisiana territory from France almost independent of the congress. Jefferson deployed the navy against the Barbary pirates, again in contrast to his arguments against Hamilton in forming a strong military. Jefferson remained a Francophile, blinding himself to the French revolution and its associated atrocities. Jefferson remained forever duplicitous regarding slavery, both wishing it gone, but finding that he couldn’t live without it. Jefferson was a brilliant, convivial man of great contradictions.

The last few years after his presidency was spent back at Monticello. Jefferson engaged in starting the University of Virginia in Charlottesville in valley below Monticello. This was intended to deter Virginians from needing to go up north to Harvard and Princeton for their education.

There are several reasons why I have problems with this book.

  1. Many of the events in Jefferson’s life are mentioned by starting the event story, but never completing it. This made the reading of this book to be very frustrating. A side story was started, and one expects that the story will perhaps be completed later in the book, yet it doesn’t happen. There are huge silent periods. What was Jefferson doing for most of the Revolutionary War? How was he aiding the war effort, and did he have any input into how congress or the war conducted itself? Meacham starts the story of the commissioning of the Lewis and Clark expedition, yet one is left with Lewis and Clark somewhere in the Rockies, presumably hunkered down for the winter after sending gifts back to Washington. Did they ever make it to the Pacific and back to the east coast? How did it affect Jefferson and further development of the country? The Louisiana purchase is briefly mentioned, but then one if left dangling. And then what happened? How did it go through congress? How was it received? How was it paid for? How did Jefferson justify the purchase as it seemed to go against his small-government Republican principles? At the end of Jefferson’s life, he started to build a university in Charlottesville and would watch its construction from Monticello. What became of that? How far did the university go in Jefferson’s lifetime? What was distinctive about it? How did it become the University of Virginia? How was it financed, since Jefferson was stone broke at the end of his life? I could mention many more examples of Meacham leaving the reader dangling.
  2. Details of importance related to many of the events of Jefferson’s life are glossed over. One misses the struggles of the Federalists vs. the Republicans, thus failing to show how Jefferson altered politics at the beginning of his term. One misses how Jefferson’s British policies were responsible for the eventual War of 1812. One loses the fanatical Fracophile leanings that Jefferson possessed that blinded him to tragedies such as the reign of terror in the French Revolution. One is not filled in how Jefferson’s enlightenment world view affected his religion and his decisions as President. The embargo enacted by Jefferson toward the end of his second term had colossal effects on America’s relationship to England and France, yet this is barely discussed.
  3. There is offered no serious analysis as to how Jefferson’s decisions and life affected the world to come. I don’t expect Meacham to offer his personal opinions, but I would love to know how the various controversies of Jefferson’s life, and how they were analyzed from and 18th and early 19th century perspective. Jefferson truly hated Hamilton for his system of banking, yet almost nothing was mentioned about it, even though it was a very big deal to Jefferson. Regarding Jefferson with his stance with the Indian populations; what were they? There was no serious analysis of Jefferson’s thinking regarding slavery, and how he justified his stance. Books of this sort should lead the reader in deep thought about the nature of our government and issues that existed in Jefferson’s time that persists today. Meacham does not compel the reader to think seriously about anything, and perhaps he is simply catering to the mentality of the readers of the New York Times?

One is left with an enormous question as they come to the close of reading this book. What was so great about Thomas Jefferson? Yet, the last two chapters of this book were an apotheosis of the man. The events surrounding his death, his worship by his friends, and his legacy were not well explained by this text. Is the book worth reading? Perhaps, in that, you do receive a brief history of the man, Thomas Jefferson. My advice would be to seek out other texts on Jefferson if you are indeed seriously interested. You will be disappointed with this text. What you will be missing is the development of the greatness of the man. Perhaps there is a better biography of Jefferson out there; this book is not the definitive text of Thomas Jefferson’s life.

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Oct 01

Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow ★★★★★

This is the third book that I’ve read by Ron Chernow, Washington and Grant being the other two. Chernow is a superb biographer and is capable of giving one the history and times of a given person, but also a strong flavor as to his character. Of his books so far, Grant has been by far the best and most enjoyable read. Hamilton has been a wonderful story but is a much darker tale than either of the other Chernow books, as well as biographies in general. Hamilton was a tragic hero, and Chernow paints a picture of Hamilton’s life that describes his greatness, but also his flaws which ultimately led to his untimely death. It has been said that Washington gave us a country, Madison gave us a constitution, but Hamilton gave us a government. There is great truth to that statement.

Hamilton started his life in the West Indies, being born of parents that did not play a lasting role in his life. His father disappeared from the scene when Hamilton was quite young, and in fact, it still remains uncertain exactly who his father was. Of his mother, there was more certainty, though she did not remain an integral person in her son’s life. Hamilton proved to be precocious as a child, with French as his native tongue, though he quickly mastered English. He was of sufficient brilliance that when he was ready for advanced schooling in America, he had an offer of support from a wealthy patroness. Hamilton ended up in New York City, which was to remain his primary residence for most of the rest of his life. Initially applying to Princeton, his traditional British temperament ended him studying at what is now known as Columbia University. Though an immigrant and a foreigner, he became fiercely patriotic and in support of the Revolutionary War. Hamilton excelled in writing and became the indispensable aide-de-camp to George Washington. Much of Washington’s war correspondence was handled by Hamilton. Frustrated by Washington not allowing him to lead battles, Hamilton resigned his post, returned to New York, and completed studies in law, and began his career as a lawyer. Toward the end of the war, Washington finally consented to give Hamilton leadership of a unit which played a major role in the final victory at Yorktown. Hamilton returned to NYC and developed a very thriving law practice, but could not keep his fingers out of politics. Hamilton’s political leanings were toward a very strong central government, for which his opponents accused him of seeking for a monarchy. A constitution finally written, Hamilton, with Madison and John Jay produced a large series of articles called the Federalist Papers in which Hamilton goes to great lengths to explain the meaning and rationale for each section of the constitution. The Federalist Papers are still referred to today and we have Hamilton to thank, who wrote the overwhelming percentage of the articles.

Washington was voted in as the first president and John Adams as the vice president. Washington formed a cabinet, of which Hamilton was selected to be the treasury secretary and Jefferson as the secretary of state. The animosity between Hamilton and Jefferson accelerated during this time, with Hamilton coming under fire for establishing the US financial system to the basic form that we have today, a strong central economic system. Jefferson preferred a simple to non-existent economic system. Hamilton fought hard to establish a standing army and navy and developed the coast guard to protect against tariff-avoiding smuggling. Once Adams became president, the cabinet, consisting of Hamilton-leaning federalists, essentially had Hamilton controlling the country. Hamilton stepped down as treasury secretary and became Inspector General, making him now in control of the military. Adams, as the last Federalist party president, poorly managed the presidency, and when Jefferson became president as a Republican (not the same as our current Republican party), the nation had essentially flipped sides and voted Republican with the ultimate death of the Federalist party, Hamilton being its last great defender.

With Jefferson now in control, Hamilton returned to NYC as developed his law practice. He had a home built called the Grange on a large plot of farmland, that still exists in Upper Manhattan. Earlier in life, Hamilton and Aaron Burr started as good friends, both Federalists, but time and chicanery by Burr, with Burr switching to the Republican Party to foster a political advantage, caused a progressive falling out. Never-the-less, Hamilton remained amicable with Burr who served as vice-president under Jefferson for four years. Burr and Jefferson became bitter enemies, and on Jefferson’s second term, Burr opted to run for governor of New York state. Hamilton was against and made statements at a party which eventually got back to Burr, who felt deeply offended. Burr failed to win the governorship and blamed Hamilton. Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel, and in order to protect his honor, Hamilton accepted. Hamilton had no intention of killing Burr and fired his shot intentionally off into the trees. Burr, being of dispossessed mind, fired a fatal shot at Hamilton. Ultimately, this was political suicide for Burr, who lived as a pariah and scoundrel his remaining life.

Chernow is not remiss to discuss Hamilton’s many downfalls. His personality is possibly best described as similar to Donald Trump’s, aggressive, very goal-oriented, brilliant, impeccably honest (though endlessly accused of fraud), and not worried about political correctness. He was a non-politician politician. Hamilton had an affair for several years with a married woman, which ultimately was exposed to the public. Hamilton repented dearly of this affair, living out the remainder of his life committed and endeared to Eliza, his wife.

What I found most interesting in this book are the events that Chernow described in early America. Chernow (I assume) was faithful in describing the Revolution and the birth of our country as a very tumultuous event. There was serious disagreement about going to war for independence, about replacing the articles of confederation for the constitution, about the interpretation of the newly written constitution, about developing the character of our country (was it to become an industrial giant or preserve its agrarian roots?), about the nature and character of the military and the court system, about the nature of foreign policy (the choices were to be either pro-British or pro-French) and essentially about everything that we still dispute to this day. Hamilton was militant antislavery but surrounded by slave owners, including Washington, Madison, Monroe, and even Aaron Burr. Hamilton was an outspoken Christian man though he rarely attended church; Eliza his wife was a very devout church-goer. I’ve left out many details of this complex and fascinating man. It is sad that we are taught so little about him in school, as his influence on the development and character of our nation to the character can be attributed immensely to Hamilton’s writings and actions during his truncated lifetime. It is most surprising that in spite of the very different ideologies of our founding fathers and the contempt that they held for each other, that they managed to assemble a constitution that has lasted up until today. Graft and corruption were rampant in early America, though some of the people most accused of corruption (like Hamilton) were the most innocent. The press was very inflammatory and deceptive in those days. Fake news is NOT a recent event—it is amazing how little has changed since the inception of our country.

It took me longer than usual to read this biography. It has a dark character to it from the beginning to the end. Chernow is a master at developing Hamilton’s personality and character, of seeing through the smoke of history and discovering what Hamilton and events in America’s birth years were all about. We owe Hamilton a great deal for setting America on a course that it has taken. This is a book that I highly recommend. It will take the reader down from the fairy tale version of the founding of our country that we were taught in school, and give the reader a grasp of our deeply flawed but also noble founding fathers.

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Aug 29
Melakwa Lake

I generally don’t publish my day hikes, but this will be an exception. Yesterday 28AUG2020 I took a hike up to Melakwa Lake, a total walk of about 9 miles and 2700 ft of elevation gain. The trail started at the Denny Creek Campground, which is situated between the west and eastbound segments of I-90, deep in the valley and unseen in either direction on I-90. The campground is fairly noisy from the I-90 traffic, which leaves me uncertain as to why it is so popular.

I had attempted to reach Melakwa Lake much earlier this year. The trail was then not well cleared out, and I had some challenging scrambles around windfall and a weak bridge across Denny Creek. This was all corrected on yesterday’s hike. Also, I then made it only half way, arriving at a necessary ford of Denny Creek. Knowing that I would be hitting snow soon after the ford, and that there was no bridge and thus no way to keep my feet dry, I deemed it most prudent to turn back. On this venture yesterday, I creek was low enough to hop rocks, and somebody actually had a log across the creek, though I opted to hop the rocks, and managed to stay dry. Several beautiful waterfalls were passed on the way up to Hemlock Pass.

crossing under westbound I-90
Looking down the Denny Creek Canyon
Looking up to Hemlock Pass
A very uninspiring Hemlock Pass, though a great relief after an arduous climb

The climb to the top of Hemlock Pass was persistent, with the crossing of several talus fields. Even outside of the talus fields, the trail surface was commonly either very rocky, or irregular with upraised tangled roots. After the pass summit, the trail had little elevation loss, traversing eastward to the lake. Before reaching the lake, there was a trail headed off to Lower Tuscohatchie Lake, mentioned in a recent post describing a hike to Olallie and Pratt Lake. The lake was most beautiful, and my greatest regret was that I didn’t spend more time exploring the lake. It is a lake that I would love to return to in order to camp at. I had lunch at the lake and headed back down. It took me 3 hours total to reach the lake, and 2.3 hours to get down.

Another look at Melakwa Lake. The camp sites are located in the trees on the other side of the lake.
One of the two waterfalls passed on the trail up to Melakwa Lake

For a Friday hike, the trail was still very crowded. About 95% of the people hiking manifested VIS (virus insanity syndrome). There was a WTA work crew on the trail doing rock work, and Leanne J., a leader that I really enjoyed working with, was directing the project. If she does the Pratt River Trail again next year, it will be one that I will be quite interested in joining. So, I will make a plug for volunteering with the WTA. Many of my friends enjoy hiking the trails of Washington, yet have NO clue as to the amount of work that goes into building and maintaining the trails. Much of this work is volunteer work. If you hike the trails and enjoy it, then shame on you if you are not spending at least a little of your time volunteering with the WTA. It is not hard work, but VERY rewarding. You learn a lot about the nature of trails, about good and poor trail design, and about the various “structures” that make up a good trail. Please consider it!

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Aug 20
Nothing like a Bitburger beer and Montecristo Cigar at Rampart Lakes to celebrate your birthday!

I had wished to do one more backpack trip with the grandkids this year, and finally was able to negotiate getting Patrick and Sammy away on a trip up to the Ramparts above Rachel Lake. The weather was supposed to deteriorate during our visit but that wasn’t going to bother us. We had planned for two nights.

I had backpacked into the Rachel Lake area a number of times over the years. I had all of the children up to the lake or above (up to the Rampart Lakes) on a number of occasions. I’ve taken my friends up to Rachel Lake. The last time I was up to Rachel Lake was about 3-4 years ago, when I had a close doctor friend and his wife up to the lake. I didn’t realize that Patrick and Sam had never been to Rachel Lake, and realized that a return appointment was due.

We left the Flanagan residence at 6 am on Wednesday 19AUG, and arrived at the trailhead at 8 am. It took us 4 hours to get to our campsite at the Ramparts. This was the site where my first trip up to the Ramparts with Diane and (?) was picked to place the tent. The kids explored the area, went swimming, and I soaked up the beauty of the place.

Fresh appearance on the start of the trip
Mandatory photo on arrival to Rachel Lake
Climbing high above the lake. The canyon in the left background is Highbox canyon which we hiked up.
The kids swimming in the lake
My tent beside the lake
More of the lake

We all slept well that night, with just a gentle wind keeping things cool. There was a small amount of rain though it was forecast that heavier rains would be coming the next day. Today was actually my birthday, though Pat and Sam did not know that. I left the agenda entirely up to them, whether they wished to swim, explore, etc. The first choice was to go up the pass. This is quite a scramble. I had climbed the Rampart Ridge pass in the past, and it just seemed a bit different, though I’m not sure what it was. After returning to camp, we talked about what else to do, and the kids decided that since rain was coming our way, we could hike back tonight rather than tomorrow. I took a pause for a beer and cigar that I had brought up to celebrate my birthday, packed up, and headed back down the trail. It took a little more than 2.5 hours to get back to the car, even with stopping for lunch.

Morning hike up to the Rampart Ridge pass. Note the heavy cloud cover today, which broke slightly on the way out.
Highbox Peak is in the distance to the far right, followed by Alta Mountain. Rachel Lake cannot be seen but is down in the valley surrounded by the visible peaks.
On the climb up Rampart Ridge Pass, we even encountered some snow late in August!
More views on top of the Pass
Pat and Sam on the Pass
Back down at the Ramparts looking down on Rachel Lake
Lunch stop at the waterfall at the start of the climb out of Highbox canyon.
Photo op at the Hornet’s Nest Falls. We had first hiked to Rachel Lake to take Rachel to her lake. On coming down, we had stopped here for a snack and Rachel received a hornet sting, thus the name of the falls. Poor Rachel!
Not quite so fresh at the end of the hike.

So, the strongest lesson for me is how much I enjoy taking the grandkids out hiking, and seeing how much they enjoy it. Yet, I am now realizing that they have matured to the point that Pat and Sam could/should start heading out on their own. Perhaps they will find friends that they could start hiking with.

I also realized that Rachel Lake is not a terribly easy hike. I was thinking about taking up several granddaughters next year, and still may do that, though I would hate to have the difficulty of the hike control their judgement about how fun it is to go backpacking. That is one I’ll have to sort out next year.

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Aug 12
The Northwest face of Mt. Hood. Illumination Rock sticks out on the right skyline, and McNeil Point dominates the left side. You are facing the Sandy Headwall. This photo was about 1 mile from my first campsite.

Timberline Trail around Mt Hood 10AUG2020-13AUG

The Timberline Trail encircles Mt. Hood, and is one of my favorite trails, especially since it is a loop, and you end up right back where you started. The trail has a number of variants as well as recent modifications, so it is a bit challenging to identify the exact length. I did not bring a Garmin unit (except for the inReach mini) and so could not chronicle my own progress. The trail is at least 40 miles long and entails at least 10,000 feet of climbing. People have run the trail in a single day. That was not my cup of tee. I first did this trail somewhere between 1974 and 1975 with Jack Frane, and then in the late 1990s with Kent Dawson. I attempted it recently with Jon (my son) which needed to be aborted, and with Russ Andersen two years ago, which also needed to be aborted early on. This time, I decided to do it entirely solo. I thought long and hard about bringing my real camera along but ultimately opted for simply using my iPhone as I had done on the PCT. I kept my base weight in the pack to about 16 lb., and anticipated 2 nights on the trail, similar to what I’ve done previously, but had enough food for 3 nights, knowing that I wasn’t a spring chicken any longer.

09 August- day 0 – Today I drove down to Vancouver to spend a little time with my brother Gaylon. We went out to eat some Mexican food along the Columbia River and then crashed at Gaylon’s apartment. 

Mt. Hood in the distance with the Columbia River in the foreground
The I-5 Bridge across the Columbia, viewed from our restaurant
Brother Gaylon keeping me in line

10August –  I was up at 6am and after a little coffee, headed out to the mountain. I was able to start the trail at Timberline Lodge at 8:30am and had spectacular weather with not a cloud in the sky. I did the Paradise loop variant, which was totally awesome and stunningly beautiful as compared to the now current standard course of the trail, though it involves a bit more climbing. I’m not sure why this isn’t still the standard course of the trail (followed by both the PCT and Timberline Trail), as it used to be when I hiked the trail in the 1970s. The descent down to the Sandy River was tedious as usual. This time, I had no problems crossing the Sandy River dryly. I arrived at Ramona Falls at 1:30pm, had lunch, and then started up the trail to camp on the Northeast side of the mountain. This was a long tedious climb for the remainder of the day. The Muddy Fork needed to be forded (i.e., needed to get my feet wet) and was a touch precarious. I took the cutoff to the trail; by this, I mean that the trail loops back on itself as it wraps around Bald Mountain, and the trail coming and going are within several hundred feet of each other and a small easy hill climb and descent. Most people will use the cutoff. The reason this loop occurred is that the Muddy Fork variant used to be the standard course for the PCT until the PCT was rerouted. For a number of years, the Muddy Fork trail was closed because of dangers on the trail, so that, when I hiked the trail in the 1990s, it was advised to follow the new PCT route and rejoin the Timberline Trail on the other side of Bald Mountain. For a significant distance, the Timberline Trail past the cutoff was all uphill and no water sources. This is a little bit atypical for the Timberline Trail since water seems to be everywhere around the mountain. My great concern was being able to find a campsite since there were many people on the trail. I have never seen so many people on the trail, as the other times I hiked the trail, you were mostly alone. I found a small tent site about a half mile before the Cairn Basin shelter, next to a couple of guys doing the trail counterclockwise; the campsite was also close to a stream. So had dinner, talked a bit with the guys, and then crashed.

Looking down on Timberline Lodge at the start of the hike
The view of Mt Hood from Timberline Lodge
Huge fields of flowers on the Paradise loop
Looking south to Mt. Jefferson
Mt. Hood on the Paradise Loop
Beginning descent into the Sandy River canyon
Ramona Falls. Not the best lighting for this beautiful falls.
Yes, the Cutoff trail IS official!
Near sunset, looking north
My tent

11August- I slept well, woke up at 5:30, and was on the trail by 6:45. Unlike my time on the PCT, I heated up breakfast, which consisted of oatmeal, hot chocolate, coffee, and a granola bar. The morning hike was greeted by multiple stream crossings, often demanding fording since rock hopping wasn’t possible. There were huge flower meadows around nearly every corner, and views of the mountain were nearly constant. I could see the Sandy headwall (a climb I wish I would have done) and the Sunshine route (a climb that I did), both up the north face of Mt. Hood. For a few years, the Timberline Trail was closed owing to a washout of the trail around Eliot Creek. The diversion that was created was miserable, and in my estimation, still rather dangerous. After a long slog up the Eliot, I finally arrived at Cloud Cap on the northeast side of the mountain. There was a campground here with a road, and I was able to have lunch on picnic tables. By 1 pm, I was off again. The trail now covered the east side of the mountain, ascending high up above the timberline, to form the highest point on the trail. The descent was along Gnarl Ridge and wrapped around Lamberson Butte. Newton Creek ended up being another challenging river crossing, but a side branch of non-silty water formed the site where I had camped twice before.

Mt Hood north side in the morning sun
Flowers everywhere!
In the distance one can see Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams. Nearby, the effects of recent forest fire are seen.
One of many river fords that I needed to do.
It’s still Mt. Hood!
Log to assist in the Eliott River crossing. Descending the loose rock was most challenging. Chris and I loosely hiked much of the day together
Cloud Cap campground
Mt. Adams in the distance. The trail ascends well above the Timberline, and several places, I needed to walk through snow
Highest point on the Timberline Trail
Gnarly trees on Gnarl Ridge, looking down to Lamberson Butte (far left ridgeline)
More Gnarl Ridge. In the distance, I am again seeing Mt. Jefferson as well as the Three Sisters
The immense nature of this scene is best seen in person. It is a steep-walled canyon that was carved by the Newton and Clark creeks.

12August-Today was another 6:45 start. It was overcast today with a little bit of mist, making for perfect hiking conditions. I had only 6-7 miles more to go, but knew that there was substantial climbing, and the White River was often the most challenging river to cross. The route was less hilly for a distance when crossing the ski slopes of Mt. Hood Meadows. In summertime, these slopes are massive fields of flowers, punctuated by many small streams cascading down the mountain. There is a substantial drop down to the White River. The challenge was not so much the river crossing, as the need to descend and the reascend the steep cliffs of loose rock cut away by the river. I apparently chose a far less advantageous spot to cross than a couple that I was walking with, who seemed to cross effortlessly. From there, it was 1000 feet of climbing back to Timberline Lodge. The ride home went without problems, with a most happy Wanderer.

Today was cloudy, and less perfect views of the mountain
Lots of small streams lined with flowers. Water wasn’t an issue on this hike.
The beauty remained intense. This is within the Mt. Hood Meadows ski area, a scene that goes unnoticed by skiers
Fields of flowers on a ski slope
Flowers and Mt. Jefferson as well as the Three Sisters are seen in the distance
The challenge of crossing the White River. The loose gravel banks were the greatest problem
Mt. Hood as seen from where I stopped for a brunch – tuna fish sandwich and candy bar
A welcome view of finally seeing the Timberline Lodge, with a large canyon between. The trail went around the top of these canyons.
Last peak at Mt. Hood.

Final thoughts-Of the two round-the-mountain trails that I know of, the Timberline Trail around Mt. Hood, and the Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier, the most common characteristic is the nearly constant rise and fall of the trail. The Wonderland Trail has been more effective at avoiding most of the dangerous stream crossings by placing bridges across the major rivers. When I hiked the Timberline Trail in years past, I don’t recall the challenges of a number of difficult stream crossings, which consisted of very rapidly flowing streams and no means of hopping rocks or walking logs to get across. The Timberline Trail is much more challenging than the Wonderland Trail in that regard. Also, more challenging is the many areas of the Timberline Trail, where the bed of the trail was nothing but loose rock or sand. Between fording streams and then walking a sandy trail, my feet became quite frightfully dirty. A positive distinction of the Timberline Trail is its profusion of large fields and patches of flowers. The flower count on the Timberline Trail seems to excel that of nearly every other trail that I’ve hiked. I also noted that the variety of the type of flower was more extensive than other hikes in my memory. If you are into flowers, this is the “must-hike” hike for you. Between the flowers and the constant beauty of the mountain, one cannot fail to reflect on the loving care and the creation God offers for his children. Possibly the least positive aspect of this trail is the number of people doing the trail. There were people everywhere, and I didn’t go for more than ½ mile without seeing at least one group of people on the trail. Interestingly, nearly 100% of those I saw suffered from the Virus Insanity Syndrome. There were also masks littering the trail from poor wanderers who will now surely be stricken by the dreaded Wuhan virus. Is this unique for Oregon? I don’t know.

This will probably be the last time I hike this trail unless somebody eagerly requests that I hike it with them. I doubt that that will happen. I will be content with hiking trails closer to home. Maybe the Wonderland Trail needs to be hiked one last time by me. I’ll decide that in a year or two.

On last observation. You might have noticed that you never see me in any of the photos. That’s what you get when you solo hike. I also don’t like to take selfies.

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Aug 03
View south from the low Divide

The Olympic National Park is huge, rugged, and nearly impenetrable, the interior of which has only recently been greeted by the foot of man. O’Neil took a military troop up Hurricane Hill in 1885, forming what is essentially the road that we now use to get to that location. Washington State became a state 1889, and the desire to have a deeper look into the interior of the Olympics prompted the Seattle Press, a local newspaper, to sponsor an expedition across the Olympic Mountains. A group of 5 people signed up, and with a mule, 4 dogs, and lots of supplies, headed off into the mountains, intending to take a route up the Elwha River, and then down the north fork of the Quinault River. They were successful, though the expedition took them 6 months and many trials. This expedition is nicely chronicled in a number of books and online. We essentially repeated the fundamental track of the expedition, though going in a reverse direction (south to north) and having the pleasure of trails, bridges, and precise routes nicely laid out for us. What we still had to contend with was the fiercely rugged nature of the Olympic Mountains, along with the need to ford both the upper Quinault and upper Elwha Rivers. The Seattle Press expedition could not have picked a worse time of year to do their expedition, which probably could have been done in far less time during the spring/summer season. In the trail books, we hiked a total of two trails, the north fork of the Quinault to the Low Divide, and the Elwha River trail from the Low Divide to the trailhead at Whiskey Bend.

Day #1 – 6.6 miles, North Fork Quinault Trailhead to Elip Creek. The day started with me meeting Russ at his house, and together with his wife, we drove two cars to the completion trailhead on the Elwha River. The road was washed out, and so the completion trailhead lay about 7+ additional miles (which we would have to walk) to the car. I then got into Russ’ car, and we drove around the Olympic Peninsula to the starting trailhead on the north fork of the Quinault River. Wishing Kim goodbye, we started our trek about 2 pm, leaving us only a few hours of hiking. The trail started out somewhat flat but quickly changed into progressively more and more climbing. After passing a group of kids close to the trailhead, we ceased to see anybody on the trail. Once settled into camp, a group of two guys descended the Elip Creek Trail from the Skyline Trail to settle into camp with us.

Rather fresh and clean in appearance
Trailhead sign
the lower north fork of the Quinault River, suggesting hills in the distance
Russ, chilling out for our first night at camp, the Elip Creek flowing in the background

Day #2, Elip Creek Camp to Low Divide Camp, 10 miles. The climbing progressively got steeper, but was characterized by multiple ups and downs. The Quinault River could be seen frequently to our right, until we reached 16 mile camp. Here, we had to ford the Quinault River (i.e., no bridge across the river), had lunch at 16 mile camp, and then proceeded to much more vigorous climbing to ascend to the top of the Divide. All the while, the mountains could be more and more clearly seen. At 16 mile camp, we saw a man and his son who were doing a prolonged ramble through the Olympics, and eventually was greeted by a hiker who was just behind us on the trail, and then camped on the Low Divide. In essence, there was almost nobody on the trail.

Mountains appearing to the south as we climb out of the Quinault River valley
A blessing that the Press Expedition did not share. Without bridges, the trip would have been immensely more difficult, since many of the streams cut deep canyons into the mountains
The thinning of vegetation as we near the low Divide
Waterfall cascading off of the face of Mt Seattle
Another view of Mt. Seattle
Large meadows on the Low Divide
Russ settling in on the Low Divide. The mosquitos were not too bad.
My tent settled in on the Low Divide
A bear sauntered just 20 feet from our camp. I saw one other bear the next day down along the Elwha

Day #3, 18 miles; Low Divide camp to Elkhorn Camp. Coming off of the low Divide in the northerly direction proved a little more challenging than expected. We were on the trail by 7 am, and was soon greeted by a sign announcing the actual low Divide, representing the watershed between the Quinault and Elwha systems. There were two beautiful lakes that we passed high up on the Low Divide. We were warned that the trail was not too good on the other side of the Divide, and our experience proved that to be completely correct. The trail definitely needed serious brushing as it descended very rapidly off of the Divide, and there was much windfall across the trail, forcing us to crawl under, crawl over, or hike around the fallen trees. Toward Chicago Camp (at the base of the descent) there was windfall that was so extensive that a trail could not be found without extensive searching and crawling around the dense forest bed. Ultimately we reached the Elwha River, where a fallen tree permitted us to walk dryly across the upper Elwha, which is usually a river ford. We reached the Chicago Camp at about 9:30, taking 2.5 hours to descend 4 miles. We then needed to make up time to arrive at Elkhorn Camp before nightfall. There was still extensive brush obscuring the trail, as well as river fords, and obstructions from windfall. We arrived at Elkhorn Camp at about 5:30 pm quite exhausted. Elkhorn Camp was a ranger station with other buildings but otherwise was not the nicest camp to stay at.

Yup, the actual Low Divide
Lake Margaret high on the Low Divide
The other side of Lake Margaret, looking back at Mt. Seattle
Russ, carefully fording the Elwha
A beautiful bridge across the Hayes River, with a steep rock canyon
A cabin at Elkhorn Ranger Station
The Elwha from my tent site

Day #4, 18 miles, including 11 miles from Elkhorn Ranger Station to the trailhead at Whiskey Bend, and then 7 miles of road and detour trail walking. I expected the remaining 18 miles to be a flat river walk, somewhat akin to the Hoh or the Quinault Rivers. It was everything but that, attesting to the wild rugged nature of the Olympics. The only thing common to the Olympics is that everything is green, and everything grows well within the peninsula—after all, it IS a rain forest. We were up at 5:30, and after a relaxed breakfast of oatmeal, a granola bar, hot chocolate, coffee, and medications, we were off and running. We passed a number of different campsites, many of which looked quite appealing for camping, but some were run down with downfall owing to the challenge of park access with the road being washed out. We stopped several times for meal breaks, which included either peanut butter and jam, or tuna fish, rolled up in a tortilla shell. Bread will squash, and so tortillas make the perfect alternative that will last a long time and still taste well. Of course, vitamin S (Snicker bars) or a similar treat continues to fuel the walk and enjoyed while resting beside a creek or river, delighting in God’s handiwork. We passed an old homestead along the river, and then reached Whiskey Bend, the end of the trail, at about 11:30. Russ and I took a long break here. Everything was eerily quiet. Since leaving the Low Divide campground, we had seen only one person. We were in our own little wilderness thanks to the road washout. After walking five miles of gravel road (which was actually quite beautiful), we arrived at the now flatter pavement and continued the road walk another 2 miles to the detour. It was here that we now started to encounter many tourists. To our dismay, the detour forced us to do much more climbing, and in 0.8 miles eventually arrived back to the pavement a short distance from our cars. It was a quick trip back home, and to a sweet wife and warm welcoming shower.

Very dense rain forest. Everything was intensely green
Humes Ranch building
At Whiskey Bend trailhead, but with 7 more miles to go to reach our car
Remnant of the upper Elwha Dam
Looking down the narrow canyon which housed the upper Elwha Dam. Both the upper and lower Elwha dams were removed in order to allow the salmon to again run upriver. both the lower dam, built in 1910 and this dam, built in 1927 have since been removed.
Russ and I have now reached our vehicle along the lower Elwha. Motivated by a careful diet of spoons over forks, we have been able to nutritionally power our bodies to perform such super-human acts like walking across the Olympic Mountains and still come out smiling! For only $37.99 Russ and I will gladly impart our knowledge of this simple but special diet for avoiding disease and maintaining health and vigor well into old age.

Was the backpack worth it? Of course. I felt a little bit like I was back on the PCT, with all its daily routines and planning contingencies. I had dreamed for years of doing this hike. There is great joy when exploring an unknown area of the world, and on this hike, the sights and terrain were completely different than what I anticipated.

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Jul 25
Talapus Lake

Talapus, Olallie, Pratt, and Lower Tuscohatchie Lakes, 23-25JUL2020 with Patrick and Ethan

I was itching to discover more of the lakes in the Snoqualmie Pass region of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and decided to do this hike with several of the grandkids. We took off on Thursday, and when we arrived at the Talapus Lake Trailhead at 7:45, it was already filling up. The total hike to Olallie Lake was a little more than 3 miles, but we first passed Talapus Lake. The trail was not terribly steep with a lot of flat spots and a highly manicured trail surface. It took us a leisurely pace of about 1.5 hours to get to camp. We camped on the far side of the lake, where there was nobody else our first night. On Friday night, we were surrounded by 4 more tents filling the campsite. The kids went swimming, while I loafed. We did a several mile exploratory hike around the lake.

Highly manicured creek crossing on the way to the lakes. The surrounding was dense forest.
Olallie Lake

The next day, after breakfast, we did a 6-7 mile day hike to Pratt Lake and lower Tuscohatchie Lake. This trail had a bit more demanding elevation loss and gain. On approaching Pratt Lake, we had a lengthy segment of traversing talus slopes. The rock in this area was predominantly granite. We did lunch at lower Tuscohatchie Lake, and headed back to camp.

Talus slopes of granite surrounding Pratt Lake
Pratt Lake
Another view of Pratt Lake
Looking down the Pratt River valley toward the middle fork of the Snoqualmie River
The kids at lower Tuscohatchie Lake where we had lunch
Ethan back at camp, in a most hungered state

The kids again did more swimming, we made supper, and went to bed early. By morning, our campsite was plumb full. It took less than 1.5 hours to get back to the car, even with stops and photographic moments.

Patrick and Ethan back at the trailhead, eager for more adventures.

The drive home was uneventful. I had several objectives for this trip, the first being the desire to explore more of this portion of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, which is within an hour of home, but usually flooded by Seattleites. Secondly, I wished for the kids to become more independent of Opa. Patrick shows strong promise, and he is ready to head out on his own into the woods for an overnighter. Hopefully, his parents will let this happen. I gave Patrick more responsibility, essentially not telling him much. Ethan will need a few more years to be set free in the woods, as he needs to realize that the woods must be taken seriously. Fortunately, he seems to enjoy being in the woods more than any of the kids, and thus my delight with taking him along.

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Jul 21

Summit Lake, with Liam Flanagan, on 20-21JULY2020.

Summit Lake has been a favorite hike of mine for taking beginning hikers. It’s only 3.1 miles, with 1300 feet of elevation gain. In fact, nearly the entire hike is climbing, though not steep. The drive to the trailhead 7 miles of a very poor gravel road, best taken with a 4-wheel drive vehicle. There was intense logging operations ongoing, but we were not stopped at all, and only passed one logging truck. Most of the gravel road was the width of one car with a shear drop-off on one side, so I was grateful for light travel on the road. We arrived at the trailhead by 9:45, which was already nearly filled with 10-15 cars. Liam led the way. It took him 1 hour and 20 minutes to complete the hike, and we then selected a campsite where I’ve camped with the other Flanagan kids. Other sites were nicer, but this was simplest with easy access to the lake as well as to the trail out.

On 22JULY, Liam will be celebrating his 11th birthday. Thus, I let him pretty much set the agenda for this hike. This was his very first backpack trip, so he was most eager to participate in exploration of the lake. First though, we set up our campsite, including our tent, and had lunch. I finally talked Liam into taking a walk around the lake. This gave us great views of Mt. Rainier, distant Mt. Stuart, the Alpine Lakes area, Glacier Peak, as well as Mt. Baker. It was approximately two miles around the lake. Snow was still melting, so we had a bit of time walking through snow, yet the forest was covered with Avalanche Lilies (mistakenly called Glacier Lilies in my last post-Glacier Lilies are yellow). Other flowers were in abundance.

Liam reaching the border of the Clearwater Wilderness, where Summit Lake sits
Liam contemplating the challenge ahead
Mt. Rainier in the background. The hills are alive, with the sound of Liam.
This view of Mt. Rainier was right from the lake
Rainier from the hill on the far side of Summit Lake
A view with Mt. Rainier, Summit Lake, and Bearhead Mountain between. You can see snow still around the lake. The temperature of the lake water wasn’t much warmer than that of the snow.
Spreading phlox
Subalpine Lupine (fairly sure)
Cow parsnip (fairly sure)
Woolly Yellow Daisy
Liam at camp, showing hunger pains
Liam finally relieved of hunger pains
Liam practicing his Chinese (inside joke)

We went to bed near sundown (8pm), and woke up at 6 am the next morning. We did a relaxed exploration of the campsites around the lake, ate breakfast and then packed up everything. It took us an hour and 10 minutes to reach our car, with me stopping to take lots of photos to slow us down. The ride out was again rough, but we made it to Buckley by 11 am, in time for a stop at Wallys. I treat all the grandkids on their first hike to a Waltimate burger, a HUGE hamburger about 10″ across. Liam was able to eat about ½ of it, keeping the rest to be eaten later. The burger, incidentally, was plant based, the portion which came from a cow came from a cow that only ate plants.

Liam wondering how he was going to eat the whole thing! They used to serve the burger with a knife and fork!

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Jul 17
Mt. Adams from Takhlakh Lake

Takhlakh Lake, 15-17JULY with Betsy and Gaylon

Betsy and I have been discussing an outdoor activity that we could do together, and we came up with a camping trip as an option we’d both be happy with. Campgrounds in Washington State are plum full! After searching for a while, I found a 2 consecutive night option at Takhlakh Lake, a lake I’ve never even heard of before. This lake is accessed by traveling 100 miles from home, including 7 miles of gravel road, and sits right at the base of Mt. Adams. It seemed like a godsend in a moment where every campsite within 100 miles of us was either filled, or at a place I’d have no desire of going to. I contacted my brother Gaylon, who is a world authority on car camping, and he agreed to meet us there. The drive was quite easy, and most of the journey from Puyallup to Randle was very familiar to me. Arriving at the lake, we realized that our reserved campsite was very small, probably explaining why it wasn’t filled. Still, I was able to get up the Kingdom 6 (without the garage) for Betsy and me, and also put up a 4 man tent for Gaylon. He arrived soon afterwards, and began giving us instruction in the fine art of camping.

Betsy relaxing with Gaylon’s tent in the background.
Betsy chillin’ with brother Gaylon
Photograph of the mountain in the evening, manifesting alpenglow.

That evening, we did not feel like cooking dinner since we were eating junk food all day. The next morning, I decided to take a hike up to the mountain. The trail followed partly a road, and then went straight up the mountain. The grade was not terribly steep and the trail conditions were quite good, with little mud and no obstacles to climb over. Eventually, the trail became steeper until I was able to achieve the timberline, and intersected the PCT. At this point, the PCT was completely under snow.

Glacier lilies lined the trail, and filled the large meadows at the timberline of Mt. Adams
There were plenty of shooting stars, as well as very early Indian Paintbrush, lupine, cinquefoil and other flowers unknown by name to me. The beargrass was also plentiful.
The NW face of Mount Adams from near the timberline. In the center is the Adams Glacier, second largest glacier in the state of Washington (next to the Carbon Glacier on Mt. Rainier). I’ve climbed Mt. Adams many years ago, the usual approach being from the south side. A lookout tower was built on the summit of Mt. Adams in 1916, which was manned for 8 years. Today, climbers are still greeted with the building on the mountain summit.
Now standing on the Pacific Crest Trail, completely under snow. I saw no footprints of recent adventurers who had attempted this portion of the trail.

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/5252604777 shows my Garmin track for the hike. In all, it was 12 miles with 1600 feet of climbing.

That evening, Betsy and I cooked up spaghetti and meatballs, with a salad. The weather was perfect. Our entertainment that evening came from a host of chipmunks and birds in the area. The next morning, we woke up to rain. We had a quick breakfast, packed up our tents, and ran home. In all, we had an awesome time, with a great interest in doing at least one more car camping trip before the rainy season sets in again.

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