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Author Topic: July 27-29, 2007, Dream Payoffs, Cache Withdrawals  (Read 76909 times)
Lowell_Skoog
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July 27-29, 2007, Dream Payoffs, Cache Withdrawals
« on: 07/30/07, 01:55 PM »



Left: Boston Basin trailhead, October 1990. Photo by Jens Kieler.  Right: Cold, hard cache. Lyman Lake, October 1990.


No, this isn't a money-making scam.  It's a story about daydreams, the passage of time, and tying up loose ends.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, I became intrigued by the idea of skiing the North Cascade crest in a continuous push.  I was inspired by pioneers like Orland Bartholomew, who skied from Mount Whitney to Yosemite in the Sierra Nevada during the winter of 1928-29.  My interest centered on the mountains between the North Cascades Highway and Glacier Peak, which include the southern half of North Cascades National Park and the heart of the Glacier Peak Wilderness Area.  I called this 100-mile route the "American Alps Traverse."  I envisioned it as a two-week trip.

In the fall of 1990, I placed two caches in hopes of completing this trip the following spring.  One cache was in Boston Basin, the other near Lyman Lake.  Both caches were stored in 5-gallon sealed plastic buckets and suspended from trees using cables.  Each bucket contained a man-week of food and fuel and I placed two buckets at each cache.  I placed the caches late, after the snow began to fall.  The two-day Lyman Lake trip, done solo, was especially grueling.  In my journal, I described it as a "cold, hard cache."

During the spring of 1991, I cleared my calendar and recruited Jens Kieler and my brother Carl to attempt the American Alps Traverse.  Unfortunately, 1991 was one of those soul-crushing, soggy springs that sometimes happens in the Northwest.  We made several attempts and false starts, but we were shut down by the weather.  (Not surprisingly, when July arrived, and I could no longer get away, the weather got nice.)



Left: Remains of Lyman Lake cache. Center: Mauled fuel bottles. Right: Bivouac on Cloudy Peak.


Since I had placed the caches in haste, I worried that they might be discovered.  Placing caches in National Parks and Wilderness Areas is illegal, as far as I know, and I wanted to avoid a fine as well as prevent them from being pilfered.  I returned to both caches in the summer of 1991 and found them in good condition.  I restocked a few items and moved them to locations where they would not be found, except by me.  I checked the Boston Basin cache in July 1999 and found it still hanging right where I left it.

For years, I continued to nurse the dream of completing the American Alps Traverse.  But time passed.  October 1990 is almost 17 years ago now, and a lot has happened since then.  Little things like the first Iraq war, the Clinton Administration, the World-Wide Web, the birth of my son (he's almost 11 now), and so on.  My daydream faded a little each year.  In 2000, I described this dream to my friend Matt Firth.  Two years later, with Bob Nielsen, Matt completed a continous ski trip from Diablo to Lyman Lake.  My original goal was to begin at Diablo and end at Glacier Peak.  Matt and Bob stopped short of that goal, but they made a darn good effort.

In October 2005, my brother Carl died in a ski mountaineering accident.  In the aftermath of Carl's death, I reflected on the goal that he and I once shared.  I conceived a new dream, not a continuous ski trip, but a link-up of routes I had done with Carl and other friends.  The link-up would extend from Mount Baker to Mount Rainier, three times as long as my original goal.  But because it was not a continous trip, the logistics were a better fit for my lifestyle.  With the help of my wife and a few friends, I completed this dream in May 2007.  The story of this 25-year journey can be found here.



Boston Basin cache, still there after nearly 17 years.


I know now that I'll never ski the American Alps Traverse in the style I originally envisioned.  My link-up of routes along the Cascade Crest has satisfied that ambition.  But my caches were still out there.  This past weekend I decided it was finally time to bring them home.

On Friday, July 27, I travelled up Lake Chelan to Lucerne and Holden Village.  I hiked to Lyman Lake with a photocopy of my treasure map recording the location of my "cold, hard cache."  I walked from the lakeshore to the spot I remembered, and peered up into all the trees looking for plastic buckets.  I couldn't see any.  I scrambled among the boulders and brush in the area and finally noticed a length of cable extending from the ground to an eye bolt driven deep in the bark of an old tree.  It was my cache.  I followed the wire through the brush and duff and found the two fuel bottles I'd attached to the buckets.  Both bottles showed the bite marks of a bear.  Searching in the brush I found fragments of the old buckets and few decayed wrappers.  The contents of the cache were consumed by animals years ago.

Oddly, the cables that suspended my buckets were completely intact.  The fuel bottles were still attached to the tree trunk through the eye bolt.  I had originally passed the cables through a rappel ring tied to the trunk with one-inch climbing webbing.  Apparently the webbing parted and the cache fell to the ground.  In retrospect I wonder if a bear pulled it down, either when the snow was deep or by climbing the tree.  I'll never know for sure.

I felt bad about this cache.  As I gathered up the pieces, I thought to myself, this is why caching is illegal.  I piled the trash in a heap and hiked up Cloudy Peak for a scenic bivouac, out of the bugs.  The next morning I returned to Lyman Lake, packed up the trash, and headed home.



Left: Boston Basin cache. Center: Cache contents. Right: Preparing to ride down the road.


After discovering the fate of my Lyman Lake cache, I decided to return to Boston Basin sooner rather than later.  On Sunday, July 29, I drove up the Cascade River road to the gate at Eldorado Creek.  The road has been repaired and will probably be open to automobiles by next weekend.  I pedaled and pushed my mountain bike to the Boston Basin trailhead and hiked the climbers trail to Boston Basin.  Once again, I discovered my cache by spotting the suspension cables before I saw the buckets.  But this time the buckets were intact and still hanging from the tree where I put them.  I was thrilled!

Getting the buckets down proved trickier than I expected.  In retrospect, I should have run the cables through a couple of pulleys instead of a rappel ring.  Using a rappel ring put a sharp bend in both cables, causing them to get stuck in that position.  I tugged and whipped the cables and eventually got the buckets to drop a couple of feet.  But the old plastic buckets were so brittle, after almost 17 years in the elements, that they shattered like a pair of 25-pound pinyatas.  I gathered all the contents together and took pictures.  I especially enjoyed retrieving the old note on which I had optimistically described my plans. 

I packed away the cache contents and picked up every bit of shattered plastic larger than a fingernail.  Heavily laden, I descended the Boston Basin trail and rode my bike slowly down the steep road to the Johannesburg switchbacks.  I stopped for a few minutes at the old Gilbert cabin, which is amazing to see considering that it's over 100 years old.  Finally, I pedaled back to my car, satisfied that this chapter of my life as a Cascade backcountry skier has finally closed.



Gilbert cabin, below Mount Johannesburg, built in the late 1800s.


« Last Edit: 07/23/12, 07:46 PM by Lowell_Skoog » Logged
telemack
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Re: July 27-29, 2007, Dream Payoffs, Cache Withdrawals
« Reply #1 on: 07/30/07, 03:26 PM »

Fine interweaving of the historical, the physical and the personal.
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There is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval.
George Santayana
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Re: July 27-29, 2007, Dream Payoffs, Cache Withdrawals
« Reply #2 on: 07/30/07, 04:01 PM »

After hearing about your plan last week, I'm pleased to see that you did prepare a trip report.  It's interesting to see how plans and goals change as you move along the journey of life.  Smiley
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Sam Avaiusini
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Re: July 27-29, 2007, Dream Payoffs, Cache Withdrawals
« Reply #3 on: 07/30/07, 04:35 PM »

Mmmm. Spam and Peanut Butter!

I remember you telling me about those caches a few years ago when we drove to do the Nooksack and thinking what a cool idea for a trip. Very responsible that you went back after all this time to check on it and finally to pack it out.

Now the real question is...would you still eat any of the food?  Grin
I bet that beef jerky is still edible; not so sure about all the crackers though...
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Sam Avaiusini
Lowell_Skoog
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Re: July 27-29, 2007, Dream Payoffs, Cache Withdrawals
« Reply #4 on: 07/30/07, 05:26 PM »

No, I don't think I would eat any of it. The beef jerky has a strange color and the whole cache has an odd, sweet smell. A few items had a "time capsule" feel to them, like the bottle of PreSun, a brand of sunscreen which I don't think is sold anymore.
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Joedabaker
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Re: July 27-29, 2007, Dream Payoffs, Cache Withdra
« Reply #5 on: 07/30/07, 05:48 PM »

Once again nice job on completing your goal Lowell.
The bucket retrievals bring great closure to the accomplishment and it is eco wise. Cool
Plus, it is good sumer time reading.
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Jason_H.
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Re: July 27-29, 2007, Dream Payoffs, Cache Withdra
« Reply #6 on: 07/30/07, 06:30 PM »

It has been nice to see you writing more tr's this year Lowell. This was a nice one also. Keep having fun out there.
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Volcanogrrl
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Re: July 27-29, 2007, Dream Payoffs, Cache Withdrawals
« Reply #7 on: 07/30/07, 10:20 PM »

Wow, what an amazing story, so cool that you were able to go back for your "time capsules" and that one was still intact. 
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"Life is short and hard, like a bodybuilding elf."  bloodhound gang.
Paul_Russell
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Re: July 27-29, 2007, Dream Payoffs, Cache Withdrawals
« Reply #8 on: 07/31/07, 07:13 AM »

Thanks for the great report of your cache retrieval and personal story about the traverse Lowell.  Fun to read, and of course, I was very curious what you would find after hearing your plans earlier in the week.   Very nice photos too of the story, both old and new.  Must have been great to see those old buckets still in tact, hanging there, with the note inside.

Your idea of skiing the "American Alps Traverse" is intriguing for sure.  This route certainly captures the imagination.   I have been similarly intrigued by James Martin's photo book, North Cascades Crest, where he makes reference to "America's Alps" and starts the route from the Canadian border.   And of course, Don Goodman and Natala did that wonderful trip, the Grand Tour, in 1990 on foot which was written in the NWMJ http://www.mountaineers.org/nwmj/05/051_GrandTour1.html
« Last Edit: 07/31/07, 07:20 AM by Paul_Russell » Logged
Lowell_Skoog
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Re: July 27-29, 2007, Dream Payoffs, Cache Withdrawals
« Reply #9 on: 08/05/07, 10:23 AM »

Mmmm. Spam and Peanut Butter!

...

Now the real question is...would you still eat any of the food?  Grin

The spam is still good!

Well, "good" may not be the right word.

The neighbor kids were curious about spam, so we gave them a can to take home. We received a grossed-out phone call a few minutes later.

My wife and I opened the other can of spam and it's as edible as ever!

In honor of the occasion, some spam haiku:

Born in World War Two
Hogs marching off to battle
Dressed in tin armor.

Ears, snouts, and innards,
A homogenous mass
Pass another slice.

Old man seeks doctor
"I eat Spam daily", he says.
Angioplasty.

Grotesque pinkish mass
In a blue can on a shelf
Quivering alone.

Highly unnatural
The tortured shape of this "food"
A small pink coffin.

Twist, pull the sharp lid
Jerks and cuts me deeply but
Spam, aaah, my poultice.

"Slow down," she whispered
now guiding my trembling hands
"Turn the key slowly."

Pink beefy temptress
I can no longer remain
Vegetarian.

And who dares mock Spam?
you? you? you are not worthy
of one rich pink fleck.

My friend pork shoulder
I return to you. this time
I've brought mayonnaise.

SPAM, too, needs a wife
What consort for my Pork Prince?
Ah! The Velveeta!

I put my shoes on
But remembered far too late
My secret SPAM stash.

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Snow Bell
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Re: July 27-29, 2007, Dream Payoffs, Cache Withdrawals
« Reply #10 on: 08/05/07, 11:50 AM »

Very nice.  Possiblly the finest SPAM haiku I have ever come accross.
Thank you.
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danhelmstadter
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Re: July 27-29, 2007, Dream Payoffs, Cache Withdrawals
« Reply #11 on: 08/06/07, 09:57 PM »

nothing beats a little spam with some pam, except maybe a little deviled ham.
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Lowell_Skoog
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Re: July 27-29, 2007, Dream Payoffs, Cache Withdrawals
« Reply #12 on: 11/15/08, 09:12 AM »

Can I still reply in this thread?

Today's Seattle Times had a story about SPAM that made me smile and laugh. A nice tribute to SPAM, "like meat with a pause button." The story was apparently from the New York Times:

"Hard times usually good for the makers of Spam" by Andrew Martin.

Enjoy!
« Last Edit: 11/15/08, 09:15 AM by Lowell_Skoog » Logged
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