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"It is the journey which makes up your life."

Saturday, November 18, 2006


Now for a post that's actually on time!

I got to nerd out at the Mariott last weekend. There was a Western Society of Naturalists conference up in Seattle, and I got a grant from Reed to go. Basically, its a whole bunch of marine biologists getting together and giving talks about their research. (That is.. by day. By night there is rather more fun and debauchery than I expected out of old people. I guess it bodes well for my future that scientists have fun.) In all, totally awsome.

Things I learned:

Since Boneville Dam holds up the salmon migration, salmon gather in huge numbers at the dam every year, and there are sealions that have learned this and started swimming 200 miles up the Columbia river every year to feast! When the salmon are late, they can pack-hunt and catch full-grown sturgeon (that's like 10-foot long fish), much to the chagrin of local fishermen.

The barnacle has the largest penis-to-body ratio of anything in the animal kingdom.

Deep Sea research is really cool, and REEEEAAALLY expensive. They have meter-wide crabs down there.

I also got to see Ross and Rick, since I didn't visit either of them on my way back from Montana. Ross has an awsome appartment with his girlfriend, on the corner of Bellview, Bellview, and Bellview. The view, needless to say, is pretty. And Rick, being from Seattle, gave a little tour of the city to me and Ginger (another reedie... she's the one in the picture) and James (a cool dude from Berkeley we met). Seattle is a pretty cool town. Posted by Picasa

A Last Gasp for Glacier

Ask me for the story about how I first saw the Grizz... and I will be more likely to go on about WHERE I first saw one. It was hiking alone on the highline trail from Logan Pass, on my last day in Glacier.

It was strange how quickly people dispersed from the Bio Station, after being so close-kint in that little community. Classes ended, and I had a week of burning the midnight oil to write up and present all my research. The other REU kids and I presented on a thursday morning, and by 2:00 that day, everyone but me had left Flathead Lake. It was suddenly a lonely place. But it's a place I love, and I took my time to say goodbye. A thunderstorm was rolling in from the East, and I went running a long ways along the lake before the wind picked up and then, because I had the lake to myself, I stashed my clothes under a log and swam out alone and naked far out into the middle. Farther than I had ever gone before.. so that I could see the station on the peninsula, with the bay behind, above the trees and the near hills, rows of mountains, and sky. I took a long shower to warm up again, and when I came out the sun was setting and a storm was blowing up from the east. One last sunset on the lake. It rained on all my stuff as I packed.

Tait had invited me to stay at his cabin, and I took him up on it. The place is wonderful. Tait's extended family owns land all across the south slope of a mountain near Columbia Falls, and he built the cabin with his father and brother on their chunk of it, all from logs they felled themselves. It's still part-way unfinished. The father passed away, and both the boys are in school and were left with his debt. But they were also left with the land and the cabin. It is a simple place. Functional, and not beautiful, but warm. I got a good safe feeling from it, like somehow it's been imprinted with the love of the strong, stern man who built it.

Tait kept it well filled with beer bottles and dirty dishes and friends sleeping on the floor, but he also took good care of it. He plowed his own road and chopped all his own wood for the winter heating, and was constantly talking about what he would build when he had time to finish the place. This is part of why I liked him.

I got there late, and slept for the whole next day while Tait was at work at the rafting company. He had to work all weekend, so Saturday I went out to Glacier on my own to do some exploring.

It was a stormy day, and I was alone so I decided to take a popular trail. The highline leaves from the main visitor center on the main pass in the park. You follow twelve miles of rimrock, with barely a tree to block the view, descending slowly to the next place you reach a road. I parked at the bottom and hitched a ride to the pass with two women from Missoula. The trail was magnificent. Clouds were blowing in and alternated rain with occasional brilliant sunshine. I saw my first Grizzlies. A mother an cub crossed the trail far away from me and ran down the slope below while I was picking huckleberries. I took a detour and climbed an extra 2000 feet to a pass, and was rewarded with a glimpse of the east part of the park.. a string of lakes below a glacier, changing color and stretching all the way out onto the planes. Needless to say I was happy. Put me above treeline with some wind in my hair, and I won't ask for more.

I got back to the cabin tired and aching, but with my soul filled up. Tait had a big drunken party with fishing buddies that kept me up grudginly late and nearly bored me to tears. Happy as I was in Montana, without the Bio Station kids I was lonely, and I knew it was time for me to go.

I had elaborate plans to go explore Canada, and then visit friends in Washington on my way back, but the thought that I could be home in Portland by the next day was so appealing that I dropped them all and went. Sunday I said goodbye to Tait and the cabin, filled up a last growler from the Flathead Lake Brewery, and bought fifteen pounds of fresh-picked cherries to take home with me. I didn't make it all the way to Oregon. That night I stopped somewhere in eastern Washington and slept on a hillside under the stars. Feeling free, feeling ready, I woke up at dawn and drove the last way home.
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O-Week Climbing Trip

When I got home from Montana, unpacking was a disaster. Somehow the screws that held my bookcase together got moved separately from the bookcase, and I spent two days opening every box I had, exploding notebooks and coathangers and clothing all over the room, until I finally gave up and bought more screws. It took the better part of a week to dig out my room, and I was be scrounging couches and scrubbing cabinets and chasing cobwebs out of the basement for another month after that.
I was just starting to get glimpses of the floor when I took a brake from the business of organizing life to take a gaggle of ten starry eyed-freshmen on an O-Week trip. We spent two days out at Smith Rock going climbing, and another two rafting and hiking around on the Dechutes River.
Smith, as always, was radiantly hot. We baked to the rocks and climbed till we couldn't unscrew water bottles or tie shoelaces. Matt and Rodney, two awsome outdoor dudes who run climbing trips with Reed, came with us to do the technical setup. They were excellent company. There's something so down to earth about people who make the outside their living. I hope I'm that cool if I grow up.

My freshmen were great, also. I got them to sleep out under the stars in a big group with me, and to wear silly hats(I brought the collection) and eat peanutbutter-cheese sandwiches. The one moment they're going on about the grossest thing they ever ate with cheese... the next they're arguing over the merits of the Faegles vs. the Lattimore translation of the Illiad. Pure Reedies! Even before the meat-grinder. I love it! I am friends with most of them still.

After two days on the rock, we headed over to the wet side of the Cascades for two days on the river. It was cold and rainy out there, but the river was high. Rafting on easy rapids is actually not that interesting. At least to me. But it is relaxing. And conducive to veeery large water fights. We went hiking to some really cool waterfalls to brake the monotony a little. And best of all... you could raft right up to the world's most succulent blackberry patches. I've never been so full of berries!

When we got back to Portland, I brought them all to my house, where we made four pies from what little we had managed to save. I like the new house. It has big windows and wood floors and a winding red staircase... only one little bathroom for the five of us. Enought pie, and it started feeling like less of a disaster after all. Posted by Picasa