Thursday, July 31, 2008

Last Blast

The last month of my leave has passed and I'll be returning to work tomorrow. During the first half of the month I was getting my house back in order and dealing with some issues we ran into with the commercial site we were going to buy for the bakery.

I've pretty much finished moving in. I decided to take the approach of only moving stuff from the garage (where I stored everything during my absence) into the house when I needed it. Most of the furniture is in the house now. What's left in the garage seems to be mostly clothes and kitchen utensils. I've gotten more used to living in a house again, although I still often sleep outside in the back yard. I've noticed that some of the neighborhood cats like to hang out there in the evenings.

The renters took pretty good care of the house, especially considering that they were three male college students. They cleaned it really well. There was some damage, but it's mostly minor and mainly falls into the category of normal wear and tear. They left a few valuables. Three bottles of liquor, a lawn mower, and three truck wheels with tires mounted, amongst other things. I recently sold the truck wheels on Craig's list.

After I settled in I had some people over for dinner on a Sunday night. The main dish was chile verde with Spanish rice and fresh made tortillas. If you enjoy good Mexican food you should try the chile verde. It's really good, and cheap too. I fed about 16 people for maybe $15. The recipe I used can be found here.

During the first half of July we ran into some issues with the property we were buying for the bakery. We found out that the place used to be a gas station many years ago. Also, people who used to work there said that they sometimes smelled fumes. I became concerned about the potential for an environmental clean up liability. The roof wasn't in as good a shape as we were lead to believe. Enough inconsistencies between what the seller told us and what we were discovering came up that I decided to exercise an exit clause in the contract. Many thanks to Nina, Jesse, and Elmo for their due diligence on the property and looking out in my best interest. They helped convinced me to exercise the exit clause. There's still an issue with the deposit refund that the seller has not budged on. It's not a large amount of money but I've already talked to a lawyer about it and it could end up in small claims court.

The good news is that my sister quickly found another property, which is better in many ways than the one we were going to buy. It's located in a higher traffic area, the property is larger, it's substantially cheaper than the other location, the layout is more conducive to a bakery, it's closer to my sister's house, and it's being sold directly by the owner. I just signed the closing papers today. We'll be doing some facilities work and equipment installs during August. Then we'll need to get it permitted as a bakery. We're expecting it to become operational towards the end of August, so we're planning a grand opening for September. I'll be glad when it's all done and we can focus more on operations and growth.

During the latter half of July I took a week long excursion into the Mt Jefferson Wilderness Area. This was my last opportunity to get out for an extended period before I started working again. I was alone during the first half of my outing, backpacking and day hiking on the north and west sides of the wilderness. Amongst other places I visited Jefferson Park, a beautiful alpine meadow at the northern base of Mt Jefferson. I've often recognized photos and videos from Jefferson Park in various advertisements. It looked like the last day of winter was yesterday here. The lakes and trails were still mostly covered with snow. The views of the north side of Mt Jefferson were as impressive as I remember. It's still hard for me to believe that I'd gone up it years ago during a climb. The wildflowers were out in many of the places I walked through, adding to the beauty of the wilderness. I was reminded during the outing how easy it is to take water for granted if you spend a lot of time in the Pacific Northwest. It's all over the place here, to the point that the locals often complain about it. After various trips into the desert over the past year I keep thinking better to have too much water than too little. Of course, I may not feel that way after the wet season starts again.

On the fourth night of my Jefferson Wilderness trip I met El Chino, the NavUnit, and Frankie Five Angels (F5A) at the Pamelia Lake trailhead. Our plan was to climb Mt Jefferson, the centerpiece of the wilderness area. Mt Jefferson (or Jeff, as we often call it) is the second highest peak in Oregon. It's considered the most difficult of the major Oregon peaks. Relative to Oregon's other mountains, the approaches are long and start low. All of the routes to the summit also have some technical element to them. Despite multiple serious attempts none of us had ever made the summit. The NavUnit's planning and logistics module had put together a tight plan to maximize likelyhood of success, but there are always elements which are beyond human control. After spending the night at the trailhead we started up. The first day involved hiking, bushwhacking, and scrambling to a point above treeline. The goal was to get to at least 7800 ft. 7.5 hours and 4700 vertical feet later we were at a nice site on the southwest ridge of Jefferson. It had a great view south, right down the Pacific crest towards other major peaks. We set up stoves and began melting snow soon after our arrival. In keeping with the "slow and fat" tradition we had plenty of delicious food. The NavUnit's logistics module had wisely put El Chino in charge of the food. The seemingly endless Italian subs and homemade beef jerky kept us fed for most of the first day. For dinner we sampled shrimp jumblaya and beef stew with avocadoes and pita bread. We threw in some cheese just because we had so much of it. For dessert we had chocolate chip cookies. The crew discovered that an empty half avocado skin makes an excellent biodegrable bowl. I'm sure it's become a day of legend for the critters that scowered the area afterwards looking for flaunt (food we'd dropped). Compared to what's normally there to eat (rocks and ice, as far as I could tell) our flaunt must have been like manna from heaven. After eating dinner we went to bed.

We woke up at 2:00 AM the next morning to a clear sky and still air. It seemed warmer than it had been when we went to bed. Despite the warm air the snow was hard as concrete. The moon was bright enough that I often had my headlamp turned off. Conditions were ideal. After a few hours of scrambling up various forms of junk rock we reached the first technical section: a steep, exposed traverse under a rotten rock pinnacle. Conditions again fell in our favor, as the traverse was covered with frozen snow. The NavUnit found the best line higher up on the snowfield and we crossed with little incident (aside from El Chino's crampon coming off). A little more traversing and we were at the base of the final summit pinnacle. From there we climbed bare rock, mostly without active use of the rope. F5A, with the angels backing him up, lead a short belayed section on exposed technical rock. Two minutes later we were sunning ourselves on the summit. There was a wide grin on everyone's face. The climb had been something of a memorial for a coworker and friend of ours who's name also happened to be Jeff, but spelled Geoff. El Chino left Geoff's work badge on the summit, and added his name to ours on the summit register. After downclimbing and rappelling the summit pinnacle we crossed the still frozen snowfield. As soon as we finished crossing sunshine reached the snowfield. On a previous attempt I'd crossed the same snowfield later in the day after it had been softened by the sun. It much less intimidating this time around when it was frozen. We continued downwards. Upon reaching our camp we relaxed and ate for a while, then packed and headed back to the trailhead. It was about 6:30 PM when I got there. The NavUnit had to head back out and search for El Chino, who had made a wrong turn on a hiking trail. After saying goodbye I hopped into the Buffalo and sped off for home.

The Mt Jefferson climb seemed, in many ways, like the most appropriate way to spend the last weekend of my leave. I'm really happy that we all finally managed to get to the summit. Judging by the entries in the summit register visits are rare, in keeping with Jeff's reputation. Everything seemed to fall into place just right to enable our names to be added. Despite all the weight on my back (climbing gear is heavy) I felt pretty good during most of the climb. The bushwhacking section of the descent and the long boulder / scree field traverse we did as part of the descent were my least favorite parts. Still, I've felt much worse during other climbs, and considering what we'd done I felt pretty good. My feet weren't mangled at all (which is more than I can say for some of my climbing partners), and in a couple of days I'd mostly recovered. I also didn't wind up unable to walk or in a hospital, like Matt did after his 100 mile race (see Matt's Big Blog). I was pretty fat really.

The Water Buffalo's overheating problem seems to have been cured (or at least sufficiently mitigated to enable me to drive it long distances) by my tightening of a hose clamp. I have had to use the old trick of turning on the heater a few times when it was running hot. Luckily there's a heater both up front and in the back, so together they add substantial engine cooling capacity. I keep meaning to check the radiator fan. It seems like I used to be able to hear it when it was running, and I never hear it anymore. Since the heater trick works pretty well I may never get to it. On the way back from a bike ride with Ann the Buffalo died on the highway and refused to restart. It turns out to have run out of gas. The gas gauge doesn't work and I'd been driving it so little that I'd forgotten when I last refueled it.

Tomorrow's my first day back at work. I don't know what I'll be doing yet, as I'm returning in the middle of a reorganization. I showed up at the HP cafeteria a couple of weeks ago to have lunch with a coworker. Several other coworkers showed up at the table. I told them stories from my trip. Their reactions were pretty varied, but they all seemed entertained.

Photos from the Mt Jefferson excursion (including the climb) are here. The photo at the top is from Jefferson Park looking south across a lake towards the north side of Mt Jefferson.

By the way, I added a "Favorite Quotes & Sayings" and "Links" section off to the right of the El Viaje's main text. I don't know who most of the quotes or sayings are attributed to.

No comments:

/****** Used to generate site stats *******/