Father – Son Hike

Recently Ruairí and I hiked to the summit of Kings Mountain in the Oregon Coast Range.  With 2500 feet of elevation gain over a one-way distance of 2.5 miles to the summit at 3226 feet, this is a challenging hike.  On a day with less-than-great weather at the top (~25 mph winds; hail), the view was almost non-existent.  Accordingly, we left quickly after signing the Mazamas-maintained summit register and enjoying my traditional summit snack (M&M’s Peanuts).  Once back in town, we headed for a well-deserved, hearty lunch.
At the Kings Mountain summit, by the signpost and the summit register box

At the Kings Mountain summit, by the signpost and the summit register box

2013 Portland Marathon

This year’s marathon was my most successful.  It wasn’t quite a PR, but I was 24 when I did that, and it was with a time I considered a disappointment – more than a ½ hour slower than I wanted to do, thanks to leg cramps early on.  And all my other marathons have been like that – injuries during training that prevented me from doing all the long runs I wanted to do, etc.

Not this year.  All the long runs went great, up to a slow 21-miler a month before, and a 13-miler and my planned race pace 2 weeks beforehand.   Based on a few online calculators where you predict your marathon time from your times in shorter races, I should have been able to do about a 4:08 based on my half marathon times. At the start line, I found the 4 hour 10 minute pace team from the Red Lizard Running club, and stuck with them right to the end.  The Red Lizards have the whole system down cold. It started at registration, where you could pick up an individual wristband with the mile split times for the pace you wanted to run, and find out which corral which group of pacers were starting. The red lizard cutouts on a stick were easy to spot and keep track of. Plus, the split times were “equal effort” and not just equal time. It was sooo nice that the mile 17 time was so leisurely; saved my quads on the approach to the St. Johns Bridge. I haven’t seen other pacers that do this. ‘really appreciated their efforts.  Not to mention the huge aid station they manned at Mile 24, the same place they took photos that they posted (for free!) that were better than any of the commercial photos this year.

Beth and Ruairí with me at the finish, after I changed clothes in a Porta Potty. ;)

Beth and Ruairí with me at the finish, after I changed clothes in a Porta Potty. 😉


Finishers' Medal this year was pretty cool

Finishers’ Medal this year was pretty cool


The recorded timing from my GPS watch shows how good the Red Lizard team was at maintaining an even pace

The recorded timing from my GPS watch shows how good the Red Lizard team was at maintaining an even pace


I finished in the top third overall, and the top third in my age division.  My favorite stat is "in the last 5 miles, you passed 371 people, and [only] 4 passed you" :)

I finished in the top third overall, and the top third in my age division. My favorite stat is “in the last 5 miles, you passed 371 people, and [only] 4 passed you” 🙂

Red Lizard pacer Karen (holding the sign) and me (in the yellow shirt) in the center of the photo, by Mile 24.

Red Lizard pacer Karen (holding the sign) and me (in the yellow shirt) in the center of the photo, by Mile 24.


Another Mile 24 shot;

Another Mile 24 shot





Erin Graduates!

On Mothers’ Day this year, Erin graduated from Willamette University with a degree in Exercise Science.  This fall, she is off to the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University to pursue a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree.  Here are some pictures from the festivities.

The 4 of us in front of Sparks Athletic Center, where Erin spent much of her undergraduate career

The 4 of us in front of Sparks Athletic Center, where Erin spent much of her undergraduate career


A video of Erin receiving her diploma (they call her name at about the 1:13 mark):

Mt. Hood Climb 20-May-2013

Photos from my first Mazamas climb, Mount Hood.


I top out on the summit plateau.

I top out on the summit plateau.


Gear for a Mount Hood climb

Gear for a Mount Hood climb


Clothing for a climb

Clothing for a climb


Footwear - I'm the first one in the family to get fancy Italian leather boots :) , and crampons

Footwear – I’m the first one in the family to get fancy Italian leather boots 🙂 , and crampons


Mazamas BCEP

When I started to get into better shape a couple of years ago, I first started walking a bit, which turned into Saturday morning short hikes on the paved and unpaved trails near home. I guess to encourage this behavior, Beth bought me a book, Oregon Hiking: The Complete Guide to More Than 490 Hikes (Moon Outdoors).

That’s when it started.

I tried some of the hikes listed in the book, and found I really liked hiking uphill:  one can get a good workout, without pounding your knees the way running sometimes can.  Plus, the views are often very nice.  I did Saddle Mountain in the Coast Range, and the Kings Mountain and Elk Mountain trails near home became my default Saturday workout options.  Then I came upon the chapter that revealed that Oregon’s 3rd-highest mountain, South Sister, just required hiking to reach its summit; I did that hike in August 2012.

Eventually I got the chapter on Southern Oregon peaks, and a fascinating description of Mount Thielsen:

Mount Thielsen’s peak, a towering 9,182 feet in the sky, has earned the nickname “Lightning Rod of the Cascades” for no uncertain reason.  What was once an 11,00-foot-high volcano has been whittled down by glaciers to its single lava plug, an andesite core left after 100,000 years.  What you’ll find on the peak are the lightning-melted spots of fulgurite, a re-crystalized glassy rock that pocks the summit boulders.

Thielsen is no climb for the weak-hearted.  It demands endurance, stamina, sureness of hands, and outright skill…

Cool.  Sounds like a great hike.  But then it went on to say:

…the final ascent is a dangerous technical climb that requires ropes and climbing partners to aid you.  Any ascent past the topmost ledge, a Class 4 rock climb, is done at you own risk  Only experienced climbers should attempt this final pitch.  …to attempt the summit, continue straight up the ridge 1.2 miles on a climber’s trail spiraling to the right around the eastern ledge at the base of the 80-foot peak.  The drop from this ledge to the east is thousands of feet, a dizzying view down to the deserts of Eastern Oregon.  Do not climb to the peak without rock climbing experience; rockfall and exposure makes this pitch dangerous.

Hmmm.  What’s the point of going almost all the way to the top, and then being unable to do the final 80 feet?  I guess I needed to get some “rock climbing experience” before doing much more of this uphill hiking stuff.  We have some friends who are members of The Mazamas, a Portland-area mountaineering club founded in 1894.  Every spring they offer a Basic Climbing Education Program (BCEP), a six-week introductory course to climbing.  It consists of Tuesday evening lectures, and field sessions on the weekend (often both Saturday and Sunday).  I applied this year an was accepted.  Our team, Team 12, consisted of 9 students, 2 volunteer instructors, and 9 assistants.  Here are some pictures taken during the course.

Banks High School Drum Line Competition Performance

On February 9, 2013, the student-led Banks High School Drum Line performed at a regional competition for percussion teams at Evergreen High School in SW Washington State. They performed AC/DC’s Highway to Hell. Put it on fullscreen, crank the sound up to 11, and enjoy:

Here’s Ruairí and Brian, the Drum Line leader, posing with their trophy (the Banks group was the only one in their division. :)):

2012 Portland Marathon

The Portland Marathon was held on October 7, 2012. I signed up to participate in it last October as an incentive to stay active, when I found out it was “walker friendly” (Beth knew someone that had walked it in the past). When I registered I estimated my time at 7½ hours (walking pace).  Since I’ve been running in the past year, I changed my goals and hoped to run the race, although my main goal was to finish, and finish injury-free.  I became concerned when I sprained my right ankle 3 weeks before the race, and a little apprehensive as to how it would go (I ended not doing any running during those last three weeks, to allow the ankle to heal).

I was nice of Ruairí to hold up his Dad; I could barely stand

I ended up completing the race in 5:22:59, and while I was very sore at the finish, it was without injury.  My last marathon was 25 years ago in New York.  Looking up the finishing times for the 1987 NYC Marathon in the online archives, my time this year was about 6½ minutes faster than my official time back then, not too shabby.  I felt very good during the first half of the race and it seemed that a time around 4½ hours was possible.  Around the halfway point though my shin muscles on the right side cramped up pretty badly, probably due to working overtime stabilizing the ankle.  I had to slow way down for a few miles, and ended up mostly walking over the St. Johns Bridge, the only real hill on the course at around Mile 17-18.    After that I felt better, and was able to run the remainder.

For a big race with about 6600 participants, it was very well organized.  At the start, we were divided up into about a half-dozen “corrals”, each with a staggered start several minutes apart.  Since I had put such a slow estimated time on my entry form, I was in the last group, the “walkers”.  Even so, the Start line stretched across the whole width of Broadway (both sides), so there was plenty of room for folks to take off as fast or as slow as they wanted.  Since everyone had an individual timg chip mounted on their shoe (that’s the red loop tied to my left shoelace), their time wasn’t affected by when they crossed the Start line.  I got started about 20 minutes after the first starters.

The first 10K or so was in and around the downtown area; first going through Chinatown and then up and down along the river.  This was very nice; I’ll have to look for a downtown 10K some time.  After that, the route headed north into the NW industrial area.  Alot of people don’t like this section (it’s not very scenic), but I liked since I was familar with the area (Crosscut Hardwoods is along the route), it’s dead flat, and on a Sunday morning it’s completely empty of traffic.  After that it headed toward the NW 23rd Avenue neighborhood, where my shin started complaining.  It was disheartening to start to be passed by lots of people, especially when it just feels that one little thing is holding you back.

Eventually the route dumps you out onto Highway 30, headed in a NW direction toward the St. Johns Bridge.  This was easlily my least favorite section.  Not only was I feeling lousy, but only the leftmost lane was closed to traffic, so there was a constant, loud rush of vehicles passing right next to the route.  There were few spectators in that section, which made it even more inpleasant.

Thankfully the route eventually leaves Highway 30 and heads up the steep approach ramp to the bridge.  I pretty much walked the whole bridge, except for those sections where the photographers were stationed. 😉

Once on the other side the route heads into the residential area of the St. Johns neighborhood.  Finally, quiet streets and cheering spectators once again!  One nice thing about this race is that the bib numbers were all personalized with the participants’ names, so perfect strangers were able to cheer you on by name (or whatever nickname you put on the entry form).    The route then goes through the residential area near the University of Portland, and along the bluffs overlooking Swan Island.  This was a very nice-looking neighborhood, with established homes and large, shade-providing trees lining the streets.  When you see the Mile 20 sign, you begin to think that you’ll actually be able to finish.  In this section is where they close the course, for those particpants going slower than an 8-hour pace.  Those going slower than that must use the sidewalk and obey traffic signals (they do keep the Finish line open, though).  I definitely wanted to get through this section below the cutoff time, and even with the time I lost from the shin cramp, it was no problem.

A few secends after finishing; it feels so good to stop

Next, the route heads on down a long, sweeping, southbound downhill with a gradual grade, before leveling out just before the Broadway Bridge.  Get over the bridge and the Mile 25 sign appears shortly thereafter.  You run briefly through Old Town again, where for the second time the route crosses the MAX train tracks.  Some unlucky runners sometimes have to wait for the train to pass (the race organizers will adjust your time accordingly), but I got lucky both times.  Soon you’re on SW Naito Parkway along the riverfront again, and you start to hear the PA announcements from the Finish area.  There’s a right turn, one more block, a left turn, and then you see the Finish line only a few hundred feet away.  Finally. You. Can. Stop.

One new “toy” I got before this race was a Garmin Forerunner 210 GPS watch.  On a race this long, I thought it would be handy to be able glance down and check my pace at any time, rather than having to wait until the next mile marker.  It turned out to be very helpful to know not only how fast you’re ging, but to also know exactly where on the course you were, at any time.  ‘won’t be doing a long race again without it.   A nice thing was when the race was over, not only did it tell me I went over 26 miles, it said I burned up 3049 calories doing so. 😉   The watch has a USB connection that lets you download the recorded track to your PC.  You can see it on the Google Earth widget below:







The "Hat Patrol" on Mile 24 😉

The last turn just before the finish

South Sister Summit Hike

On the summit of South Sister. Broken Top and Mt. Bachelor (at a mere 9177 ft and 9068 ft elevation, respectively) below in the background

Oregon is favored with many natural beauties, with the peaks of the Cascade mountain range its “crown jewels”. Mount Hood, at 11,249 feet in elevation and about 50 miles from Portland, is the best-known and highest. It requires climbing experience and expertise to safely attempt the summit, and can be very dangerous for those not properly prepared.

In contrast to the technical challenges of Mt. Hood, Oregon’s 3rd-highest peak is, in good weather, a mere hike, accessible by anyone willing and able to spend a few hours walking uphill. Known as South Sister, it is the youngest and the highest of the three peaks in the Three Sisters Wilderness, with an elevation of 10,358 feet.

On August 16, 2012 I did this hike.


Arial photo of the Three Sisters; South Sister in the foreground (USGS photo)

I used the most direct and most popular route, starting at the trailhead near the Devil’s Lake campground on the Cascades Lakes Highway, a few miles past the turnoff to the Mt. Bachelor ski area. The trail heads due north for a little over six miles, with an elevation gain of about 5000 feet. You then return the way you came.

The day did not start well. It started just before I left the parking lot, when a couple of young women headed out before I did and passed by where I was parked. I somewhat absent-mindedly said “good morning” to them, and then was instantly reminded as to why I had decided some time ago not to attempt to exchange the same sort of customary greetings with young women as you would with anyone else: they both shot me back their best “stay away from us, you old creep!” hostile glares, and passed by silently on their way. A form of self-preservation mechanism, I suppose.

I minute or so later I started my own hike, and soon ran into one of the young women headed back toward the parking lot, with with an even angrier look on her face than she had when I had seen her the first time. Soon afterwards I got to the place where the trail crosses Tyee Creek, just before the trail crosses the Cascade Lakes Highway. There’s no bridge there, just a bunch of log of various sizes piled up in one spot (see Photo 79 below). The other young lady was standing on the other side. I stepped on one log, which was large in diameter but did not go all the way across. I stepped onto the next one; I then found out is was only floating in the creek, and I ended up falling in. Both boots and socks where completely soaked with ice-cold water. The young lady on the other side then decided to speak their first words to me, “hey, my friend just did the same thing”. I thought to myself, “great, so you think so much of yourself that you wouldn’t even bother to warn me?”. Oh well. Fortunately I had wool socks, and was able to take them off and wring most of the moisture out of them. It was a dry, low-humidity day, and socks and boots eventually dried out enough that this little incident didn’t cause any blisters or other discomfort. Note to self: Add spare pair of socks to Ten Essentials list.

Once the trail crosses the highway, you get to the information board, which includes the station to fill out the free self-registration Wilderness permits. For the next 1+ miles the hike is through forested terrain, with no view of the mountain. In the early morning hours, mosquitos were very, very fierce in this area (fortunately, DEET was on the Essentials list).

Eventually the trail rises out of the woods in a series of switchbacks, to a plateau where one gets the first view of the mountain from the trail (Photo 30). It was on these switchbacks where I got some “revenge”, after a fashion, on the young women. I caught up to them as they were slowly struggling up the switchbacks, huffing and puffing. I admit it was satisfying to stroll past them and go on my way.

The plateau portion of the trail passes to the west of Moraine Lake, a popular camping spot for those doing the summit hike as an overnight trip (Photos 34 to 38). Camping in the lake area is strictly controlled, being allowed only at 22 designated sites (Photos 77 and 78).

The trail continues north and gets gradually steeper. I hit a few patches of snow. The sections from Photo 50 to Photo 53 was my least favorite section of the trail. It got considerably steeper here, and the footing was loose scree. It was particularly difficult to determine exactly where the trail was in this section; in fact, on the way back down I ran into a pair of hikers on their way up, asking where the trail was. You can’t see the summit, but you can see that you’re reaching a ridgetop that you know can’t be the summit because you’re still way too low in altitude. In fact, it is a ridge overlooking the tarn at the base of Lewis Glacier (Photo 53). From there the trail runs along the ridge to the west of Lewis Glacier, for the last ~1400 foot of elevation gain to the summit crater rim (Photos 54, 55, 56, 74). Footing is loose scree (is there any other kind?). Just before reaching the crater rim, the trail veers west and gets steeper. Fortunately I had a set of Kahtoola MICROspikes with me, and they helped greatly with traction on the scree. Especially on the way back down, they made it easy to control how much I slid.

The top of the mountain is a snow-filled crater, with the actual summit about halfway around the rim. You can either hike arond the rim or take a “shortcut” across the snow. I took the shortcut on the way to the summit (MICROspikes helped) and did the rim on the way back.

It was a bit hazy at the summit; the usual summer wildfires were probably the cause. Even so, I was able to see as far as Mt. Hood.

Once back at the trailhead I ran into a ranger. He was retrieving the permit forms, and mentioned how important they were. The weather forecast predicted a chance of thunderstorms in the next few days, and the Forest Service wanted to see how many backcountry overnight campers were in the area. He also said the forms were useful to the Forest Service to track how many recreational users were taking advantage of the area, and were “a vote for the Wilderness”.

All and all it was a great day hike, with great views from the top. It’s best to get an early start (around dawn), and do it on a day with good weather at the summit (for an example of when not to go, see this story).

Here’s an interactive Google Earth view of the hike. You can zoom in on the route, adn open up each photo in its own window. Thumbnails of all the photos follow, which are also links to the full-size versions.


North, to Alaska!

During the last week of June, Beth and Ruairí attended Boy Scout summer camp outside of Juneau, Alaska. The following week, the troop relocated to a campground on the outskirts of Haines, Alaska, where Barry joined them.

The Troop Arrives at Juneau Airport

At Mendenhall Glacier, just outside of Juneau

On the summit of 3690 ft. Mt. Ripinski, which overlooks Haines

Lunch time during the overnight hike to Seduction Point

A photo gallery with thumbnails for about 400 more pictures follows. Click on any  Read the rest of this entry »


This is scale reading for my weigh-in on May 18, 2012:

That meant my BMI score was 24.7. For the first time, it was below the magic number of 25. That meant I was (finally) in the “normal” range. No longer morbidly obese (ugh!), or obese, or even “overweight”. It took a year, and 122 pounds lost, but I was finally considered at a healthy weight.

Of course there has to be the obligatory Before and After pics:

Me in September 2010. Not at my heaviest, but I generally avoided cameras back then.

Me on June 22, 2012. 157.6 lbs., BMI - 23.9, 16.4% body fat