2014-01-01

Three Days in Goat Rocks Wilderness


Back in August, my fourth backpacking trip happened, and it was a great trek. Sadly it's taken me 4 months to get around to sharing it!  A few friends from work and I set out to hike into the Goat Rocks Wilderness for a few days via the Lily Basin trail.  The first obstacle was getting to the trail head.  If you ask Google Maps to tell you how to get there, it will advise you to take forest service road 21 from highway 12 to cut over to forest service road 48 which the trail head is on.  This is wrong, and you should just go a little further down the highway directly to forest service road 48.  It looked like one of the roads might connect over from 21, but it was blocked with a gate.  from the highway, the trail head is a little over 11 miles down the forest road.

For the first 5 miles, the Lily Basin trail follows the top of a ridge slowly increasing in elevation.  It is mostly a gentle slope and a good warm up for some of the steeper trails you experience in the interior of Goat Rocks later.  After that, the trail cuts over the ridge and into the network of trails that hugs the upper part of various other alpine ridges.  From here on, the forest is sparse, and views are grand.  It's also time to keep your eyes open close by for marmots, and far uphill for mountain goats.  A mile or two later we hit the junction with the Angry Mountain trail, and turning away from it, continued on for a total of about 8 miles to Heart Lake and set up base camp.


In the morning, we set out with intention to reach goat lake and anything beyond it we might be up for.  About halfway to Goat Lake though, we ran into an obstacle.  We had passed a few fairly small flat snowbanks what were easy to go around or over, but we hit one that was much larger and on a very steep slope.  Even before the snowbank, the trail was non-existent due to run-off and erosion leaving a very steep, loose, rocky patch to traverse first.  After approaching the snowbank, we had three options: Go over the top of it which led to an even steeper loose rocky area, go over the icy crusted and slippery snowbank risking a slip and slide down into some rocks, or go below it which was the longest route but probably the safest.  In the end a couple of us went above and around and me and another went below and around.  Much time and energy was spent feeling this out, and we were later to find that there was a bypass trail that we missed a little before this obstacle.

That doesn't look like a trail.


After that ordeal, we made our way to Goat Lake and the waterfall made by it's runoff.  The top of this waterfall made a great place to relax in the sun and have lunch looking over an enormous canyon with Old Snowy mountain on one side and Mt. Adams far in the distance.  Afterwards, it was time to head back towards camp with plans to head a ways up Hawkeye point.  In the process of ascending Hawkeye point which looks over Goat Lake, one of our party discovered the bypass trail which would bypass the obstacle on our way back, and we took it.

On our third and final day we made a leisurely start to the day and just before afternoon started on our way out the same way we came in.  This was my first time visiting the Goat Rocks area, and I would definitely like to go back and explore it more.  It is a beautiful area with a variety of options for types of hikes and routes that you want to experience it in.  Most of the trails in the core are at least moderate difficulty being high in steep mountains, so it helps to have a little bit of mountain goat spirit in you.


Mountain Goats near Hawkeye point

2013-07-29

Backpacking Fail

Mountains always look smaller than they really are.  You would think that it would take some astronomical scale like the distance to the sun to escape the everyday human intuitive grasp, but that isn't so.  We can't even understand the size of a small mountain until we try to climb it.  So I seem to have found.

Davis Mountain hiding in the distance

Meet Davis Mountain, which lies right next to Wickiup Reservoir near LaPine, Oregon.  About a week ago, I decided I would backpack to the top of it in one day and hike down the next.  A tidy little two day trip.  The side that I decided to hike up was mostly burned out a while back, so it has the appearance from far away of being fairly thin.  While there are no real hiking trails to the top of Davis Mountain, there is a network of old logging roads scattered about it.  My plan was to use these where convenient and cut across off road where it made sense.

View of Wickiup Reservoir

Soon after venturing off road for the first time, I realized that most of the hill side is covered with thick underbrush varying from knee to shoulder height, also covered with froth encased insect pupae.  As I waded through the brush uphill, I quickly lost strength and became covered with adorable little bug larva.  As I emerged on one of the best quality roads I was to find on the mountain gravelled of red cinder, I was optimistic that I might still make the summit. I planned to make use of the road I was on to take me to the north side of the mountain and weave through the network of logging roads there to the top.

I arrived at the north side of the mountain and started uphill on a somewhat less friendly road.  These roads were quite old and soon turned into an obstacle course of thick fallen dead trees.  The progress on these roads seemed little better than off, so rather than be led up the mountain in a roundabout way on unhelpful roads, I began cutting straight up the mountain through the healthy ponderosa.  This proved exhausting, and I soon realized I could not keep up such a strenuous route.  I pushed through to next slightly navigable logging road and began a route back around the mountain to the south.

Sun hats are great for exposed summer hiking
Emerging from the forest, I saw that I was still only halfway up the mountain.  Low on energy, I realized I would not be reaching the top that day, so I continued on a bit to find a good place to set up camp.  I set up my tent on a windy hillside clearing and took a load off as the last bit of daylight faded.  Davis Mountain is well populated with deer, and I saw many throughout the day as I trudged uphill.  The coolest sighting was at my camp though.  I was resting at the doorway of my tent, hidden from the clearing behind it and decided to stand up and stretch.  I turned around to find two fawns and a doe forty feet or so from my tent.  Two of them bounded off right away, but the younger fawn stood by and stared at me a few moments before trotting away.


After getting over a bout of nausea from exhaustion in the night, I got some good sleep.  In the morning, I followed the logging road near my camp gently downhill until it joined up with a forest service road.  I was eager to avoid any bushwhacking after the previous days' ordeal, so I followed nice gravel roads for about 5 more miles back to my car.  Overall the trip ended up being around 12 miles.

After getting back, I drove around the south side of the mountain on forest service roads to see if I could drive up to the top on what looked to be called "Davis Mountain Lookout Road".  But that proved to be a failure as well!  The road degraded into an undriveable state about 2/3 of the way up, apprently it's not maintained.  Fine, you win Davis Mountain!

View of Davis Mountain on last stretch on Forest Service Road 44



2013-02-28

Moral Minds and the Trolley

I would like to pose a scenario to you reader.  You are rushing toward a platform next to a train track and a trolley is approaching in the distance.  You know that this trolley is unmanned, and it's brakes controlled by an automated system devised by an evil genius.  There is a man on the platform facing away from you, blindfolded, with duct tape over his mouth.  He stands there in a drugged stupor, and you know that the evil genius has surgically implanted a device next to the man's heart that when damaged or detects the man's heart beat stopped, will cease to respond to the automated trains' wireless queries.  The train is programmed to instantly apply it's brakes and come to a screeching halt if this happens.  Five people are trapped on the tracks a short way down past the platform, and will surely die if the trolley is not stopped.

You also have a gun.  You are five feet from the man on the platform, and you can shoot him in the heart in time for the train to stop.  You don't have time to do anything else.  The evil genius has devised a cruel scenario for you, but only you can save those people.  There are no other options, and time is running out.  You must kill this stranger, or be responsible for not avoiding the deaths of five others.  What will you do?  Will you kill the one man, or let the others die?  Remember your answer for later.



I recently started reading Moral Minds, a book about exploring the evolutionary roots of the morality found in humans and other animals.  In the third chapter, the author brings up the trolley problem originally posed by Philippa Foot.  You can get more background in this video if you're not familiar, but the gist of it is posing two different questions about killing one person to save five where people typically answer one way to the first scenario, but another in the second despite the fact that the outcome is the same.  I've seen this scenario referenced a lot lately, and something about it and what some have deduced from it have seemed off to me.

One explanation I have read previously was that the reason people answer differently is, the personal act of pushing the large man into the trolley's path engages an emotional part of our brains whereas the more detached act of pulling a lever to divert the train does not. Therefore, we judge the situation more logically.  In this chapter of Moral Minds, the author poses a different possibility, that the actual reason is that we have an innate moral sense that tells us intentionally killing someone as a means to save others is not permissible, but saving others in a way that results in the side effect of someone else being killed is.

To further convince us of this point, the author also poses some slightly adjusted scenarios.  In a third scenario, you may switch a lever to cause the trolley to be briefly diverted to a side track where the large man is on the tracks just before it rejoins back to the main track where the 5 other people are.  He states that this scenario is intuitively impermissible to us because we are intentionally causing harm to the large man to save the others.  Then, in a fourth scenario, he poses that again there is a short side track you can divert the trolley to before it joins back to the main track where the 5 people are.  This time though, the side track has a huge block on the tracks as big as the train that just happens to have one person in front of it that will accidentally get killed if you divert the train into the block to stop it.  This scenario he states is intuitively permissible because the death of the person is an unintended side effect.

Through these explanations, I continued to feel that something was wrong, and at some point I realized what it was.  I think that the real reason we judge these scenarios differently is related to a constant awareness of physics that we cannot avoid taking into account regardless of if we are told the large man's bulk will stop the trolley.  I believe that in our minds we aren't convinced that the large man will fully stop the trolley, and there will be some chance that the trolley will still kill some or all of the other people.  This applies in the third scenario as well, all illustrations that are used for these scenarios picture the people sufficiently close to whatever is being used to obstruct the trolley's movement to leave that bit of doubt in your mind.

I came up with another scenario that may be able to confirm my suspicion.  It is the scenario I posed at the beginning of this post.  If most people intuitively feel that it is not permissible to shoot the man to stop the trolley, then I must be wrong.  If most people think it is permissible, I think maybe our minds are doing some subconscious value calculations of the probabililities of numbers of people dying in these posed scenarios rather than following some odd rule of intentions.  Please share what you chose to do in that first scenario in the comments so we can do a mini-study!