Monday, August 22, 2011

Car on Fire and the Lost Coast Trail

Before I get into my backpacking trip along the northern California coast, I have another piece of interesting news...

So I was riding my bike across campus to the Mac lab where I was going to work on my final project for Visual Studies...I turned to head down the hill at the bottom of which was the Journalism building but what I was confronted with as I came around the corner was flames, pouring out of a car that was nose deep in the trunk of a tree off the right side of the road. As I took it in for a moment (noticing immediately that the driver's door was open and that no one was inside) before I got hit with the thought: "I'm a journalist! This is news! I have a camera in my pannier!" So I frantically dug out the camera that I had checked out from the Journalism equipment room. I remember my hands were shaking. I threw (well, lovingly placed) my bike down on the grass and started to snap pictures of the flaming car as the distant sound of sirens produced a huge fire truck that pulled up and out of which poured several firemen running with the hose to douse the fire.

In minutes, a huge steam cloud filled the immediate area. Meanwhile, I moved across the front yard of a frat house where a bunch of boys were standing in a group snapping pictures with their camera phones. I went into professional mode and moved in closer (right in their view) to document the rest of the scene.

Then I noticed a group of paramedics and firemen crowded around an older man who I realized had been standing on the corner where I parked my bike, casually talking with a passerby as I pulled up. I didn't see until now the blood coming out of a cut on his forehead as I approached and started taking photos of the paramedics speaking with him.

I felt so slimy!! But at the same time, it was exhilarating...

Finally, as the action died down, I took a few more pictures of the front wreckage of the vehicle before making my way down the rest of the hill to the computer lab.

Thinking how I had a camera full of pictures that were The News of the Moment, I pulled into the parking lot thinking, wouldn't it be classic if I just totally fell and broke the camera.

Which I promptly went and did! Well, the camera was okay but I totally came in and, in the process of pulling my foot out of the toeclip (which I installed on my pedals for my 100 mile ride the previous weekend) I got caught and totally fell straight over onto the side the camera was on! Flat onto the camera. Well, somehow the bike and I managed not to crush it and that's all I was worried about, as opposed to a passerby who rushed to help me up, making sure I was okay...Absolutely. Classic.

So I got up and dusted myself off and rushed into the lab where some of my cohort were working on their own project. "I'm gonna be famous!" I announced, neglecting to include that I had just ate it big time on my bike.

After showing off my pictures, I called Morrison to ask him what the heck I should do. He is good friends with a man who works for who is in charge of breaking news on the website. Dan came in (he was going to meet with us later that night to be around to help us with our projects) and showed me how to send the pictures and the short video I'd shot (unfortunately after the fire was out..) to KVAL to be posted. I formatted the pictures, just like I'd been taught in class, for the web and sent them off to Mark Furman who is in charge of the news station's website.

What was supercool (in addition to the fact that as I was sending him more pictures, they started pulling up with a short description of the occurrence on their website...crediting me as the photographer!!) was that the next day it just so happened that Morrison had arranged for Furman to come in to talk to our class. So when he came in that morning to our lab, the first thing he asked was "So which of you is Stacey Hollis?" Famous, I tell you!

Okay. So aside from that excitement, the final days of class wound down with the completion of our final projects-an edited video of our chosen event. Mine turned out okay, there are a few glitches I want to smooth out when I have access back into the lab. It certainly wasn't worthy of submitting to KVAL like some of the others', but I can put it into the "community news" section where people post videos of their kids. And cats.

So it hardly sunk in that we were on "summer break" before we headed south to the Lost Coast Trail for a 26 mile backpacking trip along the Pacific Ocean. My partners in crime were Clare (the brains of this operation), Chris and Ted

Drove 6 hours to Arcata where we stayed with Clare's friend from college. We went out to dinner but were pretty exhausted to care about much more than eating! 

The next day we drove to Mattole Beach -our starting point- dropped off the boys and drove both cars to Shelter Cove to leave my car for our arrival at the end of the trail. Unfortunately, it ended up taking muuuch longer than we intended because we had to search the secluded beach town before finding the parking area where we were to leave my car for the next 3 days. We didn't get back to Mattole until around 5pm (Chris and Ted amused themselves by throwing rocks at the mammoth bear canisters that each of us were required to carry, as mandated by the Bureau of Land Management). Finally, packed and more than ready to go, we hit the trail.

About 15 laborious steps into our trip, it suddenly became apparent that a coastal backpacking trip meant walking 25 miles through the sand. Oh yea.  

Walked alongside the Pacific Ocean which crashed beside us, with a strong wind at our backs. The view was fantastic. Endless ocean to the right, and various shades of yellow and green foothills to the left. We did only four miles before finding our first camp site near an abandoned lighthouse. As we walked up to a several driftwood windbreaks where we intended to set up for the night, I looked over to the rocky coast and saw a small tan seal waddling into the sea. As I was about to call out to the boys who were ahead of me, I looked in the direction he moved and there was a huge group of seals waddling off the beach and into the water in a boiling, roiling, scooting frenzy. "Look look look look!!!" I cried as they splashed into the water, a motley crew of various earth and stone hues. They swam out into the shallows and dozens of heads turned to stare at us as we stared back.

It turned out to be an awesome campsite, above the intertidal zone, constructed with huge pieces of driftwood serving as perfect windbreaks for our tents and a firepit that was soon aflame as we sat around and ate a delicious gnocchi stew premade by Chris. 

I awoke in the early morning to the sound of sealions barks. I had had dreams of cougars stalking around our tent so I didn't dare to venture out of the protection of my tent until the morning rose. Clare and I emerged to be greeted by a full moon settling into the far reaches of the Pacific.  It wasn't long before I noticed the huge solitary sealion down the beach a few hundred yards away. Chris got some video footage as we snuck, not so sneakily, in for a closer look. Clare, Chris and I checked out the lighthouse and ascended the spiral staircase for a view from the top. 

That day we hiked from about 8-12:30 and rested for a bit while lunching beside a small creek. This is where we started to misjudge the amount of miles we'd traversed...

That evening, we camped out where there were some spans of flat land between the mountains and ocean and we decided, based on the landscape and our map, that we were about 16 miles down the trail. For the amount of time we'd been moving along that day, we couldn't imagine that we weren't that far. 
We collapsed in the sand, exhausted, until we finally got up the gumption to follow Endless-energy Ted to a more secluded and comfortable site along a creek where it drained out to the ocean. 

It felt good on our tired toes to wade into the frigid water. Clare and I sat on a half-submerged log in a pond that was formed by a sandbar blocking the creek from the lapping waves. There we watched a little pharalope make its way around us, half-walking half-floating along the pond's edge. Like a miniature seagull with sandpiping tendencies.

Clare had mac and cheese for us that night and Chris foolishly (if anyone is to blame..) left me to stir while he went off for firewood and, while talking with Clare, I managed to make some gesture as I spoke that ended up tipping the whole kit over into the sand: pot, water, noodles, stove and all. 

Luckily Clare had saved 1/2 the noodles to cook if we wanted leftovers. I ate a bagel for dinner…

Exhaustion. Sleep came instantly. 

The next morning we were once again treated to gorgeous weather. It was fortunate that the marine layer once again neglected to roll in, in wet morning blanket form. We broke camp and hiked a-ways until we came across a trail labeled trail that confirmed what we had been dreading: we were 6 miles behind where we thought we were and we had to do a total of 15 miles in the unforgiving (forgiving? all too giving..) sand before the end of the day.

We picked up the pace. 

It was a beautiful day and we put our bodies to the test. For quite a stretch we saw endless bear tracks imprinted into the soft sand. There was definitely more than one and they were darn big! Our bear canisters were never bothered over the nights we spent out, although one hiker mentioned to us that a bear walked into their camp before they went to bed the night before! Furthermore, they'd heard another camper had had his canister inspected the night before, as evident by the gashes in it the next morning!

We came to some long, wide flats that ended up being the ones that we had assumed we had reached the night before. Slowly the coast rounded out so that we could see Shelter Cove, our destination, in a distant misty haze. In fact, it beaconed to us throughout the entire day! 

We sat up on some rocks right above a more rowdy stretch of beach and lunched while we waited out the tide because the water was too high on the beach for us to go farther.  

Finally we got moving after two parties moved ahead of us. This area on the map warned that it couldn't be passed at high tide and we were about 1.5hrs past and hoped we'd be able to go on. There were definitely some sections where we had to dance quickly around some corners between wave sets but we were able to continue on, only getting doused once. We hiked hard for hours. If the terrain wasn't soft, sinking sand, we were rock hopping which also slowed us down considerably. Lucky for no sprained ankles! 

Shelter Cove teased us, looking as if it wasn't getting any closer as the long hours passed...

We. were. tired. 

Nonetheless, we carried on and I looked out and saw some seals in the waves, their heads poking out of the swells, watching me as I lumbered along. It was beautiful out there. 

At 7:30pm, we rambled up onto the end of the Lost Coast Trail. My car was still there, loyally awaiting my return. I laid down on the pavement parking lot, happy to be done as well as satisfied and proud that we'd done it. What a trip! 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Tuba Ensemble and Blackberry bRamble

Okay! Back online! Sorry 'bout that. I've been a bit overwhelmed with various projects lately (of which you'll be seeing some of the results!) so that's my genius excuse for not posting lately.

So I'm going to backtrack to the 30th, where I left off, which was when I said I was going on the hiking trip to Iron Mountain. I didn't end up having to drive because there were enough people going this week that the hike was fairly short but it was the most perfect day for it and the wildflowers were out in force! It was a fun group, lots of interesting conversation. There was a pair of New Zealanders who were in the middle of a US tour, checking out our crazy country before it self-destructed (they were following the debt crisis, probably moreso than a lot of Americans!). There was also a very in-depth conversation on the philosophy of knowledge and what it is. Common sense, is this something that is set in stone? Is common sense knowledge? How does something become known as fact and what if it is disagreed upon, does the majority win? What if the minority is right? Like the few people that believed that slavery actually IS a sinful act and black people aren't less than human?

Interesting stuff to think about.

Oh, and then there were the views! We lunched up at the top of the mountain, which was well-named for the layer of red iron that could be seen as its own strain contrasting against the dark gray rocky top of Iron Mountain. We also meandered through some open meadows that were dotted in wildflowers that glowed under the early afternoon sun.

The next day (my weekends seem to go by so fast and, instead of recharging, I'm depleting my batteries down to the quick!) I went on a 65 mile ride out to Rattlesnake Butte with Cathy and GEARs. It was a good long one, which was what became the deciding factor for us to do next weekend's Blackberry Bramble, a century ride..100 miles in one day! They also have a 100 kilometers, metric century option-which was what I'd figured I'd do until that evening when Cathy said we should do the real century. Woo!

Oh yea, and that evening I dragged myself (via automobile..) down to Washburne Park where I did my photography assignment: 5 sets of 3 pictures, each set having a closeup, medium and far away picture of basically the same thing. This lovely Sunday evening the park rang with the sound of...tubas!

The next day, was classes (well, class). Dan Morrison, our teacher for Visual Studies...I don't know if I've described in enough detail. The man is a trip. He is a seasoned photographer, having done work in other countries including native tribes where he was the first person to have documented their daily lives (I need to ask him about where I can see those images..) and war-torn Afghanistan. He actually showed us some video he took during one of the troops' outings where there was constant gunfire and he was out there, armless, and completely dependent on the soldiers he followed. I can't imagine being one of those guys, having no idea if the next day- or minute- would be their last. All in the name of patriotism. 

Anyways, Morrison happily tells us about his insane experiences as well of some of his less insane ones and giggles about the idiots he's worked with (or taught!) and doesn't hesitate to tell us that he's been talked to by the dean more than once about how he needs to stop swearing (seemingly every other word..!) in class. He's a tough guy and can pretty much belittle anyone in less than five seconds if he so chooses. Nevertheless, he obviously is passionate about his work and is a genius at what he does...and winning his respect is something that I'd secretly wanted to do from the moment I met him. 

Anyways. So Melissa, who is in my program cohort and was the third of our 10k Butte to Butte trio, asked me to join her in the Women's 1/2 Marathon that would be held the first week of September here in Eugene. I accepted, knowing that the most I've run is 10 miles and that was only two times in my life..but hey, as long as I have a partner in crime for these crazy adventures (I know my brother is shaking his head at my lunacy right now...) I'm gung-ho to go!! So anyways, that was my reason for doing a 6 miler after class that day (we're on the 31st now..) and 4 miles the next day with Chris down by the river. We were waiting for his car to be looked at (it's been acting odd lately..) so what better way to spend idle time than running, right? 

Wednesday and Thursday was nonstop work: in addition to class, I worked on setting up and editing my photo project and Morrison held a Final Cut Pro party-he bought us pizza and helped us figure out the video editing program which is pretty darn tricky. It's usually taught over the course of 5 weeks...we had 5 days.

In addition to that, I also squeezed in a couple of rides with Cathy to get us ready for Sunday's century (!!) so we did around 30 miles both thursday and friday evening. I just want to say, I think Fox Hollow goes on forever. It is a loooong uphill. It was actually my first ride here in Eugene, two months ago (wow, only 2 months??) where Cathy took me on the very same ride out Fox Hollow and I am happy to report that I feel like I've really improved and gotten stronger over the course of the last 8 weeks. 

So that weekend was another jam-packed ususal. On Saturday I attended a canning demonstration downtown where a group of master food preservers showed the process of canning green beans to a small audience. I did video interviews of both the demonstrators and audience and took photos of the process, which carried over several hours. It was really fun! I love learning while "working"...journalism is such a good excuse for that! 

I was up way too late on Saturday evening (the night before my 100 mile ride) watching Sherlock Holmes at Clare's house (another fellow cohort-er). She lives just up the road from me and is interested in ecotourism journalism which is something that is very relevant to the times as people visit other countries and don't realize the detrimental impact that tourism and travel can have on the earth. Not to mention the fact that someone can travel to another country and be completely walled off from the actual culture. Sipping margaritas in Mexico on a gorgeous hotel patio makes it easy for a traveler to completely overlook the fact that they are being made completely ignorant of what the country is really like and what its people are really going through. That is something that I've talked at length about with my Nicaraguan spanish teacher while I was visiting his country. I discussed this with Clare and we were excited about the possibilities that our grad program was preparing us for: to contribute toward informing the public (travelers in particular) of these issues. 

Blackberry Bramble!! So the fact that I'm typing about this means somehow I survived the day. It really wasn't bad!! I was really a bit worried and actually didn't tell anyone outside of Eugene (particularly my Dad, the Century champion!) about it because I seriously wasn't sure I'd be able to finish. Well I did! And let me tell you, I feel very proud of myself for having done so. It was a looong day..about 7 hours of riding total (with about an hour total of breaks, rest stops where they had great food spreads). Cathy and I were together for the entire ride, which we averaged at 14mph. We killed the hills, particularly the Wolf Creek hill which we were dreading ("We're at the top already!?" -Cathy) and the long rolling hills we took in stride. The course was a gorgeous one, with beautiful views. It actually wasn't sunny out, in fact we were enshrouded in clouds for about 3/4ths of the ride which made it the most perfect temperature for the strenuous climbs and fast-going flats. Ha, we even had a "draft-line" with this one guy who for some reason kept right on our tails, passing us and then we'd be right on his tail until one of us decided to take him. Finally he pulled ahead but we were flying for that stretch!

Cathy called out when we hit 100, based on her bike computer, and we cheered as we finished up at Amazon Park where we were greeted by music and blackberry pie with a huge scoop of ice cream. I called my dad that evening to tell him the good news :)