Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Day 26: Pine cones are the testicles of a tree

August 10: I had been walking for several hours along a gravel road, a bit bored. And I started looking around my surrounding a little more closely. Looking for the beauty in the tiny things in life. The unusual flower that made its home on an inhospitable rock. The delicate butterfly that magically survives horrific storms. Nature is pretty amazing, really. Even the insects--perhaps not beautiful in a traditional manner--are deceptively complex creatures and little walking miracles.

And then I started looking at pine cones. They too can surprise me. They'll close up when they get wet, rainy or cold (or some combination of those) and open again when they dry out and warm. How did this inanimate object know what the weather was like?!

The simple pine cone was somehow optimized to know exactly when to release its seeds. I've heard they will open after a fire clears an area providing optimal growing conditions. And I laughed at the thought that they were the sex organs of a tree. Why was I thinking about the sex organs of a tree? In fact... they kind of resembled large testicles!

Flowers are sex organs as well, and it seems oddly amusing that people gift flowers to others all the time. Nothing says I love you like giving them the disemboweled genitals of a plant.

Plant genitals

Oh! Yes, and shove your nose in it to get a good whiff. Smells nice, eh? Perverts! =)

Yep, this is how my mind wanders when I'm bored.

The day started beautiful and I got an early start out of Northport. Jami and Josh were still sleeping when I left so I tried to pack up my gear as quietly as possible and sneaked out of the house.

Streets of Northport on my way out of town.

The trail left town by crossing over the Columbia River on a large bridge before veering off onto a gravel road where I would spend the rest of the day. The sun was shining and life was good. It wouldn't last--rain was in the forecast late in the afternoon and the good life lasted for about an hour until my mind got bored.

And now here I was, thinking about the sex organs of plants and trees. *sigh*

The road walk ahead was massive! The trail followed something like 60+ miles of road walk out of Northport. In all, I was in the middle of an 80+ mile road walk if you include the road walk into Northport as well. This section of the trail was not what made the Pacific Northwest Trail a national scenic trail.

The good news today, however, was that at least the road was gravel and it wasn't a very busy road. On average, about one vehicle would pass me each hour of the day. And the trail was relatively flat and easy.

So I made good time but I was bored out of my mind.

Dark, menacing clouds rolled in throughout the day, but it was nearing 5:00 in the afternoon when I heard the first rumble of thunder in the distance. Rain, I knew, wouldn't be far off. It was time to set up camp. I had completed nearly 20 miles so had already logged a decent day. I felt no qualms about quitting a little early to set up my tarp and get under it before the rain hit.

I walked on another 10 minutes until I reached a small clearing and proceeded to set up camp about 40 feet off from the road. Then I ducked under the tarp, still dry and comfortable.

Another 10 minutes later, a white truck came up the road and it suddenly stopped when the driver noticed my campsite. Crap. What now? Was I was trespassing or something? As far as I knew, the location was perfectly legal.

He got out of his truck and sauntered over to my campsite.

"You should know," he began, "that there's a monstrous thunderstorm heading our way."

"I know," I replied. "I can hear it already!" In his noisy truck, I wasn't sure that he had heard any thunder, but I had been hearing it for a half hour already.

"It's supposed to generate 1/4-inch hail," he told me.

Well.... crap. That's not good. That's big hail! I've never seen quarter-inch hail before. That could a problem. Especially in my exposed location.

This was not a suitable place for my tarp if 1/4" hail was supposed to hit!

We talked for a couple of more minutes before he sauntered back to his truck and drove off. I was left wondering what to do about a monstrous thunderstorm that was expected to drop 1/4-inch hail from the sky. That would probably shred my tarp and then I'd really be screwed!

I decided to move camp. I looked around nearby for a protected area. All of my gear was already spread out and it felt like the rain could start at any second. I didn't want to move my tarp then have everything get wet before I had a chance to set it up in a new location. I needed to work fast!

I decided on a location next to a small group of trees maybe 50 feet away. It wasn't an ideal location, but the trees protected me from one direction and I could set up my tarp so it had steep sides that hail could graze rather than strike full-on. There was a small depression in the dirt where it looked like cattle had often rested. Normally I tried to avoid depressions when I knew rain was in the forecast but it was fairly small and the tarp should be able to cover it entirely. I wouldn't have to worry about rain water collecting under me--in fact, the berm it formed would help keep water out.

I scrambled to set up the tent as quickly as possible--everything that had been under it was now exposed to the elements. If it started raining now, it would be bad!

I got the tarp up, then started moving my gear under with a great deal of haste. The thunder was getting louder.

A short while later, the rain finally started. First a light sprinkle then a heavy downpour. As the sun set, the lightening lit up the sky like fireworks. Boom! Boom!

After an hour, I noticed some water intrusion happening in three different places around my tarp. I built trenches to channel the water around my campsite and built up a berm which seemed to work pretty well. Until it didn't.

I was in cattle country now--and pretty sure I moved my tarp into a depression that cattle created by laying down in it regularly.

It was a couple of hours later when I felt a mushy, waterbed feeling under my groundsheet. I was astounded--where did the water come from?! I cussed. This was bad. This was really bad. There was a giant puddle under my groundsheet! I turned on my headlamp to see and quickly tried building another trench from it through a berm where it could empty, but then something even more astounding happened--the water started flowing into my campsite! It appeared the water was flowing uphill! How was this even possible?! I broke gravity!

Obviously, I know water doesn't flow uphill. It had to be an illusion. The ground outside of the berm and depression was obviously higher than the ground in the depression, but it couldn't have been by much. Maybe if I could dig the trench deeper and further out, the water would flow out in the other direction.

I kept trying to dig and the only thing that accomplished was to allow even more water to flow into my sanctuary. I cursed some more. This was all going so very very wrong....

I couldn't defeat the water. No hail had come and I wished I was back at my original location. That location was better suited for keeping water away, but I couldn't move now. Not in the middle of a torrential downpour. Every item I had would get soaking wet if I tried to move now.

I shoved all of my gear into my pack then threw my pack up on a high point at the corner of my tarp. At least it was on solid (and dry) ground. Then I pulled up my groundsheet to another small high-point at a second corner of my tarp and curled up into the fetal position. It was all the dry space I had available.

It was going to be a long night.....

So many border crossings to choose from! But I wasn't going into Canada. Nope!
The bridge across the mighty Columbia River
And the view of the Columbia from the bridge was great!
The trail passes by the Northport Raceway... but there weren't any races happening when I went by.

It looks like an old mine shaft! I wonder what they were looking for and if they found anything?

This butterfly didn't have a good day!

There's a monstrous thunderstorm coming....

1 comment:

Arlene (EverReady) said...

Thanks. I learnt something new about cones. I did not know they closed up when cold and wet weather. Very interesting.