Thursday, July 21, 2016

Day 7: Dose Meadows to Cameron Basin

by Emi Schwartz

We awoke on day seven to one of the clearest, brightest, cloudless mornings that we experienced throughout the trip. After fixing breakfast together in the sun drenched meadow, we bittersweetly packed up our site. I think we all came to deeply love Dose Meadows, having spent two nights there and experiencing it's incredible beauty. But it was time to move on and continue our adventure!

After camp was packed up, Madeline led a wonderful discussion on gender and wilderness. Madeline led off her discussion with a poem by the romantic poet Lord Byron, which feminizes the natural world. Later we discussed the general historical personification of wilderness and nature in general as female.We discussed how this personification may have led to either notions of caring for nature or exploiting nature, and how it has fed gender inequalities and stereotypes that have hindered wilderness access to women. Ultimately, we discussed how a culture of male dominance, stemming from the feminism of nature, may have led to the historical exclusion of women who wish to work in wilderness and recreation management, and the ramifications this has had for historical land management.

After a rousing discussion, we left Dose Meadows and began the slow trudge up to Lost Pass. We hiked approximately two miles uphill, it was difficult and very hot, but everyone continued to maintain the high sprits we had all week! After reaching the pass we saw our first outsider in six days! After seeing no one but each other for almost a week, it was a bit of a shock to see a new face! After, chatting him up for a while we stopped to eat lunch at the pass and have a discussion about invasive species (specifically mountain goats), led by Lucas.

As we munched away on Wasa crackers and peanut butter Lucas had us think about and discuss the management of of exotic species, how they affect native ecosystems and how we value exotic and invasive species. We began by discussing basic principles, such what makes a species exotic or non-native, and how long a non-native can live in a new place before being considered native. Whether a species moved by an animal or pre-historic humans should still be considered exotic, or whether animal species that have capitalized on human modification of the environment and moved into areas where they were not historicall, should be considered exotic.We discussed examples of non-native plants that seem to thrive and even provide better habitat or services for native animals (including humans) than natives. Do we still have an imperative to control them, despite their benefits? In the context of Olympic National Park, we discussed how the mountain goat, which was introduced for hunting has been negatively affecting some of the native and endemic flower species at the park. We discussed if and how the goat populations should be managed--not an easy issue when you consider there are probably over 500 goats in the park, up from 300 after earlier eradication efforts in the 1980s. Any future eradication effort would be costly, possibly dangerous to personnel, possibly inhumane for goats, time consuming, unlikely to be 100% successful, and likely to be an annoyance/danger to the wilderness experience of recreational users.

After lunch we left lost pass in search of Cameron Basin! In order to reach our destination we had to make it over Cameron Pass, which was no easy task. The three miles from Lost Pass to Cameron Pass felt longer than the 20+ miles we had done over the previous six days. The sparkling attitude that we had collectively had over the last week began to waver ever so slightly. The rolling slopes up the p[ass made it seem like we were finally at the highest point of the pass, but as soon as you made it over the hill, you would see another hill a couple hundred feet ahead... exhausting doesn't even begin to cover it. But no matter how hard it got, we continued to push on, and eventually we made it!

At the top of Cameron Pass, we all began to get a little goofy. After so much physical toil, getting to the top felt incredible and we all began to cheer each other up with jokes and laughter. We quickly made our way down the final hill into the glacial cirque known as Cameron Basin. The Basin was filled with low hanging clouds that made it look almost like an arctic tundra. But, as the night went on the clouds lifted and gave way to the most beautiful moon rise I have personally ever seen.

We ferociously ate dinner and summarized how meaningful this trip has been to each of us. It would have been a quiet, contemplative evening if it wasn't for the deer who interrupted our conversation by stealing one of Madeline's "winter walker" trekking poles... Thank goodness for Lucas's fast reflexes or we may not have gotten it back!

Enjoy the photos below, and scroll down to my final reflections on the experience and wilderness in general:
Camp in Cameron Basin, on a recently deglaciated patch of gravel. We discovered ice worms in a remnant glacier on the hillside above as we descended into the cirque.
Supper as fog rolls through.
Junco singing in Dose Meadows as the day begins.

Final view of Dose Meadows towards Mt. Fromme as we head out of camp for the long climb to Cameron Pass.

The leaves of alpine Smelowskia at Cameron Pass.

Moon rise in Cameron Basin

Sunlight playing on the clouds above the Cameron Peaks in the evening. Photo by Kelly Bounxayavong.

Avalanche lily, a snowmelt flower dispersed by ants, on the way to Cameron Pass.

Ubiquitous yarrow, this one growing the alpine at Cameron Pass.
Starting the day with Madeline's discussion on the use of gender stereotypes to personify nature and wilderness, and how these gender stereotypes have affected the exploitation or preservation of nature. We also discussed how gender stereotypes historically and currently affect the ability of women to recreate and work in wilderness

Madeline's discussion continued

hiking the trail at Lost Pass. Thanks to a friendly hiker we met for taking these photos.

A view towards Mystery and Deception and the big wall of Mystery above Deception Creek.

Lucas leading a discussion on the ecology and management of exotic species, and their effects on ecosystems positive and negative. In the context of Olympic we discussed two species, the definitely exotic Mountain Goat (which threaten native and endemic flora) and debatedly exotic Barred Owls (which threaten rare Northern Spotted Owls), and issues surrounding their management

Continuing Lucas' discussion well past lunch hour in a very scenic spot.

A giant puffball fungus.

Finally starting up to Cameron Pass.

Glacier Lily and Avalanche Lily growing together. In this area, we also saw American pipits doing breeding displays, flying high into the sky before dropping quickly down onto their territories. This species was also found feeding on insects fallen on snow fields over the ridge in Cameron Basin. The loss of snow fields in the future could be perilous for this and other mountain bird species, such as the rosy finch, which also feed on snow fields. Another small bird of these alpine areas is the streaked horned lark. We saw neither larks nor rosy finches this year.

Lewisia columbiana on the way to Cameron Pass.

Wall Flower

Lyall's rockcress

Mountain sorrel

Timming at Cameron Pass

A grasshopper at Cameron Pass (it is well camouflaged. See if you can find it)

Tufted saxifrage was one of many alpine flower species found at the pass. Slender sandwort shrubby cinquefoil, mountain meadow cinquefoil, amd pale agoseris, were additional species found. Lower down on the headwall of the basin, we found Tolmie's saxifrage, Elmera, Olympic Groundsel, Lyall's Goldenweed, and Sibbaldia, to name a few.

Rock polygon formations

A caterpillar found on Cusick's speedwell


Alpine collomia. Very purple version.

Careful descent into Cameron Basin.

Snowpatch buttercup

The moon above the ridge, with illuminated tent.

Minji and Abby stay up watching shooting stars.
Botanizing on Cameron Pass

Supper as mist rolls through,


Favorite Memories:
It is very hard to pick only a few. This whole trip was one long favorite memory, but I suppose there are a few moments that particularly shined for me. My first favorite moment was on our way out of Cedar Lake when we prepared for our first snow crossing by learning how to use ice axes to do self arrests. I have never done any mountaineering and this felt like a really useful and practical skill that I I know I will be using for many years to come. Another favorite moment of mine was doing our first snowfield crossing just minutes later. I have never done a physical activity that challenged me mentally like this activity did. I felt so vulnerable and exhausted during it that once I finally crossed the snowfield and saw just how far I could come, I was filled with pride and a newfound faith in my own strength.

Biggest Challenges:
On day seven I experienced another physical and mental challenge that I was sure at the time was going to break me. The climb up to Cameron pass felt like on of the hardest, longest and most difficult treks I have ever done. I'm not sure why exactly, It wasn't harder than anything we had done before, I think the exhaustion of backpacking had just begun to catch up with me. There was a moment on the hike up to the pass when I wondered "If I just stopped and refused to go on, what would Tim do?" It was a silly thought, but thats just how tired I was. I believe that my mental attitude was a big part in how hard the hike seemed. The more grumpy I got, the harder the hike seemed. I think this is a testament to how important your mental state is to your ability to achieve physical feats! After reaching the top of Cameron Pass and joking around with my classmates, my mental state got so much better and my body began to feel stronger with the lift in my mood.

How has the wilderness experience changed you?
Being out in the wilderness for those nine days was like pressing the "reset" button on my soul. Maybe that sounds cheesy, but I don't really know how else to describe it. The stress of everyday life was gone during those nine days. You stop worrying about the non-essentials. Instead of worrying about checking my message, or homework or what i'm gonna wear, I worry about the simple things like having enough water in my bottle, making sure my classmates were doing well and setting up my tent before the rain came. It makes you feel connected to the past and to the animal part in all of us that is concerned with the basics, not the frivolous things. Being out in the wilderness calmed me down and left me much more centered and grounded. I have been trying to keep that with me now that I'm back, trying to stay present and focused.

Biggest take-home messages:
We are animals, we are part of the ecosystem, just like everything else. Humans can not separate themselves from wilderness, that can lead to a potentially damaging dichotomy between people and the environment. I believe that having people experience nature and live in it and feel connected to it will cause them to take ownership over it's wellbeing. If enough people experience that love and ownership, perhaps we will stop hurting the earth and begin healing it!