August 9, 2003

Mission to the North Cascades


Yesterday was one of those days where you can feel the earth’s axis shift just a little bit. I don’t know how extreme the results will be, whether I’ll turn into a Tibetan monk or a Texan high-roller, but things feel different, today. This weekend is reaffirming some things, questioning and redefining others. The First Friday of August 2003? It was huge, man.

And today? The North Cascades. I bought fuel injector cleaner from Walt at the Chevron station. The place was infested with loud-mouthed pre-teens.

“The toilet in there is so gross!”

“Just go in and use the men’s room!”

“We should probably get in line!”

“If you drink all that we’ll have to make a special shop just so you can pee!”

“I’m not going to pee!”

“Oh really!”

“I’ll wait until we get out of state!”

And we’re off, leaving the cloudy, gusty airs of Hood River.


The Portland papermills are in full production for the weekend. My fuel injector cleaner asked that I add it to an empty fuel tank and then fill it. I said shove it, added the cleaner and mixed it into my full tank by hopping up and down on the rear bumper. All that rockin’ and sloshin’ has to be good for somethin’.

I really hope my car holds through and the cleaner works. If the cleaner doesn’t do the job I might need a new PCV valve or oxygen sensor. I hope I don’t need them before I want them.


Leaving Portland. The Green Dragon Wagon rolled over to 135,000 miles.

Outside Portland and northbound for Seattle, I set the cruise control to 74 mph and was hit by the stongest wave of homesickness I’ve had in months. 74 was the speed I always drove going to Duluth, and now I wanted this Washington freeway to suddenly turn into Hwy 35 and terminate in my port town. By the looks of the landscape here, with the rocks and hills and pine trees and hey hey, I should have been no more than an hour from Duluth. I wanted all my friends to be waiting on the other end. Alas, all I had was the lovely big-city carnage of Seattle.

The sickness passed after I saw a van from British Columbia loaded with four windsurfers on top. I was reminded why I was here.

Seattle is huge and beautiful and has a very busy airspace and it doesn’t rain nearly enough. Sweeping bridges, crystal blue waters filled with sailboats and big green wooded hills. My CD player overheated so I dialed into the Seattle FM scene and found an awesome funk/emo/beat/brass station that was playing this song by Junior Senior. Remember that song? I know I do. It defines my senior year at UMD.

And guess what? Junior Senior will be in Portland on August 31st.


Finally made it to the North Cascades. Sharp, razor blade mountains, as far as the eye can see. Glaciers, icefields, bleached white on stark grey peaks.

Green/blue rivers and lakes, that look more like flowing glass than water. If my car pitched off a cliff and landed in this water it would blend right in with chameleon-esque superpowers.

Found a campsite. It smells like the owners of the Red RV left their propane on, and I am convinced the whole thing is going to explode when the fellow goes out to burn his midnight Marb.

The mosquitoes here are stupid. They will brush your legs, forget that they never took any blood, and fly off. They’re so dainty and apologetic about taking blood that I hate it. Nevertheless, this trip doubled my mosquito take for the summer. I’m up to ten kills or so.

I slept on a blue tarp under the stars.


Woke up early this morning. Stove was on the fritz so I ate cold oatmeal.

This place is just too big. I can’t photograph it. I can’t write about it. I feel I don’t have the level of comprehension necessary to effectively communicate this place, this summer, these surroundings, this life, to people. I don’t even think I understand it enough for myself, let alone others.

Hence, I haven’t been taking many photographs. Anything I would take would be just the generic poorly-focused piece of crap everyone and their grandma takes when they step out of their car for three minutes. I need more. I can’t even justify spending the time on postcard pictures.

The memories of what I have experienced are not a complete understanding of the midwest. They cannot be unpacked and pieced together and be expected to be an accurate representation of that life. But the midwest has been encoded onto my soul. I am a nucleus. I contain all the DNA information necessary to recreate the midwest, but I am not the midwest. From what I know we can rebuild it; the stuff is in there. I have the blueprints, but it requires outside resources and inspiration to bring it into being.

I feel like I’ve reached the point where I have learned everything I can learn by myself. I need another set of senses around to help me see and hear.


By noon I already had a four mile dayhike with 2,000 feet of elevation gain under my belt. The hike to Pyramid Lake was neat. Cobwebs would crackle as they snapped on my arms and face. Soon I gave up brushing them off because there were entirely too many, and they would build up in stringy layers on my body. I climbed a cliff and was rewarded with an awesome view of mountains, a waterfall and Pyramid Lake. I nearly fell all the way back down.


Diablo Lake Overlook. I met Tom and Alga, who were out cycling their BMW around. Tom’s first job out of high school, in 1959, was in the Dalles surveying Mt. Adams. Then he went to Idaho and did the same thing. “It’s a job I’d still take today for the same pay.” The grey-haired Tom had some advice for the spunky Buglar. “Live ’til ya die, that’s what I always say.” He also said he was a fossil. I think he was a doctor, too.




Winthrop, Washington is a goldrush-themed ghost town. Everything is done up with weathered signs and wood and weathered wood signs. The town is buzzin’, so apparently the tourists are biting.


It smells like it wants to rain. That would be a neat change.


Yakima is a hellhole. The best thing to happen to this town is roof racks, and by the looks of things it didn’t even deserve that.


Two days and 800 miles later, I’m home.

yes, north cascades. sometime relatively soon i am going to take 2 weeks or so and do some wicked backpacking in that park. camping out here always makes me homesick…or at least wooch-sick. with wooch, for any given trip you could have half-a-dozen other crazy kids to go explore things that would best be left alone in the woods, but now i am lucky if i can get anyone other then Lady the dog to come with me. And Lady is just in it for the Pika’s ( little ground squirrel type things that live in the alpine and can actually scream).