Introducing our New Aussie, Brook

Brook on the Trail

Brook on the Gales Creek Trail

At the end of my Timberline to Cascade Locks backpacking segment I was crushed by the news that my beloved dog, Abby, had died unexpectedly. Abby was 12+ and not able to backpack with me any longer, but losing her at a time when I was experiencing a dream that she should have been sharing with me was tough. My wife and I knew we would find a new dog when we felt the time was right. Well this post is dedicated to introducing you to our new dog, Brook, another Australian Shepard who is destined to be my new backpacking buddy.

Brook came from Gearhart Aussies on the Oregon Coast about a month and we have survived puppy training.  Plenty of accidents have been cleaned up and not to much chewing damage has occurred.

Broncos Fan

Broncos Fan

There is a period of time with the new puppy where your lives are not yours. You have to cater to the needs of the puppy at the expense of your own desires. However, you know it is short-lived especially when dealing with the intelligence that comes with the Australian Shepard breed.

Brook is a Blue Merle Aussie with piecing blue eyes. Her color scheme is beautiful with perfect marking of the reddish fur. She has already shown her commitment to being a Broncos fan during last weekend’s AFC Championship. Now we will prepare for the Super Bowl.

We will also hit the trail soon to expose Brook to the discipline needed for backpacking. I like her disposition of displaying initial caution with strangers or unusual activity, however, she quickly evaluates the situation and reacts appropriately.

My wife works in a hospital and would like for Brook to possibly accompany her as a comfort dog for her patients. I think Brook will be perfect for this duty. But the primary job for Brook will be to provide companionship for us, function as a watchdog and allow us to love her unconditionally for the rest of her life. A Dog’s life is so tough.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Here is a video recap of the Gales Creek Hike in Tillamook State Forest.

Helping to Launch MacHub

I’m finished backpacking for a while so I have some time before I jump back into the IT world of higher education. This gives me the opportunity to volunteer full-time in support of a worthy non-profit that is based on selling donated items online so that the proceeds can go to a designated charity. It is called MacHub and it was all made possible because the successful online sales business, Swedemom, transitioned into this non-profit version. I had no idea that I would end up helping MacHub, it could be that  God had His hand on this and maybe He is calling in a favor for saving my life on the Lost Coast Trail earlier this month.

There is no doubt that this MacHub venture is a great idea, but success will take some hard work and discipline. There are all kinds of charity selling models that work for the local demographics. But what if you had an option to get top value for your donations by selling it online to an international market. Of course this concept was made possible by the eBay online selling model, but anyone who has sold on eBay knows that it is not that simple. MacHub has been discovered rather quickly here in McMinnville, OR, which means that managing growth has already become a problem. MacHub benefits include more then just cash for charities, jobs for the homeless is also an outcome. But it is a business that must control expenses so that the realized proceeds for the Charity will justify the effort.

Success for MacHub does appear to be inevitable. The transition of assets from Swedemom and the use of their sophisticated database and sales processing software is invaluable. Combine that with a community that immediately rallied around the concept thanks to strong support from the local Newspaper, a small grant and a parent organization, Yamhill County Gospel Rescue Mission, YCGRM, plus dedicated people and you have a winning formula. And as my departed mentor, Bill Mitchell, used to advise, the goal only needs to be to “Do Good”. 

What is really cool about this business model is that the donors can become partners. The simplest option is for a donor to just drop off items similar to the Goodwill model so that the proceeds can help cover the costs of the MacHub expenses. But a donor typically will designate the charity to receive the proceeds from the sale of their items, and they can get an account to actually check the status and validate the donation value for IRS purposes. Any organization can qualify to be a partner of varying levels based on the the amount of item preparation work they want to provide.

We are now working out the details for establishing an umbrella organization that will handle the administrative duties to ensure that the software continues to be developed and is maintained. The need for an umbrella non-profit is due to the interest by other organizations around the country wanting to start their own version of MacHub. We currently have a pilot version in Chicago that is more of a single charity supporting a large homeless shelter and one near St. Louis that is a community model like Mac Hub.

I Lost to the Lost Coast

LostCoastStart

Ready for the Lost Coast

I headed into my Lost Coast Trail backpacking trip confident that I would accomplish my goal to hike from Mattole Trailhead to Shelter Cove and return. I knew it was going to rain a couple of days, but the forecast called for 10 mph winds. I also knew I had some bad timing for when the low tides occurred during the first part of the week. But I did not dig deep enough into this data to be properly prepared for what was ahead.

The drive down to northern California through the Redwoods was great, my car loves roads like the Redwood Highway. I visited the BLM office in Arcata first thing Monday morning to get my waterproof map, so with that map also on my iPhone equipped to use GPS, I was well prepared for navigation.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The low tide on Monday was not going to allow me to get past the first high tide hazard stretch so I had a leisurely hike past a herd of cattle to end up camping next to the Punta Gorda Lighthouse. It was a beautiful evening as I overlooked a beach full of seals.

HighTideProblem

First Stretch of Tide Challenged Coastline

Low tide on Tuesday was at 9:33 am at 3.2 feet, so I entered the beginning of this 4 mile stretch before 9:00 am. Based on most reports I had read this stretch was not going to be a problem even if you were a few hours on either side of low tide. Unfortunately, I did not consider the actual height of the low tide. The trek through this segment was tough even without navigating the dangerous rock points of which there are about 5 that are really challenging. Some you can climb up and over, but the rocks were really slippery probably due to the higher then normal waves preceding the approaching storm. So I worked my butt off hiking over the beds of football size boulders. As I neared the last few hazard spots it seemed like it was far more dangerous then it should have been.

DifficultPoint

A Challenging Point

Then the last point before Spanish Flat nearly did me in. It was a point where you had to go between a large rock as the waves were crashing, however, it was all under water. As I tried to see around the corner to determine what I was up against I caught a full face wave that nearly pulled me into the ocean. At that point I couldn’t worry about waiting for the best wave timing so I jumped in to waist deep water and made it around. I was soaked but relieved to have survived.

Spanish Flat

Spanish Flat

I stopped at Spanish Flat, put on dry clothes and checked the tide tables to discover that the low tides that I was experiencing were the highest low tides of the year. That explained things, but now I was concerned about the next day’s stretch of tide hazardous coast with another 3.2 foot low tide, not to mention my concern about coming back.

SpanishFlatCampsite

Spanish Flat Campsite

So I opted to camp at a nice beach fortress just below Spanish Ridge. The winds were gaining strength which was good for drying out but it was also a bit foreboding knowing that rain was on the way. Yep, the rain started at sundown and the wind just kept getting stronger.

SpanishRidge

Beginning of Spanish Ridge

I decided to stay put through Wednesday with plans to hike up the Spanish Ridge Trail over to the Cooksie Spur Trail on Thursday.

I was up before sunrise Thursday morning with my backpack ready to go, just needed to take down the tent. I was so happy that it had not been raining for a few hours and the tent was dry. Unfortunately all hell broke loose at sunrise. The rain and the wind hit what I would call typhoon force. My line holding my tent fly broke, my tent stakes were being uprooted, water was rushing in so I had to go. Taking down a tent in gale force winds is challenging but I captured everything, but somehow lost my reading glasses. Of course I was instantly soaked but my Marmot Gore-Tex jacket was taking care of me.

ClimbingSpanishRidge

Climb to Spanish Ridge Trail

I decided to go straight up the side of Spanish Ridge and intersect with the trail which worked out fine thanks to the map I had with GPS location on my iPhone. The wind was blowing from the south so it was mostly going to be at my back.

My goal was to climb the 2400 foot Spanish Ridge Trail and then take the Cooksie Spur Trail over to Cooksie Creek since I would need water. TroubleLocationWell half way up the climb (see map) I was realizing that this wind was a real problem. As it whipped up the slopes it must have gained even more power, so much so that I was barely able to stand up. Then I really got hit, actually blown off my feet, and I was a 240 lb object. I was totally expose at this point, no trees or large rocks to shelter behind, so I laid face down next to a small rock that gave my head a little relief. I was pinned down about 45 minutes with the wind occasionally lifting me when it hit me between my body and backpack. Oh yes, and the rain was as hard as you could imagine. So here I am face down trying not to be blown off the mountain and I’m getting cold. The night before I had listened to a chapter in Lawton Grinter’s book “I Hike” about his experience with hypothermia, so I knew that the shivering, loss of feeling in my hands and feet and the desire to burrow  were typical of hypothermia. What was a bit fascinating from being in this predicament was getting a taste of what it may be like to face the real possibility of death.

Of course the human spirit doesn’t just give up, I had to do something because my current situation was hopeless. I fought to stand which was really hard because my legs were not working as I would have liked. Something told me that I needed to climb out of this, however, I had no way of knowing what was ahead, but my GPS map at least assured me that I was on track. I walked with my back to the wind using my trekking poles as braces to counter the force and I made it to an area where a small cornice offered some relief from the heavy wind. At this point I knew I had to warm up so I pulled out a wool shirt to add a layer under my rain jacket. This seemed to give me new motivation to press on at all costs. And pressing on was brutal. There were a few sections where the wind was at my back so I used it to essentially fly up the mountain, however, coming to a stop was never pretty. Then my backpack cover blew loose but was still attached to my backpack creating a spinnaker type sail that dragged me for 20 feet. In between my attempts to move forward I spent more time on my face trying to regroup. Overall it took me about 3 hours to travel about a mile through the really bad section of the ridge.

BeginningCooksieTrail

Beginning of Cooksie Ridge

Of course I did finally make it to the top and when I got off the Spanish Ridge Trail and onto the much calmer Cooksie Spur Trail I was singing praise to God for allowing me to live. From the looks of the map I knew that the Cooksie Trail was also going to present an exposed ridgeline so I opted for the best tree sheltered spot to pitch my tent with the goal to get into my sleeping bag and warm up. That evening was not great but it was so much better then what I had just experienced. I was very content to make it through the night with just 13 ounces of water. I had dry clothes, mostly wool, so I did eventually warm up.

The forecast for Friday was sunshine which held true, so I set out with the need to get to Cooksie Creek for water. I also decided that I had had enough of the Lost Coast and I really wanted to hike back to my car with dreams of a good meal and warm bed. But the hike out Friday turned out to be a lot tougher then I expected. Thank God for my GPS map locator since finding the trail to the creek was rather confusing. For some reason I thought that the trail was going to follow the creek back to the coast, but as I kept examining my map I realized I must cross the creek and then climb 650 feet and another 2 miles just to get back to the coast.

SwollenCooksieCreekWell of course the creek was swollen from all the rain so crossing it created some anxiety. Unfortunately I lost my backpack rain cover as I was crawling over a log for part of the crossing. I was really bummed about the simple climb because my legs were dead tired, but the weather was great and the motivation to end this trip lifted my effort. This was a typical view as I returned to the coast.BackToTheCoastThe first beach segment on this final coastal leg required navigating a few difficult points but it was at the (high) low tide. Surprisingly I ran into a single woman just entering this difficult stretch and it was an hour after low tide. I warned her that she might want to reconsider trying to make it to Spanish Flat, and I’m not sure what she decided. The rest of the hike out was not dangerous but it was exhausting.

FinalStretch

Final Stretch with the sun going down

Walking on loose sand with tired legs was tough, but the motivation was strong and the sunset was beautiful.SunsetGoodbye

When I finally got to my car at sundown (long day) I was met with yet another disappointment. I noticed that my gas cover was ripped open and then I noticed that all of my windshield wiper blades had been stolen. This was just so rude. Luckily I intentionally had less then half a tank which probably meant they didn’t get any gas. However, if it had been raining that would have been one dangerous drive back to Ferndale. I did get to Ferndale and I had a great NY Strip Steak and a much needed warm bed.

Psyched to Backpack the Lost Coast Trail

I am so grateful that I live near an ocean which provides the type of climate buffering conducive for backpacking. Lost Coast TrailThe “Lost Coast Trail” in the King Range National Conservation Area is just 8 hours to the south and offers an excellent challenge for a December trip. The Lost Coast Trail, LCT, North Section in the King Range offers the best beach access and is typically accomplished as a point to point with use 2 cars or a shuttle.

LCT PDF Map

LCT PDF Map

I won’t be hiking the South section which is in Sinkyone Wilderness State Park. My plan is to do a loop where I hike from Mattole Beach to Shelter Cove and then return with various inland trail options.

The use of GPS with the PDF-Maps App will be extremely helpful. The app’s search routine is flakey but if you search for BLM you will see the North and South Lost Coast Trail Maps that are free for download. This tool was very helpful when I used it for the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area.

I am really looking forward to this trip partly because I just need to get back to the wilderness and partly because the trip plan offers so many options. The option to regroup in Shelter Cove if the weather has been brutal. And the choices for inland trails are numerous which could also be dictated by weather conditions. Elevations approach 4000 ft so I suppose snow could be in the equation at least for a short period of time. This trip also justified my purchase of a BearVault which is required for the LCT. I opted for the BV500 in anticipation for its use on the John Muir Trail in the future. Plus I like the fact that it will serve as a nice camp seat, unfortunately it adds weight.

I’m actually looking forward to the high possibility of rain, I feel like I have unfairly dodged the rain element and I think it would be a good test to have to deal with inclement weather. All part of the adventure. I also like the idea of doing this trail in the low tourist and bug season. Anyways, I am pumped. I will drive down on November 30th and hit the trail on the 1st of December.

Hopes and Fears for Xfinity WiFi

Have you experienced Xfinity WiFi? Maybe positive, maybe annoying, but if you touch it once you will need to deal with it. At first I saw this WiFi SSID named xfinitywifi as intriguing, I tried to connect not knowing my Comcast account info at the time and for a period there after I dealt with xfinitywifi popping up all the time, and it was persistent enough to really annoy me. Well I removed it from my WiFi list and forgot about it for a while, until my consulting activity uncovered a possible use for it. If you are not up-to-date on what Comcast’s Xfinity Public WiFi is all about I suggest you view this short video.

I am engaged as a CIO consultant for a large retirement community, CCRC. One of our goals is to improve their overall WiFi options throughout their community. This community offers bulk Comcast Cable TV and the residents get to upgrade to Internet service or premium channels if desired. This has worked out well for all involved. Now the CCRC is interested in expanding and improving their common area WiFi coverage both for business and for convenience. There are opportunities where a more pervasive WiFi coverage could facilitate business transactions such as Point-of-Sale or allow more effective monitoring of residents for health or access control reasons. However, institutions such as this are typically dealing with large rebar heavy cement buildings that are terrible for conducting a WiFi signal. We can deploy a solid WiFi infrastructure in the more open common areas, but wouldn’t it be nice if you could depend on connectivity anywhere in the community. Placing our own WiFi APs throughout the residential area does not make sense both financially or technically. But wait, we already have all of those buildings wired with coax carrying Comcast service.

In a multi-tennant installation Comcast basically carves out a few channels to be used for Internet delivery or maybe a public TV channel. This offers some potential for independent services, maybe your own Internet, but in the bigger scheme of things it is probably best to let Comcast do what they are good at. There in lies the opportunity to possibly leverage the xfinitywifi hotspots to enhance your overall local common area WiFi service. You can’t rebrand xfinitywifi to your own public SSID but you could help your community understand how to take advantage of it. So there in lies the good I see for xfinitywifi.

WiFi SSIDs on my iPhone

WiFi SSIDs on my iPhone

What about the concerns we might have for xfinitywifi? We are talking about a huge customer footprint that is now using residential WiFi modems to distribute public xfinitywifi hotspots. I live in a high density relatively high tech area near Portland, OR, and I can walk anywhere without losing connectivity to xfinitywifi. Of course I have implemented my own secure certificate on my iPhone with their Xfinity Secure App, but what about the normal Joe who has no desire to understand this Comcast Xfinity Wifi business venture. It is most definitely built upon a serious business plan to be a major player in public wifi access. And if this happens on the backs of their customers modems, is that OK? That is a much larger topic that I am sure Comcast is being extremely careful not to over step their bounds. I believe Xfinity Public WiFi is a good thing, but it will create issues. Everyone should be aware of adding a secure VPN type connection if you plan to use their xfinitywifi. And above all we will need to monitor Comcast to insure that they are not misusing their access to our connection information.

A Night in Paradise Park

It had been 3 weeks since I last escaped to the wilderness so I just had to take advantage of the two day good weather forecast.

Timberline Ready for Winter

Timberline Ready for Winter

I initially tried to select another outing in the Tillamook State Forest since my last trip to Elk Mountain had been so rewarding, but something drew me to higher elevation. What about Mt. Hood, even if it may have gotten some fresh snow. Perfect, I had wanted to check out Paradise Park ever since my PCT segment that took me past the trail loop back in July. From Timberline Lodge it is about 5 miles to where I would want to camp. The Timberline webcams showed melting snow. The forecast called for a clear but cold night so let’s do it.

Cold Start

Cold Start

I packed my warmer bag and my perma-rest air mattress along with adequate warm cloths which turned out to provide sufficient comfort as the temperature may have hit a cold of 30 degrees. After a lunch buffet and IPA at Timberline I was off.

The typical day hike distance to the Zig Zag Canyon overlook and below offered a before and after shot showing just how much the weather changed from the trek in and next day return.

The trail takes you down to the bottom of the canyon and then you get to climb back up, but it went very well with a fresh body.

Autumn Color

Autumn Color

I was a little slower on the return trip as I was feeling some tired muscles. Hiking in late October does not provide the lush foliage but it was just as interesting seeing the mountain prepare for its winter blanket. I arrived at Paradise Park around 4:30 pm.

Setting Up Camp

Setting Up Camp

I scouted the terrain quickly selecting a campsite with a view and accepting the consequences of a cold wind. The October evening was playing out way to fast. I had to enjoy the view but I also needed to setup camp.

Deer Family Visitors

Deer Family Visitors

Then a family of deer, 4 doe and a young buck strolled by. They stood near looking at me as if to say, “what are you doing here”.

Back to the view, which was highlighted by the clouds opening to a valley exploding with sun rays. I had no idea what lay behind me as Mt. Hood was engulfed in a cloud. However, the hopes for a glorious sunset were high, but the temperature was dropping rapidly. The sunset did turn out to be unique but it was not photogenic due to the light sky above. The cold drove me into the tent where it seemed like I might be in for an uncomfortable evening.

It turned out to be just fine after I closed my air vents and put on a second pair of socks. It seemed like it was coldest at about 10 pm and then the wind shifted from the east. I wanted to enjoy the almost super moon rising over Mt. Hood but it was just too cold.

Mt Hood in Moonlight

Mt Hood in Moonlight

When I got up around 3 am it was awesome, a bit warmer and the moonlight exposing a clear Mt. Hood was gorgeous.

Good Morning

Good Morning

Morning brought a reluctance to leave the warmth of the sleeping bag even though the sunrise potential with a clear Mt. Hood was high. I quickly took it in and then slept in until 8ish. The sun was quickly providing welcome warmth allowing for a pleasant coffee and hot chocolate wakeup.

Joys of JetBoil

Joys of JetBoil

I hung around most of the morning enjoying the view from Paradise.

The hike back offered numerous views of Mt. Hood and Jefferson which I cherished via my many stops for rest.

Mt Hood's Glory

Mt Hood’s Glory

The impulse backpacking escape turned out to be perfect.

Mt. Jefferson

Mt. Jefferson

Return to Timberline Lodge

Return to Timberline Lodge

I am so grateful to be able to take advantage of God’s gift to us.

Mountain Top Experience

My backpacking choices just seem to get better and better. The weather October 5th was exceptional and I did not have any commitments for the start of the week so why not find a local backpacking trip. This one was stimulated when I stopped by the Tillamook State Forest Visitors Center and asked a forest ranger for a backpacking recommendation. I think the ranger knew I was serious because she gave me advice about trails that stated they were not for backpacking. Well the Elk and King Mountain summits caught my eye because they created a nice loop option for a day in day out quick trip.

Radically steep trail

Radically steep trail

I chose Elk Mountain because it appeared to be a relatively short but challenging hike to the summit which I could pull off with an afternoon start. It was 1.5 miles and a 1900 ft climb, which of course had to translate into a steep trail. I found a blog post at crystaltrulove.wordpress.com that was valuable for helping me understand the false summit confusion, but even though I was warned of the difficulty of the steep trail, I assumed it would be a quick way to knock off 1900 ft.

Views of Wilson River Valley along the Trail

Views of Wilson River Valley along the Trail

Well that 1.5 miles felt more like 5 and it took me about 3 hours to summit. The recommendation that this is not a back-packable hike would be accurate. But Oh what a reward at the top.

This trail has been adopted by the Mazamas for which I applaud their work in helping to make this trail available.

Summit Sign & Log Book

Summit Sign & Log Book

At the summit I signed the log book which the Mazamas have provided. This mountain top consisted of about 700 sq ft of land with maybe enough space for 20 people and one campsite.

Elk Mtn. Summit Campsite

Elk Mountain Summit Campsite

I had it all to myself and the evening was shaping up for a good sunset. This was too good to be true when you consider what would be the nicest front porch view you could have for an evening. Again, the weather was perfect with very little breeze so I setup camp and had dinner as I watched the sun set over King Mountain.

The gallery of photos below gives you a feel for the sunset and the coming prize of the starry night. There was no moon and you are far enough away from the Portland metro area lights to have excellent star viewing.

This was definitely a no fly on your tent night.

The experience got even better with the sunrise.

I jumped out of the sleeping bag to take photos and kept the camera close as I had my coffee.

I knew that the back side of Elk Mountain also offered up some radical vertical which is even more difficult going down, but it was not as extensive as the climb up.

What did surprise me was the 2 mile segment to the Kings Mountain Trail that inserted more summit climbs and more awesome views of the valley. Another pleasant surprise was how beautiful the final 4.8 miles of the Elk Creek Trail turned out to be.

This was truly a Mountain Top Experience.

Sleep by a Mountain

Mt Jefferson from Whitewater Trail

Mt Jefferson from Whitewater Trail

When you have discovered the joy of being one with nature the call to return to the wilderness if often heard. I may not have time to put together week long outings, but a few days away sure does recharge the battery. On labor day I shared a great Oregon coast hike from Arch Cape to Cape Falcon in the Oswald West State Park just south of Cannon Beach.

Bays Lake

Bays Lake

The last 2 days, September 18-19, 2015, I visited the Mt Jefferson Wilderness Area for a night next to a mountain. The weather in Oregon is beginning to feel like Autumn is just around the corner, so a beautiful weekend of heat and sun called for a jaunt up to Mt. Jefferson. This area of the Cascades is extremely popular which will dictate a reservation only option starting next year for campsites near the many lakes.

Relaxing

Relaxing

So with the motivation of choosing the best campsite available I took advantage of the beautiful weather and an early Friday start to backpack into Jefferson Park. The area had received a lot of rain which turned out to be an added bonus as the moisture seemed to spark life into the mostly brown vegetation, not to mention clearing the air for spectacular views of Mt. Jefferson. It appeared that all of the little ponds and wetland area was filled up with the recent rain and thanks to the warm sunny day which heated up the ponds offering me an enjoyable spot to soak my feet. I parked at the Whitewater Trailhead for the 6 mile and 2100 vertical hike which was just perfect for my old body which was in ready for the exercise. I think I may need to do a trip like this at least every few weeks to keep that healthy feeling.

Russell Lake

Russell Lake

I ended  up camping at the east end of Russell Lake which offered some privacy and an excellent view of Jefferson. Since I was essentially at the furthest campsite in the Jefferson Park area I had to respond to a number of groups who came all that way only to realize that all the campsites were taken.

Sunset next to a Mountain

Sunset next to a Mountain

The sun dropped quickly as did the temperatures but with it came some intriguing sunset cloud formations around Mt. Jefferson. Of course I took about a hundred photos to end up selecting this one of the sunset with the half exposed mountain. When conditions are optimal one should always consider sleeping next to a mountain. It was a cold night though, had to totally zip up the mummy sleeping bag.

Campsite on Russell Lake

Campsite on Russell Lake

The humid air made for heavy dew but the early rays of sun quickly warmed everything up and dried out the tent.

The return to the car made for an easy mostly downhill hike in which I took the opportunity to checkout all of the lakes in the Jefferson Park area. I figured if I was going to have to make a reservation for a campsite I wanted to know what they all looked like. The final shot of Mt. Jefferson was as good as it gets.

Classic Shot of Mt Jefferson

Classic Shot of Mt Jefferson

A MOOC Strategy that Worked

It appears that Udacity, one of the early MOOCs, founded by Sebastian Thrun, has found a profitable model based on vocational training. When the MOOCs started out the assumed model was the college course which made total sense with respect to attracting university partners and investment dollars. What a frenzy they created 3-4 years ago as the elite universities strutted their expertise in education technology. MOOCs could make college accessible to the masses, unfortunately, that may not have been what the masses needed nor what the higher education wanted. The elite universities jumped on the bandwagon to make sure they had some control over the destiny of these Massively Open Online Courses, MOOCs. MOOCs have been successful with respect to exposure of college courses to the masses but they have been a dismal failure when evaluated against traditional college courses. That is exactly what higher education wanted, validation that their course delivery model was superior to these new online options.

The New York Times article, “Udacity Says It Can Teach Tech Skills to Millions, and Fast” gives us the story on how transitioning to a vocational training model is paying off for Udacity’s bottom line and for the careers of their students. The test market was obvious, software development, which has been pioneering new models based on the boot camp concept of intensive training typically under the guidance of the interested employers. Good jobs exist for coders of today’s popular development platforms. AT&T has been a leader in trying to manipulate the traditional computer science degree feeder system. I was highly impressed with their Georgia Tech and Udacity partnership to create an affordable MS degree in Computer Science. But that degree program was about affordability and marketing, not about a more successful MOOC model.

Udacity’s new program, Nanodegree, “Credentials built and recognized by industry leaders to advance your career”, appears to be the successful outcome to all of the trial and error experience gained by the MOOCs. The financial commitment of $200 per month with the incentive to receive half of it back upon successful program completion within a year is the motivation needed by the 10,000 students currently enrolled. The concept is still work at your own pace so one could turn this into a very affordable boot camp solution. I am currently enrolled in the Udacity course “JavaScript Basics” for the fun of it and so far Udacity has done an excellent job of coaching me to be successful.

The MOOC supporters such as AT&T may have finally found the right formula with Udacity’s Nanodegree. Instead of hiring college graduates with programming aptitude and retraining them maybe the corporate employers have finally found a way to satisfy their appetite for software developers.

Reflections

I have been reflecting about my last 3 months of backpacking. What stands out the most for me is that I actually did it, I fulfilled a dream.

Greg on the Trail

Greg on the Trail

The incredible adventure of it all accentuated by my adopted carefree approach filled in any remaining confidence gaps that I may have had. Backpacking, especially on the Pacific Crest Trail can be extremely difficult. You do ask yourself, why am I doing this, but then you find yourself in some of the most amazingly beautiful secluded places on earth and realize how fortunate you are. That realization is highlighted a bit more when you are 61 years old with 2 artificial hips. Overall, I backpacked over 280 miles with over 50K of vertical. The trip reports for the various segments are presented in my blog: http://higheredtechtalk.org which I now refer to as Higher Elevation Tech Talk.

My transition from being a Chief Information Officer, CIO, at major STEM research university in the middle of America played out quickly and a bit unexpectedly. Contributing factors included my frustration with university system leadership and policy, loosening of family regional ties due to the passing of parents and a desire to return to the stronger ties that still existed in the Northwest. Many of my friends and peers must have wondered how could I walk away from such a solid job before heading off into the unknown. The fact I had no reservations about the move surprised me the most. My wife, getting a job in Oregon, definitely helped ease the worry; but I resigned before she started looking for a job. We have never shied away from adventure, in fact this was move 25 in our 38 years of marriage. I look at this adventure as an investment in myself with the backpacking experiences as an investment in memories for retirement. As my wife told me, if you don’t pursue this dream now, maybe later you won’t be able to.

I am now back to work as a consultant tackling the typical technology challenges I used to deal with as a CIO. I have no idea where the path now leads, however, there are plenty of options for someone who can get things done. I mentioned filling in some confidence gaps, I’m not exactly sure what those gaps were, but I do know what I accomplished during this backpacking adventure has provided a sense of ultimate completion.

When I was at Missouri S&T my employees referred to me as the snowplow, meaning I cleared the way for them to be successful. I guess I did a bit of plowing to make this backpacking adventure turn out as well as it did. First, I had to “Just Do It” which was easy for me. I didn’t have all the answers but I knew that I could quickly figure it out, like adapting to a flexible trail schedule, optimizing my equipment and understanding my body’s physical limits. Then I was able to optimize the experience for maximum enjoyment return. So when a trail is closed choose another, or if conditions are deteriorating then change your plan. This is the same in business, you react to the available data, but you have to react. At the management level, choosing a trip with no forest fire closure is a fairly easy choice, but on the trail, implementing decisions based on path, distance and weather minimizes risk. Success comes from your efficiency in making the best decision at the right time.

Owen Point Section of Map

Owen Point Section of Map

I think back to the end of my recently completed 75K backpacking segment, the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island, BC. My plan was to camp on the beach near Owen Point to setup for the next morning passage at low tide below 6 feet. Well I never found a place to camp and ended up at Owen Point late in the afternoon.  I had a small window of opportunity to get through, low tide was only 5.2 feet at 4:40 pm.

Boulder Beach

Beach Boulders to Navigate

This was a critical decision point, I had already hiked 14K and my body was tired, continuing on committed me to the navigation of two kilometers of a beach piled high with massive boulders to get to Thrasher Cove. Also, I had heard that a storm was coming so I did want to make sure I could end the trip the following day. My decision was to get past Owen Point then and deal with the boulders. Getting past Owen Point even at low tide was difficult and I slipped into the ocean soaking my boots but I saved my backpack. Now the boulders in wet boots. That 2K stretch of beach turned out to be one of the most physically strenuous efforts I have ever put myself through. I loved it, the adrenaline kicked in with my focus entirely on the goal of reaching Thrasher Cove which I accomplished in time to secure a campsite that I correctly calculated to be on ground above high tide.

Accomplishment is a powerful reward, but it only comes from your willingness to tackle a challenge. It is the same in your professional career, and what I have always sought out. I’m sure I will take on a few more professional challenges but I will also continue to balance life with wilderness challenges to ensure the fulfillment of more dreams.

The Adventure Continues

The West Coast Trail – Vancouver Island, BC

I finished off my 2 month backpacking adventure by choosing to leave the hot, dry, smokey Pacific Crest Trail to take on the infamous West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island, BC.

Start of WCT at Pachena Bay

Start of WCT at Pachena Bay

This was totally a spur of the moment decision to go for this unique backpacking destination. I only knew about this trail because my wife found it listed in a top backpacking destinations of the world listing in response to my frustrations with the PCT conditions. Most who take on this trip will get their permits early in the year and plan for months. I had a day to replace my REI tent and schedule a few important things like ferry and bus reservations. I actually got the date wrong for the ferry but all worked out without a hitch, I even stayed at the Ocean Island backpackers hostel in Victoria, BC, the night before. On August 21st I road the 5+ hour bumpy bus ride to Pachena Bay Trailhead and got the last walk on permit available. This was just meant to happen with the added bonus of perfect weather.

After a required orientation session put on by the Canadian Parks Service I set out via the beach trailhead for a 12K destination of the Michigan Creek Campsite.

Michigan Creek Campsite

Michigan Creek Campsite

You are provided an excellent waterproof trail map which I quickly realized steered you to designated camping areas which typically had a bear vault for food and a composting outhouse. I went along with this option the first night but there after I tried to camp by myself on the beach whenever possible. I wasn’t being anti-social, I just am not used to that type of control. The West Coast Trail is much more geared to groups which is really important for the motivation and teamwork needed to complete the trail successfully. I did get to know many, typically Canadians and Europeans who were on the same trail schedule as I was. The West Coast Trail is considered an accomplishment of a lifetime for the many casual backpackers who attempt it. As a solo older hiker I was a bit of an anomaly.

The first day’s 12K segment was relatively easy in comparison to the previous PCT segments I had been on. But it was a different kind of difficult in that the trail presented so many situations of risk. I slipped, stumbled and fell far more times on this trail then all of my miles on mountain trails.

Fear Of Heights was Not an Option

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

You had to overcome any fear of heights that you might have, ladders, log bridges, pulley cable cars and boulder hopping.

Mud and Roots

Mud and Roots

I did have to use my first aid kit a few times. I mentioned slippery, mud is a big part of the trail, however, I again benefitted from the period of dry weather, so I believe the typical muddy root infested climbs were tame compared to how they might have been in a normal wet environment. I never had to use my gaiters.

Sea Lions with Whale spotting

Sea Lions with Whale spotting

Wild life on the trail consisted mostly of sea life. There were a couple a great Sea Lion viewing sites and you saw whales every day. Also lots of sea gulls and on the trail a fair number of small snakes. I was a bit disappointed that I did not get to experience a bear sighting, I intentionally hiked on the trail as quietly as possible, however, many of the hikers had bells on their packs.

If you have ever enjoyed coastal beauty you can relate to what became the norm for me on the this trail. Hundreds of photo worthy views of spectacular coastline. This would have been the trip for a better camera, however, you would probably break it in one of your falls.

Typical Coastline Views

My second night I searched for a private beach campsite which I found just past the Klanawa River.

You are advised not to camp outside of the designated camp areas, but the chance to camp on a secluded beach with a fire was worth ignoring the advice. I did hang my food from a tree not so much for fear of bears but in case I was questioned about camping alone on the beach.

I think that night alone on a wilderness beach with the fire, sunset and moon was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had.

The third day required a long stretch of trail to just get to the next campsite option. Since I camped a few kilometers prior to the popular Tsusiat Falls, my day was even longer.

Fresh Salmon Lunch

Fresh Salmon Lunch

The reward though was a fish or crab lunch at the Nitinat Narrows. The native Indians provide a ferry service which conveniently takes you to their outdoor cafe on the water for a selection of Halibut, Salmon or Crab. Oh yes, and beer.

New Boardwalk

New Boardwalk

I opted for the Salmon but only had one beer since I still had 10K to hike to the Cribs Creek campsites. Thankfully that 10K stretch included a lot of boardwalk which you came to highly appreciate.

I was halfway done with the trail but you are fore warned that the northern segment is easier then the southern which was still ahead of me.

Trail Kilometers

Trail Kilometers

The trail did provide a nice feature of Kilometer markers. Typically you could do 3K per hour on good trail but only 1K on the difficult sections.

Colorful Mushrooms

Colorful Mushrooms

There were not many flowers on the trail, however, they would have been absorbed by the overabundance of vegetation. There were some interesting mushrooms though.

Relaxing at Chez Monique's

Relaxing at Chez Monique’s

The following day presented another cafe option known as Chez Monique’, a burger tent on the beach. This was too good to be true, a great burger with beer. Well since I put in such a long day prior and I was not on a strict schedule I decided to camp nearby and take the afternoon off with a burger and a number of tallboy brews. My photo shows that I also tempered the beer with some Pepsi. It was a fascinating day of conversations. The guy in the photo with the red shirt was giving a presentation in Vancouver on the Functional programming language GHCJS Haskell. And Monique was an assembly language programmer back in the fifties.

I was able to stumble back to my tent for a really good night’s sleep.

I spent the next night at Walbran Creek with about 40 others. I decided to be social and it was good. I did help a young lady with a foot blister problem understand that moleskin is intended to replace or cover your skin. She was putting it on at night and taking it off to hike??? Walbran did offer the nicest swimming hole but it had accumulated a bit too much seagull droppings for me.

The next day’s trail along the beach offered some of the most beautiful views yet.

My goal for the next day was to seek out another private beach campsite and I had hopes for an option before I got to Owen Point which requires a very low tide to navigate through the caves. Low tide was early in the morning so I hoped to be close to hit it the next day.

Beach Before Owen Point

Beach Before Owen Point

Well I entered the beach trail a few kilometers before Owen Pt. but could not find a suitable campsite.

Owen Point Section of Map

Owen Point Section of Map

So I ended up at Owen Point around 4:30 pm which was close to low tide, plus there were others who had been waiting there for the tide to recede. At this point I had to get past the caves but that meant I would have to navigate the dreaded boulder field for the next 3K to get to the Thrasher Campsite. I made it around Owen Point but not without partially falling into the ocean and getting my boots soaked.

I did save my backpack by giving up some skin off my elbows.

Boulder Beach

Boulder Beach

I mentioned the boulder field, Wow, navigating this section of beach over massive boulders at the end of a tiring day may be one of my most impressive physical accomplishments. I actually traversed them rather quickly, maybe I was just amazed that I was doing such a crazy thing. All I remember is that when in doubt about the path take the high road. Sometimes you ended up climbing over trees and boulders 2 stories high. Jumping down to boulders with a backpack did take a toll on my thighs, but I recovered quickly.

Once I got to Thrasher beach campsite I was faced with a crowded selection of real estate.

Thrasher Campsite

Thrasher Campsite

Prime locations were on high ground since we were expecting a higher than normal tide to hit around 11:00 pm. I chose a spot on on a level that did present some risk, but I had large trees that would protect me from waves. As it turned out most everyone stayed up to make sure that we did not get washed away. All part of the adventure.

Sunrise over Port San Juan

Sunrise over Port San Juan

The next morning brought a beautiful sunrise and less dew then typical so all was set for the final hike out to Port Renfrew. The last section was only 5K but it was a tough go with many root climbs, ladders and mud. I was excited to complete the trail but also sad for it to be over. The entire week I was blessed with perfect weather. Those starting the trail that day, August 27th, were in for many days of heavy rain.

Port Renfrew

Port Renfrew

I opted for a quick shower at the campground before going into Port Renfrew where I had halibut fish and chips. Excellent.

Dungeness Crab Lunch

Dungeness Crab Lunch

The bus got me back to Victoria by 8:00 pm, I got a hotel, then enjoyed some sight seeing in Victoria the next morning with a lunch of Dungeness Crab at Fisherman’s Wharf before catching the ferry back to the U.S.

What an amazing couple of months of backpacking and what a fantastic finish with the West Coast Trail, Hike of a Lifetime.

Stevens Pass to Snoqualmie Pass

Stevens Pass Ski Area

Stevens Pass Ski Area

I backpacked the Stevens Pass to Snoqualmie Pass, PCT Washington Segment J from Aug. 8-16, 2015. It is 71 miles and over 18,000 vertical. This trip on the heals of my Spider Gap Buck Creek loop was challenging in many ways, most of which was related to heat, lack of water, lots of vertical and smokey conditions. Overall though it is a very dramatic PCT segment complete with very rugged and beautiful terrain.

Campsite in Berries

Campsite in Berries

Starting off at the Stevens Pass Ski area was kind of cool thinking about how I might ski those runs that I was hiking. I was also treated to an abundance of huckleberry and blueberries for the first couple of days.

Mig Lake

Mig Lake

My second day I had my sights set for a campsite on top of a mountain but along the way I passed many lakes of which I think the most beautiful was Mig Lake.

Trap Lake

Trap Lake

At my mountain top campsite at PCT 2450 which was after a typical 3000 ft vertical climb day I had Trap Lake behind me and a beautiful sunset waiting ahead of me. One of the best campsites I have chosen.

Sunset from Campsite

Sunset from Mountain Top Campsite

The following day I planned on camping at Deception Lake, however,

Jets over the Wilderness

Jets over the Wilderness

I was not that impressed with the options and I knew it would end up being crowed with the many through hikers now hitting this part of Washington. I pressed on and found a great campsite just south of Deception Creek at PCT 2442. The photo showing the jet exhaust trail represents the many jets that you hear flying over this area out of Seattle. You never see the military jets which fly lower and louder.

Cathedral Rock

Cathedral Rock

The next day I climbed past the Cathedral Rock area but overall I took it easy and ended up at Deep Lake which offered a great site for a swim. Deep Lake still had water flow but it was low and the lake was warming up.

Deep Lake

Deep Lake

I knew that I had a tough high vertical day coming up so I also took it a bit easy the following day in preparation to climb over Escondido Pass. I knew that water was going to be an issue and when I realized that my Camelbak bladder had leaked I was a bit concerned.

Smoke Over Lake Waptus

Smoke Over Lake Waptus

I did find a trickle of a stream where I filled up a Nalgene liter but I would need more. This was a long and exposed segment that turned out to be on one of the hottest days along with a lot of smoke sneaking into the area from the Washington forest fires.

Escondido Pass

Escondido Pass

There are a couple of dead lakes on top but who wants to drink warm water. It turned out that I did not have enough water or energy which made for a very difficult day. Boy was I happy when I finally got to a cool stream over near Lemah Meadows. I setup camp as it was getting dark and I collapsed for a night’s sleep to recharge. I did experience an interesting event that night as I believe a large buck must have been startled by my tent which was fairly near the trail. This was at 1:30 am and this buck sounded like he raised up and pounded his hooves 3times right next to my tent. Nothing I could do but just lay there.

I took it easy the next day in preparation for more climbing.

Weather Changing

Weather Changing

My plan was to camp near the Park Lakes area which turned out to be as far as I could get before the rain set in.

Campsite during Storm

Campsite during Storm

In all of my backpacking I have been extremely fortunate with respect to weather, rarely have I endured a serious rain. Well that all changed with a night of wind and rain which was sorely needed by the draught stricken mountains. I did choose a good campsite next to a lake on top of ground shrubs which made for good drainage for the night long rain. The video gives you an idea of how pleasant the night long rain was.

Park Lakes Area

Park Lakes Area

The following day turned out to be a lot tougher then I expected, lots of up and downs, but the misty weather made for excellent hiking conditions.

Above Alaska Lake

Above Alaska Lake

This is very scenic terrain and doing it in the clouds made for a unique day. Again my day stretched to the end of my energy just in time to make camp at Ridge Lake, just before it started raining again.

Hiking in the Clouds

Hiking in the Clouds

Not so bad, just persistent. But this was my last night on the PCT since Snoqualmie Pass was over the next pass. Of course the sun came out just as I got on the trail. It would have been nice to have had the sun to dry some things out before heading out.

After the Storms

After the Storms

However, the rain brought crystal clear air for some of the most beautiful terrain left on the segment. This is a very popular day hike segment for the Seattle folks so I passed hundreds of them as I headed down to Snoqualmie Pass.

Then you see Mt. Rainier and you can get cell service. This all translated into a wonderful finish to this PCT segment. After getting my resupply at the Chevron Station and showering I enjoyed a few craft beers from the Dru Bru Brewery.

Spider Gap Buck Creek Loop

I am sorry for being a bit late on posting about our Spider Gap Buck Creek Loop trip, Aug 1-6. As expected this loop was amazing and lived up to our high expectations.

Spider Gap from Spider Meadow

Spider Gap from Spider Meadow

Every year I do a loop like this with friends and when we have asked other backpackers what they believe to be the best loop, Spider Gap Buck Creek tends to be the winner. And it is truly an awesome loop complete with incredible vistas, challenging climbs and unique topography.

We decided to take the counter clockwise route beginning with the Spider Meadow Phelps Creek trail. The meadow was beautiful but it was obvious that we had missed the high flower point by a few weeks.

Spider Gap Snow Field

Spider Gap Snow Field

Taking it easy the first day we planned for the Spider Gap climb which is broken into an initial 1000 ft climb on a fairly rugged rock trail and then another 1000 ft climb on up the snow field. The reward at the top was worth the climb.

Coming over Spider Gap

Coming over Spider Gap

The view into the Lyman Lakes Valley and Glacier was highlighted by rugged terrain which turned out to offer up a bit of a scare to us. We made the mistake of assuming the trail to the east would eventually wind down to the valley. Wrong, so I advised that we backtrack and go down the snow field. Unfortunately, Bob, who hates to backtrack decided to take the short cut down the mountain slope. This was not communicated well and we ended up getting separated from Bob.

Camp site at Lyman Lakes

Camp site at Lyman Lakes

The outcome of this turned into a nervous search for Bob who did eventually turn up to relieve our fears after he had a bit of a hair raising decent down the side of the mountain ending up further down the valley. Our concern stemmed from the dangerous loose rock navigation that could easily result in a slid or a fall. But all was well and we settled in between the Lyman Lakes.

Old Backpackers

Old Backpackers

The following day took us over Cloudy Pass which lived up to its name. This is also about the time we began enjoying an over abundance of blueberries and huckleberries. Again we kept losing Bob because he couldn’t resist stopping and eating the berries.

First View of PCT Fire Aug. 3

First View of PCT Fire Aug. 3

This is when we first saw the fires which have wreaked havoc with the PCT Trail closure. At this time the big fires over at Lake Chelan had not blown up yet. As we climbed over the pass we got to speak with many of the local Whistle Pig population.

Spider Gap and Lyman Lakes

Spider Gap and Lyman Lakes

This was also when we discovered that the detour to Stehekin was no longer an option for the PCT’ers. We went about half way to Image Lake and turned around figuring that the weather was not going to present us with enough reward. After talking to others who went over I think it was the right decision.

Fortrace Mountain

Fortrace Mountain

We camped across from Fortress Mountain. This was the Suiattle Pass Junction area where the PCT closure was spelled out.

PCT Closure Aug. 4th

PCT Closure Aug. 4th

We continued on with our loop up to Buck Creek Pass knowing that we would have time for a side hike. We setup camp at the top of the pass while the weather still looked good and we decided to do the Liberty Cap trail.

Will Clouds Lift off Glacier Peak

Will Clouds Lift off Glacier Peak

Looking back to Suiattle Pass

Looking back to Suiattle Pass

I highly recommend this route which offers fabulous views of Glacier Peak.

Liberty Cap

Liberty Cap

Well the weather started to change once we got up on Liberty Cap which caused us some concern but also offered beauty in the cloud formations.

Storm Approaching Glacier Peak

Storm Approaching Glacier Peak

We got back to camp just in time to avoid the rain.

Buck Ridge

Buck Ridge

The next morning it was still miserable on the pass but we could see that there was sun in the valley on our route back to the Trinity Trailhead. The annual backpacking loop trip with friends was again a great success, however, this year I was set to continue on for a few more weeks.

End of the Trail

End of the Trail

My original plan was to get my resupply and go from Stevens Pass to Canada, however, the fires forced a change to that strategy. So I decided to go from Stevens Pass to Snoqualmie Pass for my next segment.

Fires Force Reroute of My PCT Backpacking

Heading South from Stevens Pass

Heading South from Stevens Pass

The Spider Gap Buck Creek Loop backpacking trip was awesome.

The forest fires around Glacier Peak increased in number and size to prevent me from backpacking from Stevens Pass to Stehekim, so I have decided to go south from Stevens Pass instead. Starting Saturday August 8th I will head south from Stevens Pass to resupply at Snoqualmie Pass on I90. I will then go on to White Pass for a total of

I will provide trip report blog post when I return at the end of August.

The Stevens Pass to Snoqualmie segment was awesome and challenging. Lot’s of vertical plus some heat and rain. The view of Mt. Rainier was a welcome on a beautiful Sunday.

Mt. Rainier heading into Snoqualmie Pass

Mt. Rainier heading into Snoqualmie Pass

Oregon Central Coast

Proposal Rock

Proposal Rock in Neskowin, OR

I have been off the trail for 2 weeks and it seems like an eternity. I’m not sure if I just miss the wilderness or I am just overly pumped for the upcoming longer commitment. It was insightful to go through the planning steps for coordinating a month on the trail and sending off resupply boxes. I have an even greater respect for the PCT through hikers who figure this out for many months. But I am ready to go. The Spider Gap Buck Creek Loop with friends will be fabulous and then on to Canada on the PCT. Thankfully it appears the forest fires are under control.

North Neskowin Beach

North Neskowin Beach

In preparation for this next backpacking commitment I have been fortunate to spend about a week down at our townhouse in Neskowin. We have a 1/12 fractional share which is priceless (there may be a share for sale) The weather has been fabulous and the hiking opportunities around Neskowin are as good as it gets for the Oregon Coast. Let me give you a glimpse of my hiking preparation over the last 3 or 4 days.

View South from Cascade Head

View South from Cascade Head

Hiking the beach is always great exercise by way of distance and solitude. Rarely are there any other humans once you get a mile or so north of Neskowin. Hiking on Cascade Head should always be done either from above or below.

View from Cape Foulweather

View from Cape Foulweather

My daughter motivated me to go for a longer hike so we opted for the trails behind Cape Pepetua scenic coastline. On the drive down we needed to stop at Cape Foulweather because the view is awesome. The Cape Perpetua coastline is considered the most beautiful in America and the hiking trails in the Siuslaw National Forest offer exposure to impressive old growth forests.

The Thumb

The Thumb

The unexpected hiking delight turned out to be the Thumb Trail which is a little known trail that starts at the end of Roads End in Lincoln City. A short hike with some serious technical climb to the Thumb but the view is second to none on the coast.

Cascade Head from Thumb

Cascade Head from Thumb

This discovery was extra special since it gave me a view of Cascade Head from the South.

Lincoln City from Thumb

Lincoln City from Thumb

This area is not really setup for serious traffic so please take care of this gem. The top of the Thumb is a bit dangerous especially with strong winds, it drops off on 3 sides.

Is this too good to be true?