Saturday, August 14, 2010

The "Disraeli Gears" Pass Through Oregon on the PCT

Last April I met the "Disraeli Gears" while day hiking on the Southern California section of the Pacific Crest Trail. They are three 20 something Israeli soldiers who had just been discharged from their duties and decided to make the PCT the adventure of a life time. The name, "Disraeli Gears" comes from the title of a 1968 album by the Rock band, Cream. When Thomas, Yuval and Ishai started out on the Pacific Crest Trail another PCT hiker noticed that they hiked as though they were marching in lock step with each other. They appeared to be a machine on the trail and with a little creative association ... voila! "Israeli Gears!" Ishai admitted that they hiked as though the were still going on patrol with the Israeli army.

The "Disraeli Gears" are from left to right: Tomas, Yuval, and Ishai

Well, the "Gears" arrived at Cascade Locks on the boarder of Oregon and Washington just a couple of days ago (August 12th). When I met them on the trail three months ago I offered to hike with the guys for a few days when they got up here in Oregon. I received a call from Ishai last weekend and he said that they were near the Three Sisters Wilderness section of the PCT and moving at a 35 mile per day pace! I declined joining them, since I could not get off work with such little notice, but I did agree to meet them at Cascade Locks and treat them to a cold beer and hot lunch at Connie and Jeff Ganz' Pacific Crest Trail Pub and Hostel right there in Cascade Locks.

Pam went to the Locks Thursday morning, which was the anticipated day they would arrive, and I followed up after work. They arrived at the Locks at about 2PM. Yuval was a couple of days behind Thomas and Ishai, so we missed him. Thomas needed to finish the entire trail by the first week in September in order to get back to his sister's wedding in Israel, so Ishai stayed with him and set a fast pace to get there in time. Yuval joined up with another group of hikers, opting for a slower pace. Or course, slow to these guys is 20 miles a day!

We offered to take them home with us in Wilsonville to replenish their supplies and rest up for the final 500 mile Washington stretch. They gladly took us up on the offer, which was our priviledge and blessing. The picture above is Ishai on the left and Thomas on the right soaking their worn out feet. Pam was able to given them her special "foot spa" that she so much enjoys providing for guests. They had been struggling with athlete's foot for a long time, so a good epsom salts soak was just what they needed. Having done some long distance hiking I know how it feels to get a shower, rest on a comfortable bed, and drink a cold beer after a week on the trail. They were so happy to be refreshed!

Here are Thomas and Ishai enjoying a nice mexican dinner with us in Canby. They don't have Mexican restaurants in Israel!

While staying with us, Ishai and Thomas replenished their food supply for the last stretch. Notice the diet! I wouldn't mind Snicker bars twice a day!

Thomas said his new package of Frosted Flakes, shown here, taste just as good crushed after a couple of days in his pack!

Pam and I took the guys out to see the llamas. Here Ishai is feeding our miracle llama, Rainy. Ishai said that the Israeli army uses llamas for packing gear in the rugged mountains of Israel.

Time to get back on the trail after a day's rest. Here, Ishai and Thomas are putting on their shoes in the park before crossing the Bridge of the God's in Cascade Locks.

Beginning the Washington section of the PCT by crossing the Columbia River over the Bridge of the Gods.

I offered to take them across the Bridge to begin the PCT on the Washington side, but they immediately declined my offer, insisting that they cross themselves. I had forgotten that crossing this bridge is a true milestone for every PCT hiker!

Blessings to you, Ishai and Thomas, as you travel through Washington and may you arrive in Canada happy and healthy!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

MISSING LLAMA! Rainy's Lost in the Mount Hood Wilderness (Part III)


I had planned on going out this past weekend to search for Rainy and was hoping that a few people would jump in and help. All week long at work I stressed about her being up in those mountains alone, or perhaps attacked and eaten by a mountain lion. We put out the all points bulletin during the week and got the help we needed by Friday afternoon. A special thanks to Doug Fairrington, John Staub, Pamella Watson and David Watson. They were all extremely helpful and a delightful group. I know others wanted to help, but where constrained by work and other duties. I thank you all for your consideration!

On Friday afternoon I set up a camp site in the area (zone) where Rainy was lost. It was a meadowy spot just below Palmeteer Point on the old Barlow Road, which the immigrant wagon trains used to cross the mountains in to Oregon's Willamette Valley. A very historic location. I brought several llamas with me, so that if Rainy saw them she might come to them, since llamas are very social creatures. That evening Doug Fairrington joined me at the camp and we ate a very nice dinner before going to bed.

The next day, Saturday, not long after breakfast, my brother John showed up and managed the camp for us. He recently broke his toe and couldn't walk very well, which was actually fortuitous for me, because I needed a good camp manager!

Shortly after Doug and I headed out in to the forest the Watson's showed up and John was able to direct them on their search of an area where Doug and I were not going.

The plan that Doug and I put together involved zig zagging up the valley walls until we got to the top of Palmeteer point, where Rainy took off in to the forest. Our rationale was that we could cover a lot of ground this way and we surmised that she would have filtered down toward the meadow where we were camped. We didn't talk much about it, but we both thought she was probably dead, since no one had seen her after 7 days. In other words, we were looking for a downed llama with it's gear still on her. As we made out way up through the dense forest we realized that locating her would be like finding a needle in a hay stack; the forest was very dense and you could only see for 20 yards in any direction.

After 3 hours of contouring the valley walls we came to a place about 50 yards below Palmeteer Point where I looked down in to the forest and saw one of Rainy's panniers (one of two packs). I was not planning on finding her alive, but I knew that what I saw about 20 yards away was one of her panniers. I called out to Doug, who was 50 yards below me, that I had found a pack. As I walked toward the pannier that I saw, I came upon the other pannier. As Doug moved up the forest toward me he came upon Rainy with the pannier I saw still strapped to her... although I could only see the pannier from my line of sight. Being a dappled llama she was camouflaged and I could only see the pannier. It was an amazing discovery to find her alive! What an adrenaline rush! Rainy acted like she was very content where she was, which was remarkable! She had been without water for at leastd 7 days and all alone with a saddle and pannier strapped to her! The saddle and pannier were actually hanging from her and functioned as a kind of "ball and chain." Perhaps she would have made it down to Barlow Road and the meadow had she not been bound up with this saddle and pack. As we tried to help her, she resisted us. I actually had to get a rope out and corral her. Once we had her leadered and tied to a tree she became very docile and became completely taken up with interested in Doug's water bottle. Doug could see she was thirsty and cut his water bottle open so she could drink and she took his quart down as though it were a mere sip. I put my quart of water in Doug's enlarged bottle and she sucked that down, as well. She had been without water for at least 7 days! It's not uncommon for llamas to not drink for a couple of days, but 7 and perhaps 10 days (I don't know when she drank before the trip) is crazy. But then, llamas are camalids.

Doug was totally amazed by the rescue. He kept repeating to me that he kept praying during the search, "God, you know where she is!" He did and he showed us. In fact, just when we saw her we were going to make a zag in the zig zag and we probably would have missed seeing her. I had been near the very spot we found her a week earlier and had not seen her!

After Doug and I reason out God's providence in this situation, we saddled her, panniered her, and walked her down through the forest to the camp. She was amazing, acting as though nothing had happened to her and not showing any signs of stress; as though she had been on a vacation!

When we got back to the camp John called the Watson's on the walkie talkies to announce the rescue and they headed back to camp to meet us. They were about 2 miles away from camp at the time. As Rainy came in to camp to meet her sister llamas she looked at them, sniffed at a couple of them, bend over, and started eating grass! Not a very exciting home coming! But, as Pamella Watson said, "llamas are like cats."

We all sat around the trailer and enjoyed telling the story her rescue to each other.

MISSING LLAMA FOUND! Rainy was Rescued