Hogan Park Trail in Summer

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I hiked the Hogan Park trail last Sunday. It was beautiful.

Since I’ve only seen a few write-ups of this trail online, I thought it might be helpful to post my experience.

One important caveat is that I did this trail in the summer (July), and I did not realize that Hogan Park Trail is a rare trail that is maintained in the winter but not in the summer. In fact, there basically is no trail in the summer. If the idea of orienteering overland with no trail is unattractive to you, then you probably will not enjoy this hike.

Trailhead

The hike starts on US 40 through Rabbit Ears Pass, specifically across the road from Walton Peak parking lot, and traditionally ends at the base of Morningside lift on the back of Steamboat Ski Area. But, in summer, Morningside lift does not operate, so it would be more accurate to say the summer hike ends at the gondola, which offers free downhill rides to hikers.

So this is a one-way hike that requires either a drop-off or a pick-up at the Rabbit Ears Pass end.

The beginning of the hike at Walton Peak trailhead does have a few blue trail blazes, but this is deceptive because he blazes disappear almost immediately (I counted three blazes) and the orienteering begins. In fairness to the USFS, there is no discernible trail, even at the start, so I can’t say the trail disappeared, because it was never there in the first place.

Orienteering

Without a trail, either a GPS is required, or a map, compass, and very good orienteering skills. I went with GPS via an app on my phone called Backcountry Navigator PRO, which allowed me to download the USFS topo map onto my phone before going offline. Then the GPS unit on my phone tracked my location on the downloaded map. However, the phone map did not have the trail marked on it, so I carried a paper topo map, too, and tracked my GPS location against the trail on the paper map. It was less confusing than it sounds.

Almost immediately, the GPS trail took me through a meadow that is more of a bog in summer. This became a running theme throughout the hike. The wide, expansive meadows, which must be a joy to ski in winter, become ankle deep swamps in summer.

Since there is no trail, I utilized GPS to skirt the edge of the swampy meadow. This required traipsing through the edge of the woods and hopping over downed trees.

If you look very carefully, you might see a Forest Service blue trail diamond posted to a tree. No matter how carefully you look, you won't see a trail, because there isn't one!

If you look very carefully, you might see a Forest Service blue trail diamond posted to a tree. No matter how carefully you look, you won’t see a trail, because there isn’t one!

The route involves crossing a number of creeks, including a few branches of Fishhook Creek, as well as Hogan Creek. By calculating the elevation at which the trail (existent only on the map) crosses each creek, I was able to approximately get my bearings, although hiking by following contour lines is difficult.

 

Once the climb topped out, I entered some wide open meadows that were completely overgrown with shrubs taller than me. After some unsuccessful bushwhacking, I went back to my earlier practice of hiking along the treeline and avoiding the meadows.

The last half-mile into Morningside lift was especially difficult, as I wound up hiking above where I needed to be, then below, then back up and along some nasty contour lines until I finally hit the lift. Surely there is a better way to do that.

 

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The open meadows must be wonderful for winter skiing, but they are a pain for summer hiking. Those bushes are as tall as me!

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In addition to bushwhacking, the meadows presented another problem that you can’t see here – ankle deep bog.

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Getting to the treeline on the side of the meadow is key. Of course, this can make orienteering more difficult, as the treeline is off the trail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Along the Way

On the way to Morningside, I would occasionally hit a faint trail, sometimes possibly a game trail and sometimes clearly a human trail. Invariably, the trail would peter out and I would be on my own again. I also spotted a few rare Forest Service blue diamond trail markers, although these sprung up bizarrely – sometimes 2-3 in a row, then nothing for miles.

The elevation gain was more than I expected – about 1000 feet from trailhead to Morningside lift, and then another 600 feet to the ridgeline. Particularly on skis, it would be more fun to traverse this route starting at the ski area. Assuming, of course, I had a pass to ride the lifts up.

Along the way I saw a family of elk, some deer, a chipmunk, and lots of birds. Fortunately, no bear, although I advise carrying bear spray.

Steamboat Ski Area

IMAG0028To my chagrin, I discovered that Morningside is completely abandoned in summer. I hadn’t expected the lift to be operating, or even to see any bikers, but I had thought there would be a graded service road up to the top of the ski area. Wrong.

 

The paths that look like they were once service roads have now been completely overgrown and covered with fallen logs and swamp. I painstakingly switch-backed my way up to the top of Sundown lift, then strode over to the top of Storm Peak.

The view from the top of Priest Creek Lift.

The view from the top of Priest Creek Lift.

From there, I was lured by the vision of Four Points Lodge and a graded road, and I made the mistake of painstakingly switch-backing down the face of Storm Peak. Instead, I probably should have walked further and followed a bike path through the woods.

Once I finally stumbled onto the deck at Four Points, the last mile got a lot easier. I just wandered the graded road down to the gondola, and took the free ride down to the base.

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End of the trail at Thunderhead Lodge and the gondola.

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The best view of the hike is actually from the gondola.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Equipment

In retrospect, I did not appreciate what an epic adventure this would be. I brought a couple bottles of water, which was enough, but no food, which was a bummer. I also should have brought a backup battery pack for my cellphone. It’s been a long time since I’ve navigated by compass, and I would’ve had serious problems had my GPS gone out.

A machete also would’ve been handy, although I don’t know if that would’ve violated USFS policy.

To preserve my cellphone battery, I shut off all services except GPS during the hike. Occasionally I did get a Verizon signal and made brief calls to let family know I was alive. That’s helpful.

Good, water-resistant hiking boots were essential.

I wore long socks, shorts, and a t-shirt, although long pants would’ve been better. I didn’t encounter any adverse weather, although I prepared for it and brought more clothes in my pack.

Summary

All told, the trip took me about five hours and 11 miles of hiking. Doing it again, I probably could shave an hour off that just by not getting lost, particularly on the last mile into Morningside.

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There are only a few spectacular vistas on the hike, but being out in the backcountry all by myself, off trail, was gorgeous. If you have the time and the desire, it’s a certain type of fun.

Black Mountain Lookout

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Kristina and I drove up to Black Mountain Lookout for a belated 4th of July.

It is glorious up here. This lookout has the widest, most expansive views of any that we have visited. The lights of Reno are over the hills 150 miles south, Susanville 30 miles north, sad, dry Honey Lake to the east, and miles upon miles of the Plumas National Forest to the west.

This also might be the most civilized of the lookouts we’ve visited – electricity and also a huge cell tower array on the next hilltop over, so we have faster Internet here than we do at home. I really could hunker down here and work for a few days.

But we only have reservations for one night, so it’s back to reality this afternoon :-)

FIFA

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The FIFA arrests have had me thinking about ethics and the judicial system.

Foreign Relations

I am skeptical about the international dimension of the arrests, particularly the way they were executed. US authorities did not need to ask Swiss police run a sting operation in Switzerland. The US government could have apprehended the suspects in North America.

I also strongly dislike the practice of venue-shopping to try defendants in locations where they are not residents. It’s not clear to me why the investigation is being run out of Brooklyn.

Victims

I am having a hard time honing in on who is the victim of the alleged crime.

I suppose the logical victim is CONCACAF or FIFA themselves, but since the suspects more or less were CONCACAF and FIFA, that seems silly. Nobody at FIFA was calling for these arrests beforehand.

The Qatari slave workers are certainly victims, but not exactly of FIFA and certainly not of the arrested CONCACAF executives. FIFA is not enslaving those workers, even if it is taking advantage of the situation.

I have also read a lot about Sepp Blatter’s comments regarding women in soccer. These are retrograde and probably should disqualify him from FIFA leadership, but they are not a crime and certainly they are irrelevant to the crime at hand. Blatter himself has not even been arrested.

Perhaps the victims are organizations that lost a corrupt FIFA bidding process, like the US organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup, or sports marketing companies that failed to secure FIFA contracts because they wouldn’t pay kickbacks. That’s a little bit of a bank shot, though.

Timing

The arrests seem clearly timed to disrupt Sepp Blatter’s re-election (if so, they failed).

When law enforcement uses its powers to affect politics, I get worried about overreach. We should try people based on crimes they commit, not because it helps us move the political world in a direction we prefer.

Priorities

I would approve of this more if organization were FIBA (basketball) or IBAF (baseball) or certainly the NFL. The US public is broadly dis-interested in soccer, and this seems like the job for another nation.

Ethics

For me, ethics provide the strongest case for arresting FIFA officials.

In the US, we have a strong anti-bribery culture, and that has done us a lot of good. Perhaps the FIFA official committed a crime against the US by making bribery a little bit more acceptable in this country.

Still, that’s a thin reed on which to hang all these other problems.

 

Juno – The History That Wasn’t

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Juno came and went. It dropped almost no snow in DC, a little in New York, and more in New England. Everybody survived (literally, I think – I haven’t read of a single fatality).

People will die later.

They will die later because they won’t evacuate their homes when forecasters warn of a hurricane or other natural disaster.

And why should they?

As recently as last night, The Weather Channel was hyping the potentially “historic” nature of the storm, putting together a list of the top 5 snowfalls in Boston and Providence.

Juno became the first snowstorm in history, to preemptively shut down the New York subway.

This morning, Governor Cuomo said, “We got lucky.”

And fair enough. But huge forecasting misses like this are a major reason people don’t evacuate during hurricanes.

Cuba

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Havana

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A friend recently asked me about our trip to Cuba, to run the Havana Marathon.

Here are my notes:

  • Cuba was a lot of fun.
  • The marathon was a death march. I hadn’t trained enough and it was crazy hot and sunny and humid and all those 1950s cars belching exhaust on the roads, so I stumbled to the finish in 4:35.
  • The country has elements of the former Soviet Union, France, Detroit, and 1950s America (the cars). And Latin America.
  • Capitalism is very slowly taking hold – people run tourist restaurants out of their apartments now, as well as renting out rooms, and small time bed & breakfasts. We stayed in a bed & breakfast that was actually more like a boutique hotel, although that level of capitalism is still rare.
  • No advertisements of any kind, anywhere. Except for socialism. So many billboards promoting socialism, communism, patriotism, the fight against Yankee imperialism.
  • Fidel (now Raul) runs the country, of course. Everybody we met told us that they hate him, although maybe they just knew that’s what I wanted to hear.
  • But to the extent there’s a cult of personality, they’ve really built it more around Ché than Fidel.
  • Ultimately, Cuba seems to be going the way of China more than the way of North Korea.