Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Evergreen Playhouse Performs “The Solid Gold Cadillac”

Note...this is an article I wrote for the Town Crier newspaper. My editor chose not to run it in the latest edition.

Who would have thought that a play, written in 1953 could serve as a parody for current events in 2008. Such is the case of “The Solid Gold Cadillac” originally penned by Howard Teichmann and George S. Kaufman. This corporate take on the Cinderella story is a endearing production hosted by the Evergreen Playhouse and Directed by D. Douglas Lukascik.

Lukascik admits that his background with the play was less than romantic. “When I was born, my mom bought a television” he said of the way movies have played a big part in his experience in the theater.

The story centers around the Board of Directors of “General Products” who are putting the squeeze on shareholders and quickly chipping away at corporate ethical standards using 13 local actors. In addition, they fully expect contracts and favoritism from 39 year business veteran and former GP Board Director Edward L. McKeever (played by Michael Rust). He took an advisory position at the Pentagon and is in prime position to sweeten the General Products bottom line. Much to the chagrin of the GP Board, members, he is determined to play by the rules in Washington.

The General Products Board of Directors include T. John Blessing ton (Marke Pendleton), Clifford Snell (Paul Gisi), Warren Gille (Dean Phillips), Alfred Metcalf (Fred Brattin along with Mrs. Laura Partridge (played by Theresa Hilliard.

The Board of Directors include T. John Blessington (Mark Pendleton), Alfred Metcalf (Fred Brattin), Warren Gillie (Dean Phillips) and Clifford Snell (Paul Gisi). They have many humorous moments and situations that boarder on slapstick. The character of Snell makes the audience want to begin a chorus of hisses at times for his brutal tactics to keep the situation comfortable.

The production has many clever moments including an ironic line or two by McKeever about life in Washington. “If you are not honest here, they catch you” he described of his experience in D.C.

Edward L. McKeever played by Michael Rust trades theatrical scenes with Mrs. Laura Partridge played by Theresa Hilliard in “The Solid Gold Cadillac”.

“Cinderella” appears in the form of Mrs. Laura Partridge (played by Theresa Hilliard), an owner of 10 shares of General Products Stock and causes several chaotic and sensational circumstances while trying to be an advocate for the “little stockholder”

The Evergreen Playhouse is located at 226 W. Center Street in Centralia. The Solid Gold Cadillac started on October 24th and will be playing Friday, October 31st, Sat. November 1st and Sunday, November 3rd as well as the following weekend of November 7th, 8th and 9th. Friday and Saturday performance begin at 8:00pm while Sunday’s feature at special matinee performance at 2:00pm.

Tickets are available at Book & Brush in Downtown Chehalis and Sterling Savings in Centralia, Santa Lucia Coffee Roasters in addition to the Evergreen Playhouse. They are $15 for evening performances and $10 for afternoon shows.

In addition, on Wednesday, November 5th, a special “Pay What You Will” performance will start at 7:30pm.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Take in Loowit Falls and the View of a Volcano

The weather and my schedule gave me a break last week. My last adventure in the Enchantments as October began, ended in rain. Within 72 hours, it amounted to 2 plus feet of snow in the elevations above 6,000 feet. My favorite trails are now pretty much out of service for most people.

As the sun came out last week, snow in the lower elevations melted to a minimum. It was then, that I remembered a 1.75 mile section of trail that I had never hiked at the base of our neighborhood volcano.

Mt. Adams shows up behind the rocky slopes of Mount St. Helens.

It was in 2004, as a guest of the U.S. Geological Survey that I stood on the precipice of 200 foot tall Loowit Falls, one of two creeks that drain the crater of Mount St. Helens. While the non-permitted and credentialed individual is not allowed at the top of the falls, the purchase of a monument pass at Johnston Ridge Observatory allows an individual to hike to within 75 meters of the base of the falls.

The top of Loowit Falls taken on September 8th, 2004 when I was a guest of U.S.G.S. Scientists. Two weeks later, Mount St. Helens began its latest eruption.

The weather at lower elevations was perfect on the day of my hike, but the east winds of the Upper Toutle Lake Valley were in full force. The most defined canyons of the Cascades become funnels for air movement sometimes pushing 30 to 90mph, winds depending on the pressure gradient from east of the Cascades to the west. Occasionally, a beautiful day will have its challenges when the telltale haze shows on the north side of Mount St. Helens. On my most recent hike, the 30 to 40 MPH winds literally took my breath away in exposed locations and at one point made it very difficult to safely round the Devil’s Elbow.

East winds blow volcanic dust into the air in the Upper Toutle Lake Valley making my hiking conditions less than perfect.

From Johnston Ridge, hike east on the Boundary Trail #1, a little over 2 miles and around the Devil’s Elbow to the junction with the Truman Trail. Head down into the valley below using a natural route through a set of 1980 debris piles known as Hummocks that filled the drainage just west of Spirit Lake. It is now another 3 miles to the junction of the Willow Springs Trail #216F. Turn south (toward the volcano) for less than a mile, you will junction with the Loowit Trail #216 and turn east for a mile. All the trail junctions are well marked. A ¼ mile spur trail to the base of Loowit Falls will take you as close as the geology will allow to the base of the falls. Please be careful, as the banks of the canyon are extremely unstable.

Loowit Falls drops just about 200 feet from the crater of Mount St. Helens to the North Fork Toutle River Valley.

In all, the hike is 7 miles out and back (14 miles total). There are no alternate routes back to Johnston Ridge. Much of the route is gentle and flat as you cross the alien pumice plain at the base of Mount. St. Helens. While crossing the plain, I observed four elk and had a close encounter with a Mountain Bluebird.

Three bull elk dot the pumice plain landscape.

Here in this future rain forest, a Mountain Bluebird has found perfect, albeit temporary habitat.

You will have until November 9th to get this hike in as Johnston Ridge is slated to close that day. If weather allows, you could conceivably complete this hike from the Hummocks, but that adds another 8 miles and camping is not allowed anywhere along the route.

The headwaters of the North Fork Toutle River begins in the barren pumice plain just north of Mount St. Helens.

For those that can’t get to the base of the falls this autumn, start planning ahead for next summer. Just be warned, there is always a lot of water in the valley early in the hiking season.

The May 18th 1980 landslide scraped the upper ridge, denuding it of vegetation. Heavy rains continue to change the landscape.

If the wildlife, waterfall and harsh landscape doesn’t intrigue you, consider the magnetism a volcano has on people all over the world. The only person I encountered on the modestly traveled route was from Australia. He greeted me “there is another life form out here”. I asked him where he was going and he responded “as far up the volcano as I can get”.

Large Boulders slid several miles north of Mount St. Helens during the eruption and landslide of May 18th, 1980. Spirit Lake contributes contrasting colors.

Loowit Falls is the closest you can get to the crater of Mount. St. Helens. In fact, I found it fascinating that just a few hundred feet above you at the top of the falls is the crater of one of the most active volcanoes in recent years. I sat on one of the many dacite boulders along the top of Loowit Creek to eat lunch and took in the view of a volcano; the landscape that it created and will change again in the future.

Friday, October 3, 2008

World Class Scenery at the Enchantments

It was back in 2006 as I was surfing through the regional wilderness programs that I stumbled onto the web page of the Wenatchee National Forest. It told of a wilderness area that was so sensitive that it was limited to permit entry only. Initially put off by the formality, I wrote off the Enchantment Lakes area of the Alpine Lake Wilderness area as a place I wasn’t really interested in.

Fall colors collide with scars of a forest fire nearly a decade old in Snow Creek Canyon.

This year, inundated by magazine articles and web posts of experiences in the basin, I finally decided that I would have to see it for myself. I went through the permit process which was a mere formality and the cost at $3 per day which includes parking at the trailhead is less than buying a daily Northwest Forest Pass.

The photographer and writer on the trail home on Thursday, October 2nd, 2008.

The catch is this, 60 people are allowed to camp in the greater Enchantments area. Only a small number of those actually get to camp in the highest basin, an area of serene alpine, granite shrouded creeks, ponds and lakes between 6,700 and 7700 feet in elevation. Permits are accepted beginning February 20th and most days of the summer are filled early. When I applied for my permit in early summer, I had two advantages. One, I was going to come after the high visitation season and two, I was going in the middle of the week rather than the weekend. Event then, camping in the upper most basin was not available; That is until I arrived at the Levenworth Ranger District Office to pick up my permit.

Granite Islands protrude above the waters of Lower Snow Lake in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area.

My strategies were carefully thought out to maximize what little amount of time I had. Most recommendations include a minimum of four days. I had three and a partner whose fitness level might be a challenge. The plan was to hike in, 6.5 miles to Snow Lake and set up base camp. On day two, we would hike up to the Enchantments and wander.

The upper end of Nada Lake quietly wakes up before sunrise.

My mind raced as the information specialist at the ranger district office offered us and “Enchantment permit”, the crown jewel of overnight wilderness experiences in Washington. I knew even my fitness level would be extremely challenged by such a one day endeavor. I was too locked in to my own planning to change entry points that might allow for such flexibility.

Prusik Peak and the Enchantment Peaks (also known as "The Temple") tower over the lake basin of the same name.

As it was, my partner and I slogged to Nada lake, a mile short of our original goal. The trail begins four miles out of Levenworth on Icicle Creek Road at 1800 feet. Five and a half miles and three major switch-backing, elevation gaining, grinding miles later, we arrived at Nada Lake with just enough time to set up camp before dark. This was short of our goal and during high season, this kind of accommodating choice would be frowned upon. Every camp site is spoken for by permit, but on this late September night, we were alone at both lakes.

The long end of Leprechaun Lake in the Enchanted Lakes Basin resides in fall color uner McClellan Peak.

A pile of rocks mark the trail route.

I have to say right up front that fitness levels need to be high for this hike. After traversing the lower portion to Nada Lake, my partner decided he didn’t have the physical capabilities needed for the days hike into the upper most basin, (as it turns out, a very good choice) so I set out at first light. I Passed the Snow Lakes and then to the final 1,200 foot granite face, I hiked and climbed. Some times, granite cliffs with hand and foot-holds were as high as 30 to 40 feet had to be ascended with hand over hand “bouldering”, challenging, but not technical rock climbing. As I approached the rim, the trail became all granite and no soil. It was marked by the strategic piles of rocks.

You have to love the 70-plus percent of silica that is in granite. That makes the rock essentially 70%, rough cut glass, so gripping the rocky trail is much easier than it sounds. Anyone that has done any hiking in the Sierra-Nevada (Lake Tahoe, Yosemite and Sequoia) can probably relate.

I had two goals for the day. One (very child-like I admit) to see mountain goats at close proximity (not ½ mile away like in the Goat Rocks Wilderness) and two, to catch some glowing gold Western Larch and add them to the photo possibilities of my late season visit.

The trail went between thick stands of golden larch.

The first goal was met the moment I crested the top of the rim when two Mountain goats were right in the middle of the trail picking lichen off of the rocky surface. There was no getting around them so I waited and moved slowly. Eventually, I followed them on the trail to a place where there was space to safely get around with minimal disturbance.

These Mountain Goats were on the trail as I approached Lake Vivian in the Enchantment Lakes.

The second goal was right in front of me as I wandered the Enchantments; A series of ponds and lakes that were inter-connected by a small stream that ran from the Upper basin near Isolation Lake to tarns and small water boddies to the lowest at Lake Viviane. At that point, the water dropped in dramatic fashion clear down to Snow Lake on its way to the Wenatchee River via Icicle Creek at Levenworth some 7,000 feet and 10 miles down stream. There were so many angles, so much art to compose that it was with near sadness that I had to consider how little time I had to spend there. Sometimes I was driven to near tears by the awesome beauty and at least one time I thought how my camera will seem worthless after this trip, because it captured the pinnacle of beauty on this one trip.

The fall color of Western Larch contrast the pure waters of Lake Vivian in the Enchantment Lakes.

Now I consider the lessons learned. The first of which is respect the time needed to truly experience this place. Planning and obtaining the needed permits is essential. I would suggest entering the Enchantment Basin via the Stuart Lake Trail after staying the night at Colchuck Lake . The next morning ascend Asgard Pass and drop into the Upper Basin of the Enchantment Lakes. Spend at least one night among the Enchantments and then drop to Snow or Nada Lake for your last night in the area. Depart via the Snow Lakes trail. Of course this requires a shuffle of vehicles or a full-blown beg for a ride to the Lake Stuart Trailhead, but those are logistical problems that will pale to the overall experience.

Little Annapurma towers above an island in Perfection Lake. Western larch give the scene color.

As I wandered among the pure waters and granite spires, I met and talked with people who had come to see this world class scenery from all over the globe. Three were from England and one camped next to Lake Viviane that hailed from Virginia. In a hushed conversation he told me he was already planning his return trip to this place that cast a very pleasurable spell on him.

A scenic shot of Prusik Peak and Lake Viviane in the Enchantment Lake Basin.
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