Late Afternoon on the Oregon Trail

I decided to take in the late afternoon sun with a drive on the Oregon Trail (U.S. 20) and catch some of the last colors of fall.  Above is Lava Lake which sits just west of the Craters of  the Moon National Monument.  For the traveller on the trail in the 1800’s Lava Lake was the first water after miles of crossing lava-beds.

Just west of Lava Lake is the Carey Lake Wildlife Refuge.  The Wildlife Management Area sits just east of the town of Carey.

West of Carey is the town of Picabo, Idaho.  I captured this image as the sun fell behind the hills to the southwest.

Fall Colors Starting to Peak

The colors are starting to hit their stride in the Wood River and Salmon River basin.

Are you stopping for a moment in your highly important and very busy day to take in what is changing around you?

The North Entrance to the Valley Club and Jeff’s home in the Wood River Valley of Idaho

All Trips Are Worth It!

By rule the Trip films starring Steve Coogan (Night At The Museum, Ruby Sparks, Philomena) and Rob Brydon (The Huntsmen, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,) should be losing their luster and steam – from an enjoyability perspective.  Not a chance.  The Trip to Spain is arguably the best of the three.

As Producer, Director, and Writer of all the Trips Michael Winterbottom hits his stride with A Trip To Spain.

Similar to the other films A Trip to Spain navigates magically through the real Googan and Brydon playing themselves and their movie script alter egos in a six part road trip that is supposedly occurring to facilitate a food and travel piece underwritten by the New York Times and London Observer.

The real Coogan and Brydon are the best of the best Observational Stand-Up Comic’s and Impersonators in the industry. Their bits in this film are music to the ears and a feast to the mind. As for their movie script alter ego’s, Coogan is the insincere, selfish, ultra defensive entertainer when women or business are involved.  Brydon is the enjoying life to its fullest, family man and deferential second-banana.  The Trip to Spain while wonderfully topical and informational it also provides a dose of highly believable melancholy.

Favorite Scene: A quality background history lesson about the implication of the Moor’s on Spain as told by Coogan to some table-mates while sitting at a magnificent sea-side restaurant with full running commentary by Brydon’s version of Roger Moore on the side.

The scenery, send ups and food are fantastic in The Trip to Spain.

Wind River: Somber, Ironic, Honest & Serious – Even if from Hollywood

Can the Actuarial’s of Hollywood be deceived and let an honest and serious film get by them and be released outside of the time period designated for Art Films to be considered at Oscar time? I think so, at least I do after watching the film Wind River.

Wind River is written and directed by Taylor Sherdian (Hell and High Water, Sicario) and stars Jeremy Renner (Avengers, The Town, Mission Impossible, American Hustle, Bourne Legacy) and Elizabeth Olsen (Avengers, Captain America, Ingird Goes West).  The easy thing would be to take a pass on a viewing of this film if you judge it by the typical typecasting of these three.  Sheridan; the male T.V. Series hunk for the ladies.  Renner; the angry loose cannon (i.e., The Town, The Hurt Locker) and Olsen; the sister of the long ago T.V. Star Twins.  Yes, those credits are correct.

However these three have demonstrated for some time they are top-level artists who have figured out how to navigate commercial Hollywood so as allow them the flexibility to be associated and involved with more intriguing fair.

Wind River is not a downer of a film.  However, it is somber and thought provoking.  What you think happened or is going to happen – likely is not the case.  Will you feel cheated when you learn the details?  No, because the signals were present all the time.  Be patient and watch to the very end.

Notes from a Location Geek:

There is nothing more demanding than a location shoot that is to depict the outdoors at elevation in the winter-time.  It is tough to present -6 degrees in the mountains as it really looks and feels.  Wind River is not bad on this front, but not perfect.

Ask back-to-back-to-back Academy Award Winner for Cinematography Emanuel Luzbeski (2014 Gravity, 2015 Birdman, The Revenent 2016).  He did not even win the AA for his best work:  Children of Men (2012) or A Little Princess (1996).

The Total Eclipse of the Sun – Idaho

The Solar Eclipse occurred as scheduled in Idaho (8/21/2017 11:30 local time).  The eclipse from our viewing point was remarkable.

Our cabin in Stanley was almost dead-center : 100% eclipse and under the full shadow 99.83% (i.e., viewing time well over 2+ minutes).

More importantly, the Lubeck’s were able to host friends that live at distance but are close to our heart and soul.  In short; friends who you can share the best of what life has to offer. However, remain at your side even when the worst of life presents itself.  So to those (or who are associated) with the last name of Bescos, Brice, Connor and Wakeley thanks for coming and sharing in the view.

Also, a shout-out to the Pruder’s who were in contact from Michigan while the gig developed!

As luck would have it.  We got some shots!

 

The Ring. Copyright Jeffrey H. Lubeck – MESH Gallery

The Total Eclipse of the Sun – Full Corona. Copyright Jeffrey H. Lubeck – MESH Gallery

Snowyside Peak from the Sunny and Snowy Sides

On this summer day in the Sawtooth Wilderness dawn is transforming to sunrise. Sunlight is hitting the rock crags that give Snowyside Peak (10,661 ft) its signature profile

Continue reading Snowyside Peak from the Sunny and Snowy Sides

Memorial Day 2017 – How Do You Recognize?

Elk Creek, Valley Creek, Stanley Lake Creek and Stanley Creek just west of our cabin converge on Memorial Day Weekend. Original size: 30″ by 70.” Note: the fence line was built by a volunteer group led by my friend Ed Cannady.

Memorial Day 2017.  Is it simply an extended weekend or a day to recognize those who died while serving in our country’s armed forces?

I choose the later with the implication being I am afforded the former in great deal because of the sacrifice of others.

I have included some photos of the place I love because of their efforts.

Stanley Creek with McGowan and Mystery Peaks in the background. Memorial Day Weekend 2017.

Tomorrow, I honor a relative who died in service – Captain James Hammer.

I have written in detail about Memorial Day in the past.  This time I will ask the question.

Is it simply an extended weekend or a day to recognize those who died while serving in our country’s armed forces?

The Sawtooth Mountains just west of our cabin from the high ridge-line above highway 21. Original size: 40″ by 180″

 

Hit By A Bus Driven By a Gorilla a.k.a. Skiing the Goat Creek Drainage in Winter

Fishook Creek – Mt. Heyburn far left, Horstmann Peak center, and Thompson Peak far right.

I travelled into the backcountry in the middle-of-winter.  I ventured into my own backyard and got run over by what felt like a bus driven by gorilla appearing from out of nowhere.  I was bounced, if not kicked, to the curb – hard. And if I am asked to file a report with the Custer County Police I will report the condition as happy – hope to get beat up again soon.

Here is my story.

The Sawtooth National Wilderness immediately west and northwest of Redfish Lake near the town of Stanley, Idaho offers a remarkable amount of terrain for the backcountry traveller/skier. Within this part of the Sawtoooth National Wilderness sits the Goat Creek drainage.  Goat Creek is a trail-less region with its headwaters starting at Thompson Peak (10,714) – the highest in the Sawtooth Mountain Range.  This area is my home both figuratively and literally.

On this day, I am attempting to ski the length of the Goat Creek drainage (top-to-bottom) in a single shot – 13.5 miles in total.  To even attempt the Goat Creek portion, the effort requires skiing on skins for 7 miles at elevation and gaining 4,000+ vertical feet simply to reach the start the challenging downhill portion; the Goat Creek drainage. The starting and end point of the trip is my cabin – which borders the 686,000 acre Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA).  So, yes I plan on finishing the day by skiing directly back to my front porch.

As is the norm, Chris and Sara Lundy – the co-owners of Sawtooth Mountain Guides (SMG) join me for the trip.  Two years ago (March 2015) Chris, Sara, and I performed a six-day ski tour and climb across the heart of the Sawtooth Wilderness.  The first two days of the March 2015 trip took us on the very top of Thompson Peak.  For this trip we are traveling the same route for the first seven miles – to the saddle at 10,000 feet between Williams and Thompson Peak.  The difference is we are completing it in one-day versus two. It will also be followed by 6.5 miles of downhill skiing versus stopping and spending the night in a tent as we did in 2015.

The route up from the Stanley Ranger station is one well known to me.  The first five miles are on what is otherwise known as the Alpine Way.  This high ridge-line route offers superlative views of the Fishook Creek basin and its surrounding peaks.  Dead center is Horstmann Peak – a big brute.  Chris Lundy is the first person (recorded) to have climbed and skied off the top of Horstmann Peak. It has been my pleasure to travel the length of the Fishook by foot and ski and ascend many of its peaks – winter, spring, summer and fall.

While the views during this early portion of the route are memorable, one of the downsides is it involves skiing many miles on otherwise hard-pack snow.  The implication is your feet are going to take a tremendous beating and hot-spots are likely to present themselves.

After five miles and 1,600 vertical feet of elevation gain, we break away from the Alpine Way Trail.  At this juncture we stop, rest, fuel up, and check out our feet. In 2015, the difference is the three of us ski another 1/4 mile on the Alpine Way Trail and drop down into the SMG’s Williams Peak Yurt to spend the night.  Today there is no such respite.

After our rest, and refuel we embark on the major ascent of the trip.  We are about to gain 2,400 vertical feet a bit less than two miles.  Most of the ascent while steep, is wonderfully smooth and easy. However the route involves two tricky spots.  The first is a drop of 400 vertical feet at a 45-50 degree slope just before lunch-break. The second is the last 1/4 mile of the ascent which is on a 60+ degree slope.  These pitches on skis are made materially more difficult by heavy packs loaded with bulky camera gear.

In most narratives describing elevation, change in elevation, degree of slope, and distance is sometimes hard to convey.  Before I begin to describe the descent and use Defined Names such as The Garage Can and The Garbage Chute, some perspectives are provided for which you may be familiar.

If you ski in Michigan:

Boyne Mountain is a major ski resort in the midwest.  Boyne is a wonderful area.  Boyne tops out at 1,100 feet elevation and claims 500 feet of vertical drop (actually 410) with 10 chair lifts.  Boyne has 60 ski runs with one run almost a mile long.  Boyne categorizes the ski runs as 30% Expert, 41% Intermediate and 29% as beginner.  About 95% of Boyne’s ski runs are less than 15 degrees in slope.  About 5% of the ski runs approach 15-20 degrees in slope.  There is 100 feet of vertical on one run that is 35 degrees in slope.

If you ski in Sun Valley, Idaho:

Sun Valley, Idaho was America’s first destination ski resort.  The chair-lift was invented in Sun Valley.  The Union-Pacific Railroad explored and considered the best terrain in the United States for the sport of skiing – with only a tiny locale in Idaho meeting the criteria.  In my opinion I agree. Bald Mountain is as good as it gets for chair-lift served skiing in the U.S.  In an intense 10-year period Linda, and I skied almost every major ski-mountain in the U.S. and Canada – many on multiple occasions.  While Taos, New Mexico was close, Sun Valley and the Wood River Valley simply could not be beaten.  Baldy tops out at 9,140 feet in elevation and offers 3,420 vertical feet of skiing.  Two runs (Warm Springs and River) effectively provide the entire 3,420 foot change and are just short of two miles in length.  Baldy’s signature characteristic is a moderate to demanding degree of slope that is consistent in pitch from top to bottom for each run.  Many believe that given the total elevation change, the length, and consistency of angle of the runs – you can ski faster on Baldy than any other lift served mountain in the world.  For example most of the iconic runs (Exhibition, Holiday, Inhibition, Limelight) rarely exceed 35 degrees in angle, but also do not change their angle by much for the length of the run.  The May Day Bowl run sits between 32-34 degrees for its entire 1,600 vertical feet of descent.  The implication being in ski shape, dim witted, and having long runs at a steady steep pitch available?  In the 1985 pre-quad speed lift era Mike Andary and & I skied 67,300 vertical feet on Baldy in one day.  It was a non-stop, no wait line, ski top-t0-bottom without breaking, eat on the chair-lift effort from the first chair up for the the day (8:45 AM) to the last (4:00 PM).

If you ski in Washington State:

Crystal Mountain offers some outstanding terrain.  Snow King, Powder Bowl, Snorting Elk all provide 35-45 degree pitches for 400-500 vertical feet.  The drop off from the top Snow King and Powder Bowl usually requires a jump off a cornice of 3 – 10 feet in height with the initial 100-150 vertical feet at a 60+ degree pitch.

As for the skiing the Goat Creek drainage from the saddle between Williams Peak and Thompson all the way back down to the Lubeck Cabin?  The descent of 4,000+ vertical feet on a run of 6.5 miles is of moderate slope except for the top of the Garbage Can and the entire length of the Garbage Chute sections – which are 40 – 60 degrees in angle.  The descent down the Goat Creek Basin is visually stunning for its entire length. Merritt Peak and its prominence are addicting to the eye.  The Goat Lakes and Goat Falls (encased in ice) are nothing short of stunning.

So where does the bus driven by the gorilla come into play?  Snow Conditions and 12 hours of travel with a heavy pack!  Yes, the condition of the snow was highly variable with the ultimate effect being the equivalent of getting hit by a bus driven by a Gorilla.  So what kind of snow did we encounter?  New England Boilerplate, Michigan Blue Ice, Himalayan Hard Pack, California Crystalized, Cascade Cement, Alaskan Avalanche, Pennsylvania Pot-hole and Mt. St. Helens Asphalt.  If I did not know better I could easily be led to believe the Lundy’s had all of these conditions shipped in specifically for my enjoyment.  I am calling for a Special Council investigation.  Chris & Sara can and do ski all of these conditions without their hair getting mussed. On this day, I show a variety of forms.  Up until bus incident I am a bit tired, but feeling comfortable and in control. Afterward, my skiing form appears to match that of a Korean Inter Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) having lost its guidance system.

On the way down we spot Mountain Goats.  In the middle of the Garbage Can section we notice a Momma and Baby Mountain Goat scaling a good portion Williams Peak.  The Garbage Can and Garbage Chute are notorious for being nothing more than routes to the bottom of the drainage chock full of avalanche debris.  On this day the conditions are quite different.  The 2016-2017 snow season represents a 100 year event; with snow levels approaching 200% of normal.  The Garbage Can and Garbage Chute are full of snow.  This makes the descent materially easier.

The Garbage Chute is steep and narrow.  Really narrow.  The snow base is firm with a layer of super fine quick snow on top. The snow condition reminds of the Canyon ski run on Baldy in January and February.  The difference is the Cal Topo map revels the top and middle portions of the Garbage Chute are 50-60 degrees in pitch, while Canyon is consistently 30+ degrees.  I also have a somewhat heavy pack of bulky camera on my back.  However, I will be the first to admit, this setting is my favorite in which to ski.  Suddenly, my energy has returned.  Chris and Sara are well below towards the bottom of the Garbage Chute. Magically skiing with purpose returns. No unguided missile on the section. That is until we leave the Garbage Chute.  Before us lies a couple of hundred vertical feet of 3 day old frozen avalanche debris.  Snow, ice, trees and rocks!  These conditions remind me of running on a creek-bed of uneven size boulders 40 miles into a 50 mile back-country endurance race.  This stuff hurts the feet – and you have boots and skis underfoot.  We suck it up and Sara even finds a few turns of nice powder conditions which points out “are are only ones for the day.”

We reach the bottom of the big-downhill skiing – The Alpine Way trail – which circumnavigates the mountain and drainage we are skiing.  We are now in the Goat Creek Meadow.  Technically a trail-less region.  This spot is almost exactly 3 miles from the cabin.  The meadow is gently sloped in a stupendous setting for 1.75 miles before the creek drops more materially for .75 miles.  The final .5 miles is on our private road where it meets the creek back to the cabin.  I have skied to this spot from the cabin and back all winter.  With the last being two weeks prior.  As we reach the road I determine my condition officially as “spent.”  We ski back to the cabin and the front door cannot appear too soon.  At 3 minutes under 12 straight hours of work, we dump our gear and have a glass of wine in the confines of the cabin. We toast each other for completing (some would suggest surviving) the route within our time goal. After Sara and Chris leave, I jump into a hot tub and relax.  Historically I require very little time for recovery.  Given this endeavor, I do not suspect this to be the case.  Ironically after a solid sleep, I awake feeling remarkable refreshed and full of energy.  I actually ski back up to the meadow and make a few turns from the top of the ridge-line.  I am surprised I feel so good and no buses with gorillas as drivers appear.

 

A Real Travel Ban – Day Four

The Sawtooths from Goat Creek. The Lubeck cabin is situated in the trees center-right.

Saturday February 11th, 2017 – Stanley, Idaho

The Travel Ban continues into its 4th day.  Avalanches and the threat thereof, keeps all roads out of Stanley closed and subsequently unable to reach the next towns – Challis to the east, Sun Valley to the south, and Boise to the west.   The Idaho Department of Transportation (as of 7:30AM) says the roads remain closed indefinitely. That sounds like a Ban to me. Our Community (Goat Creek) hires a snow crew to keep our private road system – if it can be so-called – somewhat clear an usable all winter.  This despite snow/precipitation currently sitting at 180% or normal (Galena station).  Linda says this year is the 3rd most season-to-date since records starting being kept in 1884.  I keep the driveways and path system (I appear to be big into systems) clear with a large Briggs & Stratton Snowblower.

At 5PM Friday, Steve in his Front Loader (versus CAT SnowBlower) performed a clearing of the 6 -12 inches of icy-slushy snow covering the existing season’s accumulation pack from the roads.  The Front Loader is powerful but much less refined the the CAT SnowBlower.

The clearing allowed yours truly and Shae dog to venture across the Goat Creek Intra-Community Road System and then through the Sawtooth National Recreation land via the Forest Service Road – Iron Creek #611 to Highway 21 and the 2 miles into Stanley. Note we hold a permit to drive on and plow the road within Forest Service property.

While not looking quite like a scene from World Apocalypse 2017: Dead Jeff Walking, Stanley appeared to be emptier than normal.  That is tough to say for a town with a population of 63 (2010 census).  At the Mercantile the remaining food, food stuffs and the various sundry items remained ample.  Shae dog and I resupplied.  We also re-filled the 5-gallon propane tank for the Cabin’s outdoor grill – just in case we lose power.

This morning Shae dog and I got up and out a bit before sunrise in order to capture the mountains gathering the early light.  Temperatures were back down to their normal levels.  When I took the shots above and below the temperature was about 9 degrees Fahrenheit.

With some time on my hands, I am going to venture up into the Goat Creek Basin for a six-mile out and back trip (upper middle area in photo above).  I confirmed with Chris Lundy – my friend, neighbor and owner of Sawtooth Mountain Guides (formerly Director of the Sun Valley Avalanche Center for 10 years) this trek has a low-moderate danger for Avalanche given last nights freeze.

The Sawtooths from near Stanley Lake – west of the Lubeck Cabin.

A Real Ban on Travel – Hopefully Only Temporary

It is February 2017. I live in a Federal Republic in a country called The United States of America. At present the various branches of government are getting [sic., at whole new levels]  to prove/disprove, test, validate/re-validate, and educate themselves and others as to their roles and authority in how we operate as a country. It is a fascinating exercise to observe from afar.

However, that is not the topic of discussion for this Post.  Personally I have a much more pressing  and immediate problem. I am temporarily trapped at the cabin. I am effectively banned from travel outside of Stanley, Idaho. Why? Weather! Weather (aka Mother Nature) is dumping moisture in the form snow and now rain at unprecedented levels. Avalanches and Avalanche Danger have closed every single road that could be used for escape.

Up until last weekend snow and record cold temperatures was the diet delivered at 150%-200% of normal from November through the first week of February. Last weekend the snow continued but the temperatures rose. So much so the 5-6 feet of snow on the cabin roof finally slid off.  There was some excitement during one slide, as Kyle was evaluating the possibility of the slide 15 seconds before a slide occurred. Despite being nimble and having a chance to jump away (somewhat), Kyle was buried in snow up to his chest. It took me 20+ minutes to dig him free. On Wednesday a monster storm presented itself but the snow level rose to the 8,000 feet (the cabin sits at just below 7,000 feet). So 40 degree Fahrenheit temperatures and heavy rain was the gig from Wednesday night until midnight Thursday. It is has been snowing lightly for the past number of hours.

Perhaps the greatest tragedy for the 21 Century Jeff Lubeck is the slide of the other half of the roof (Wednesday afternoon) occurred in one fell-swoop careening onto the upper deck and wiping out the Satellite Dish. OMG what am I going to do!

Scott our DirectTV Guy (and a nice one at that) is trying to reach me.  But Scott tells me the avalanche slide on Highway 75 east of Stanley is 20 feet high and long. Scott says IDOT thinks it might be cleared by late Saturday afternoon.