Black Mountain Lookout
On the morning of October 6th, seven explorers met out in Oakland to begin their journey to the Black Mountain Lookout. Located east of Lassen, their caravan route (identified by Radio Operator Turtle-ish) took them east towards Reno then northwest to get back into California via highway 395. On their route, they stockpiled last minute needs at Ikeda's, practiced their radio operator skills with detailed lego assemblies, and stopped by the famous shoe tree along route 395. Though nearing sunset when they finally arrived at the lookout, it was a perfect evening in which the team set up base camp, had a few drinks and took their bearings on the world around them.
On Saturday morning, the team woke up to a sunrise which drenched the whole world in a beautiful orange glow. As the Culinarian crew began breakfast, the field guides were read and the objective of the weekend identified. Our task and theme of the weekend were to embrace our motto of Semper Explorandum. No specific hike was identified, and instead, we were provided a topographic map of the area and encouraged to saunter through the surrounding landscape.
With bellies full of breakfast and lunch packed up, we planned a route taking us to some of the surrounding peaks. Though we first followed a road, we quickly started moving off the trail and made our way along a rocky ridge. Our first marker was Jün, a Juniper tree which delighted our senses and seemed to guide us up to the Eastern Rim. Following the rim south we came across our first goal of the day, a rocky outcropping overlooking the range. It was then that Turtle-ish noticed the peculiar markings and forms of the rocks and declared that this must be a Rock Dragon! Fear brought most of the Explorers to suddenly take cover, but Turtle-ish was in no place to hide. As he made his way from the spine of the Dragon, he then accidentally found its ticklish spot. Careful not to tickle it too much the team noted that in this moment they detected a distinctive rumble in the ground below them. Luckily the rumbling didn't amount to more, Rock Dragons can be particularly ferocious when tickled.
By the time Turtle-ish could regroup with the team they all realized that the ridge was covered with Rock Dragons, that this had to be a roost! As the team investigated further they confirmed it to be a roost but also saw that this ridge was the one visible from the lookout tower. Feeling it necessary to inform future explorers of the potential danger and while also recognizing the scientific importance of the site, the team set up to have lunch here so that the scientifically minded members may gather as much data as possible. Turtle-ish, the discoverer of Rock Dragon Roost, consolidated findings and began to formulate plans for a future field guide so that those explorers who may never venture this far out (and even for those that do) may still know and understand this place better and what makes it such a superb natural wonder.
As lunch wrapped up Binary and Wisp (now known as the basecamp team) headed back while a patrol team of Turtle-ish, Tybeck, Frequency, Denorae and Dr. Professor continued on. The patrol team made their way down from the roost and into a field of death rattle plants. Though these plants had been seen throughout the day, the field of them is what inspired their name. Brown and dried up, these plants would bristle in the wind mimicking the sound of rattling bones as the patrol team pressed on through them. The basecamp team confirmed that they too encountered these plants on their trek back to the tower (along with oversized grasshoppers).
As the bushwhacking lessened, the patrol team found themselves face to root with the Wisdom Tree. It is here that the patrol team took a hard look at their path ahead. Recognizing that it was getting late, that their goal was still a steep climb away and all of that is followed by the return home, the patrol team let the Wisdom Tree guide them towards a choice. As the patrol team convened with the Wisdom Tree, a different path was presented and together they decided to alter their approach and focus more on an alternate goal, another unknown mountain a bit closer to basecamp. It was also here that Turtle-ish, deciding his provisions weren't going to last to the top of their goal, headed back to basecamp. He grabbed a radio and began his trek home.
The patrol team was on its own in the middle of the range. Relying heavily on topographic maps, a compass and intuition they carefully mapped out how best to achieve its goals. After scrambling down Fruity Pebble Mountain and navigating Phantom Creek, the team discovered a small pine forest, though they were tempted by the Forest Hot Tub (careful of the death spiders!) and Thumbs-up Pulpit, ultimately they found their marker, the golden oak, and started their ascension of the mountain.
Meanwhile, Turtle-ish was making his way through an unknown entrance back to basecamp at the lookout tower. A much steeper climb, and full of bushes, he was making good time until he came upon a barbed wire fence. He radioed into basecamp as there was uncertainty about which direction would lead to greater success in getting home. Unfortunately, basecamp was unable to get eyes on his route as they suddenly found themselves trapped indoors by a massive spider, skulking about along the exterior porch. Turtle-ish had to use his instincts to press forward, meanwhile Binary and Wisp realized they had no exit as the spider positioned itself directly in front of the door, and with no sign of leaving. Concerned that Turtle-ish might have to face the demon upon his return they looked for a solution, only to find that their answer was presented the previous night. The spider seemed a bit drunk, wobbling about and unable to walk a straight line. In due time it further descended and cleared the path, just in time for Turtle-ish to return.
As basecamp was fending off the tower, the patrol team continued its trek up the mountain. The steep, craggy rocks along with thick bushes made the climb difficult at best. Each member had their role, Denorae took lead as the Pathfinder, Tybeck worked guidance following the map and compass, Frequency ensured the flag flew high and Dr. Professor hauled the survey equipment. Though there were questionable times, loose rocks and a nearly sprained ankle, the team made it. Looking from peak they saw the whole valley available to them, including a view of the lookout tower. Radioing back to basecamp, who has just reunited with Turtle-ish, then confirmed via telescope that they had indeed reached the peak. Denorae, at the top of her lungs, declared the mountain to be from here on out known as Mofo Ridge. The team celebrated by commemorating the top and having a round of gummy bears.
As night was quickly approaching, the team met up with Turtle-ish who brought a carrier vehicle and the whole expedition team celebrated the night away with homemade mac-n-cheese and plenty of toasts!
The night brought sudden changes of weather. Winds increased in severity and the temperature dropped. The morning also brought about the cold reality that the coffee supply wasn't robust enough for the crew. Tybeck and Dr. Professor sauntered out to a northernly peak to see if they could get a better view of the surrounding towns. Upon their return, they found Turtle-ish had also tuned the radios into the local emergency frequency informing them that temperatures were going to further drop that night along with much stronger wind gusts. The plans for the day were evolving quickly around all this new information. Over a hearty breakfast, the expedition team altered their exploration path in an effort to shore up their needs for the coming night.
Together they headed into town to procure coffee. The shop they came to was no mere coffee restaurant, it was a cabinet of curiosity too. As some members made hot beverage orders, others started to poke around. Frequency and Dr. Professor immediately went to the library to see if there were any books that needed perusing. Binary, Denorae and Wisp began searching the odds and ends of the cabinetry. It was here that Denorae found a vial of falcon farts. Upon closer inspection, the cost seemed low at only $6 for a large vial (certainly the falcon fart market hadn't crashed that much!) so the team pooled its money together and acquired it. Everyone took a smell and the overwhelming consensus was that it was stale (perhaps it was priced correctly).
With coffee and our vial of falcon farts in hand, we headed back into the woods. It was here that Denorae led us in a ritual mobile building. As we each found different found items we focused on our connection to the forest and the art of finding balance. Everyone brought a bit of their own unique skills and perspectives to the task at hand. As we sourced our materials, we decorated Mobile Grove in hopes of inspiring others who visit the area.
Coming home that night, we quickly worked to batten down the hatches. The fire tower, which had previously slept 3 people was suddenly going to need to sleep all seven of us. Tents were brought down, extraneous bags put away and furniture was moved to optimize space. As the sun set, the winds came in like a devil. We found comfort though in each other's stories and company. Games were played, dinner was made and many laughs echoed in those walls. As the night drew on, we feasted on peach cobbler before finally calling it a night.
As morning came, we all came to with the same realization: we were glad to have come together at the tower. Though the night provided some environmental challenges, we met them as a team. We enjoyed breakfast and began to pack, as each of us took a moment or two to appreciate the tower we all were taking away fond memories.
We gathered around the lookout tower to recognize the achievements made. For his efforts in planning the caravan and blazing paths on the mountain, Turtle-ish achieved his Navigator badge along with his Redshirt badge. For all her efforts in making sure we were well fed and prepared for the challenges, Wisp earned her Culinarian badge. Denorae, who fearlessly led the patrol team up Mofo Ridge earned her Redshirt badge. Lastly, we all finished with the final reading of Semper Explorandum, which seemed fitting for our theme of the weekend. No one knew what to expect, but we hungered for adventure and trekked through the challenges as Explorers.