February 28, 2011

Another kind of energy shortage

Filed under: Hiking, North Cascades — Tags: , — geezerwriter @ 3:59 pm
Saddling up

Saddling up

What a day to forget my camera!

After two Thursday hiking washouts in a row, on Friday I decided to join a Mount Baker Club snowshoe hike led by Marjan, since it looked to be a beautiful sunny day. Up in the mountains the temperature was only expected to climb to about 10 degrees F,  but you can’t pass up a beautiful sunny in February around here, can you? Can you?

A lot of people can, as it turned out. The day before, another sunny but cold day, only Marjan, Frank and I showed up at the Senior Center for the scheduled hike to Goose Rock. I had already given up on driving to Goose Rock that day, since Skagit and Island Counties had borne the brunt of last week’s late winter storm – on Tuesday evening the Deception Pass Bridge, which is adjacent to Goose Rock, had even been closed by snow. There was some snow in Bellingham but the roads weren’t too bad, so I figured we could find somewhere local to hike.

But the only ones who showed up were from the northern part of the county, near the Canadian border, where there was no snow at all. Since it was cold enough for all prudent people to bring their brass monkeys indoors, we three decided to bag it, do some shopping and return to our burrows.

You think it's cold and windy down here?

You think it's cold and windy down here?

The turnout was bit better the next day for the snowshoe outing – eight hardy souls met in Maple Falls and decided to head for the White Salmon trails, one of the less avalanche prone areas. It took us quite awhile to get started but then we had delightful, if not very exciting, hike. Which is good, since a lot of the forms that “excitement” can take in those conditions are not very pleasant, to put it mildly.

But I didn’t have my camera – I had been careful to attach it to the waistband of my pack the day before, but then I changed packs and missed it during the swap. But Aha! I keep my old Sony camera in the car for just such emergencies. I took it out of the console, turned it on, and before I could even aim it the flashing battery-with-a-slash-through-it icon appeared and it shut itself off. I thought maybe I could get off one picture if I really hurried, so I set the dials carefully, choosing the scenery setting so that it wouldn’t need to try to focus the lens, wishing that I had enough time to turn off the LCD display since that uses a lot of power, pointed it roughly toward some waiting hikers with Mount Shuksan in the background, pushed the Power button, and as soon as possible pressed the shutter release. I heard the reassuring sound of a click, and the camera immediately shut itself off.

On the way back

On the way back

I couldn’t look to see if I’d really gotten a picture, since that would surely burn up any chance of squeezing out any more. And there was still some hope of that, since some types of batteries can recover a little bit of vigor if they sit unused for awhile. I know that was true of the old-fashioned carbon-zinc batteries we used as kids, but did it apply to modern super-super “Info-Lithium” energy packs? What the heck, it was worth a try, so I took the camera along with me.

After we’d been hiking past some gorgeous views of Mounts Sefrit and Shuksan, some seldom-used part of my brain got my attention and reminded me that battery output is generally very much affected by heat, of which we had very little, indeed. Certainly the outside pocket of my jacket, where the camera had taken up residence, was only marginally warmer than the great outdoors and was probably still well below freezing. And my pants pockets would probably be worse, since legs don’t really heat up much. A shirt pocket would be great, but neither of my shirts had any. If I just tucked it inside my coat it would almost certainly fall out into a powdery drift.

And besides, even though the camera is a small one it is still a pretty decent block of metal and would soak up a bit of heat before it got to the battery.

OK, dummy: So take the battery out of the camera!

Now we’re getting somewhere. The battery pack is a dainty little package, less than an inch and a half square and about a quarter-inch thick. It would fit in my mouth, even, but I was looking for a somewhat drier environment than that. Of course, just about any place on my person that was really warm was not going to be very dry since I sweat like a horse. It would fit in my glove, but I needed my hands for my trekking poles. I could stick it in my armpit, but that wouldn’t be very secure as long as I’m moving my arms. And if it did drop I might not be able to find it in my clothes.

Sherry, Frank & Marjan below Mount Shuksan

I decided to wait until we settled down for lunch and then try slipping the battery into my armpit while I ate. I stuck it between my two shirts and that worked fairly well, but it was very hard to keep it in place and I dropped it several times. It wasn’t too hard to find it since I was sitting still and it only fell as far as my waist. I managed to grab another picture that showed the snow whipping off the summit of Mount Shuksan.

It was pretty clear that the armpit trick wasn’t going to do for the rest of the hike, since it had barely worked while sitting still. I will spare you the details (which would fall into the sphere popularly known as “TMI”) but suffice it to say that I did manage to get several more pictures on the return trip.

The day was capped nicely by a stop at the ever popular North Fork Beer Shrine, Pizzeria and Wedding Chapel.

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