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[personal|photos] The Siouxan Creek Hike

Yesterday, [info]mlerules and I went hiking with half of Team E— and their dog N—. It was a comedy of errors getting there, as we hadn’t agreed on a trail in advance as we usually do. So we hit the road toward the Gorge in the Genre car (me driving), while the other two consulted trail guides. We finally settled on the Siouxan Creek Trail in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington State. (“Siouxan” rhymes with “Tuscon”, apparently.) Our plan was to do a 7.4 mile loop from the trailhead at the end of forest road NF-5701.

Unfortunately, the trail guide we were using had inaccurate directions to get us to Amboy, WA, the town nearest NF-5701. We didn’t realize they were inaccurate, so we didn’t think to double-check with Google Maps. So we wound up taking an extensive tour of rural Clark County, WA. Therein we were diverted, repeatedly, by sheriff’s deputies protecting the route of a long distance foot race. We got seriously lost, took several wrong turns, and spent quite a bit of time driving on the wrong side of the road because of the runners.

When we finally approached our destination, the forest roads themselves were in dreadful condition, some of the worst paved roads I’ve been on in the United States. We had of course brought the Genre car instead of [info]mlerules‘ SUV, and I had to creep along at idle speed at a number of places. It wound up taking us over two hours to make the 70 miles or so from home to the trailhead. Which, if anyone is interested, can be found at 45 deg 56′ 47.40″ N latitude, 122 deg 10′ 40.20″ W longitude. On the plus side, we saw a coyote and several deer.

Once there we shoed up, watered down, and hit the trail.

There’s an initial long, steep descent into the Siouxan Creek watershed. Experienced hikers will note that this means a final long, steep ascent at the end of the day. Not a desirable situation. Once on the trail itself, the slopes were gentle enough, and the views incredible. Including one of the best natural swimming holes I have ever seen. We also saw birds, bugs, flowers, berries, and all manner of natural splendor.

We didn’t make our planned 7.4 mile out-and-back, as we turned back around 3 miles in due to fatigue. (We were at 45 deg 57′ 41.40″ N; 122 deg 8’ 23.40″ W at that point.) We estimate about 600 feet of elevation gain net, though a lot more hill work than that due to all the ups and downs. We were on the trail a bit less than four hours. On the way back I managed to leave my Birkenstocks in the parking lot at the trailhead, but by the time we figured that out, it would not have been worth the extensive trouble to go back for them 45 minutes each way over the terrible roads.

This is a truly lovely hike if you’re in the Portland area and looking for something of the sort. I experienced it as an intermediate level of difficulty. If the weather were a bit warmer, I would have loved to try out some of the swimming holes. But don’t forget your shoes.

Photos, of course… (more…)

[process] A bit more on outlining

Later this week, I’ll be playing again with the outline for my proposed urban fantasy joint project with J.A. Pitts. I can already see how my work on Sunspin has affected my process. At the moment the outline has about two pages of synoptic text outlining the opening of act one of the novel, three pages of notes to be expanded into further synoptic text, and a five page essay on a key aspect of the world building for this. Which seems a little lopsided somehow. It will be fixed.

At the same time, I’ve been talking to my dad about Sunspin. He just finished reading the first 2/3 of Calamity of So Long A Life. One of his basic comments was that I should find a way to embed more background into the beginning of Calamity. Given that the outline of Sunspin has 100 pages of background essays, character lists, ship lists and whatnot even before I reach the 30 or so pages of synoptic outline, not to mention about 60,000 words of published backstory, this is theory possible. I don’t see a practical way to do it, however.

Contrast with Trial of Flowers, which I sold from a five-paragraph outline and wrote accordingly. My ratio of outline to finished words on that novel was about 1:300. Almost the entire novel fit on one page in outline form. In Calamity it’s closer to 1:75. Which is to say each page of the synoptic outline expands to almost 20,000 words.

Does this mean anything? Casually speaking, it indicates the depth of my thinking is changing. Is this a net benefit? Almost certainly, though Calamity of So Long a Life is only now in my agent’s hands, and has not yet been seen by any acquiring editor, so the proof has yet to be baked into the pudding. And in a detailed sense, it will probably be years before I have a decent, conscious handle on what these ongoing changes in my outlining process mean. Right now I’m just following my muse.

How has your outlining process evolved? Or is it a set and steady process for you?