bpw   Benjamin P. Wood

Tracks

trip reports, computer science publications, music, etc.

LARD @ ASPLOS 2014

Our paper, Low-Level Detection of Language-Level Data Races with LARD, was accepted to ASPLOS 2014!

We examine problems with missed races and false races using a naive low-level (hardware-supported) data-race detector to detect races in programs written in high-level languages. Then, we extend the race detector interface and language implementation to eliminate these problems, enabling fast, hardware-supported data-race detection with no missed or false races for high-level languages.

(Mostly) Bare Ground

Stevens Pass to the Columbia, July 26 - August 10

The northern trail approaches to Stevens Pass and Snoqualmie Pass share the dubious distinction of several easy miles of trail with the highway in sight or within earshot. Walking south, access to town, and its promise of tasty fresh food, seems to lie at arms reach, but miles of trail remain. When I did arrive at Stevens Pass, it took a while to hitch a ride down US Route 2 to the west, but when I did, it turned out my driver worked at UW. (I still need to look him up...) My perseverance was rewarded with a delicious large sandwich in Skykomish, followed by a ride from the woman who made it, who also happened to be a neighbor of the Dinsmores, famed trail angels now in neighboring Baring! Everyone took great care of me. (Thank you!) I was the third hiker of the season at the Dinsmores (after the two I had met the day before). I noticed many more details of these little villages and their people than I ever do when zipping through on Route 2 en route to the mountains east. On my way out of town, I ended up with a ride from a friendly local couple who had just recently gotten off the PCT in Southern California due to foot trouble.

South of Stevens Pass, I was surprised by the abrupt transition to a mostly snow-free trail. The wildflowers, which had been showing up in melted spots farther north were out in force here. On the way through the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, I had crossd a raging torrent flowing off Mt. Daniel; my PCT trail notes described it as "potentially treacherous in early season." I would rank it as mildly treacherous, involving some careful fording, one leap of faith, and a primal yell to wrap it up. At Deep Lake I woke repeatedly to the sound of a herd of large hooves scattering around me. Elk interloper? Near Waptus Lake, I met a mother bear and cub (which ran up a tree incredibly quickly), followed 15 minutes later by three more northbound thru-hikers. That was not enough to prepare me for the hordes of Sunday afternoon hikers as I approached Snoqualmie Pass the next day -- more people than I had seen on the trail to date. The actual stop in civilization was equally anonymous, what with the rush of I-90. Most of the experience was jarring and anonymous, though one couple on the trail up to Kendall Katwalk was very curious about my trip and offered a ride the last few hundred yards up to the store, etc. -- and I am not an accomplished watcher, but I swear I had seen the guy in a movie or TV...

Heading south from Snoqualmie Pass along the heavily logged lower sections of the Crest, I started to meet more northbound thru-hikers. I also met a trio I called "snobos." They had tried to start a southbound thru-hike more than two weeks before I did and were repelled by the snow, so they pieced together transit to Ashland, Oregon, near the California border, and walked north to Canada before repeating the ride south and walking south from Ashland. We exchanged see-you-in-California's even though they had a long lead on me and I probably wouldn't catch up. (Two of them ultimately got off the trail in Tahoe, but I followed the third from about two weeks back all through California. I did start to wonder what it would be like to hike with someone else, I foreign concept on the trip so far!) They also offered a glowing review of the all-you-can-eat buffet at Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood. Counting down "miles to the Timberline buffet" helped get through some of the low and logged central Washington Cascades.

At Chinook Pass, east of Mt. Rainier, I met Peter, an Australian cycling around Washington State. He was fascinated with my small pack and we talked for 15 or 20 minutes for heading our separate ways. It was great to talk with another solo traveler. Completely unplanned, I met him again in the town of Packwood the next afternoon. Yet later, I found a message from him on the trail just past a small road crossing, in southern Washington, and this spring he foun my website and started a brief email exchange out of the blue. (After a really busy several months, I still owe him a response!)

South of Packwood and White Pass, Tom and Fran joined me for a thoroughly fantastic section of trail over the crest of Goat Rocks. After four weeks out, I greatly enjoyed the company of friends. The landscape was phenomenal -- I have plans to return (spring skiing?). Leaving Goat Rocks, Mt. Adams loomed large on the southern horizon, a day away. I noticed a change in northbound thru-hikers' perspectives on what constituted "a lot" of snow as I got closer to Oregon. I received just-short-of-dire warnings about navigation in snow around Mt. Adams (and Mt. Jefferson in Oregon), but what I found a few days later hardly registered on my radar. Meanwhile, many northbounders were either downright impressed or horrified that I had crossed northern Washington in the snow without a GPS. Perspective is a strange beast.

I spent a pleasant mid-day in Trout Lake after Doug Anderson, a local trail angel, serendipitously showed up to drop off another thru-hiker at the trail just minutes after I emerged at the remote forest road crossing "near" town. I showered, shopped at the general store (where they also let me do laundry for free!), and devoured a burger and local huckleberry milkshake at the cafe before continuing on. Many hikers bypass Trout Lake since the haul between White Pass and Cascade Locks is feasible (5-7 days) and there is little traffic on the long road down to Trout Lake, but I think they miss out on one of the friendliest towns near the PCT.

South of Trout Lake, the terrain mellows a bit as it cruises the last 70-80 miles before dropping to the Columbia. I started picking up the pace without noticing, finishing my first 30-mile day along the way. Just a few miles from Oregon, however, I missed a turn on the trail (for the first time, even with all that snow travel up north!) and managed to take an elaborate unplanned detour. Ugly, hot, dusty clearcuts in the Columbia Gorge National Scenic-from-the-highway Area were redeemed in part by thickets upon thickets of delicious blackberries.

Crossing the Columbia is Big. Despite the scars on some of the land, the Gorge is still monumental. The actual crossing of the Bridge of the Gods lived up to expectation. I was blasted by the infamous Gorge winds while dodging (thankfully slow and courteous) traffic on an open-grated bridge deck high above the river. That was the first -- and only -- time, I can recall and 18-wheeler making way for me.

Walking across all 500+ miles worth of Washington was a significant personal milestone, already my longest and toughest trip by far. Even if the northern border is arbitrary, the Columbia is a ponderous natural landmark. I crossed the River just a couple hours short of a month after leaving the Canadian border. My pace of 15 miles a day in the snow had risen to 25 or 30 miles each day in snow-free southern Washington, and the most significant physical and navigational challenges were behind me.

On to Oregon! There's a lot more Crest to explore yet.

Pig Data @ UW CSA

Our paper, The Barnyard of Pig Data Research: A View from UW CSA, was presented at PoCSci 2013.

Update: Watch the talk (about 18 minutes, with subtitles).

Abstract

A new interdisciplinary program in Computer Science & Agriculture at the University of Washington is breaking down fences between diverse computational, scientific, and agricultural fields to cultivate research on disruptive Barnyard Computing technologies that will radically grow the impacts of emerging Pig Data applications. In this paper we plot the UW CSA view of Barnyard Computing and Pig Data, outlining high-priority research efforts within our immersive Pig Data agenda, our educational efforts to produce a new Pig Data workforce, and our innovations to leverage organic growth in this sector via a novel research funding model. These are exciting times at UW CSA!

Read our white paper (draft for now, still missing many relevant references!) or watch the talk video:

Publications

The Barnyard of Pig Data Research: A View from UW CSA
Benjamin P. Wood, Brandon Lucia, Tom Bergan, Jacob Nelson, Adrian Sampson
PoCSci 2013: UW CSE Potentially Computer Science Conference, May 2013
Talk: video with subtitles   

Into the Clouds and Back

Stehekin to Stevens Pass, July 20 - July 26

With my feet toughened, body rested, and food more wisely selected, I left Stehekin with a lighter load and more spring in my step, ready for another 100-mile section of trail heavy on snow and light on humans. The PCT arcs to the west around Glacier Peak, the most remote of the Cascade volcanoes, before running ridges south to Stevens Pass. While the northernmost section of trail along the west end of the Pasayten Wilderness lies partly in the weather shadow of heavily glaciated peaks to the west, this section lies more directly in the northwest weather's line of fire. The snowpack is heavier here, lingering lower, deeper, and longer than up north and rather than mostly cruising in the high country, the trail climbs up over ridges running off Glacier Peak and plunges into deep river valleys between them.

After a wet first day out of Stehekin, I was treated to a gorgeous sunny day mixing some high country with plenty of cruising through low valleys choked with lush old growth forests and home to rivers roaring with glacier- and snow-melt. Enabled by my new feet and smooth snow-free trail in the valleys, I covered 24 miles that day, my first day in the twenties on the trip. The day ended with a climb back up into the snow and a high camp, where I was treated to a great sunset and a unique sunrise above a low layer of clouds in the valleys and below a higher layer just above the peaks. This was one of those places in time that answer the "why?" question. Life was grand.

These sunrise clouds soon closed in and kept everything above 5500 feet or so bound in thick mist for two days. Snowpack was still lingering as low as 4500 feet on north aspects and I had two 6500-foot passes to cross, smothered in clouds and approached from the north over at least a couple miles of snow. The purported beautiful views at Fire Creek Pass and Red Pass were curtained by visibility that dropped to less than 100 feet. My field of view was restricted to a small and mysterious world drawn entirely in shades of almost white.

Marmots whistled from behind the curtain. Occasionally a dark form would loom out of the bright murk, slowly gaining enough definition when approached closely enough to become a lone rock outcrop, a clump of trees, or a patch of bare ground carpeted with glacier lilies.

The trail was certainly nowhere to be seen and big vertical spaces loomed beyond. Time for a navigation test! I followed visible features until climbing into the clouds, and then stayed oriented with compass and (old-fashioned analog) altimeter from there, hitting the height of land within about 100 feet of the trail both times. Huzzah! Suddenly a clear trail tread appeared, winding down the south side of the pass through carpets of glacier lilies, lupines, and more before disappearing into the snow again. I promised Glacier Peak I would return to see beyond the curtain, and hopefully for a summit bid too.

The sun broke out the day after I crossed Red Pass, in time for fantastic views back to Glacier Peak from the ridge run south to Stevens Pass. The trail here was still largely covered with snow, but sometimes the snow gave way to brilliant fields of wildflowers. My last night before Stevens, I happened upon a beautiful open knoll just in time to witness the fiery afterglow of sunset fade behind familiar landmarks (Glacier, Sloan, Monte Cristo, Columbia, Kyes...). In the morning, I opened my eyes to see sunrise illuminating Glacier Peak, and a mob of mosquitoes gathering to collect their fee for the beautiful bivouac site.

Beyond the bookends of this section, I saw only four people: two backpackers on the Buck Creek Pass-Lyman Lake-Spider Meadows loop, and two goat-packers on the ridge north of Cady Pass. I did also hear voices and smell a campfire at Indian Pass, but I never saw their source for all the fog. More sweet solitude and solitary adventure. A few miles north of Stevens Pass, I ran into my first northbound thru-hikers, Mouse and Insane Dwayne. They were a fascinating pairing, and on pace to finish their hike in under three months, having done 44 miles the day before, hardly an average thru-hiker's pace!

Thunderstorms and Vacation

Harts Pass to Stehekin, July 13 - July 20

Before being startled by the Harts Pass caretaker four days in, the bear at Castle Pass was still the most "company" I could claim on the journey so far, but Harts Pass turns out to be a veritable hub of civilization. Twenty minutes after my short chat with the caretaker, I ran into two hikers sprawled across the trail eating lunch. More southbound thru-hikers! Steve and Kristen were as surprised to see other people as I was. We walked and talked for half the afternoon. They had done the trail southbound before and trained to hit the ground running this time. My feet were still going downhill (more often figuratively than literally) and I fell behind by the next day.

From Harts Pass, it took me three days to cover the 40 or so miles to Rainy Pass and Highway 20. The heat wave was breaking, and the blue skies had become steely with clouds. The snowclad peaks, soaring up between deep, glacier-carved valleys were no less impressive in this light. Thunder rolled in the distance all afternoon and passed overhead with brief downpours overnight. The trail was, on average, freer of snow here, but some long and difficult snow sections remained, with a dainty traverse over steep hard-surfaced snow slopes and a six-foot step up over an eroded cornice between Granite Pass and Cutthroat Pass. Fortunately the slopes were gentler and the snow softer beyond, petering out on the descent towards Rainy Pass.

At the road, on the morning of day seven, a Sunday, I stepped into a foreign world: the road-accessible Pacific Northwest Weekend! After meeting three people in just under a week, I passed by dozens in a couple hours. Day hikers, weekend backpackers and mountaineers, teen backpacking programs, and a couple rangers swarmed the area and the valley down into North Cascades National Park. With these throngs past, I was treated to hours of drenching by a few waves of ferocious thunderstorms, as I spent the afternoon alternately hunkering down for lightning and squelching on down the Bridge Creek valley at full speed. The shuttle to Stehekin, my first resupply stop, was just a dozen miles ahead.

Vacation in Stehekin

The requisite first stop was the bakery on the way into Stehekin, and it certainly lived up to its reputation. But by the time I had set up camp in the free campground, picked up my food drop at the post office, and hit the laundry and showers, I was hobbling along at something like a half mile an hour, trying to walk as if I was casually strolling around, embarrassed that I, a thru-hiker, would have such trouble walking. I had started to perfect the use of my footwear system (light wool socks, Gore-Tex oversocks, and non-waterproof trail runners) too late, and my feet were reeling from a tough of week of near-constant wetness and continued side-hilling on snow. Under the ball of each foot, I had a juicy, partly open blister the size of two or three quarter-dollar coins. Worse, they looked slightly funny colored and I was worried they might be on the way to infection. A stop in at the NPS visitor center to get an opinion on this turned out to be a very good decision, even though they weren't infected. EMT Ranger Kate, who had actually thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail the year before (trail name True Grit), was immensely helpful, unafraid of hiker feet (at least they had seen the shower), and when she discovered the first-aid cache was out of epsom salts, went searching around "town" to find some for me. (Thank you!) It didn't take much to convince me to spend a few days lounging and salt-soaking in town to heal up the feet and my short town break quickly turned into a full-blown vacation from hiking. I was grateful that my needs and the perks of Stehekin aligned so fortuitously.

All in all, Stehekin is a great place to be stuck for a few days in midsummer. I had extra food from the first leg of my hike and had shipped more than I would need for the second leg. Between this and some indulgence at the restaurant and store, I was set. The camping was free. There were gorgeous views and great sunsets on the shores of Lake Chelan. I started to follow the daily rhythm of ferry arrivals and departures. (Perched at about a thousand feet above sea level, at the northern tip of 55-mile long Lake Chelan, and surrounded steep mountains reaching six to eight thousand feet higher, Stehekin is not reachable by road from the outside.) I even got to look on during the government-sponsored relocation of a rattlesnake that had been squatting near the visitor center. It got downright hot at these low elevations, but all I had to do was soak my feet or snooze the shade. The only downside of this forced vacation was that I did not make it to the bakery again until stopping in on the way out of town. It was a mile up the road -- a mile too far for my hobble -- and I couldn't justify the fee to ride the shuttle up and back or rent a bike.

Four days and lots of salt soaks did wonders for my feet and they were now nicely calloused and ready to go. They were unfazed by another thunder/drenching cycle that hit not five minutes after I was back on the trail, plus several more days of snow travel. In fact, I would not have any notable blister issues again except from an extended road-and-rail walking detour over a thousand miles later, and these were nothing in comparison to that first week of wet feet.

Rock Pass from Woody Pass

Alone

Canyon Creek to Monument 78 to Harts Pass, July 8 - July 12

"Hi there!"

I nearly jumped out of my skin. Despite the beat-up old Subaru at the Harts Pass caretaker's hut, the first human encounter of my nascent adventure on the Pacific Crest Trail certainly took me by surprise.


Four-and-a-half days ago, Tom drove out of the Canyon Creek Trailhead and back towards Seattle as I strode purposefully into the evening woods wondering if I had forgotten some essential item, if ditching my crampons had been a good idea, if I would soon find myself hitching a ride back to Seattle, having run up against the cracks in my hasty last-minute preparations.

Work on my paper submission had dragged on a week past my (most recent, adjusted) anticipated departure date, followed by 48 frenzied hours of pulling together all the uninteresting details associated with a multi-month trip: preparing my apartment for use during my absence, checking and rechecking my gear manifest, buying food for my first two weeks on trail. Naturally, I had been over the interesting, dreamy details any number of times already, but preparations dragged on until mere minutes before my first step, with 2700 miles of maps organized in the car and two weeks of food sorted and repackaged at the trailhead. Nevermind that the most exercise I had gotten in the past five weeks was my (mostly) daily 3-mile round trip walk to campus and back.

As twilight descended twenty minutes later and a mile or so up the canyon, none of these worries -- nor the fact that the only spot flat enough to camp was the trail -- really mattered. The darkening forest and the roaring creek had quickly swept away such trivial concerns of the civilized world. I was there, alone, on the other side of that first step that would have been so easy not to take, to leave as just another perpetual aspiration. The details would sweat themselves.

My route the next day took me up several thousand feet along two little-used trails gradually more obscured by brush, downed trees, stream banks washed away, precarious logjam crossings of snowmelt-swollen creeks, and lingering snowpack. A nearly week-long heat wave had just rolled in and my pack was heavy with a week's worth of food that would actually last at least ten days. I was sweating plenty without sweating the details. Each day I rose early and walked until around sunset, still quite late at this latitude and proximity to the summer solstice. Sometimes I walked fourteen or fifteen hours a day, but the snow pace was a slow pace, especially while getting in shape.

The northern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail at the U.S.-Canada border paled next to the two-and-a-half-day adventure to get there. The trail descends gently under forest cover along the side of the Castle Creek valley, zig-zagging through a pair of short switchbacks before dribbling out into the bizarre swath of clearcut that slices off in both directions along the forty-ninth parallel, indifferent to the grain of the land. The border cut and monument are strange and arbitrary human punctuation, inconsequential in context of the surrounding landscape. Nonetheless, this piece of trail is here (obscured as much of it is by the lingering snowpack), so I might as well make the quick, geopolitically significant side trip. My route is, after all, manufactured by humankind, though it does follow roughly along a feature of nature's making. The scenery along this short detour certainly does not disappoint: a stunning 360-degree view from Lookout Point over the spiky and seemingly endless North Cascades; a harrowing traverse between Rock Pass and Woody Pass, over steep, hard-packed avalanche debris spilled by craggy Powder Mountain into the head of a fantastic glacial valley; snowy alpine views over a serene meadow just south, painted with a mix of lingering snow and vivid new green, punctuated by bright yellow glacier lilies and everywhere gurgling brooks of snowmelt. Being in somewhat familiar territory, it was gratifying to pick out distant peaks: Baker, Shuksan, Jack, the Pickets... I was traversing big country, and I had not seen a single person since starting. Could the Trail deliver any better than this?

Turning south to become a southbound PCT thru-hiker, I was greeted by an enormous black bear bolting up the slopes above me at Castle Pass. It looked big enough to be a grizzly (there are a few here in the North Cascades, though sightings remain exceedingly rare), but all I could see was a fast-moving backside, so I was happy to believe it was just a black bear. From here, the snowpack seemed unrelenting. I quickly realized the folly of traveling southbound through this snowscape: I slogged up the steep, snow-covered northern slopes only to slog -- or splash -- my way back down the sun-bathed southern aspects, where much more snow had melted off. A northbound traveler could stroll up the southern slopes and glissade with a whoop of glee down the snowy northern slopes. Thunderheads lined up cordially each day, staying just east of the Crest and leaving my path in the grips of the heat wave. Mexico was my destination now, so there was no more turning around to take the easy way, and I was having far too much fun in this adventure to quit.

I arrived at Harts Pass tired, hungry, and sweaty at the end of my fourth day out of civilization. My feet were in bad shape after these days spent side-hilling, stomping footholds in tenacious avalanche debris, plunge-stepping, climbing, and descending the wet July snowpack straight out of the starting gates. Growing, soft blisters were proof that my feet were not conditioned to being wet most of the day. I decided to take a half-day off at Harts Pass in hopes of some healing.

Heading out the next day, I was ready to leave behind this small seasonal outpost of "civilization" still without having met any other humans, but I could not help but notice an well-traveled old Subaru parked in front of the caretaker's hut that had been chased up the dirt road by a big dust cloud earlier that day.

Striding south through Evolution Basin

PCT 2012: Canada to Mexico

Between early July and early November 2012 I walked solo from the Canadian border to the Mexican border along the Pacific Crest Trail, covering over 2700 contiguous miles by foot. I am still compiling writings, photographs, and videos from the trip here. Check back in or subscribe to follow my time-shifted reflections.

General Reflections

Washington

Looking back on Lakeview Ridge, Jack Mountain in the distance

I started at Canyon Creek the evening of July 8, reached the Canadian border and turned around on July 11, and crossed the Columbia into Oregon on August 10. Along the way to Oregon, I experienced four contiguous days without seeing another human, 200 miles of largely snow-covered trail, chewed up feet and a vacation from hiking, navigation on snow in whiteouts, heaps of fantastic snowclad alpine scenery, clearcuts, Goat Rocks with friends, friendly trail towns, and my first 30-mile day. The first three weeks were undoubtedly the most adventurous part of the trip, and crossing the entirety of Washington was already the longest, toughest trip I had undertaken.

Oregon

Mt. Shasta and Mt. McLoughlin over the Crater Lake rim at sunrise

In Oregon, I walked from volcano to volcano as if following a line of massive cairns along the Crest. By this time, I had hit my stride and I crossed the state comfortably in about three and half weeks. My appetite was also up to speed, and I demolished meals left and right: an enormous Lebanese meal at Nicholas in Portland, an even bigger lunch at Timberline Lodge, multiple rounds at Mazama Village, and much more. Throughout the state, I met northbound thru-hikers regularly, usually several to a couple dozen each day. I encountered three trail-closing forest fires, many shoes-full of dust, and a brief interrogation as a potential threat by law enforcement dropped in by helicopter and decked out with tactical gear.

Northern California

Lassen Peak from Hat Creek Rim

In Northern California, wild fires on trail (four) were as common as northbound thru-hikers (four). My total fire detour mileage reached well over 100 miles, mostly on routes of my own construction. Mixed with largely dull fire detours were extensive Wilderness-Area cattle grazing, deserted and unexpectedly scenic country, active on-trail logging, many friendly encounters in towns, and about one black bear per day for much of the section. All this made for a bit of an emotional rollercoaster and the toughest mental leg of the trip.

Sierra Nevada

Tyndall Basin

The Sierra Nevada picked me up high. In Yosemite, I had a brief nighttime standoff with a bear and saw no one for a couple days straight. This spell of solitude was broken with some rarefied avocado trail magic when I ran into two hiking superstars guiding a crew in the Yosemite high country. Early October in the High Sierra offered clear and crisp weather and a decided lack of summer crowds, lending extra clarity to the eye-popping scenery. The granite and the weather seemed stuck in time until I raced a snow storm out of the high country around Forester Pass and Mount Whitney.

Southern California

Above Whitewater Canyon, Mt. San Gorgonio in distance

Southern California was a study in start contrast and surprise, with serenely empty desert and unexpected stretches of pleasant highland forest butting up against the encroaching mass and infrastructure of "SoCal," and the remains of countless burns. I once carried water for 40 miles, twice met the same trail crew member who knew my cousin, and thrice ate at McDonald's. Town stops became less leisurely, but not for lack of friendliness. I met four other long-distance hikers going southbound (the first since day five) and enjoyed the company of hiking with two of them off and on in the last 500 miles. In four weeks of dry, sunny, and often hot, Southern California weather, it misted on me for half a day in the San Gabriel Mountains north of Los Angeles and rained my last night and day on the trail.

I reached the Mexican border with a fellow southbound traveler around sunset on November 9th. The "end" was a study in contradiction: subdued urgency, exultant calm, surrounded to the last step by the mundanely magnificent. Our witnesses were dark, threatening clouds, a biting, cold wind, and dusk encroaching on further hills, guarded from our feet by that curious barricade and its minders. And with that, we were spirited away to San Diego through the blurry clarity of darkness.

Epilogue

I spent several days visiting in the bustle of San Diego and Joshua Tree National Park before returning to Seattle by train. After walking four months to get there, a four-hour return trip by plane seemed too abrupt. Forty hours by train was trying, but the order of magnitude helped ease the return trip of the mind.

My walking outfit is stowed away, but not for good.

Remmel, Andrew, etc., from meadows west of Amphitheater

Lonely Cathedral

A Spring Ski Loop in the Pasayten

The idea of a long ski traverse across the Pasayten Wilderness has been stuck in my head since sometime this winter. I pictured an east-to-west-then-south traverse constituting roughly one hundred miles with all the winter-time approaches, mainly through the northern tier of the Wilderness. That is still on the books for the future, but timing, the lack of a partner, and mediocre ski skills suggested a shorter solo objective this spring. I headed to the Cathedral area on the sunny first weekend of May.

Amphitheater, Cathedral, and unnamed northern neighbor

The route was a counter-clockwise loop of 40-45 miles, starting with an afternoon road walk from the Andrews Creek trailhead up the Chewuch valley to Thirtymile, continuing up the Chewuch trail (camp one), then up the Tungsten Creek trail to the old tungsten mine area, west over Apex Pass, across the Cathedral Creek valley, through Cathedral Pass, then down the gentle slopes to Spanish Creek (camp two), up to Andrews Pass, and finally down the Andrews Creek valley returning to the Andrews Creek trailhead.

This route is low-angle, with a couple short exceptions (e.g., the steep, heavily treed descent from Apex Pass to Cathedral Creek) where I removed skis. Generally, in the daytime sunny snow conditions, the patterned base on my skis was sufficient for most of the climbing I needed to do. Only on some particularly hard-crusted slopes (prevalent in the morning, but lasting all day in places) did I need to boot it. (I did not have skins.)

Cathedral Peak

I met a pair of bicyclists along the road walk. Their tracks turned around at Thirtymile, the last visible signs of post-autumn human presence. I was probably a dozen or more miles from the nearest humans once I was out in the high country. It was easy to imagine I was the first human to visit these parts in months. Sweet solitude.

The lack of human tracks was offset by plenty of others: elk or moose, bear, coyote (I think, since I also saw a coyote, though the tracks were melted enough to be plausible as any range of possibilities and I am not knowledgeable enough to know sizes: wolf? lynx? wolverine?), hare, and plenty of smaller company.

Rough seas at Cathedral Pass

Having spent the spring largely indoors rather than practicing lugging so much weight on each foot, the trip was harder work than expected, and I skipped a couple optional extensions out to Horseshoe Basin and Bald Mountain. Melted, burned, and deadfall-choked approaches with skis on or off the pack no doubt helped slow me down. Snow level varied dramatically depending on aspect and tree cover, but in the two major valley floors (Chewuch and Andrews) mostly-consistent cover started at 4200-4500 feet.

Remmel looms

The striking mass of Cathedral Peak brought a certain Debussy prelude to mind. (Here's a recording if you don't have a favorite.) The Cathedral-Amphitheater-Remmel area offered sweeping views. The long gentle descent in the upper half of the Andrews Creek valley (especially after finding the trail) was the most fun. The snow-free, deadfall-choked Chewuch and the snowy, muddy, loggy, brushy, and soupy flat miles in the middle of the Andrews Creek valley were the most taxing.

Andrew Peak

The Pasayten in a thick coat of white is company worth revisiting. Next time I will aim for fuller snowpack (earlier in the season) and less deadfall (non- or less-burned routes) on the approaches. The altering power of fire is stunning. As physically unforgiving as a burn is, there is a stark, strident beauty in the truth left behind, intensified by scale and the awaited transition to living forest. A desolate burn is an imposing gatekeeper for what lies beyond and a vivid cautionary tale for the visitor.

More photos

A less sloggy section of the flatter miles midway down the Andrews Creek valley

RADISH at ISCA 2012

Our paper on RADISH, a hybrid hardware-software dynamic data-race detector that is sound and complete and fast enough for many deployment situations, will appear at ISCA 2012.

Cloud Types for EC

In summer 2011, I interned in the RiSE group at Microsoft Research with Sebastian Burckhardt, Daan Leijen, and Manuel Fahndrich. We adapted the Concurrent Revisions model to provide language support for eventually consistent storage in simple distributed systems such as smartphone applications sharing data through the cloud. The resulting paper will appear at ECOOP 2012.

Publications

Cloud Types for Eventual Consistency
Sebastian Burckhardt, Manuel Fahndrich, Daan Leijen, Benjamin P. Wood
ECOOP 2012     

Tracks

trip reports, computer science publications, music, etc.