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Over the years, I’ve kept a journal while backpacking. I did it again this time, only I was more bored, so it is longer.  I don’t really proofread these, nor do they go through the same editing process that I go through when I type.  I don’t find the right words.  I don’t down select for relevance.  I just slowly scribble on a tiny notebook.

Some previous versions…

https://furstwords.wordpress.com/category/miscellaneous/backpacking/

8/26/16 1415
At Deception Creek camp, having covered 13.3 miles and 2500 ft of elevation gain in less than 6 hours. A few miles ago, I was complimenting myself on my pace. Now, I’m tired. I should have broken that up more. I’ve set camp and am on my way for the first of many pumps [water filtering]. On the western horizon, which is maybe 4 miles away because it’s a ridgeline, there is an ominous haze of smoke [from the wildfire in the park]. Other than a very smokey few minutes in the car, however, the air has been clean. I think that will be changing by the morning [it did not].

So, a solo hike. So far, not that eventful. I had no particularly profound thoughts. I didn’t solve any problems or reform my life. I mostly just walked. Thought about walking. And what I would do if the volcano blew or the Cascadia fault line slipped…but mostly just walked.

I did come to the realization of how alone I was. Not lonesome, but spatially separate. I do not believe that it is an exaggeration to say that you could have drawn a 2 mile radius circle about me and, for a couple of hours at least, I would have been the only one in said circle. It doesn’t seem like much, but think about that for a minute. 7 billion people on the planet and I have 12 square miles [or 7680 acres] all to myself. Alone. Not so anymore, there are two other tents here already. But for a while, I was a solitary red dot walking my way through the woods in an area that would include 5 million people around Manhattan.

8/26 1834
I’ve been reading and doing camp activities all afternoon and evening – peaceful. My two neighbors are still nowhere to be seen. I got here before 2 and have not seen them since. My best guess is that they know each other and are on some common adventure – bushwhacking to the top of a nearby mountain or down at the Dosewallips River proper (we’re a few hundred meters up a tributary). since they haven’t returned and since they seem to be on the same schedule, I’m wondering if they will return together and find that someone (me) has set camp in the common area between the sites. I’m going to keep reading out there to see if they return. Note: there are too many hours in the day here. I should have gone longer. Optimal solo hike distance? 15-17 miles [not so on subsequent days!]. I’ll have to do another activity, less I get too bored.

8/26 2000
Still no sign of one of them. The tarp guy is a massive [not very] guy with long white hair. OK, not that massive, gold guy. Still no one for the Big Agnes site.

Deception Creek
First night video [Intro was chopped off. I am showing my sites to the girls.]
Near Lost Pass, between first and second night
Upper Cameron Basin outflow

8/27/16 1430
5360 ft. Stephen is not here. Normally I go with him. When Steve is here, when we get to camp at 2 PM and there is a 7200 ft mountain a mile away, you can be sure that a summit will be attempted. I always go too, out of a faternal obligation to keep one’s little brother from an early grave [or at least see where the body ends up]. I am getting old. I don’t think I’ve ever felt it as acutely as I did while gaining 2000 ft of elevation between Dose Meadows and Cameron Pass. I had to stop to catch my breath every ten minutes. I was majorly sucking wind. Steve would have left me in the dust.
But Steve isn’t here. So, rather than clumb the extra mountain, I’m going to lay down and ready a book. He can keep himself alive without my help.

I did take some time to drop my pack and scout for sites here at Upper Cameron Basin. Walking around the glacier fed meadow, with nothing but a hat brought me back to my time at Belly River at Glacier NP, many years ago. There’s something extra wild about being packless, away from everything. There is no one else yet at the basin. I may be in my 2 mile bubble all night this time [it was probably a 3 mile bubble, and I was].

1844
There’s something familiar about this place. Imposing ridgeline shelters glaciers. Relatively flat meadow, sometimes with a lake, criss-crossed by frigid snowmelt. Rocks as large as schoolbuses where you cook. Water smells chalky, some distinct mineral, magnesium perhaps? Basin drains through cascading waterfall, you pump the water right near where it drains.
I first saw this place at Stoney Indian in Glacier and was overawed by the gradeur. Then again on our second night in the North Cascades. Then again at Heart Lake the first time I was in the Olympics. Here in the Upper Cameron Basin, I have the entire basin – who knows how much more with the nearest campsite 3 miles away as the crow files. But it’s still basically the same. Maybe that is why I enjoyed Big Bend so much last year – it was distinctive. Peaceful as it is here, I’m a bit bored and definitely dreading the 10 hours of waiting for dawn as I alternatively deprive my arms of oxygen trying to fitfully sleep while shivering in my tent.
And I miss my girls, all of them. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, as they say, and maybe I need that every so often.
BTW: today was 9 miles and 3000 feet. It took all of 6 hours –> 30 minutes per miles, 30 minutes per 1000 ft. Includes rest and lunch.

The meadow at Upper Cameron Basin [sideways]
My camp at Upper Cameron Basin
Grand Pass between night two and three

8/28/16 1422
Arrived at Grand Lake a little while ago and scramble to set camp in the rain. I say scrambled, but I’m not actually moving quickly. Nothing out here does. Even the flies are lazy.
I’ve been talking to myself more today, though I actually felt stronger on the trail today. That might be because I made two walking sticks to serve as trekking poles. It made a big difference climbing to Grand Pass. So, it’s raining and I’m basically killing time until 6 AM tomorrow when I can break camp and hoof it out of here. One downside of being stuck in one’s tent? One is confronted with one’s overwhelming stench. I haven’t really felt complelled to jump into the 53 degree lake or 45 degree river – to wouldn’t make much of a difference anyway without soap. I’ve been rinsing my shift, shorts, and briefs in bodies of water, and that helps some. But they don’t call it swamp ass for nothing and no amount of lipstick is making that pig smell pretty. Or something.

One noteworthy event! I had human interaction! So, 25 or so miles into my adventure, and I finally saw another soul on the trail. And wouldn’t you know it, it was a lost young couple in need of assistance, having only meager navigation skills and subpar maps!

No, no, I swear, I haven’t spent 3 hours starring at this map in the last three days! It was nice to help. I miss people, it turns out. You see, I’m a extrovert in a narrow range of social scenarios. First, I can’t compete for attention. I’m an introvert around dominant personalities. But when I’m the dominant personality, bam, let’s all talk and acknowledge my cleverness and wit. Want to hear about the time I lugged 50 lbs on my back for 4 days? I was all by myself! Picture a 2 mile circle!

Vanity, vanity. I should have a blog! I can control the discussion, framing it in ways to make my views unassailable. Or talk radio? Or maybe I’ll just dominate meetings at work!
All this self-reflecting, you know? But I already knew all these things, enlightened and self-aware as I am. I’m just bored and trapped in a tent with nothing to think about but how much I stink.
(Full circle! Get it? OK, I’ll stop.)

8/28 1556
I think it’s important to do things like go backpacking. It forces you to confront things that you take for granted in your daily life.

The acquisition of water. While I have two hundred viable water sources on this particular route, that wasn’t the case in Big Bend. In fact, we ran out of water on our first hiking trip in New Hampshire. I dreamt of faucets that night. Then there’s the provision of food. Calories and protein, but also fiber. Then you have to force yourselve to eat it. I, for instance, currently have a profound lack of “give a shit”. I mostly just want to sit and sate. But, I suspect this is due to too few calories and too many miles on too few hours of sleep. Low blood sugar. Low something. Whatever the case, this apathy is something I only get under this specific set of conditions. Then there’s shelter. You have to BYO shelter.
And warmth. Last night, I wore 4 shirts (aka, all of them), pants, two pairs of socks, a winter hat, gloves, a silk liner and a sleeping back largely because I neglected to bring my own bag and am borrowing my mother-in-laws’ and she’s not 6′ tall. Sleep. Hard to do on the ground. Hygiene? A losing battle. And there are 7000 ft mountains (they were 11000 feet in King’s Canyon and the Uintas). Maybe hoardes of mosquitoes. And wild animals! Everyone knows about mountain lions and bears (I have no idea why I have yet to see any!), but also goats and deer that will chew on your clothes for salt if you leave them out.

Goats don’t chew your clothes in normal life. Water comes from faucets. Beds have blankets and pillows. Houses have bathrooms and in them you can wash off your filth and dispose of your excrement.

Trust me, it’s good to do without every so often. You should totally try it sometime.
Grand Lake

Badger Valley
Badger Valley again [BTW, it’s possible to get to this place with a strenuous 7 mile day hike. Worth it.]
Deer Path to Obstruction Point, nearer to Obstruction Point
Maiden Peak

8/29/16 12:34
Today’s walk was a celebration. Broke camp early, on the trail by 7:25. Finished 10 miles and about 2000 feet in just under 5 hrs. Felt strong and cheerful. Badger Valley and the ridge were both beautiful. Waiting for extraction, eager to see the girls.

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Devil’s Path, NY

This Saturday, Stephen and I did the 24.8 mile, 18,000 vertical foot (9,000 up, 9,000 down) Devil’s Path in the Catskills. My quads continue to scream two days later. The hike climbs 6 mountains (summiting 5 of them), dipping at least 1200 feet down between each peak. It’s a constant up and down, up and down, all of it on loose, steep, rocky and occasionally slick terrain. I’ve got the High Sierra, Glacier, North Cascades, the Uintas, and a few other spare day hikes to compare it to – it’s the most difficult terrain and probably the most difficult hike that I’ve done.

We started at 0700 at the Prediger Trailhead and finished around 1815 on Spruceton Rd, stopping for an hour or so total in between. The 25 mile day hike is a challenge that is not to be taken lightly. By our lunch date with my family at Devil’s Tombstone Campground off 214 (around 1230 and 14 miles in), my quads were already quivering under the eccentric loading. I was having a hard time visualizing how I’d possibly handle that pounding under a 40 lb pack (a nice example of the terrain). You do not, of course, do it all in one day in that case.

The views were pretty sweet for what they were, though they don’t stack up against the views out west. The hike was perfectly pleasant until it transitioned from “oh, how nice, nature!” to the long, painful slog toward the finishing goal. That was the point of it, so it remains pleasant as I struggle up and down stairs even today. The terrain was definitely interesting, and I enjoyed the uphills. These were on the very edge of what you need switchbacks for – most parks out west would take hills as steep as these tangentially and with switches. Here, probably due to the denseness of vegetation and desire to avoid having to maintain a longer route than minimally necessary, the trail plowed straight up the hill. Down was, unfortunately, just as steep, with loose rocks and crevasses requiring full concentration for huge stretches at a time.

Other than very nearly smashing my camera when I slipped on a wet rock a few miles in (I’m very impressed that it wasn’t destroyed, I really smashed that thing), there weren’t too many noteworthy occurrences. We saw a few small snakes in a tree. We saw a guy with no shirt in a transparent poncho, despite the beautiful weather. Actually, there were TONS of hikers out – we probably saw 50+ folks on the trail, though most doing shorter loops. Apparently a girl that started before us also finished the full trip before us (we never saw her). I can’t visualize covering the distance much faster than we did. We ran sporadically in the very occasional flat portions (maybe 2-3 total miles, and probably no faster than 9:00 mile pace because the terrain was still treacherous), we made very good time up the hills…I was a liability going down the hills, which was never my strength, even in running cross country.

No backpacking this year, given the baby. This was good enough to evoke sufficient physical misery to sustain me for a bit. That’s really all I need.

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In previous years, I have kept a journal on Stephen and I’s backpacking trips. I’ve been better about posting these in a timely fashion in the past – except for Algonquin, which I never posted at all (but which I plan to type up soon). Anyway, previous entries are here:
The High Uintas, 2010
Algonquin Provincial Park, 2009
Glacier National Park, 2008
King’s Canyon National Park, 2007

There was no trip in 2011, as Steve was living in Germany. Jen and I visited him there instead.

Each time we do this, it’s a little less stressful, less exciting, less noteworthy. That’s not to say it’s not wonderful, it is. Now, I see the mountains, and I say, wow, these are epic, sort of like …, and name a previous range I’ve backpacked in. The first time you see the mountains (from IN the mountains because it’s VERY different), it changes your world. World was changed a while ago now, and recollection is less intense an experience than discovery.

Anyway, here’s the log from this last trip.

8/20/12 1750 PST
About 8 miles in at McAlester Lake, around 5500 ft elevation. We got out of the Monin house around 6:15 this morning. We stopped for Steve’s run at the North Cascades station and got to the Bridge Creek trailhead around 1215. After giving three damsels in distress a jump and opening the door in the bathroom on a naked dude, (“YO! Don’t you knock?” “Yo, don’t you lock?” I inadvertently rhymed back) we left for the woods before he got out.

It was a comedy of errors in the first mile, as we interpreted a trail sign for Stiletto Spur to be for the spur itself and not the trail TO the spur (which we wanted). Instead we took this marginal trail which became progressively more primitive until it basically evaporated at an unsanctioned stream crossing. We persevered and eventually intersected the PCT, getting on our way.

Once in the right place, it was uneventful. It’s nice country, but the hike was not noteworthy for anything in particular.

Since we’ve arrived, Steve has caught a small cutthroat trout, not big enough to eat. We saw a bird dive bomb into the lake for a fish. It was fat and black with a white head and looked more like a duck than a bird of prey. Have since heard his huge kersplash another time. Mosquitoes, by the way, have necessitated full body protection. It’s about 68, so not a big deal. I doubt the water is colder than 55 – fairly pleasant. We jumped in to bathe for a few minutes. There’s a middle aged couple nearby, but otherwise it’s pretty peaceful out here.

8/21/12 1650 PST
I got my typical poor night’s sleep, with about 3 good hours from 1-4 and another 2 hrs sprinkled here and there. Not awful, and had the opportunity to see the stars at 4. So many, I couldn’t figure out what I was looking at.

After some oatmeal and crasins, we broke camp around 7:30, to do the 10 miles to Rainbow Lake. After a long descent, we had just as long of an ascent, for no net elevation gain, but down and back up more than 2500 ft. The highlight of the day was Steve’s yearly foray into danger. This year, scaling the mountain to the south side of Rainbow Lake was quite good. We had excellent views of Chelan, the western mountains in the Cascade range, and most all of the park. The weather was once again perfect, though the western range looked to be getting some rain.

I’m now sitting in an west facing meadow, absorbing sum after my daily bathing. The water is surprisingly warm, maybe even 60 degrees. It’s tough getting into it, but you can stand it for a few minutes once you’re in.

By the way, really fresh black bear skat in the camp. Full of berries. I think we may be seeing him later…

8/22/12 1825 PST
The walk from Rainbow Lake to South Fork was uneventful. We got up around 7 – I slept reasonably well; despite waking up a dozen or so times. I got a few decent chunks. On the trail before 9, we covered the 7 miles by ~12:30.

With lots of time to kill, we started following the river downstream. The river was fast enough and deep enough to require some skill, and the density of the vegetation forced us to cover most ground in the river itself. The water here is still amazingly warm – probably near to 60 degrees.

Along the way, Steve dropped his line in whenever we hit a spot deeper than 4 ft, catching several dozen fish (I even caught 2). Of those, we ate 6 for dinner. Good to add some calories.

Meanwhile, the sun is setting straight down the river valley – perfect for pictures. This site is underrated. It’s a great place with enormous cyprus and [unk] trees and a lovely river. We’re the only ones here, making it better. Good stuff.

8/23/12 1030 PST
After the 6.3 miles from South Fork to the Bridge Creek Trailhead in 2.5 hrs, we were done by 1030. Last night I took some pictures before sitting on Steve’s fishing log for a bit, watching the fish as the sun set behind the mountains. Eventually, dozens of bats patrolled above our heads – very few mosquitoes here by the way.

It dropped to 35 degrees last night – cold in the bags. Steve’s going to freeze in Yellowstone. Broke camp in just over an hour – a quick turn around when you include the hot meal. Decent enough sleep too – 10 hrs of the very fragment sort.

Once again, the trip was sustainable. The perfect weather helped, but we easily could have gone longer – with more food. Good stuff, all of it.

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