Sunday, July 21, 2013

It's not you, it's me

Dear backpack, I think its time we sat down and had a serious talk. I can't believe how quickly time has passed. I remember when I first saw you. In fact it wasn't even in person, I'll admit I heard about you from a friend and stalked you online. You looked so sleek and light, how could I not be impressed? I debated for ages whether or not to reach out and actually meet you. But I wasn't happy with only online glimpses so I hit the road and met you in person. I'll admit I wasn't disappointed, I took you home right then and there.
Like any new relationship I had a few reservations, but that's normal in a new relationship. Now we've been together for close to 2 years, that's pretty impressive don't you think? I've put you through a lot and you've held up like a champ. You stuck it out through short  and long adventures. The PCT was definitely rough. We were together everyday for over 4 months and things got a little intense. You held up like a champ the times I overloaded you (7 liters of water may have been excessive), I never took it personally when my collarbones were bruised or my back ached. I'll admit I was rather upset when your netting ripped, and then the elastic cord ripped as well so early on but you held it together after that. Even when that rodent chewed your shoulder straps you held on, admirable effort really.

But I think I've reached the tipping point. It started near Crater Lake on the PCT, I started to get a bit of a heat rash on my lower back. No big deal, a little bit of Vaseline and a few more pack breaks and it all should have been alright. Only it wasn't, my back got worse, I changed shirts, I even washed you little backpack with a garden hose in a valiant attempt to get all the ingrained sweat and dirt out. I started balling up bandannas in a vain attempt to put some space between us. The thing was you didn't work with me at all, that soft cushy back panel that I used to love was not playing nicely with my skin. My back got redder and started bleeding, this was not good. My little stop gap measures held out all the way to the border and I did manage to get the bleeding to stop but this was not a good sign for the long term. I'll admit it after the PCT I pushed our problems to the back of my mind and we took a break. You hung out in the closet and I moved on. Bu then summer rolled around and there you were, my good old reliable friend. I loaded you up and even on just a short trip I noticed my back starting to get a bit hot, but I pushed my concerns aside because you were my good reliable backpack. I couldn't toss you to the wayside like that.
Then I hit the ruby mountains and I knew we were in trouble, I recognized the signs early on. My windbreaker was immediately balled up in the small of my back and we stalled the issue for the whole trip but that's not a solution little backpack, its just not enough.
I'll admit it, you have some competition out there. There is your slender little sister over at ULA, no cushy back panel to plague me on that one. Or your other cottage industry cousins, that gossamer gear pack is awfully seductive. But I know relationships take work so I'm willing to work with you just a little bit longer. Lets try the washing machine, and if that doesn't work little backpack then I'm so sorry but we may just be over. Its been a great ride but not everything lasts forever. We'll always have the good times to remember right?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Day 4, the end of the Rubies

I can't believe how quickly this trip has gone, only 9-10 miles left on this beautiful Sunday morning. Not too chilly at all and what a view.

Okay so now let me explain the next few photos. I had heard that lots of hikers see mountain goats in the park, so I'll admit I had been crossing my fingers the whole trip. Sam said he had seen some the day before and I hoped the dog wasn't scaring them away, or that I had just been too oblivious to see them. And then within 15 minutes of starting my morning there they were. Coming off the ridge-line I startled a deer and as it bounded down the canyon I saw a group of fluffy white hanging out at the saddle. Now comes the sad part, iphone cameras don't like to zoom. Add the fact that I was directly facing the rising sun equals fuzzy sad photos. Lets not even comment on how I zoomed in and took about 10 awesome photos of a rock before I realized what I was doing.

Looking out from Wines Peak

Favre Lake

Liberty Lake
Quite the long descent from Liberty Pass. I don't remember climbing up for that long but I think the fog and excitement made my first day much easier than it could have been. I'll admit with the heat I was glad to be heading down not up.

Oh my goodness what a difference a day makes. Lamoille Canyon on a Sunday is quite the place to be. I think I passed over 50 people. It looked like mostly day hikers but quite the change seeing so many folks, all mostly within 2 miles of the trail-head. I even got to say hi to the 4 I had met on the pass above Overland trail. They mentioned that the 10 mile dry stretch had been super tough for them, which just reminded me how differently people experience the trail. For me the hardest bit was my afternoon after the pass above Overland. Hot and overgrown with steep trail had me worn out. While at least half of that dry stretch (N Furlong to Long Canyon) was my favorite section of the trail.
Once I hit the parking lot the dog hopped in the car and refused to move. I headed to the creek for one last dip to cool off and after chatting with some bicyclists from Reno I stopped stalling and hit the road yet again.
The trip was great. For me it was very doable in 4 days. The shorter days on each end made the driving fit in perfectly. I was asked numerous times on the trail if I had to pick one direction which would it be, my gut reaction is to start at Lamoille only because I loved it, but there is something to be said for ending with the best. Both directions have a few climbs and don't seem significantly different in that regard. I'm going to be indecisive and say I think my way was best, an out and back allowed me to see everything twice. I got to enjoy things I had missed my first time around and loved beginning and ending in Lamoille. I'll admit all those aspen have me thinking that a fall trip could be a pretty sweet option as well but I loved how I was surrounded by wildflowers and green.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Day 3, Lather Rinse Repeat

The beauty of an out and back is that now that I'm done with the first half there is really zero guesswork left. No worrying about intersections or water just enjoying the trail. A great sunrise and away we went.

Its hard to see but that little line is the trail heading
down to the Middle Fork of Smiths Creek

early morning and the dog was already hiding in
bushes at every break...

looking down at Overland lake
Going up the pass wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be at all. The folks I had seen at the top the day before had looked completely beat down. Plus it had felt like a pretty steep descent for me so I was happily surprised when we made it to the top without too much grief.

apparently Overland Lake is the place to be as a horse

naptime and laundry, perfect
Ah cleanliness in the outdoors, what a different thing you are. With 3 hours of break time how could I not attempt to get a little cleaner? So the first round of swimming was fully clothed in an attempt to make my clothes slightly less rank and then it was just swimming for swimming's sake. My dog just looked at me and slept under a bush, hmm that means she's really tired. By the way this lake is even more fantastic on day 3 when you are hot and there is a noticeable lack of screaming obnoxiousness.

I made the dog wear her booties because I was getting worried about her feet. She hated me passionately for this decision despite all the times I made her wear them back at home. Trust me its not just anthropomorphising, that dog was unhappy with the world.

Look I can take pictures of things besides the scenery,
evening snacktime!
I met another hiker along this section, yet another guy from Reno who I scared so badly he screamed. I swear I am not a quiet hiker but I managed to startle at least 5 different people on this hike. We flip flopped the rest of the afternoon. It reminded me of the PCT, you make weird small talk about the trail for ages and then finally actually introduce yourself after hours of this nonsense. Very entertaining.

More ominous clouds rolling in
Up on top above long canyon I thought about stopping and camping early. It looked like rain and I had found a nice sheltered spot but it was still early and after over an hour break I decided to keep going. 

I wanted a spot to camp where I could see sunrise and sunset, I finally found it on the top of a ridge just a mile or so before Wines Peak (guess I know my midpoint). Sam (the other hiker I had met that afternoon) decided to stop in the same place as he was pretty tired and it was such a great view. Plus there were actual flat spots, a bit of a rarity on this section. A bit of small talk and then off to bed. We were all tired, even Sitka had curled up in a little ball and not moved for at least an hour. Maybe rocks are more comfortable if your a dog...

the view from my campsite

Cactus at 10400 ft! guess its still the desert
hiker trash feet, tape fixes everything

ever faithful lookout

At nine I settled down into my sleeping bag, finished my last snack and right as I opened my book felt a raindrop on my face, well crap. I was impressed with my speedy tent setup, although it was more slanted than I realized once I threw myself inside. Of course twenty minutes later the rain stopped. I decided to stay in the tent in case a few more showers rolled in overnight. It was not a comfy night. The wind would catch my tent and flap incredibly loudly and then a few hours into the night I had to get out and fix the tent. Honestly being half asleep I can't even remember why, I think it was me accidentally knocking a stake loose as I moved but whatever the case I fixed it badly so had to basically redo it twice within 5 minutes. Silly mistakes when you are sleepy that had me cursing and debating just letting the darn thing sit in a heap while I slept in the open, but the dog had joined me by then and with the chilly night and potential for more rain I sucked it up and slept sideways on rocks so my dog could be warm.  

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Ruby Mountains Day 2

Woke up to a chilly, beautiful day. Packed up and hit the ridgeline for 5 or so miles.

Sitka looking out at the sunrise and the fog. 

The beginning of long canyon
After long canyon there was one more small climb onto the ridge and then the trail drops down and hugs the side of the mountains and contours away until just before Overland lake.

Hard to see but that thin line is the trail across the way

there are wildflowers in bloom everywhere

and then I smudged the lens on my camera and didn't realize that all my photos were blurry for a few hours...
I had known that Overland lake had water but was pleasantly surprised to run into 3 branches of Overland creek crossing the trail about a mile before the lake. It was getting pretty toasty out and surprise water is pretty fantastic. Sadly no pretty pictures, there was even a waterfall...
I stopped at a small trail sign for overland lake and hid under one of the few trees. I was a bit confused as the intersection wasn't clearly on my map but luckily right after I sat down some horses came down the trail asking if I was heading up to the lake (the spur had been heading straight downhill). Turns out its a trail to the lake that you can access more directly than the one I was on, I later found out that pretty much every hiker stopped there and was confused for a bit. Good to know it wasn't just me.

smudgy photo of Overland Lake
It was only 10 in the morning but it was such a lovely lake that I decided on an early lunch break. It was a pretty great break spot. I know the dog sure loved it, swimming and sleeping what more could you want? Okay well the dog slept, I tried but was continually woken up by obnoxious screaming and singing (there is a time and place for bad Rihanna renditions guys, c'mon now). Watched thunderclouds start to pile up and decided to head out after a few hours, up and over the pass.

the trail is on the right hand side, it switchbacks up to the pass after the little lake
Getting to the top I met my first other backpackers. 2 girls from Reno who were hiking with an older couple. They had started earlier on Thursday at Harrison Pass and had cars waiting at Lamoille. Apparently all those pretty foggy moments I enjoyed were 5 hours worth of pouring rain earlier in the day. I definitely lucked out on that one. 

Around the corner is the next section of trail...

and now descend almost to the bottom just for kicks

at least this was my view as I headed down
Then came the fun part, there were three creeks to cross and the trail decided to drop you all the way to the bottom of each drainage and then haul you back up out of the canyon to the next one. Pretty aspen by the creeks but very little trail maintenance and those bushes are rough on your legs. 

Even the dog would stop and look at me like I was crazy as we headed down the trail, overgrown much?

stopping at one of the creeks Sitka curled up and refused to move. The day was starting to get long. 

After the North, Middle and South Fork of the creek it was one more haul up to a ridgeline. I was getting tired and this seemed long. Probably because instead of nicely graded trail the whole afternoon had been pretty steep trail and I was feeling it for sure. 

At the top was yet another beautiful view

getting lower, all aspens and wildflowers
I had been debating where to stop for the evening all day. I felt okay but tired and I was pretty sure the dog needed some rest so I looked at the options. McCutcheon creek seemed promising, however when I got there an Americorp trail crew was there. While friendly I didn't feel that social and the group spooked the dog so on we went. Looking at my map I knew we were only a mile or two away from Green Mountain Trail Head which is where the trail stops being trail and the last bit to Harrison Pass is on dirt roads. Now I've spent a fair amount of time on roads and I was having a hard time coming up with a reason to hike down a road and turn around just to see a parking lot. So when I got to Green Mountain I figured why not right, this is my hike and on my map this is where the trail ends anyway. Harrison pass is just the nearest parking spot. Rationale aside I was worried about the dog, I had a flat spot and I knew water was less than a mile away in the morning so I called it an early night and enjoyed some downtime. 

Camping at 8000 ft was definitely warmer than 10000, thankfully only a few bugs because of the breeze. Another good day. Depending on which map you look at and who you talk to I think this was about a 19 mile day, not too shabby.