Thursday, July 26, 2018

Last Lesson at Stuart Lake

I'm going to die. That is hiking lesson #56. It's true that I didn't want to mess up my perfectly serendipitous number of 55 hiking lessons learned these past 8 years, but I just had to go and do one more "trial run" before I leave in less than a week...and well, it just about killed me. And if a fairly moderate hike of 9 miles in 2 days (that would be only 4.5 miles a day) almost killed me, then I'll surely be a goner by day 3 of my "10 miles a day" excursion.
I'm blaming Leigh for this horrible insight. Of course she would win the lottery to camp at the ONE Enchantment lake I haven't seen yet. (Well, except for the Caroline Lakes, but do they really count?) She had such grand plans of staying all four nights at Lake Stewart, and using it as a base camp to explore the whole area...an agenda far too ambitious for me. BUT, I could take my own car and stay just one night! I mean, I really should make sure everything I plan on bringing to the East Coast makes sense and is in good working order. Plus, how could I say no to Lake Stewart?
You have to apply for and be lucky enough
to "win" a permit to camp anywhere in this specific
area in the Alpine Wilderness 

The crew before heading out to attempt their 20 mile goal
into the Enchantment core and back. I can't wait to hear how it went!
Leigh warned us all (five "suckers" she roped in) that the mosquitoes might be bad. I expected that...you can't go anywhere at the end of July and not encounter a fair amount of the little beasts. Though, what I did not expect was to get punctured 43 times...not including the bites that I believe are on top of bites. It was a full-out assault!!! It was like they were out for blood!! (Ba dum chhhh ;))
What could be more fun than hiking with a
head net? Root canal maybe?
And can I tell you something? I don't care what anyone tells you, nothing works but DEET. I made a huge mistake of trying to save pack weight by bringing my itsy bitsy hiker's size pen that was almost empty. I figured everyone else would be loaded up with the big guns and would share. And sure enough, they did have full size 6 oz spray cans...of the B.S. Skinsations brand. NOOOO!!! Leigh even gave me some of her peppermint essential oil as a last-ditch effort to fend them off. I'm pretty sure it only enhanced their dining experience; so from now on I'll be calling that "Mosquito Special Sauce". I hear the East Coast bugs are even worse...so yeah, I'm worried. I don't know how much more itching I can handle.
Stacia with her apple, and Leigh with her Fritos :)

Damn those little fu##**s!!!!
But the truth is, it was not bug bites that discouraged me most on this trip. It was the fact that in less than a mile I was so tired I wanted to sit down and cry. Seriously, I could barely keep moving. It really scared me. I was in my head BAD..."You think you can do 10 miles a day?!! You can't even do 1!!! You are pathetic!!!...and did I mention that you're going to die?"
I'm pretty sure it was the heat that sucked my energy; and the fact I was not hydrated well. (I guess a McDonald's milkshake doesn't really count for much...who'd a thunk? ;))
I believe this was the first time I've hiked in 90 degree temps, and now I know it short circuits my ability to effectively move my legs forward. This is problematic, considering 90 and up is the heat I'm heading towards...except it will be more humid. Yep, I'm going to die.
I love tree art!!
A mile past Lake Stuart and you will come to this
beautiful meadow. The trail is burnt out and a little tough to follow,
but it's worth the effort!!
But here's the thing; I eventually got to the camp. Slug slow, and bit to hell, but I made it. So I amend lesson #56 (which was a statement and not a lesson anyway) to this:  "Don't get discouraged when your mind tells you that you can't do it or that you are going to die. Just keep moving and you'll get there. Oh and drink more water, ya ding dong!!!"


Sunday, June 24, 2018

Fifty has Arrived

It's official. I'm 50. The problem with dreaming up and organizing and writing for 8 years about a "when I turn 50" plan, is that it kind of makes it feel like you've been 50 for at least the last 3 of those years. You shouldn't feel like "It's about time!" when you hit a half-century, should you? But at the same time it feels good...why not feel excited about getting old instead of dreading it? My neighbor came over and asked me about how I felt hitting this milestone, and I replied "I love getting old, grey hair, and I love being a grandma!" She posted my answer on Facebook the day of my birthday as "the best quote ever"...but she left out the second half of the story. 
After asking me how it feels getting old, she turned to my husband and inquired, "How about you?"

"I just hurt."

It got a big laugh, and continues to get laughs whenever either of us tell it; but it also makes me sad. Ken works so hard--he's always worked hard, and everything I have and get to do is because of his support. I think that's why I dream so much about somehow cashing in with writing about my adventures; it would feel so good to be able to give back. Then maybe he could relax more, and hurt a little less. 
Though one of the benefits of my hiking obsession is Ken didn't have to throw a big party, because all I wanted was to be on the trail. I know, I know...isn't 50 days enough to ask for? I'm greedy, it's true--but my big trip does not start until August; and waking up in a tent the day I actually turned 50 was really important to me. Luckily I have friends who wanted to come along with, so I didn't have to celebrate the occasion alone.

I picked one of my longest standing bucket list trips, the Chelan Lakeshore Trail. (A perfect choice for mid-June, I must say!) I almost feel guilty for even writing about it...the whole experience was almost too good to be true. I usually talk about hiking misery and hardship, so I'm afraid after reading this you will hate me; because it's not fair that I should have so much fun. I am sorry!!! But I do promise there will be more misery and hardship in the near future. ;)
Meadow Creek camp
After wine tasting in Leavenworth (see? Starting off with wine tasting...really?!) Heather, Leigh and I made our way to 25 Mile Creek to car camp so we could catch the Lady of the Lake early next morning. Car camping equals not having to pack anything in, which means cake + gifts + ukulele jam + giant fire...minus a back ache and sore feet. Makes you wonder a little why you ever bother with the backpack, right? 
You'll have to ask the girls if the ukulele jam was actually
a good idea or not ;)

Backpacking=sore feet, 100%!!

On June 12th my wish came true; and as I woke up that morning in the tent, my first thought was of my mom. I reflected on how exciting and scary it is the day you give birth, and imagined all that she must have been feeling that day, 50 long years ago. I thanked her for choosing to have a 3rd child, and for always making me feel that I was exactly what she wanted and hoped for. I've never talked about this to anyone, but when I'm alone on the trail, that's when I feel like my mom is watching me most. I especially notice hummingbirds, and feel like they are a little sign from her. So when I got out of the tent that morning and heard one, I immediately exclaimed to Heather, "I hear a hummingbird...do you see it?" She said, "Yes, it was right above your head--almost like a little angel." It was all I could do not to burst into tears.
Jamie caught the boat in Chelan, and was waving from the top deck to us as it pulled up to the Fields Point Landing dock. With all our planning and group texts, we kind of forgot to mention we were catching it there instead of Chelan...it was almost a fiasco; but thankfully she figured it out, despite the fact we had zero cell service that morning to fix our mistake. 



This was only Jamie's third backpack, so I felt very honored that she was on board (literally and figuratively!) and especially honored that night when she revealed her birthday present.
She got it for me because the whole "Sinfire" brand is a little joke between us, but I was dumbfounded that she had actually packed it the whole way in to surprise me.The glass bottle alone must have weighed 3 pounds! It might have only been 7 miles to our Meadow Creek Camp, but it's much more elevation than you'd expect, so it was no stroll. When she pulled that gargantuan jar out of her pack, we all looked at her like she was crazy! (Us "experts" know to go for the lightweight flask ;)) but we did our darnedest to lighten the load that night.

Surprisingly, I wasn't too hungover in the morning, but the 10 miles to Stehekin still felt like in impossibility. Lord knows I need to get in better shape! The thought of a daily average of 10 miles a day for 50 days strikes terror in me; although the truth is it's actually a very low bar for any long-distance hiker...even in the crappy shape I'm in now, it's a doable goal. Except if I could just get my act together a little, maybe I can lessen the suffering.
Do I have to keep going?
About a mile before coming into Stehekin, we got the "false peak" fake out. We saw a building ahead, and were sure we had finally made it. (Turned out to be somebody's house...though I thought strongly of going up to the door and asking if they minded guests!) When you are super exhausted you can almost guarantee experiencing this syndrome...I might even declare it the most difficult part of hiking. It's so crushing to have to keep going when you just gave what you thought was all you had to make it to a fake finish line. The good news is, I'm able now to push the disappointment aside quickly; because I've also learned you always have more to give than you thought possible...and I might declare that the most inspiring part of hiking.
Stehekin, along with its famous bakery, was everything I had hoped for and more. I won't make you hate me any further by continuing with the funny stories of our time there; but I hope I've encouraged you to put it on your own bucket list...and maybe inspired you not to wait until you're 50 to check it off.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Dreaming is Free



I've never considered myself a dreamer. I'm more what you would call a realist...at times maybe even a pessimist. Life just tends to be more palpable when you don't expect too much. But for better or for worse, dreams have crept in.They excite and they overwhelm; they inspire and they disappoint. Sometimes I don't know whether to support them, or squash them, because of the longing and fear they create. So I wrestle with them--alternately holding and hurdling them away.
One of these dreams of course is my 50 Day hike on the Appalachian Trail when I turn 50. This particular dream fits well into my realist world. I simply plan it, buy the shit I need, and then do it. So I can check box #1 and #2 (ticket to New York purchased for August; no turning back!) and now I can only obsess and worry over #3 until I either fail or succeed. But my other dreams are far more complicated.
This made me laugh
And this too! There are some creative people on the trail!
To become a writer...a real writer...that's what I would call a ridiculous dream. My realistic, pessimistic brain can only scoff at it. But I keep writing anyway, because I enjoy it. And so it is also with hiking--even more so. I do it not so much to prepare to fulfill some dream or ambition, but because there is fulfillment in doing it in and of itself. Wouldn't it be nice to live all of life that way? "Good luck with that when there are bills to pay!!!"...oh my pessimist brain! It will always be a struggle.

These drinks aren't free, people!!

So here I am writing about my first quick backpack of 2018, with less than 2 months before I start "the biggie". With all that previous talk about hiking for the fun of it, I'd be lying if I didn't admit to how discouraging it was to have an easy 10 miles in 2 days kick my ass that hard. I know I'm just starting the season, but it doesn't seem like I should hurt this bad. But I have time to get in shape, right? There is this thing called a gym. I mean, it's not like I'm against doing the un-enjoyable when it's necessary...I'm just not very good at it. 
This quick trip to Lizard Lake was completely unexpected. I thought my first backpack this year would have to wait until my Stehekin trip planned for next month, but then I remembered Memorial day. Even though I knew I couldn't do Sunday/Monday, I figured I could do Monday/Tuesday if the drive was close enough to pack up early and head straight to work Tuesday morning.Thankfully I know Heather is always game for this last minute stuff I throw at her. The only thing she asked was that we bring her dog for his very first backpack--of course I said yes! I had Lexi strong on my mind, as this was the same hike I took her on for her one and only overnight last December. I sure miss her.

Dogs are cute and wonderful and all, but they can also be hella disgusting. After working hard at keeping Jax from chowing down on the constant supply of road apples left by the horses, as soon as Heather let him off leash at camp, he went straight down to the lake's edge to feast on the pile of horseshit marinating in the water there. Heather was on him quick; scolding him that "nobody likes a poop eater!" That is truth right there! And you better believe we were using our water filters that night. Nobody wants to be drinking essence of horse crap either.
Hey guys...there's a smorgasbord down here!!!

Sometimes you can't help loving a poop eater
We set our alarms for 5 a.m. because supposedly as long as we hit the trail by 6, I would make it to work on time. I picked this trail because of my previous experience last year, and I believed we should be able to cruise out of there pretty fast. Not only did I underestimate the state of my out-of-shape-ness, I overestimated the significance of the Max's "shortcut" Trail, because it was actually longer than if we had just gone back the way we came.
Only a short cut if you are coming from the other direction
I jumped out of Heather's car and ran into work about a half hour late looking and smelling very nasty for just one night on the trail, but it was all good. Even though cooking for preschoolers is not exactly my dream job, it's a place that has my back (thank God for Cheerios!) and it also pays the bills. (Well, a couple of them anyway.) I know that if I ever wanted to achieve my dream of making it as a writer, I would need enough faith to believe it possible, and then pursue it...and that takes work. I don't know if I have that faith. But I can continue to dream, because dreaming is free. 

P.S. More info on this hike can be found on my "A Lily, a Lizard, and a Lexi" post. 

Miss you girl!!!


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

What is Wrong With Us?

Hiking addiction can alter your decision making abilities...like the one that tells you, "stay warm and dry and avoid sleeping outside in the rain if possible." That's how I know my friend Leigh is also a true addict. Laying in the tent and listening to what sounded like someone hosing it down with a sprayer on full blast, she turned to me and said, "I'm sure glad you're crazy enough to want to do this with me." Of course, the feeling was mutual. But let me start at the beginning.


Leigh has gone with me for all or part of my big trips for 3 years running, so to have to miss it this year because of her very busy summer was a big fat bummer. In fact, Leigh hardly got any hiking in at all, and so she was in somewhat of a desperate state when September rolled around. She had one weekend free during the whole month, and was busy planning and preparing and looking for "suckers" to go along on an extended backpack. As much as I wished I could, I had a prior commitment; but she was full steam ahead anyway with a whole crew. I knew I couldn't be jealous, because I had got a lot of hiking in...but it's true I hate missing out.
Then the weather went from decent, to not so good, to kind of bad, to hell no. And one by one, Leigh's crew had their normal, fully functioning decision making abilities kick in to say they were out. Meanwhile, my dysfunctional brain was furiously figuring out how to make it happen, because my plans had changed and therefore had opened up a small window of opportunity.   
Poor Leigh had to completely abandon her aim of 4 glorious days on the PCT, and settle for 2 nights off the I-90 corridor. But beggars can't be choosers, right? Leigh was out of options, so it was me or nothing...and I had to work around my need to be in Bellevue by 2 pm on Sunday. Otherwise I would NEVER pick a hike off of I-90 on a weekend, because that's insanity. 
Unless it's pouring rain! What a blessing the horrible forecast turned out to be! There were still people around, don't get me wrong (we are not the only hiking addicts out there, after all) but not the hordes you would expect on a typical weekend. And we were actually completely alone at both camps! That's a FRIDAY and a SATURDAY night...miraculous!!!

How come nobody else is here? Doesn't this look FUN? ;)
Because we did need to have two cars, we decided to take advantage of it and park one at Denny Creek (where we would come out) and one at our Pratt Lake entry point. We thought we were taking it easy on this trip with low miles; but I have to admit as much as I was expecting it to be a piece of cake, most of those miles felt more like a chunk of gristle.
Dry and happy at Pratt
Soaked and done at Denny Creek
So, a couple warnings to anyone who is researching this area: the "mile" between the Pratt Lake trail and the Island Lake trail feels more like three. (So much so, that I'm convinced the map is wrong--seriously.) Also, the supposed 3 miles from the Kaleetan trail turn off to Melakwa Lake has got to be closer to 4...especially when you're drenched and freezing! ;) (Okay, the map may be correct here, but it's better to adjust your expectations anyway.)
It's a long ass way to Island Lake!
Seriously, why would you not want to do this?
And speaking of maps, I bought a $12 one (Green Trails 207S) even though I didn't think we'd need it (being it's such a popular area with plenty of signage) but the ONE spot where a sign is really needed...nothing. We would have ended up at Tuscohatchie Lake had we not decided last second to go ahead and dig the map out. So thank you hiking lesson #1, you have served me well! 
Here you go...save yourself $12! ;)
Keep left at the fork at Lower Tuscohatchie
if you want to end up at Melakwa! This bridge
does not just lead to campsites like I thought it would.
Once at Melakwa Lake, we pitched our tent in the "day use only" area, and I don't care who knows it. It was MISERABLE, and we just couldn't bring ourselves to go searching for the legal camp spots. We could not get that tent up fast enough, and it took a good half hour of being cocooned in our bags with every last one of our hand warmers stuck to feet and shoved into underwear before we felt like maybe we wouldn't get hypothermia. 
What sign?
Wet, wet, wet, wet
At one point in the night, both Leigh and I smelled a definite sewer smell. I couldn't blame her for asking if it was me, but for once I had nothing to do with it. Because of the relentless rain, and the sign for the backwoods toilet that might be closer than we thought, we both wondered if the saturated ground had given way and caused some sort of collapse. We kidded around about having a wave a crap come washing down the hill on us...but I think both of us were actually kind of worried about it. The smell dissipated, and so we went on playing cards and eventually forgot about it. But then a little later, there it was again! Where is it coming from? Then Leigh said, "Wait a second", and gave a big whiff into her tightly sealed sleeping bag..."Oh sorry, I guess it was me." OMG, we laughed so hard!!! Damn those dehydrated meals, they seriously do a number on you! After we finally settled down was when Leigh told me she was glad I came. And the truth is, even with the harder than expected miles, and worse than anticipated weather, and gas that could melt your eyebrows off, both of us knew we'd do it all over again...what is wrong with us?!?
Do you smell that?
P.S. Leigh gave me permission to tell that story, in case you start thinking I'm the worst friend ever. Reluctant permission...but nevertheless, I did get the go ahead. :) 
Denny Creek's "slide rock"...not so fun
without sun