Thursday, September 15, 2011

Meeting Mr. Stuart

Now that I was all settled with my tent set up and my lunch digesting, it was time to decide exactly how ambitious I felt.  I had just hiked for over 5 hours, so I was pretty beat.  Though, people on the Appalachian Trail hike all day, so I figured I'd better get on with it.  Since I was easing into this multi-day hike thing (with seven more years of easing to go) I didn't feel too bad being free of a back pack for the rest of the day.  I had my hydration pack with me, with it's little compartment for snacks and toilet paper, so I was good to go.  (if I indeed needed to go...which I still didn't.  I think the trauma from the night before had me pretty blocked up)

The couple I had just been talking to said they wanted to hike "Longs Pass", which wasn't on my agenda.  He made it sound pretty cool, with a great view at the end.  If he thought his girlfriend could make it up there and back in a few hours, then it couldn't be too hard.  (she didn't seem too thrilled with hiking)  I didn't have much of a map, because when I went to buy the green trails # 209, the outdoor supply place just happened to be out of that one. (figures)  So I printed out that lousy picture of the section I was doing (shown on my last post) and called it good.  It didn't have Longs Pass on it though...oh well, I just headed down the trail anyway.  Worst case scenario is I end up in the parking lot, and I knew at least there I would find signs for other hikes.

This is hard to explain, but when I first ran into the other couple and we were trying to figure out what trial we were on, we both described coming to a Y where branches where obviously laid across one path, so we both took the trail that wasn't obstructed.  How could we have taken the same trail, when we were coming from opposite directions?  When we "back tracked", I showed them the 'blocked' trail, and they said it was different from the one they avoided.  I was curious, so when I headed back down, this time I took the blocked path.  (I knew it had to dump into the main trail--at least I was right about that) Lesson #10...if a trail looks purposely blocked, that means it was PURPOSELY blocked. (again, duh.)  That trail had been washed out and was a muddy mess! 

I wasn't the only curious stupid person though, because a couple with their dogs were trudging up the same way.  I don't hike with my dog when I know I'll encounter lots of people, because my dog's an idiot.  This couple didn't have that same philosophy, and so now I had mud all over my pants from the 'friendly' dogs.  At least I only paid $10 for them at Value Village...and they were really nice Columbia hiking pants!  When I bought them my 20 year old daughter asked me what made them so great for hiking, to which I replied, "Ummm, the material?...and the cool pockets?" (honestly I have no idea, all I know is I'd pay $40 retail)  She said, "Are you sure it's not because they are so ugly that they scare the bears away?"  (she gets that from her father ;)

I eventually came to the other 'blockade', and was finally on the main trail again.  After about an hour from leaving the camp, I came to the sign marking the "Ingalls Way" trail, with another sign that indicated that "Longs Pass" was connected to it too. (Hooray for signs!)  Let me say right here that I hated this hike.  If you like switchbacks, this is the hike for you.  I was SO glad I didn't have my big pack on... I don't think I could have made it if I had.  The only reason I kept going is because I had nothing else to do.  Plus I wanted to see that stupid view...and it had better be good.  I kept looking up to the summit and thinking "Are you kidding me?" As I finally got higher, the views were getting better, and it gave me some inspiration.
But even so, my pace was getting slower and slower...ridiculously slow, actually. I started chanting "you can make it, you can make it...", I mean, it was bad.  And then I at last got to the top.  I'm a little embarrassed to admit that the view brought me to tears.  I've never had that happen before.  I'm sure the exhaustion had something to do with it (and dehydration...lesson #11, if bringing tablets that take four hours to make your water drinkable, plan ahead if you know your short on water!) but that mountain was unbelievable. 

Mount Stuart
 I didn't expect it to be so in my face (Hello, Mr. Stuart!)...the picture just does not do it justice.  And right there was a log, positioned just like a park bench to sit and take it all in. (I think someone must have put it there, because it was too perfect)

It was an amazing moment. (Fatigue can really heighten the senses)  Now to hike back...for three hours.  Man, I didn't feel like I could take another step.  I was out of water, and my hands felt puffy and tingly. (I don't think that's a good sign)  But there was no taxi, so what choice did I have?  Thankfully I had one slim fast left at camp, and by the time 8:00 rolled around my water was ready to drink.  It was wonderful to have a tent to crawl into, and although I only got what I will call 'rotisserie' sleep, it was a vast improvement from the night before.  I'll finish up next time, though it will be short because I only have to hike the two or three miles back down to the parking lot.  But the drive home is another story in itself.

View from inside my tent

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