Monday, September 5, 2011

My First Two-Nighter! Alone Even!

I've had my two-nighter planned for awhile.  Jewell and I were going to do a hike she's been eyeing for sometime--Tomyhoi Peak/Yellow Aster Butte.  But because we had such a crazy winter with loads of snow, followed by an exceptionally crappy spring/summer, the road to this hike was still not cleared, and may not be at all this year.  What a bummer-I had the days off, and I hated to see them go to waste.  Maybe I could do something else? 

As you've probably guessed, I'm a big fan of loops. (trails that is...though I love the earrings too ;)  I found one in my "100 Classic Hikes in Washington State" book that looked pretty enticing--and most importantly it wasn't covered in snow.  All my friend's calenders were completely booked because of school starting/labor day, and I could tell Jewell was relieved to have this dropped off her already crammed schedule.  Ken encouraged me to do it on my own..."It will be an adventure".  (I do so appreciate his support) I was on the fence until the day it was 'do or die', then finally decided "Why not? If I'm going to really hike 50 days by myself, I'd better get an idea of what it's like." 

I was amped when I pulled into the Esmerelda Basin parking lot.  I had already dropped my pack 2 miles down the road at the De Roux turn off (where I would start my 'loop') as suggested on a hiking website, because there is nothing worse than hiking down to your car on a dusty old road when your ready to just be done. (which I knew I would be after two days)  By the time I got my pack on and adjusted it was 6:00 pm.  I knew there was a place to pitch my tent (an old horse camp) that was early into the trail, but I wasn't expecting it to be just at the end of the road...basically the parking lot.  It had camp sites, picnic tables, and other people...everything I was planning on for my first night alone.  But a parking lot?  It just wasn't the romantic experience I had in my head. (the experience I got wasn't in my head either...but we'll get to that.)

Like I said--I was amped--with my pack on and ready to go...and it was now 6:30.  I looked at my map.  There were camp sites at Gallagher Head Lake--that was 4 miles in.  When does it get dark?  9:00ish?  That gives me two and a half hours.  I bet I could to that...and even if it's getting dark at that time, I have my little lantern and it's a clear night...I will be able to get set up OK. (btw...I'm borrowing this tent from Rick, big surprise, and I've never tried putting it together before)  Over confidence is not usually a down fall of mine, but when I really want to do something, I tend to over look some of my obvious shortcomings. (like my ability to put together ANYTHING)  So off I went, leaving that unsightly parking lot campground in my dust.  I didn't even let the warning signs of rabid mountain goats stop me. 
I passed two women coming out on horses..."Are you staying the night on the trail?" they asked in a tone of shock.  "Yep" I replied, feeling like a real bad ass. (they were probably just wondering why the heck I was getting such a late start)  I knew I had to haul ass if I wanted to get to the lake in time. (can I say ass two times in two sentences?  Oops, that makes three--and too bad, I already did it)  I felt great (this really was an adventure!) as I kept referencing my map and  knew I was making good time.  By the time 8:00 rolled around,  it was definitely 'dusky', but I was at the switchbacks and the lake was just at the top.

Those switchbacks were torture, because I kept thinking, "Ok, this has to be the last one", and the light kept getting dimmer and dimmer.  When I finally got to the top, it was flippin' dark. (my idea of still having light at 9:00 was way off)  And to top it off--no lake.  I was done, so I just threw my stuff down in a field--it would have to do.  I hid my food bag the appropriate "100 yards" from my stuff (like I know how far that is..."not close to" is really all that means to me)  I had brought rope to hang my food in a tree...ummm, not going to happen.  The bears could have the food if they found it.  Although, it did get me thinking about bears.  I totally under-estimated my "you should not be out in the middle of nowhere by yourself in the dark" instinct.  I'll confess, I was scared sh#tless. (which was a good thing, because taking a poo at that moment was unthinkable)

I got out my $5 little lantern I bought at Walmart (what did I tell you about failing the "just buy the good equipment" test?) and got to work putting together my tent.  What a joke.  Did I mention there was now ominous clouds in the sky? (adding to the darkness) I prayed it wouldn't rain (the forecast had only a sun with no cloud--I should have known better) and laid the tent down along with my 'self inflating' mat (only if you twist the cap--which I discovered the next night) and finally my sleeping bag on top.  All I wanted was to get in that sleeping bag as soon as possible. Why being inside a sleeping bag would make me feel safer, (like a bear cares...heck, to him it's just a wrapper) but it did.  But not safe enough to get much sleep, making this one of the longest nights of my life.  Have you ever played the "I refuse to look at the clock" game, only to give in and discover it's been just an hour?  That game sucks.  I finally dozed off a little, and when I woke up there was some lightness in the sky. "Do I dare look at the clock?  I bet it's not even 5:00 am."  I have never been so overjoyed to see 6:00 on a clock in my life!  I had survived the night!  Next post will be day two--where I ward off the rabid mountain goat.  (just kidding!)

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