Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Lake Ann (Mount Baker Hwy)

It hurts to say it...but this is most likely my last backpacking trip of the year. Maybe even my last hike until spring. The weather has turned, no question, and I just don't do snow. I might need to reconsider though, and look into snowshoes; because I'm really going to miss being out there. Feeling "one with nature"...it's so cliche', but it really does start to get in your blood. A friend described it as "feeding the soul, like nothing else can", and I really get it. I think on one level or another, everybody does.

This friend (ok, it's Rick--Melissa's husband) was saying this when I was picking up my loaner gear and asking him about Sahale Arm. (A hike he's already done, and the one I was planning on doing as the last hurrah of the year.) It's heralded as such a quintessential hike; I couldn't help but be drawn to it. But there are so many reasons why it wasn't practical; the biggest one being Debbie was counting on me to bring her on a hike she would enjoy...and 3600 feet in elevation gain on anyone's 2nd time backpacking is most likely not going to be a good time.

Lake Ann is just 8 miles round trip and only 1900 feet elevation gain. The part of me that wants to be all hard core just doesn't feel like this is worthy of an overnight trip--I think that's why I had such a hard time switching. I'm so thankful for the part of me that argues, "And what's the point if you have a crappy time?" Feeding the soul is not about clocking in miles--that would be called feeding the ego. I have a lot of thoughts about the ego, and this is not the place for it...but I do believe that when my life becomes about impressing others, I can kiss joy goodbye.

So it was off to Lake Ann, with a quick stop at REI to pick up my first real piece of my very own equipment--a headlamp. (Oh wait, I did just buy new boots...but that doesn't count because I never borrowed shoes) Thank God Debbie was with me, because of course I was going for the cheapest one they had. She pointed out 100 lumens vs 20 lumens was probably worth another $18 bucks. I think I even have a better one now than Rick has!  Ha, ha--I win! (Hey, I never said I didn't have an ego ;))

I also tried to buy my own bear bin, but they were out. We tried to stop at the ranger station to get one--they were closed. Ugh, this meant we were supposed to hang the food. I need some instruction on how to do this, because it's a lot harder than it sounds. I consoled myself (and Debbie) by saying I didn't think there were many bears in that area. Did I know what I was talking about? Of course not.
Barely out of the car and WOW

Just the drive to the trail head is a feast for the soul; if you've ever driven to Artist's Point you know what I'm talking about. It was a perfect day, and no picture can capture the vibrancy of the fall colors. (Even so, we kept trying!)

This hike starts by going down, until you end up in the most delightful valley. We kept saying how we felt we were in some rich person's backyard; the trail maintenance is exceptional, to the point of looking quite landscaped at times.
Debbie is saying, "Seems like this should lead
 to someone's barbecue, huh?"

This is where we ran across the hunters--coming off the mountain with bear heads and skins in their packs. (Debbie just had to ask.) I believe they said they shot three, and would come back later to retrieve the meat. (I'm sure they could have taught us a thing or two on how to hang food in a tree!) So much for my theory on not many bears in that area...though now there were three less. One of the guys even tried to point out a bear roaming around on a distant hill, but I think hunters can see things us normal people can't. I just hoped that bear was headed in the other direction--and I was really wishing we had a bear bin.

From the valley it was up and up until we reached a small snow field--and then the lake! This is when I knew I needed to throw all pretenses of being a bad ass hiker aside, because after those four piddly miles I was done. Take care of Debbie? Ha--I'm sure she would have been dragging my butt up Sahale Arm had I taken her there. 

But talk about worth the effort--words cannot describe. Shuksan roaring above us, (the glacier makes sounds like thunder) and Lake Ann like a mirror beneath us. It was almost unbelievably beautiful, really.
Shuksan means "roaring mountain", or "high peak", depending on who you ask

Rockin' my lumens!

Double rainbow--what does it mean?
(I know it's not a rainbow--it's a youtube reference. Look it up)

We had the whole place to ourselves--which is really rare, I hear.We ran around like a couple of giggly schoolgirls who have somehow got away with not having a chaperon. Bears could not have been further from my mind, but we did hide our food the proper distance away. Hide...not hang. Debbie, who is often the expert on everything, (sorry Deb, but you know it's true...I can tease her because she also never takes herself too seriously, which is one of the reasons why I love her ;)) tried to give me a little lesson on how to throw the bag properly. It's probably a good thing it was a major fail, because we most likely would have never gotten it out of the tree otherwise.
For those who want to know how to throw a food bag, take note
In the morning we had a guest who entertained us for about an hour. It's amazing what you find amusing when you don't have internet access or cable. (Though, I have to confess I found myself watching "Too Cute" once, which is a TV show that is literally just kittens running around. My husband sat and watched it too for awhile...which makes you wonder if there was some weird mind control thing going on, right?...Can you say 'alien broadcast'? ;))

We named him "Chip". Original, don't you think?
I am not feeding the animals...nuts just happened to fall on my shoe

Fording the river--so outdoorsy!
Both Debbie and I thought we would really struggle with the last couple miles, because this time they would be going straight up; but we didn't at all. Maybe it was because we stopped so often to take pictures. Or, maybe it was because our souls were so well fed. I think I like that a lot better. :)

Even Chip knew not to eat it
P.S. Only one hiking lesson this time:
#25--Just say "no" to dehydrated scrambled eggs. For real.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Last Day--Hannegan Peak

Three nights...check. Maybe I cheated a little by staying in the same place for two nights, but I'm ok with that. I'm sort of making up the rules as I go anyway; we will see if I actually get in both a four and five night hike next year. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. So anyway, here I am on the fourth day, and it was time to pack up and head out. I was feeling more energetic than I expected, and so I kept telling myself I needed to do Hannegan Peak on my way out. The downhill switchbacks that I loved so much two days ago were heavy on my mind though...because of course this time they would be uphill.

Surprisingly I was done with them before I knew it, and as I came up to the sign for Hannegan Peak I ran into my first set of hikers...both of them going pee. "I didn't see anything" was all I said as hurried by. The peak is just a mile up and another down--no need to bring the pack, so I hid it behind a tree. First I took all the food out, and stashed it separately...it's hard to imagine anything worse than having to replace a backpack I don't even own because a squirrel chewed through it to get to the trail mix. I would take my chances on someone finding it and stealing it...what are the odds of that happening? (The squirrel thing happened to my husband once, so I think that's a more common occurrence. I have never even heard of a hiker stealing another hiker's pack...that is just unthinkable.) I did make sure to take the key out, though. Worst case scenario ever--calling Ken to tell him the last remaining key to the car is gone. As you can see in the picture, when Ken brought me the key on my first day, he made sure it was on the biggest ass carabiner he could find. Gotta love him. 
There was some fog, but I really thought it would get better the higher I got. I love mountains peaking out from behind clouds, (as I mentioned before) so I was really enjoying the views on the way up. The peak was going to be amazing...

Not so much. Total white out. I didn't even bother going to the tip top, because there was nothing to see.

I was happy that I did get to see the one tent site I had heard about--the one with views to die for. Although, I knew what would really make me die...hauling my pack up here the day I felt like I was going to pass out, only to find it already taken. Boundary Camp might not have been all that much to look at, but I was sold on the bear locker and toilet; and they served me well.

The hike down and out was beautiful; not just in spite of the fog, but because of it. All the fall colors just popped out...and my head didn't feel like it was going to explode from the heat.

Still a few beautiful wildflowers blooming

I stopped at a very cute cafe on the way home and treated myself to a Reuben sandwich and beer. (It was heavenly!) Thankfully they had seating outside, because I smelled like my son's socks--which is really saying something.

Looking (and smelling) a lot like death
I'm so thankful for this experience, and the lessons I learned...which are:
22) Don't take your car key off your key chain to save pack weight--it is not worth the .02 pounds, trust me.
23) When your lighting the jetboil, make sure it's not turned on full blast. (I left that story out...embarrassing, but a VERY important thing to remember.)
24) Bring enough water!!! Dehydration sucks.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Copper Ridge

After such a fitful night's rest, I was so happy to finally see a little light in the sky--morning had arrived at last! I wasn't even upset that it was starting to rain a little, as long as I could get out of that tent, all was good. (Plus Rick made me bring his good rain coat just in case, so I was set.)

I was on the trail by 8:00 and ready to make it to the lookout come hell or high water. My original plan was to head toward Whatcom pass and try to make it to the river cable car crossing before heading back, because that sounded super cool. When I told the ranger this (at Glacier) she tactfully let me know I was not going to make it--unless I was a trail runner or something. (Most definitely not.) So Copper Ridge it was--and I was glad I had an end goal, because that always helps me keep going.

The trail started out in the woods, and because of the rain it was dark and sort of spooky. Again, bears were on my mind-- I just didn't even want to see one because I knew I would be terrified, even though I doubt it would even give me much notice. I picked up a couple rocks and banged them together while walking, and it really helped me keep a pace and feel safe.

I would get glimpses of mountains every once in a while. I would always stop and take a picture, not knowing if I'd see anymore; what with the clouds and all. I enjoyed the mystical quality the clouds gave them...maybe even more than a blue sky backdrop.

The day just kept getting better and better, and the views grander and grander. I finally let my rocks go--it was all too amazing to think about bears.
Egg Lake. There are campsites here--how beautiful!

I ran into my first hikers when I was almost to the lookout. They were ending a 4 night loop. "Are you camping at Boundary?"...I know I sounded overly excited, but I really didn't want to spend another night by myself. Nope, they were headed to Hannegan. One of the guys said, "You should switch, there's a ranger at the lookout that can do that for you. We are so sick of talking to each other, it would be great to hang out with someone else. Party at Hannegan!" Oh my--I think I would have done just about anything to party with other humans...especially this group, because they were so friendly. But pack all my stuff up and head up and over the pass after a full day of hiking? Ugh, I just didn't think I had it in me.

I don't think the ranger thought I had it in me either, because when I asked, she offered to call to see if anyone else was going to be at Boundary. She told me two groups were coming in, so I knew I wouldn't be alone. I was still tempted a little to switch--I doubted anyone at Boundary was going to want to "party"; (and they didn't) but my sensible side won out. Trying to put up a tent in the dark is not my thing--I learned that the hard way.  

After talking with the ranger and asking a bunch of questions she's probably answered a thousand times, I finally got up the courage to ask if I could take my picture with her. Rangers are like the rockstars of the outdoors--that's how I see it anyway. She invited me to "tour" the lookout, and even offered me some freshly baked dumplings. I told her and the volunteer working with her about my blog and they said they'd try to look it up. So, if you ever find this--hello Lucy and Laura!!! You gals are awesome!
The trip back was uneventful, except that I ran out of water with 2 whole hours to go. Not good--I will not make that mistake again. Another lesson I learned is this: dehydration + nasty dehydrated mac and cheese dinner = extremely unhappy digestive system. Even though "backwoods" toilets scare the hell out of me, in this case I was happy that Boundary Camp provided one. TMI...sorry...I'll stop now. One more post for my final day and I'll be done. http://kellbell-whywouldanyonereadthis.blogspot.com/2012/10/last-day-hannegan-peak.html
A thin place in the trail that felt like a skinny bridge, with mountains on both sides. Pretty thrilling.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Day Two--Hannegan Pass

Hiking out of YAB on day two...not a cloud in the sky!

As lovely as the evening was, I can't say I slept very well. That's always to be expected, but the worst part was waking up in the middle of the night and realizing I had a pack of berry flavored gum in my pocket. We must have took 3 trips back to the bear bin to stash yet another item of food we forgot was out...I should have made one more, but I just couldn't bring myself to get up. I'm glad we weren't eaten by bears; that would have totally been my bad.

In the morning, we kept tying to get a hold of Ken to find out for sure if he was coming, and when he would be at the trail head. We were lucky to have service, but it was sketchy. Plus, Melissa's battery was almost dead--so every text needed to count. Finally we get a text from Ken--is he coming? Is he annoyed? "Good Morning". Not very helpful; but at least he didn't sound mad. There were other options other than him coming that day, because Melissa had her car. (Though, hitching a ride down to it might be problematic) We kept trying to let him know that, but the messages were not going through. Another text from Ken, "I'm on my way". Dang, we better get going! 

Ken beat us there by about 30 minutes; and said he spent the time looking around in the car for the key, and that he found it...in the ignition. I about passed out before he could tell me he was kidding. (He lives for that kind of thing) I had to forgive him though--he was our knight afterall. I was really thankful that this rescue mission worked into his schedule and wasn't too much of an inconvenience. Lots of "thank yous" and hugs goodbye to both, and it was time to head to Hannegan!

The forest road up to Hannegan is like a freeway compared to the one to Yellow Aster, and the parking lot is huge and the Port-O-Potty is top notch. This was going to be a cake walk! I was glad, because I already had 3.5 miles for the day getting down from YAB.
The valley view heading into Hannegan...most of the trail in the sun
I think this was the hottest day of September--it felt like the hottest day of all time. I know I shouldn't complain about it being too hot...it's so annoying when people from Washington do that, because it's never too hot here. But, I really felt like my head was going to explode. Suddenly the trail started making turns; I looked at my green trails map and saw switchbacks ...just a few, and then the top of the pass. I must be at the start of the switchbacks; so I'm almost there! Thank God, because I was so tired! I saw my first hiker, and excitedly asked, "How far to the pass?". He looked at me like I was nuts, and curtly replied, "A long way". I realize now I was just two miles in, and these switchbacks I was so exited about don't even register on the map because there are only two. So indeed, I had barely gotten started. I'm glad he set me straight though, because I understood at that point this was not going to be a cake walk, and I had better get my game on. I'm so glad Melissa insisted I bring my iPod, because it really helped.   

When I thought I must be getting close to the real switchbacks, I got up the courage to ask a cute couple coming down. Before I could say anything though, she immediately asked me if I wanted some water. (Not only did my head feel like it was going to explode, it must have looked like it too.) When I asked how far to Boundary Camp (where I had my pass to camp--and the ranger let me know I could not change my mind) they were very encouraging. "Oh, you only have about a mile of switchbacks to get to the pass, then just another mile to the camp." A MILE OF SWITCHBACKS?! I must have looked like I was going to cry, because he gently said, "Maybe it's not a mile". (It was exactly a mile--I clocked it on my iPod on the way down...something I should have been doing the whole time to avoid all this grief.) Did I say how very tiny these switchbacks look on the map? I think it's showing the very last of them that go up a field, but trust me--it's steady uphill way before that.

At last I came to the beautiful sign that let me know I was done with the stupid switchbacks, and I little farther...
Just one mile to go...maybe I won't die afterall

the sign showing the way to Boundary Camp. (You can't see the arrow, but man was I thankful for it. There is another trail going the opposite way, and I probably would have taken it.)

I saw more switchbacks on the map, and panicked for a minute...until I realized they were going down. I honestly just about skipped down them--and I was quite literally singing out loud. And then I was down in the valley, and something changed. It's hard to explain, it just felt ominous to me. Suddenly I felt very alone and vulnerable and exposed. I got to the camp and put my food in the locker. (I'm so thankful that the ranger told me about that so I didn't have to pack in the bear bin.) The fact they have a bear locker though got me thinking quite a lot about bears. My logical mind kept trying to tell me how very rare a bear attack is (average of only 1 fatal bear attack per year in the states vs 55 from lightning strikes)...but my freaked out mind was just not listening. I was in that tent at 6:30 and let me tell you, it was a long night.

The worst was waking up with such alertness that I was SURE it had to be close to morning...like 4:30 at the earliest. I always fail the "don't look at the clock" game, and I'm always sorry I played. (The worst was my first night alone backpacking--with no tent--but that's another story.) Guess what time it was? 12:55. Yes, it was a very long night, for sure. But of course, morning would have to come eventually, and I had the whole day to do Copper Ridge. It proved itself to be worth the wait. (again, stay tuned :)) http://kellbell-whywouldanyonereadthis.blogspot.com/2012/10/copper-ridge_4.html