Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Foiled Again (Part 1 of Loop)

If I can't even do five days, how the hell am I supposed to pull off 50? It's hard not to keep asking myself that, especially after falling short two times in a row. But then again, maybe two unsuccessful four day trips adds up to one full five day trip. You think? It's going to have to, because I'm just not going to be able to fit in another big trip this year. Besides, I know the lessons I learned on my two failed attempts far outweigh what I would have gotten out of a more agreeable and victorious 5 day trip. That's what I'm going to keep telling myself, anyway. Thus, here is yet another story of a 5 day turned 4 day backpack.

An awesome family
Our friend, Rick, has been wanting to do Spider Meadow/Gap as a multi-family hike for a couple years now. Having done it before, he knew it was an amazing hike to do with kids. Now that Summer had one backpack trip under her belt, it was the perfect year to do it; plus I saw on the Washington Trails Association page (a GREAT place to get all the info you need for hiking) that August 3rd was proclaimed "Washington Trails Day"--how apropos!
Isaac will often come up to you and ask
for a hug. I love that kid.

I felt so honored to be doing this hike with the youngest of our crew, Isaac--who although no stranger to hiking had never been on a backpacking trip. And so, even with a forecast of thunder storms, we set off for our group adventure.
Starting in...Ken and Rick would catch up later

Because I was still hungering to check off "5 Days" from my to do list, I of course saw this as the perfect opportunity. The plan was to camp together at Spider Meadow the first night, then head up to the gap on day 2 and part ways at the top. I would continue on the loop, (called the "Spider Gap-Buck Creek Pass Loop", for anyone who is interested) while everyone else headed back and spent the 2nd night at the original camp. This plan was advantageous for me in a couple ways: not only could I get help with my 35 pound backpack for the most difficult push of the trip, but because we had to take two cars, I could have my hubby move our car to where I would be ending my trip--saving me almost 3 miles of ugly road walking. (I would later find out that this truly saved my life. Ok, not literally...but almost!)

Natures backpack rack

I was very thankful that even though it was pouring rain as we were packing up the car, nobody was complaining. I would be lying if I said I wasn't struggling with the thought of another wet experience, so I really needed everyone else's positive attitude. What a surprise and delight to find a little sun once we arrived! Sure it was cloudy, but the bad forecast turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because we practically had the whole place to ourselves. (On a Friday! Ken let me know that Saturday was a madhouse though, which is to be expected on any nice weekend)
Heidi and Jason--too cute
 There was only one family camping next to us--an adorable couple, taking their three small girls on their first backpack as well. Ken let me know they ran into them at the top after I left--with a five year old in tow! Very impressive. (they did have to carry her much of the way, so think twice about taking anyone that young)
Kids being kids
Our kids may have been older than 5, but I was still very impressed with their accomplishment. Getting to the gap is not easy! But so worth we stood on what felt to be the top of the world, Summer declared there was nowhere else she would rather be. Talk about melt my heart--Happy Washington Trails Day to us!
The hills are alive...

I'm...too sexy for my pack...
(I shouldn't tease, he's carrying half my stuff. Thank you, honey!)

Finally at the top, (what a haul!) and it was time to say goodbye. Everyone gathered around me and said a little prayer for my well was beautiful and definitely put a lump in my throat.

As I set off, I thought I was supposed to go straight down the glacier. There appeared to be steps in the snow going down the middle, but it also looked like maybe it was just the line of snow debris. Going off to the right there was a more obvious trail, but it had a sketchy snow field to cross. The boys thought the obvious trail to the right to be my best bet, and being concerned for my safety, Rick put on my backpack, and they both crossed over to make "steps" and make sure I made it ok. (Though Rick assured me even if we did slip, we would have just slid to the rocks to run into) 
My hero's
We kept following the trail a little further, but it stopped at an even steeper, sketchier snow field. (rocks at the bottom of this one) we doubled back, it seemed the trail just sort of meandered it's way down with no more snow to worry about; so we finally said our real goodbyes, with a couple more pictures of course.
Officially on my own
It was only minutes after they left that I knew I was in trouble. The "trail" did not meander was just mud shoots going down to a pretty steep cliff. I was immediately queasy in my stomach, and huffing back up the very steep non-trail my backpack suddenly seemed to weigh 1000 pounds. What had a gotten myself into? Do I hurry to try to catch up to the boys to tell them I changed my mind? How humiliating! No, I would go back to the 2nd snow field where the obvious trail seemed to end, cross it, and then I was sure the trail would become more apparent.
Nate getting my load to the top. Melissa helped too--
don't know what I would have done without them
I knew in my heart I was being stupid, but I was letting my determination get the best of me. The second I stepped onto the snow I was regretting it; I had no business being there with my lack of experience and proper equipment (like an ice ax to stop stop me if I slipped)...but there was no turning back at that point. I was shaking like a leaf when my foot finally hit solid ground--thank God I could just get on with it and leave that poor decision behind. Except I still couldn't find any trail. (believe me I tried!) Just the same cliff, with no way down. Now I was REALLY queasy. Determination can be a wonderful thing, but when it's mixed with pride, it can be deadly. I realized with great remorse that I may just have been horribly, pridefully, stupidly determined. Nevertheless, I had to turn around and cross again that snow field that I shouldn't have crossed in the first place.
Humiliation didn't matter at all at this point. I didn't care if I showed up back at camp in utter defeat--the thought of being with everyone filled my heart with joy. All that mattered was not being crushed on the rocks below. Maybe I'm being overly dramatic; maybe it wouldn't have been a big deal if I had slipped. I'll never know, thank God, because obviously I made it across. But I don't think I've ever been so scared, honestly. We often say an operation is "do or die", but I think one really needs to think about what accomplishments are worth dying over. This was certainly not one.

Hiking lesson (and life lesson) #33 : Determination can work for you, or against you; depending on whether or not ego is your driving force. Pray for the wisdom to know when it is, and humbly admit when you are in over your head.
It seems this story should end with me sitting around camp with everyone, gladly joking about what an idiot I am...but it doesn't. I'm sure we will all get together soon, and I'll be more than happy to get razzed about my idiocy; but this story does not end here. I still have more mistakes to make...stay tuned.
Mr. Marmot wants to know what happens next!
P.S. Photo cred to Rich for most the pics on this blog. (the really good ones :)) Thank you Rich!
P.S.S. Here you go, Mr. Marmot. :)


  1. I went to Spider Meadows and Lyman Lakes years ago when my kids were little. We also encountered difficulty going down into the Lyman Lakes basin from Spider Gap. We actually ended up arriving at upper Lyman well into the night! Beautiful area. Would love to go back

  2. So, I am curious as to the correct path down the snowfield? I had heard it was steep, but with microspikes and an ice axe fairly doable if it wasn't icy.

  3. My recollection is that there is not a maintained path. You just have to make your way down. I've hiked to Lyman Lakes from Spider Meadow twice, on two round trips, and that has been my experience. No one in our party had an ice ax or microspikes, but it was fine. It is steep and time consuming though. One of my favorite areas in these mountains!

  4. Thanks, Joseph! Planned to go there today, but a pretty nasty forecast for the Holden area made us put it off til next weekend.

  5. There is no trail.

    When descending, trend to the right, diagonally away from the fall line. Some distance down (500 vertical feet or so, iirc) there is a noticable hump or bulge or subtle promintory to the right. The route goes to that bump via best approach, descends briefly along the "crest" of that feature, and then escapes right onto steepish, muddy scree and dirt. From there make your way down and you'll eventually hit social trails thst connect to the maintained/main trails.