Monday, October 17, 2016

Communication is a Bitch (Part 3 Section K PCT)

How in the world did we ever live without cell phones? I tease my teen, of course, because she acts like it's impossible; but somehow we all did it. I love being "off the grid" when I'm in the mountains, and thankfully I've never had an emergency situation where I really needed one; but there have been a couple of times when I'm just trying to meet up with someone when a quick call could have really been helpful.

Day four was not one of those times, because Leigh came up with a great way to communicate without a phone...ribbons! Leigh was my hiking partner last year for my 7 day hike, and she could not have been more exited to do it again this year. Unfortunately though, 8 days was just not going to fit into her schedule. So, much of this trip planning was about figuring out how doing 4 out of 8 days was going to work. Section K has an almost perfect half way exit at North Fork Sauk Trail...only Leigh did not want to exit after 4 days, she wanted to enter and finish with me. (because she said she hated the idea of leaving me; isn't that sweet?!?!) It's a little difficult to explain why entering was far more complicated than exiting, so I'll just give the main reason: 11 uphill miles with 3 of them gaining 3,000 feet in just 3 miles, and then 2 more miles down to the campsite we would meet at. And Leigh was bringing 3 people who have never backpacked before! (plus hiking veteran Melissa--making a group of 5)
The peace of mind ribbon!
It's always stressful having a big plan like this, with no way to be certain things haven't fallen apart and you are not even aware. So Leigh had me buy a ribbon before I left that I would tie to the sign where the North Fork Sauk intersects with the PCT, so they would have peace of mind that we had safely made it and would be waiting at camp for them. This was assuming we would beat them, being our miles were so much only peace of mind would be that Heather was stuck with me for the next four days if nobody showed up. (NOT a peaceful thought to poor Heather, I'm sure. I know this trip will be a good memory for her always takes awhile ;))
Except they did show up! Exhausted, but in good spirits. It was a wonderful night having everyone together, though somber as well. One of the gals had brought a satellite phone for safety, and when checking in we all learned of a mass shooting in our very own community. So horrific and sickening...makes a person wish they could stay off the grid and in the woods forever. But that's not how life works, so we did our best to put it out of our minds and enjoy our night together.
The gang's all here!

We wanted to linger in the morning, but we had 14 miles to Mica Lake with no other camping option that would not reek havoc on our other days, so we had to kick it into gear. When I say "we", I mean myself, Leigh, and the new Heather. The first Heather was leaving with the rest of the gang back to the car waiting at the North Fork Sauk Trailhead, which would at last bring her home to her comfy, WARM bed. (Heather #1 endured the cold nights pretty well...even the last one, where she only had a deflated sleeping pad to lay on, poor thing!)
That single 14 mile day felt like a week. The prior day, although almost as long, was so enjoyable because most of it was up high where you are taking it all in. This was not one of those days. There was some excitement when Heather saw a bear (never been backpacking, goes on a 4 day trip in one of the most remote areas in Washington, does back to back monster days, sees a bear and scares it away like it was a raccoon...what a bad ass!!!) but otherwise we were just tromping through the forest and mud for most the day. 
From left to right: Heather, Leigh, and myself
When we stopped for a break (feeling pretty destroyed) and I said, "Can you believe we are not even at the hard part yet?" and both of them looked at me like, "What you talkin' bout Willis?", I knew it was time to get out the map and try to communicate what we needed to expect for the rest of the day. It was disheartening. Then again, we were at a place where we were heading down and Leigh said with excitement, "We are going down!!", meaning "We are almost there", and we had to stop and think and wrap our brains around the fact that, no--we were not almost there. Yes, we might be going down, but then we will be going back up...another 2 steep miles up...THEN we will go down again...another mile. Even though we tried to push ourselves, this day had kicked our butts, and we realized it would be dark before we reached the lake. I knew Leigh had been looking at internet pics of the amazing Mica and fantasizing about lake frolicking, which I learned from last year's trip makes her try to will the miles to be shorter than they are. (And me too! We may never forgive Spectacle Lake for disappointing us so!) Miles work like watching water boil; the more you want it to be done, the longer and more excruciating it is.
Getting to the top after those 2 tough miles just as the sun was setting, I had a minute where I let the tears come. Who gets to do this? Who gets to see this? It's at these times that suddenly everything that was hard melts away and you are overwhelmed with "I can't believe I'm here". We were giddy; taking pictures and pulling off our packs to get out our headlamps in preparation for the final mile down. Except when we tried to go down, the trail was suddenly super sketchy. This was not the PCT. We must have taken a little "viewpoint" off shoot--so I was pretty confident if we backtracked just a bit, we'd find it again; and we did...going further up. Ugh...emotional moment over.
We eventually did finally start going down, in the dark. I was nervous we'd somehow miss the lake, even though the map looked as though the trail ran right into it. Both Heather and I at last spotted Mica, but it seemed as though the camps were quite a ways above it. Leigh wanted nothing of that, and was absolutely going to find a spot next to the lake. So I told her they could go ahead and look, but that I would check this other area to make sure, because it may be our only option. What I should have said was, "go ahead A LITTLE and then WAIT for me if you don't find anything", but communication is a bitch.
Just before we had to turn on the head lamps, I was surprised this turned out
When I got to where I thought they would be waiting, (because there were spots there--though rocky and a little difficult to notice) I got a little panicky because you would have thought I could have at least seen their headlamps even if they did go ahead a bit. Thankfully Heather heard my "urgent calls" (possibly on the verge of screaming) but Leigh was on a mission and would not turn around. (in her defense, there was a loud stream...but she did admit she was determined to prove to us that if she went down and around there would be great sites by the water. In fact, the only place she was headed was back home ;)) She came back when she realized she was all alone in the dark. 

I promise I will wrap this up next be continued. 
A random single boot left behind...
maybe someone trying for another "Wild" story?

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