Tuesday, April 12, 2016

First Backpack of 2016! Baker Lake, North to South

Like almost all my overnight trips, this year's first backpack started with a lot of big plans that never materialized. Why not organize a big group of moms to go over to Lake Chelan for a grand 3 day adventure to Stehekin with our daughters over spring break?!?! I'll tell you why; because the Lady of the Lake doesn't run the boat that drops hikers off on the trail until May. (thank you again, NWHikers.net, for all your wisdom!) But if it did, most of the moms had other obligations anyway; so even if I could come up with a plan B (this list is SHORT for a non-freezing experience outdoors in the northwest in April) it was unlikely I could get my daughter to go with just me; and spending time together during spring break was kind of the whole point.
Then my daughter made a new friend who was totally excited about doing her first backpack, and I remembered that the 14.5 East Bank Baker Lake "thru" hike has been on my to do list for years, and it is totally doable in April!!! Most likely wet and miserable, but doable! I also made a new friend, Mimi, who was totally excited about getting back into hiking...and wallah! Spring Break Plan B was set!

Because the weather went from "Hooray, maybe we won't get rained on!" to "Holy crap, almost 80 degrees in April, are you kidding me?!?!", two more friends hopped on board; so we were almost back to a full swing horde! Onward ho!!! (I said that a few times while hiking as if there was a comma after onward and an "es" on ho. Yes, in some ways my humor has not progressed past the 5th grade)
Always gots to get the crazy shot in before bed
I like to hang with immature goofballs!
I am going to lead into the rest of this story by finally stating a hiking lesson that I have learned over and over but have never made official...Hiking Lesson # 48: always remember that even though you think you have a plan (be it A, B or even C) you don't really ever have a plan. Do not be afraid to embrace the plan that presents itself when it is needed. (another lesson that can apply to life in general)
We left with a full car at 11:30 am to meet Mimi at the turn off to Baker Lake Road. After dropping off her car at the South trail head, we all headed with a now illegally full car to the North trail-head, and finally started hiking at 1:45.
I was so happy to have a fellow "speed impaired" hiker to keep me company! Debbie, bless her heart, tries to keep it in a low gear when she's with me; but this time I gave her permission to go full throttle...as long as she agreed to watch over the 3 teens.(all long legged speed demons) After this whole experience, she has been dubbed the "camp counselor"-- she earned it!
The Camp Counselor in action!

She had her hands full!
I don't know what I would have done without her!
We agreed to just meet at our destination (Silver Creek) even though it meant passing the bigger Noisy Creek Camp. Although Silver Creek only has 3 sites, it would cut our next day's mileage by 1; and I highly doubted we needed to worry about not having the place to ourselves on a weekday.
With less than a half mile to go, my heart dropped when I saw the "speed team" coming back toward us. I couldn't believe Silver Creek was already taken! But that wasn't the problem. "The trail just comes to an end", Debbie announced with exasperation. "We've been looking for over an hour. We just have to go back."

Giant wash out just before Silver Creek
If you don't go straight across, it's very easy to miss the trail on the other side

Found it!
Never fear!! Hiker extraordinaire is here!!! ;) I knew none of them had any faith I would find it, but I did; and it felt pretty awesome, I'm not going to lie. And just as we had hoped for, Silver Creek was all ours. What a glorious night!!

In the morning, I could tell that Mimi was really hurting. I knew her bad knee had been acting up, but I was hoping the night's rest was enough to make things a bit better. What I didn't know was that she had fallen when exploring down by the beach and had knocked her hip out of whack.

I don't blame her for not saying anything. She was determined to tough it out; I mean, there was not a whole lot we could have done about it anyway. (except maybe go back the way we came; but that would have only cut off about 2 miles)

So we set off on day 2 in our "fast" and "slow" teams with no plans to meet up until the "bridge of death". The bridge was a big question mark; which is why we had to all be together to decide if we would cross there or not. It's only 1.5 miles from the trail-head where our 1st car was waiting; but if Anderson Creek was running super high, the log bridge would be impassable, and we would have to make our way down to the lake and ford across. (online trip reports had warned of this)
At two hours in I realized everything about this plan was going to be a major fail. Mimi's injuries had slowed her down to a mile an hour pace (getting over or around the plethora of blow downs when you can't bend your knee is challenging to say the least) plus we had all been too leisurely in the morning and didn't leave until noon. I'm not the best at math, but I understood we were not getting to the bridge any sooner than 7:00 pm...and quite likely even later; making the possibility of fording a creek (which I heard was an hour diversion) a very daunting thought. (not to mention we still had a mile and a half to the car after that) Additionally, I was guessing the speed team was going to be there waiting at the bridge like at 4:00 pm. (I later found out they got there around 3:00...punks ;))
One messy trail!

Time for another plan. How about I go as fast as I can ahead, drop off the gear at the next campsite where we would camp for an extra night, then continue load free at full speed to the bridge, give Mimi's keys to "camp counselor" Debbie, they leave to retrieve the 2nd car and come back to leave it for us while they take Mimi's car back home. Whew. I hated leaving Mimi to make it to Maple Grove alone, but it was a necessity.
It took awhile (along with the miracle of her getting one bar of cell phone reception to talk to her husband at just the right time) for Mimi to agree to the plan. She had business in the morning that she felt she would be "flaking" on; but she finally agreed that safety always trumps obligation. She's a stubborn one, that girl! But I decided that's why I like her. :)
Mimi was into the tree fungus. I bet she has 10 pictures featuring it
She didn't know someone had drawn on this smiley face until after she took the shot 
How about this one?
The "bridge of death" was really not that scary the first time I crossed it 4 years ago. Looking back at the picture of my sweet little baby girl posing so bravely over the raging waters...well, all you parents out there know; it all goes by far too fast.
The bridge has taken quite a beating since then, and looks suspiciously like it could fall at any second...plus it doesn't even reach all the way across anymore; making a climb down into the water and over some rocks unavoidable.
Do I have to?
When I got there, "camp counselor" Debbie had already crossed with her troupe and were waving at me from the other side. I had to suck up my pride and let them see me shuffle across like a 90 year old. (for those of you who don't know me--I really, really hate these...like, almost phobia hate) Reaching the end of the log and looking down at the slippery rocks and rushing water and thinking about poor Mimi having to do this with a bum knee, all I could think was "this is B.S...there is no way in hell I'm doing this now or later...we will be going around". So as my dear Summer was trying with all her might to scream over the deafening noise of the water the directions on how not to kill myself ("TAKE YOUR SHOES OFF!") I was screaming back at her the new "plan" for them to leave...it was what one might call a real sh## show. I finally got her attention when I chucked the keys across and simply yelled "I AM NOT COMING!". She looked at me with such confusion and fear that I knew I had to come over. Crap.
Mimi took these next day, of course
But thank God I did. It was not nearly as bad as it looked, and I knew Mimi could make it. And of course it was much easier to communicate and fill everyone in once we could talk face to face. I especially loved telling Debbie she had to leave my car unlocked with the key hiding under the mat. I could tell everything in her wanted to lecture me on why we don't do that...but she knew there was no other option.
In Debbie's world you fold your clothes in the tent.
And you NEVER leave keys in an unlocked car!!!
God, I love her! :)
I may be mistaken, but as I was leaving, I could swear I saw on my daughters face something a parent of a teen rarely gets to see--admiration. It felt pretty damn good.
Saying Goodbye at the Bridge
Mimi was already at camp as expected when I got there, so Plan B was panning out well. (wait, I think we are on Plan C now ;)) We knew we had the whole next day to finish the last 4.5 miles, so we went to bed without even setting an alarm.

In the morning during "breakfast" (trail mix remains and beef jerky--yum) I joked about how nice it would be if we could just hitch a boat ride. Low and behold, we spot a boat coming in our direction. I continued joking about flagging it down (maybe ripping off my clothes and pretending I was a "Naked and Afraid" survivor at their "extraction" point) but I knew I would never do that. 
"Naked and Afraid" wannabe
As tempting as it was, I knew this was not an emergency...except any extra miles on injured joints or tendons is never a good thing. So when the boat actually stopped on our beach, I took it as a sign, and marched myself down there to see if our unexpected guests were up for a good deed. Our "angels" turned out to be a boat full of partying teens...but hey, who's to judge what an angel is supposed to look like.

"Hope you know how to swim" they chuckled as we shoved off, "because we are already 1000 pounds overweight". Seriously?!?! They had to be exaggerating...though the water was nerve wrackingly close to the rim of the boat the entire way to Anderson Point. I was pretty sure if we tipped over, I was going straight down to the bottom because of my pack. "I hope you're praying", I whispered to Mimi with a grin, "because right now I'm not sure if we are riding with angels or devils". 
Anderson Point is, wouldn't you know it, just before the bridge of death, so we weren't out of the woods yet. (figuratively or literally) As the fearless leader, I headed over it first. I didn't even hardly get to the end before Mimi was bounding over, camera in hand, taking selfies along the way. I guess we can't all have the same neuroses.  
You got this!
Our final plan that was not in the plan was picking up some stranded hikers and taking them to the nearest gas station. How can you not pay it forward after all that? Plus, we knew they were safe because Mimi asked them if anyone was an ax murder first. ;) 
Our hitch hikers
The final stop was at Birdsview Brewery for a burger and a beer, because that is ALWAYS in the plan; where we planned to have a better plan next time we hit the trail. We will see...but whatever the plan, all I hope is that it is soon. 
A done deal!