Sunday, September 12, 2010
A bonk, if you have never heard the term, is when your body shuts down during activity. You feel like you are moving in slow motion, each step an inconceivable hurdle. You might need a snack, some water, a rest break. Any of these could cure the dreaded bonk.
How I know I am bonking is that I become irritable. (Hello, sister reading this, who might laugh and ask how is this different than any other time? Ha ha.) When I begin to bonk, I get mad at everything. Stupid rocks in the trail! Stupid people who won't step aside! Stupid switchbacks! Stupid $200 pack! Stupid, stupid, stupid!
This weekend I did a 20 mile loop in 2 days. The route involved ascending a pass, descending another, ascending one more and then a cross country hike to my overnight stop, Bear Lake. This first day took six hours. It started badly.
I looked in the trail register box using my secret Forest Service knowledge of how to open it (lift up on the handle). Nobody had signed out for Bear Lake! Happy dance! I was looking for some peace after a mega-social car camp over Labor Day and a subsequent group Horse Ranch experience (a post on this odd place will follow shortly). Happily I lifted my (too heavy) Osprey pack and plodded up the trail.
In less than a mile I came across a wild-eyed bushy-haired man. "Where are you going?" he demanded. In retrospect, he probably was freaked out from being lost, but I certainly wasn't going to advertise my location.
"Oh, past Chimney," I said vaguely.
He looked deflated. I noticed he had a gallon jug of water strapped to his pack. Huh? This ain't the desert, buddy! "I was trying to get to Bear Lake, but this trail is DESTROYED!" he said, indicating a game trail that led in the opposite direction of Bear Lake (which, by the way, was several drainages and ten miles away).
He looked at me hopefully. Crap! The last thing I wanted was this bozo at MY lake.
Reader, I admit: I did not pull out a map. I did not counsel him. Instead, I said: "I've never heard of anyone going to Bear Lake THAT way!" and wished him luck as I beat feet to put distance between us.
I was feeling a little guilty, but that didn't stop me from enjoying the view from Wilson Pass. A long sweep of ridge, a tiny lake nestled below, mountains marching off into infinity. Down I plunged, into Wilson Basin and up again, up close to the sky, topping out on a wide alpine meadow that just called out for the Sound of Music (I refrained).
Here the cross country travel began. I took out my GPS and headed up to Bear Lake. There it was, shimmering in afternoon sun, no bozos in sight. There were flat rock slabs to lie on, chilly water to swim in, and complete silence. The night was a bowl of stars.
The next day seemed easy. Hop over the ridge to Hobo Lake and I would be back on a trail, one I had traveled before. No problem! Except that I ascended too high and had to downclimb Lookout Mountain. Curses! It wasn't dangerous, just a rookie mistake that I should have avoided. It took a full two hours to reach Hobo, one of my favorite lakes.
Nobody was there. At Chimney either. Or Laverty. Or Brownie Basin. I felt a bit more guilty about Gallon Jug Man, because where was he? But soon I had more to think about.
Bonk! The last 3.8 miles were torture. I staggered onward. Everything hurt-my pack dug into my shoulders. My toes were cramped at the very end of my boots. This was shaping up to be a major bonk.
I tend to push onward long past when I should. This is one of the hazards of hiking alone. Over the years I have learned to recognize when I should stop, and so I did, eating handfuls of M&Ms and drinking water. The bonk gradually receded.
Cheerfully I hiked the last mile, passing two inbound backpackers, one with a duffel bag strapped to his pack (Huh?) and some day hikers. Still no sign of Gallon Jug Man, but I felt okay about it. I had a peaceful night at the lake, and he ended up--somewhere, but perhaps learned a valuable lesson about maps and accosting other hikers. I hope.
I'm quite certain more bonks will come. They are an occupational hazard when you push yourself. If you never bonk, you probably aren't trying very hard.