Monday, October 13, 2014

Just me (and a few gutpiles)

It's fall now, no denying it, and the backpackers have disappeared. Where are they? Probably at home, doing other stuff. After all, it gets dark way early now. It snows, sometimes. You have to totally abandon the ultra light idea and go heavyweight, with down booties, a real tent, snow stakes.

Which reminds me! Guess what, guys! If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you know that I am a habitual gear forgetter. But I haven't forgotten anything in a long time. Until my Elkhorn Crest trip, where I forgot my spork. "Darn," I groaned, looking around for a stick to carve. But then my eyes lit upon...my REI snow stake! Guess what, it's perfect! Kind of like a big chopstick! So the uses I have identified for this item now are: emergency eating utensil, cat hole digging implement, vampire killer, and, I guess, staking your tent.

Digression alert! But back to the empty woods. They're not quite empty. This week I hiked to Ice Lake, a place that gets hammered in summer. Sitting by the lake, I mused: I'm all alone here. Then two shots rang out from the basin below. All alone except for a gutpile, actually.

Ice Lake
 The hunters here don't camp much. They silently appear from the bushes in camo when I least expect them. They regard me curiously. "Going for a day hike?" one asked as I hiked uphill with a pack of hugeness, full of four liters of water for a dry camp. If that's my day pack, I thought to myself, I'd hate to see my overnight one. But they're all very nice, and don't seem to shoot wildly, unlike other states I've hiked in (I'm looking at you, Idaho). You know, if people make the effort to hike, I have to appreciate that, even if they are out there for other reasons than I am.

The animals have vanished too. It's like they know. And there's just a different feeling out there now. You can't swim in the lakes anymore unless you like hypothermia. You have to hike in pants. And  you know, you just know, that snow is around the corner.


The skiers are running around all wild-eyed, even though they know that a full snow cover won't be possible for months. Us backpackers don't get a lot of sympathy, because the skiers have suffered through an impossibly warm and dry summer that came pretty early.

I'm still hoping to get a couple more nights out before winter sets in (I'm up to #44). I'll snuggle in my zero bag, with snow stake in hand, a good book to read, and hours to go before daylight. It's hibernation camping, and it's all right.
This thing is awesome. Really.

11 comments:

  1. Nice fall color shot! Yeah I was hiking in the Indian Heaven Wilderness last week, trying to beat the hunters before the season starts. I'm one of those crazy skiers who's waiting for snow.... :)

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    1. Once there is snow I will like it, but I definite ly love summer more!

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  2. I miss the mountains already Mary.
    We normally stop hiking when rifle season starts, now it's the long haul till spring. Must have been awesome to have Ice Lake all to yourself... :)

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    1. Awesome and only a tiny bit creepy. Like....where is everyone and what do they know that I don't?

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  3. Being both a hiker/backpacker and a hunter, I just got back from 5 days in the woods alone. Next year I'll plan to take leave for my entire hunt week (if I get a draw) because I could have easily stayed out there for another 2 days (the rest of my hunt week) and been completely happy. I didn't meet another person, quiet and peaceful (except for those ridiculous hunters who crank up their ATV at first shooting light and disrupt the forest - how on earth do they ever find game that way? but I digress). Since I hike into the woods to hunt (during rifle season when it seems that less hunters do that, as opposed to bow season) I have found quiet and solitude. I was a bit concerned before I went out, since I don't have any hunter orange for big game hunting (just for bird hunting) so I stopped at Ace and bought a hunter orange hat that I attached to my backpack. Once I was out in the woods though, I found that the places I went didn't make me feel like I needed it. Though it makes sense to be careful and pay attention.
    You're right about the animals vanishing - they DO know. The only buck I saw was the 6-point mulie I ushered through the office parking lot this morning at 5:15....

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    1. Does this state require hunter orange? No hunters I saw were wearing it.

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    2. Not for adults. Youth (17 and under) are required to wear it though (upper body or hat) for firearm seasons (except turkey).

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  4. The animals definitely know. Do you wear any orange when you hike/backpack in the fall? Just curious. My parents made us wear orange hats or vests when we played outside in the UP fall weather, not sure if that was overkill or not.

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    1. Living in the UP for a long time now, No, it wasn't overkill. We don't stop hiking and enjoying the woods, but we do wear orange vests starting with bird season. Amazing what some hunters "see." and hearing them talk about "sound shots."

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    2. I wear pink! And on our last hike several groups of hunters told me they heard us well in advance. Embarrassingly we were typically talking about relationships.

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  5. Loving all the Fall colors in your pics. I can almost smell the Fall air through your pictures. I'm hoping next year we have only week night football games so we can do some Fall camping.

    In WA all hunters are required to wear so many square inches of Hunter Orange, except for bow season.

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