Monday, October 3, 2016

Borrowed Time

There's a saying up here in the northwest: After October first, you are hiking on borrowed time. And it certainly feels like it as T and I drop our backpacks at Mirror Lake. Immediately we put on all of our layers. A chilly wind rakes our camp, but in this exposed basin, there isn't any shelter to be found.

It can snow anytime, and the forecast called for a 30% chance. Three years ago, these lakes were already frozen. It seems so soon. There are so many places I didn't get to this year. As we hastily set up our tents, fighting the wind, I calculate: I've spent 32 nights out this year. Not bad, not as many as I would have liked.


There are a few other hardy souls in the basin, but not many. Inexplicably, several of them hike right through our camp to see what's over here even though there are several unoccupied sites they could have gone through. They are all from Portland. Not to generalize, but city folk seem a bit less shy about galloping through camps instead of skirting around.

We hike up to Upper Lake, just to stay warm and postpone getting in our tents. But by six we concede defeat. It is just too cold to stay out.


It's nice to have an evening with nothing to do but read and doze, even if I never really do get warm. In the morning, T and I agree: our feet were blocks of ice all night long. We have been in denial, because just a day ago it was eighty degrees. Last night it dropped to the low 20s. We don't have our winter gear with us. We have our down jackets, mittens, hats, and the usual survival gear, but not the gear for deep winter. It's time for that, if we go out again.


We climb Ivan Carper Pass and head down the rocky, slow-going path to the trailhead, finishing up a seventeen mile loop. On the second day, we see nobody until we nearly reach the end: a hunter, sitting quietly in the woods with his rifle. Backpacking season is over, but it's been a good run. I hiked 450 miles of the PCT and many more miles in these mountains. My shoes are worn out. I have a weird pain in the top of my foot. I was unusually annoyed by the rocky sections where our pace slowed to less than two miles an hour. "Maybe it's time for a break," T suggests. She is probably right.
Ivan Carper Pass
For about eight months of the year, this basin is inaccessible. That's what saves it, because the rest of the year it gets swamped by the illegal fire building, non TP burying crowd. It could use a break, too.

I can't get as worked up about winter as I can about summer. People holler about skiing, but mostly you come home at night, days are short, lots more time inside. Still, I wouldn't want to go back to endless summer in the desert or swamp, places where you need air conditioning to survive.

I put away my backpacking gear. For the last time this year? I think about how if I had unlimited funds and time, I'd extend the season: Backpacking in New Zealand? L writes our Christmas group about a Death Valley trip. Maybe it's not over yet.

Are you a winter or a summer person? Is it hard to give up your summer hobbies when the season changes?


Blue Lake in the distance

23 comments:

  1. I've always been a winter person. I love playing, traveling and enjoying the cold and snow. But I also love autumn hikes, when the heat and bugs are gone and the forest leaves turn into brilliant colors.

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    1. I wonder if I were a good skier like you if I would feel differently.

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  2. Summer person here. I used to love winter as much as summer. Now my body doesn't like cold so I'm less inclined to do activities in the winter.

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    1. Winter makes it easy for me to ski but not running. Below 30 degrees I really have to force myself out there. And the bike trainer...blah. complain complain complain! I do like snowshoeing though.

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    2. When I saw "Below 30," I immediately assumed you meant -30!

      It's funny how in a few weeks -10 will seem cold but come March that will seem warm.

      Tom
      Fairbanks

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  3. Spring, Summer and Fall!
    And like you I also hung up my hiking gear last weekend.
    I always get down for a few weeks after the last trip of the season, just feeling sorry for myself I guess. As winter moves on and spring gets closer I start planning next summers adventures. Life would be so much simpler if I could just learn to live in the moment, but you know how that goes.

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    1. I am like you. Winter is nice but I love my overnight adventures. Just not as inclined to winter camp.

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  4. I'm a die-hard summer lover living in SE Alaska. I'm manically trying to cram in as many more hiking days as I can before it gets snowy and icy here. I like to go to the Colorado Plateau in late fall and early spring and I'm practicing my Spanish so I can do a long trip in South America next winter!

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    1. SE Alaska was hard for me as far as summer goes!

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  5. I love all seasons except shoulder season. Usually in November-December in Norway all we have is dark, cold and icy... No skiing, and treacherous running. I agree that winter camping is not as fun as summer camping, more like survival than enjoyment.

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    1. The darn shoulder season. We have it too. I guess it never used to be this way..used to snow a lot more. Ice is the worst.

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  6. In the arid west, I certainly appreciate winter, but when it comes to overnight adventures I'll admit to being a fair weather person. In California, winter can afford one the opportunity to visit locations that would be too mobbed the rest of the year. I also harbor fantasies of skijoring with dogs, but up here in middle age, I'd prolly just bust a hip :-)

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    1. I've tried to skijor but it just scares me...

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  7. Summer for me. When I lived in the city I hated summer, it was just a long hot commute and a gazillion tourists. Now I love summer. Dry heat for me. I don't ski, don't like it enough to risk my knees, but I do really love to snowshoe, it just needs to be sunny and I enjoy winter. But the short sunlight makes it tough to work a job and get any usable time after work in the winter.

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    1. I agree, I work from dark to dark! I'm wondering how it is going to work with an active puppy that needs exercise.

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  8. When I tele-worked from home it was better because I'm a very early riser and could start work at 4am (or earlier) and so end my day at 2 or 3 in the afternoon and have some daylight to get some things done. I am not allowed to do that at my present job so it makes it tough.

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    1. We work in so many different time zones that I could probably try that. Maybe in winter I will.

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  9. Winter for me, but the only other choice is summer and it is far too hot and sweaty. I've just been camping in an area where I discovered 'spring'! 50F nights, sunny cool days, green fields and spectacular gardens. Home now and tomorrow's temperature 88F. 'Summer' starts in December, doesn't it?

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    1. So weird to think of summer in December! Yes I think I would also hate a hot summer.

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  10. Summer, summer, summer! Kayaking, hiking, picnicing. Love the spring with the emerging wildflowers and the autumn...it's gorgeous here, but both are so short. Winter is clean and beautiful but very long.

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    1. I think if I had the opportunity I would follow spring across the country and then summer. Maybe only have a month or two of winter. Maybe someday.

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    2. One of our favorite books is part of a seasonal series: North with the Spring, by Edwin Way Teale. They started in Florida and followed spring through the Smokies and all the way north to New England.

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  11. 32 nights-wow!!
    I am torn between summer and winter. Clearly I love backpacking as much as possible, but I love hibernating in front of a fire watching snow fall outside just as much!

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