Sunday, June 28, 2020

Live to hike another day

I breathed a sigh of relief. I had successfully, with a full backpack, crossed the raging Wallowa River on two skinny logs high above the water, each one barely the size of my foot. With renewed optimism that I could make it to the Lakes Basin, I marched to the next river crossing, only to stop short.

Deep, cold water swirled past. If I were to cross, I would have to swim. Upriver, the sketchy logs I usually counted on were underwater. It might be possible to cross on them--maybe. It was too much of a gamble. I had to retreat.

Of course, my alternate campsite, at Six Mile Meadow, was not terrible. I was the only one there, and the rock walls were reminiscent of a mini Yellowstone. The vast clouds of mosquitoes were the only downside. Later, two guys with several kids trailing along (well, the "kids" were were probably eighteen) appeared and built a fire. They told of an ambitious plan, to hike a loop that took in Glacier Pass and through the Lakes Basin back to this point. Good luck, buddy, I thought but did not say. The kids were from Texas. They had a lot of snow and water crossings ahead.

Six Mile Meadow
I had planned for two nights out, and the next morning I left my camp to see if I could day hike as far as Frazier Lake at least. The first few miles were basically flat, then climbing toward the water crossing below Frazier. I felt a sense of foreboding as I approached the river. This was the same river that had foiled me the day before, just higher up. Even in the best of times, this is a sketchy crossing, and it was clear today was not the day. Up higher, if a person were to scramble up the talus field, she could probably cross on a snow bridge. It's been known to be stable into July.

The potential snowbridge is on the left of this picture, about halfway up. You can see how far you'd have to scramble to get there.
I thought about it. I could see snow covering the trail on the other side. I knew it was still a mile to the lake, and that mile was likely snow-covered. I thought about how beautiful the lake probably was, and how few would ever see it that way. In the end, I chose to turn around.
Pretty--but a big nope for crossing right now.
Of all of my hiking mantras, Live to Hike Another Day is the hardest one, that line in the sand difficult to draw. I always want to go on, see what's next, and to admit defeat is a hard thing to do. When I was younger I would have gone for it, but I'm perhaps wiser now. As I write this, two individual hikers are lost in Mount Rainier National Park. Some hikers have disturbing pictures of one of them glissading down a snow slope. I always carry a beacon, and enough gear to stay out overnight, but that doesn't help if you are caught under a snow bridge or swept away by water.


I returned to my camp to see the boys packing up their wet gear (though meadows are nice, I generally avoid them for the condensation factor). I headed in the opposite direction, back towards the trailhead. Maybe others would have crossed the river, but I was good with my choice.
See Ruby not caring if we can't get to the lake. Be like Ruby.

8 comments:

  1. THANK YOU for the mantra.....and that you will be hiking (many) other days. Six Mile Meadow looked lovely and Ruby has the right mind-set!

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    1. it's hard to turn around but I don't want to endanger the dog!

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  2. A beautiful glacial blue stream photo...even in shadow it grabbed me.
    Your mantra is wise as you are generally solo.
    mark

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    1. It just seems to turn out that way. Most people don't want to do the hikes I want to do.

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  3. I understand your need to 'always want to go on', but for me reading this 'down under', I would be perfectly happy to just join Ruby and survey this glorious valley. I wouldn't have made it though. Your everso narrow log crossing would have beaten me.

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    1. I have to admit that the log crossing almost beat me too. But I got across and then I had to go back!

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  4. I try to minimize risks when I'm hiking alone. I, too, want to live to hike another day!

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    1. It means turning back before I want to, but the right thing to do.

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