Friday, July 26, 2019

Waiting for friends to wake up

I don't drink coffee. I don't even drink caffeinated drinks. Just don't like them, and I'm generally wide awake before the sun comes up.

Ruby wakes up even earlier than I do.
 Which can lead to a lot of waiting around if I am camping with friends. "Breakfast at 9," my friend said as we parted for our respective tents. Nine! Half the day is over! But her promise of huckleberry pancakes sounded a lot better than what I had packed (granola).

It's really easy for me to go solo, in all endeavors. I can run the pace I want, hike as far or as short as I want to, take breaks when I want to, not have to talk if I don't feel like it. It's freedom: I spend five days a week wrangling clients and hustling. It's nice to be alone sometimes.

I met my friends at the lake below. Snow prevented us from going to our intended destination, over an untrailed pass.
However. I have learned a lot from camping with friends. For instance, compromise. An example: nobody packs up faster than I do. This is the result of being on crews where, if we weren't ready within a few minutes, we were threatened with being left behind. This habit has never left me, causing me to either freeze while waiting or hike on ahead. Neither of these are particularly good options. I've learned (very slowly) to not hover while others are packing up. I go down to the lake, or I read a book, or I try to pack up slower (old habits though).

Also, people like to sleep in, even if they go  into the tent ten hours earlier. They don't appreciate a sunrise chatterbox. I've learned to get up quietly and go for a morning hike.

The always gorgeous Hobo Lake. I had to climb snowfields to get here. In late July!
Waiting for friends to wake up has taught me patience, which I am not blessed with in abundance. So, at beautiful Chimney Lake, I went for a hike and waited until nine. Though it wasn't the trip I would have done on my own, it was priceless to sit around camp and talk and swim. The huckleberry pancakes? Delicious.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Hiking without a plan

After what seemed like hours bumping along a terrible road, we arrived at its end. There it was, an unknown trail heading up into the high country. It wasn't on any maps, except perhaps ancient ones. We didn't know where it went, or if we could even navigate it. It was time for the kind of hiking I mentioned a couple posts back. No known destination, uncertain outcome, no clue.

I have to admit I am not really on board with this. I've never really been just a wanderer. I like to have a destination. Also, I have learned over the years that while I can hike pretty fast on a trail, cross country is harder for me. I feel ungraceful, clumsy and slow. But what is life if you stick to your comfort zone? I headed upward, hoping for the best.

We lost the trail immediately in some open meadows, and poked around until we saw remnants. It was obvious that someone--probably hunters--were keeping it minimally open, though we did have to climb over dead trees. The trail curved steeply to a ridge, and then there was a final push. Though it took us almost an hour, we had only covered 1.7 miles. And we were at the site of the Mount Nebo Lookout.

It was a magical place, a long, sweeping ridge with views of the Seven Devils and Mount Nebo, still wreathed in snow. Elk scattered in the tall grass. The lookout had been demolished, but the supports were still there and the date written in the concrete--it had been built in the 1930s.

I stood in a chilly breeze and imagined the lives of the fire lookouts--back then, the roads would not have been here. They would have hiked up from far below, from the Lick Creek Guard Station. There was no water up here, so they would have had to haul it for miles, probably brought in by pack string. It would have been gloriously lonely up here. I felt a pang of envy, torn as always between wanting to live really remotely but also wanting companionship.

My companion decided we should make a large loop, going off trail completely by dropping off the ridge to the north and finding our way to another trail, then roadwalking back to the car. This loop ended up being four miles, but took us hours. As I inched down the steep ridge, I thought about how enjoyable this was, not clicking off the miles on an established trail. It was the Fourth of July and we wouldn't see a soul for twenty-four hours. This was exactly what I needed.

Friday, July 12, 2019

I could live here, edition one

I never, ever expected to live in one place for TEN YEARS. My younger self would have been horrified to even contemplate it. Life is so short, and there is so much to see. But it looks as though I am in one place to stay.

When I start to get mildly panicked by this notion, I remind myself that the bargain I've made in return for staying put is that I get to travel. My personal travel has involved putting one foot in front of another on a trail, but the work travel has been a little more wide-ranging. Through it, I have gotten to go to some pretty nice spots, which I evaluate in terms of, could I live here?

Okay, I can hear you now saying, of course you can physically live anywhere! And I know that's true. I mean, I lived in South Florida. IN THE SUMMER. But what I hope you realize I mean is, live happily.  I haven't found too many places that measure up to where I live now. There are places I'd love to live happily for a month (I'm looking at you, Puerto Rico) or even longer (Central Oregon) but in the end I've always thought I live in the best place possible.

But I still evaluate. Because I will always be a wanderer at heart. This week, I found a place where I think I could happily live! I traveled to Northern Idaho to work on a forest project. Most of the time was spent bumping along on incredibly rough roads, but I managed to spend some time swimming and running along a short but sweet trail by the bay. There's so much I didn't get to see, but I saw enough to know that it is a special place.

We got to go out on the boat to take in the Green Monarchs...Just the name sounded cool. There's a trail along top of the ridge.

And high up in the deserted forest to look at tree stands...
And walk along a motorized trail that needs some restoration. My feet wouldn't fit in the ruts!

And I saw some nice sunsets.

And sailboats.

The mountains aren't as dramatic as where I live but the water! There's so much water! I miss big water. I miss my fiberglass kayak. The lake is twenty miles in length! Twenty miles!

Of course, I just scratched the surface and it's presumptive to think that all would be perfect there. The poor little town is getting overrun by people who think it would be a pretty great place to live. I'm sure if I talked to the locals they would have plenty to say about this. So I'm not going to move there. I'll just dream about all of the water and realize I have it pretty good, regardless.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

I need Long Hike Rehab

It is probably a good thing I am almost done with the PCT. Lately while hiking, I've felt sort of...burnt out. Instead of sauntering along enjoying the views, I have thought things like: Okay, it should take me two hours from here to get to the lake. Or: I've hiked ten miles, six to go. I think this is only natural when you've spent the past ten years in a quest to finish a long trail, each time bound to a plane ride or a work schedule which dictates you go fast and far. Yes, I could have hiked less miles, but then it would take me twenty years! And sometimes it isn't possible on the PCT to stop after only a few miles--you would drink up all of your water in some of the dry sections.

I headed up to one of my Wallowa Mountains faves, Ice Lake, the other day. I should back up and say that I have a love/hate relationship with this trail. A omnipresent pack station takes tourists partway several times a day, and the hooves (and hiker feet) have worn the trail down to the bedrock, forcing hikers to carefully negotiate jagged rocks. It gets dusty and annoying at times. But it isn't really the trail. This lake has grown in popularity so that it gets swarmed with backpackers. Most of them are fairly new at backpacking, or so I imagine by the enormous packs they carry.

Of course, swarmed is a relative term. On this Sunday I saw twenty people, which to me is a crowd. I passed most of them until I came up behind a woman who was clearly trying to stay ahead of me. Which is fine, whatever, but she was cutting switchbacks to do it. Also, she seemed to have forgotten her pants. She was wearing only thong underwear. Is this a thing?

The lake was still mostly frozen and beautiful as always. I'm always glad I come here even if a guy with a drone plopped beside me and proceeded to fly it over the lake. Not only is this illegal, but you'd think you might ask if it was OK to disturb someone else right next to you. (Yes, I am in fact a Judgy McJudgerson).

I didn't stay long. I was still in long hike mode, clipping away at the miles. On the scale of people who hike to camp or camp to hike, I typically fall in between the two. I like to hike all day, but I also like finding a nice campsite by a lake and swimming, reading, or exploring around there. I want to get back to that for a while. I know just the way to rehab. Go out for a hike of an unknown distance with only a map. Travel cross country so that it takes longer. Climb over trees, scramble up slopes.

So I did. But that's a story for another day.

Are you a hike so you can camp person or a camp so I can hike person?

Monday, July 1, 2019

Tourist hiking in Mammoth Lakes

When I got done with my PCT section hikes in June, I was more tired than I had ever been. I rented an exorbitant room at a hotel that sounded luxurious (but turned out not to be) and collapsed. Maybe I have Valley Fever, I thought with panic. Hiking should not make me so tired. (I don't think I have Valley Fever. I think I caught a death cold and pushed myself to the limit.)

Anyway, I had two days and I couldn't spend them just lying around. But this was a big snow year and the road to the lakes basin was not yet open, meaning that many hikes were not available, or were buried under snow. There were few options. On the first day, I hiked up to Sherwin Lakes. Sorry to say, this short hike was somewhat of a disappointment. A fire had gone through not too long ago, limiting access to the lake, and in the places where you could get to it, campers had plopped their tents. So many campers, for a hike of only three miles. I decided to aim for Valentine Lake, which was a few miles further, but ran into snow. Using discretion instead of valor, I beat a retreat with only about six miles hiked. A steady stream of LA women came up the trail, all looking very similar--thin, blonde, leggings. (I felt very out of place.)
I tromped over a bunch of fallen logs and a couple of campsites to get this photo. Sorry, campers.
That didn't seem like enough, so I drove to Convict Lake, a place of many tourists but stunning scenery. There's a pretty flat three mile hike around the lake, so I embarked on that. You can also climb high into the John Muir Wilderness, which seemed like too much effort for how I felt. This would be a good run, also.
Convict Lake. So busy, except on the trail. People stay close to the pavement.
The next day I decided to drive up to the gate and hike on the road to Lake Mary. Because, Lake Mary. Roadwalking is never really a good time, but the views were spectacular. I packed my Kindle and hung out at the lake for a few hours. A few exhausted-looking thru hikers limped by, looking as though they had been through a war. I was glad I had bailed out of the Sierra.

I also attempted a run, probably the worst run I have ever experienced. Wheezing along, I found a network of paved paths that wind around the town. They would be better for a city cruiser bike, because, pavement. But I was still glad to find a place to run, such as it was. Three miles felt like 30, and I gave up.

The most annoying thing about flying in and out of Mammoth are the flight times. Flights don't leave until after 4 pm, guaranteeing a gap between hotel checkout and flight, and if you want to do anything, you would need to hunt down a shower.  But on the way to the airport I found the Inyo Craters, a fascinating spot.
Too hot to soak in
In summary, Mammoth Lakes seems like a place that is more fun to visit than it would be to live in. The tourists would drive you crazy, it seems. The scenery, though.