Sunday, May 10, 2020

we made it through the winter after all

When I lived in Southeast Alaska, there was a month we spoke about with dread. "November," we said in tones of doom. November was the month when darkness really set in, when it could, and often did, rain for thirty days non-stop. November made you question your life choices.

We don't have anything half as bad as that where I live now, but it's no secret that our winters are long. By the time May rolls around it can still be snowing and even the skiers are over it. I am too--I love summer, at least alpine summer. If I lived in a hot, steamy place (been there, done that) I'd dislike summer as well.

But it's good here. The only trouble is that, for backpacking and hiking, the season still balances on an edge. The high country is still snowy--you can troop about three miles on a trail before you are into deep snow. The canyon window is closing, at least for me. Head-high poison ivy and rattlesnakes, no thanks.

So even though car camping isn't my favorite thing, I agreed to go. At least I would be camping. And it would be good to escape town. Despite stay at home orders, I am seeing car after car of Idaho and Washington people, and this is causing a backlash in our town, and it makes me angry too. So it sounded good to get away from people.
Spruce's first camping trip! He was a Very Good Boy. (And slept in the tent!)
We drove up the Divide, choosing a site hunters had camped at before, complete with a fallen-over outhouse (I didn't use it). That afternoon I ran on dirt roads with snow still on them, seeing only a few locals who had hoped to get through the snow (they couldn't). That night elk walked through the campsite.

I never have campfires when backpacking, but it was still really wet here, with snow around, so we had a small fire.
The next day we walked cross-country, taking cow paths and ghost roads to make a big loop through flower-studded meadows: lomatium, lilies, phlox and my favorite, the tiny blue-eyed Mary. Though we walked for two hours, the GPS told us we had only gone three miles. Such is cross-country travel.

Walking the ridgelines
Arriving in town, we noticed tourists wandering the streets. "Aren't any gift shops open?" a family asked. The lake, we had been told, was packed. It may end up being like this all summer: the need to seek out places nobody else goes, to walk ridges instead of trails. It won't be the summer I planned, but it will be summer nonetheless.  We made it through winter after all.

Sunset from camp

11 comments:

  1. We are also seeking out the places no one goes, but they tend to be overgrown and mosquito infested down here in SE Texas!

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    Replies
    1. Or with alligators? Eek. I hope we can all travel soon.

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  2. Must be the perspective, but that doesn't look like a 'small' fire to me! ;-p
    Happily I have MUCH to do in settling into a new locale and a new job, so I am not yet lamenting the inability to go out and find a place without people (I suspect it will be MUCH more difficult this season due to the cabin fever more folks are experiencing).

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    Replies
    1. It was pretty small..no huge logs! :) Not a white man fire like the ones I have seen! We didn't burn it long.

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  3. A friend just posted about a similar adventure. I think it's going to be the summer to explore old logging and forest service roads. I love ridge walking and wanderings as long as the bushwhacking is limited.

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    Replies
    1. Yes I think so, old roads not my favorite but I can't complain too much since at least I am not living in an apartment in a big city.

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  4. For me, September and October were always the most difficult months in Southeast Alaska. Gray, wet, endlessly dreary. By November the precipitation relented a bit and started turning to snow. December and January were the most fantastically gorgeous months. I get that I'm a winter person, but on a clear day, surrounded by snowy mountains drenched in pink light, there was no place I'd rather be.

    Anyway, I get the backlash of small-town folks who don't want to cope with crowds from out of state. In your situation, far from resources, it makes sense. Here in Boulder County, it mostly smacks of elitism, because we're not that far displaced from the city. I'm part of several mountain-living groups online, and the complaints about "flatlanders" have started to become insufferable. I too would love to have my local trails all to myself, but I can't begrudge others who want to enjoy their public lands. Just as long as they observe proper social distancing, which yeah, most of them don't.

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    Replies
    1. It didn't snow much in Sitka. Mostly rain, rain, rain. And gales. Winter was rough! Though looking back ten years later, I do kind of miss the misty rain that we sometimes got.

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  5. Yes, sadly we are all learning to adapt to the very necessary restrictions to beat corona. Living in suburbia, I'm delighted at how many 'enjoyable' walks I am finding without too much traffic. It also seems that the birds are louder and more numerous, which is a joy!

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    1. I love the Australian birds! I was overjoyed that our tiny state park opened up. Before I was always like meh. So small. Have to do many loops. But now I love it.

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