I raced darkness as usual, searching for a campsite. I was back in the Wenaha, and just like last October, I had hiked to Crooked Creek, expecting to be able to cross the stream to a sandy beach next to the river. Just like last time, I was unable to cross. Apparently the creek had changed course, making the crossing too dangerous this time of year.
I had been lured back to the Wenaha because of a spring-like sixty degrees. How could I not backpack? March is a good time to visit this canyon, because the poison ivy hasn't leafed out and the snakes are still peacefully sleeping (a friend told me that a personal record is 40 snakes! FORTY rattlesnakes! That's a big nope). April is still good, but May is too late. I was reminded of a May trip where we set up our tents only to see a couple of rattlesnakes cruising across our campsite. Never again!
The trail had changed in the five months since I had been there. Already deteriorating then, a hard winter had erased trail tread in some dicey spots, and a mess of trees lay jackstrawed across. Brush scraped my legs, making me regret my decision to forgo pants. People used to trail run here. Now, it would be more like a trail walk.
I went back the way I had come, looking for a site. A fire came through here in 2017, and dead trees are still hanging ominously over former campsites. It was starting to get dark, and I'm not a big night hiking fan anyway. In these conditions, with the trail gone and just plain rocky in places, it wasn't a great idea.
Each dead stump started to look like a bear, and I was thinking uneasily of the wolf tracks I had seen earlier. I was also annoyed that my vision of the trip--lounging on a riverbank in the sun--was not proving to be reality.
But the trail provides. I arrived by headlamp to a sweet little spot I should have set up in earlier, when it was still sunny. (is this a metaphor for life? Don't let the good ones go by?) Happy now, I lathered up with tecnu (in case of poison ivy), fired up my camp stove and made dinner and hot chocolate.
There are few things I like more than waking up in a beautiful spot, which is why day hikes are a distant second to me. I noted that I had burrs in my hair from some of the off-trail tree navigation I had to do the day before. Alas, I will never be in an REI catalog, but that's life. The tent was frosty and the air cold enough for me to start off for the trailhead in my puffy coat. It was a Friday, so nobody else was around, and I felt like I was living my best life.
The second backpacking trip of the year was a resounding success, even if it wasn't the way I planned it. (I have actually backpacked every month since November 2019, except for February this year. February was snowy, and it wasn't happening). The trail provides but also teaches lessons. I needed those lessons.