Hikemike.com is still stealing my posts. Should I be flattered that a bot thinks they are interesting enough to steal? Well, if they steal it, I will say it: the real site is http://mountainsskin.blogspot.com and buy my books while you are at it. http://maryemerick.com.
I gutsily drove to Warnock Corral, to be greeted with a "4WD road" sign. If the road I had been driving wasn't classified as a 4WD, there was no way I was going further. We ventured out onto the Western Rim National Recreation Trail, which hugs the rim of Hells Canyon. Though this is an NRT, it gets way less funding than others, and is fairly obscure. The number of people who have hiked its entire length probably is less than 100.
Though it was tempting to stay on the rim, we decided to veer off toward Sleepy Ridge. In the distance, the rim looked treed, and we debated: we didn't want to deal with inevitable blowdown and no views. We could bail if we didn't like it, we determined. You should always have a backup plan in Hells Canyon.
Elk ran off in the distance as we traversed along singletrack that I could actually ride with a bike. On foot, though, we emerged into glorious ridgewalking. After about five miles we reached a spring, and a flat place to camp. You don't take water lightly in the canyon, so we decided to seize the spot and day hike from there.
The trail contoured across the ridge, where it disappeared. We had been expecting this, so we weren't fazed. But a mystery revealed itself. My map showed no trail continuing on Sleepy Ridge, while the USGS map did. Which was right? Deciding not to flounder, we headed for Jakey Ridge, crossing Medicine Creek and climbing up. This trail was less used, with numerous blowdowns that we had to push our way through. Short on daylight, we conceded defeat and returned to our camp for a satisfying twelve miles of effort. Twelve miles is pretty good for the Canyon, even if we were on the rim and not in the depths.
I happily crawled into my new Big Agnes Tiger Wall 2 tent. This is the best tent ever. I am too impatient to mess with trekking pole tents, and what if I want to take my poles for a day hike from camp? I don't really want to collapse my tent while I am gone. I want something easy and quick to set up. This tent is amazingly light and roomy and while fitting in two people could be a challenge, a furry dog is easily accommodated. I love my tent so, so much. (However, now I have at least two other tents I should probably offload.)
In the distance I heard a disquieting sound. Wind! Another thing about Hells Canyon are the strange local winds. An unpredicted gale buffeted us all night, flap flap flap. I thought uneasily about the trees above us, but it was too late to move. There's something terrifying about wind that sets me on edge. The night was long and unpleasant.
It got light at 4 am, and we blearily crawled from our tents, sleepless. "Good thing we weren't on Windy Ridge," I said, pointing out the aptly named ridge running parallel to ours. My tent had withstood the wind, so there was that.
Facing a day of chores, I reluctantly packed up to go. There's a lot more exploring that can be done in this place. Hopefully without wind next time. Oh, and we didn't see a soul. There's something to be said for living here.