Monday, June 14, 2021

sleepless on sleepy ridge


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.

 We pored over the Hells Canyon map. Where to go? An unknown group of trails spiraled out from the Hat Point road, all on ridges. You never know what you are going to get from Hells Canyon--typically trails have vanished, swallowed by tall grass and time. You end up guessing, and finding pieces of them. But we were game to try.

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.



10 comments:

  1. You have me second guessing my tent purchase . . . as I'm still waiting, waiting, waiting 9 weeks later for it to arrive and know I'll probably never love it. At least I'll consider the TW as a future purchase. Maybe it'll go on sale in the fall/winter.

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    Replies
    1. oh and how I love ridge walks. I'll take them all day. Thank you very much!

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    2. That's a long wait, but that means high demand which means good tent! I don't think there's a perfect one. This one definitely doesn't fold up as small.

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  2. My husband bought a 3 person tent a few years ago to accommodate our young son on our hikes...and it has the trekking pole set up. I abhor it. I love our Big Agnes two person and wish he'd gone with them for a three person, too.

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    Replies
    1. I have the three person one so I can fit all the dogs, too. Hahaha

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  3. I don't like night winds either. You're right; there's something especially creepy about them.

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    Replies
    1. They freak me out especially when you hear them coming from a ways off.

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  4. We have contemplated the tents that utilize the treking poles but while it sounds nice I've always been skeptical!

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  5. Lovely vistas but I feel for you that the wind decided to visit in such force. Even listening to wind from the confines of a snug home gives me the creeps.

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