Monday, August 23, 2004

An Appointment with Water, Part I

I've been aching for a backpacking trip all summer, but the schedule keeps filling up. Last weekend, I decided that I would take my first backpack trip in a few years and this time I would go by myself. I picked an easy route and a short hike...boy am I glad I did.

The destination was Lower Twin Lake in the Mount Hood National Forest. It was only 2 1/4 miles each way climbing about 400 feet before dropping a couple hundred down into the lake. I relied on my faulty memory about what to bring on a camping trip and brought way too much. The aluminum frame REI SuperPak circa 1980 held all my stuff but the waist belt barely withstood my increased girth. Most of the weight would be borne by my shoulders.

I checked the weather forecast the night before and I am glad I did. It was slated to begin raining on Saturday afternoon, my origin day, and continue overnight and into Sunday (hike out day). I packed my good rain pants and coat (in addition to my cheap backup poncho). When I drove out at 8 am, it was sunny and nice. Travelling early helped me avoid the bulk of the traffic on Highway 26 heading east up Mount Hood toward Government Camp and past.

I parked at the Frog Lake Sno-Park lot at Wapinitia Pass and put on my pack. Gee, it was heavier than I hoped for (and I foolishly carried a gallon of water to avoid the need for using a water purifier). The clouds were starting to thicken but it was warm and nice. The sweet scent of mountain hemlock, silver fir, and the rest permeated the mountain air. Off I went heading north on the Pacific Crest Trail #2000.

Old number 2000 travels all the way from Mexico to Canada and there are actually people crazy enough to hike the whole thing. Within a couple minutes one of them whizzed by me liked I was standing still. The guy had two aluminum walking poles and a very compact pack. I don't know if he was going the distance on the trail, but he appeared to be in shape for it. I, on the other hand, quickly found out how badly my sedentary lifestyle treated me.

I was huffing and puffing within a half mile with my shoulder straps digging into me, my gallon of water starting to feel like a lead suitcase in one hand and a slowly disintegrating sack lunch in the other. It dawned on me quickly that I was repeating every backpacking mistake I ever made on this trip. Well, that was what it was for. There was still another mile of climbing left, so I put one leg in front of the other and trudged on. Wild rhododendron lined each side of the trail along with another evergreen shrub I couldn't identify whose blooms smelled slightly of old urine (sorry, it was the most accurate description I could think of). Bloomed out spikes shot up out of bunches of bear grass (actually a lily, not a grass), the trifoliate vanilla leaf, a tiny herbal member of the dogwood family, and a few other familiar plant friends were completing their yearly cycle.

As I reached the apex of the climb, I was rewarded with a beautiful view of the southern flanks of Mount Hood. That volcano is a true beauty even during the summer with its snow fields and glaciers slowly denuded by the dry warmth of the season. I was sweat-drenched and exhausted at the trail junction down into the lake, so I rested a bit, munched some cashews, and washed it down with water from what increasing felt like a tank rather than a bottle. Finally, I hauled my beer-bellied countenance and pack from the log end I was sitting on headed down the hill to my campsite. Wow, downhill was easier...although the shoulder digging feeling never went away.

I figured this was a popular destination, so I braced for the possibility I might need to hike away from the main lake area to get privacy. Sure enough, three tents were pitched right at the first available spot. Luckily, they were on their way out and they appeared to be the only tenants. I ate lunch out of the tattered remnants of my lunch sack and relaxed for a time. There are several logs that have fallen into the lake, so I chose a large one and straddled it sitting and looking out across the lakes to the timbered hillside across the way. The log I rested on was bleached white by time, but ran straight as a Greek Column; a reminder of the Olympics I wouldn't be watching tonight.

After pitching the dome tent, I took a hike around the lake; about 1/2 mile. My original thought was to climb the Frog Lake Butte trail, but by the time I got around to the trail junction, my left hip joint was feeling very tired and so was I. At the junction, there was a yellow nylon rope attached that allowed people to swing out over the water and jump in. A father was helping his two daughters out and they appeared to be having a great time splashing into the lake over and over again. I headed back to my tent and decided to lay down for a bit; I ended up snoozing for the better part of an hour.

I woke up to the sounds of heavy splashing and barking. A group of people brought their four dogs to play in the water. Great tranquillity breaker. Well, I would avoid them and do something else I supposes. Since their noise was annoying me, I decided a hike up to Frog Buttes was in order after all. A bit over 2 miles and several hundred feet up, but I could always turn back if I was too tired etc. By this time (around 2pm), it was completely overcast and the wind had shifted to the south. Off I went.

(To be continued)


The Moody Minstrel said...

Well so far at least, you've got me turning lime green with envy.

I can't even remember the last time I went backpack camping, but it may very well have been the 50-miler we went on right after finishing high school.

I'd love to have straps digging into my shoulders for a change.

Vulgarius said...

I'm glad we planned to take a long time on our Olympic Hike. Whew! 28 miles But the icy lake near the end of the trail was pure paradise! And the glacier was well worth the final few miles.

Don Snabulus said...

Cool. Which route did you take? I've been thinking about a trip to the Olympics (the mountains) for years.

DewKid said...

Also envious. As soon as my youngest can shoulder a pack, I'm heading for the hills!

Anonymous said...

So where is the REST of the story. Don't leave us hanging.

Did you get to the top? Get any sleep? Dogs get you all wet?

Finish, Finish, Finish........

Don Snabulus said...

Okay, no more hanging. The "rest of the story" is now posted.

Good Day.

ElTigris said...

Dewkid ...she will learn to say MEAT first

Anonymous said...

Paul Harvey:

You already know what the news is. In a minute you're going to hear THE REST OF THE STORY.

Okay, Snabbie, take it away...

The Moody Minstrel said...

I'm curious to know what camp rations Dewkid would lug along on a family backpacking trip. Considering I've been camping with him before, I really have to wonder.


Don Snabulus said...

If he brought a gas can full of M & Ms, he would be the Best. Dad. Ever.