Sunday, October 20, 2013

High Loch Leven, Day 2

Woke up early this morning and I really had to pee. What a way to start a post. Well, it was the first thought of the day. It was still dark, or at least what passes for dark when the moon is full. The sky was a dim blue, was it from the moon or was the sun really coming up? What time is it? I fished my iPhone out and looked at the time, 6:10 am. Hmmm, still dark, still gotta go...

I opened the zipper on my bivy to assess the air temperature. Wow, it's cold out there. I lay there a few minutes as my nose and cheeks began to get numb in the cold. If I were on my own hike, I'd get up because the day meant a day if miles. It wouldn't be long till the exertions of moving down the trail would be keeping me warm. Alas, today is not that day. So I am faced with a dilemma. If I get up and pee, what am I going to do afterwards till the sun gets up and starts warming the air?

I re-zipped my bivy's netting. Amazed at how much warmer it is with such a thin piece of mosquito netting between my face and the air outside. maybe if I adjust how I am laying I can put off the inevitable. Stop thinking about it. Think about... something else. Crack! Snap! what was that? I tried peering through the netting to see outside. Something moving? I thought of my bear bag hanging in the tree about twenty feet away. I looked in that direction and could dimly see it's silhouette against the sky. It was majestically hanging perfectly still is in the frigid air. I looked over my shoulder in the other direction, what is that? Or rather who is that.

Apparently I am not the only one who woke with the thought of the day. My friend Eric was already up and about. Eric brought a cool SOG axe. one you can throw and it'll stick in a tree, or a bear if needed. But it also chops wood. Like the wood Eric is carrying. Yay! time to get up. I know that by the time I am out of bed, take take of my business and get back to camp the fire will be going. As so it was.

On my last trip I was so throughly disgusted and tired of instant oatmeal that I didn't even bring it with me. Why carry something so utterly useless and offensive as died mush in a bag? This morning's breakfast consisted of my favorite granola, Trader Joe's Maple and Pecan, doused with a scope of vanilla protein powder to give the illusion of milk. I also has a handful of raisins and a Starbuck Via mocha. Satisfying and excellent. I enjoyed it so much I took a couple pictures of it. Eric had been telling me about his breakfast. He was bringing English muffins and freeze dried eggs with ham and peppers. He toasted his muffins on the fire and prepared his eggs. Hmmm... that looks pretty good. Then he generously shared one with me. Fantastic! I think I might doing something like this next time.  Except I am not sure how I will toast my muffins without a fire. Something to think about anyway.

Slowly but surely everyone got up. slowly but surely meals were made, clothes were changed. stories were shared.Slowly but most assuredly, the sun came up and slowly began to warm the air. I packed all my gear as if I were on my own hike. I left my camp they way I found it, pristine and clean. I brought my pack out and sat in the sun as I watched the others prepare for the day. Eric asked me to lead them on a hike to Fisher Lake which is where I typically camp when I come to this area. It requires about a mile of cross-country navigation and tends to have much fewer people than the lakes along the trail.

We set off through the woods to Fisher Lake. I have taken the route enough times now that I really don't need my GPS, but I used it anyway. I find it is useful to verify that I really am taking the right way. I tend to meander a bit when going cross-country. In this case I am always trying to find a little bit better route than the last time. I found it interesting and comforting that when I was exactly on the route identified by my GPS the going was easier than the times i meandered off the route. It seems that the route I have is the easiest I have found... so far.

We got to the lake and sat in the sun for a while. We talked about vacations and sabbaticals and healthcare. Rick, who lives in Belgium when he is not traveling for work, said that the healthcare in Belgium is great as long as your not really sick. You wouldn't want to be there if you had some dire life threatening disease because the lines are so long to get treatment. But hey! its free! So shut up and stop complaining. It boggles my mind that the best that our own experts in our federal government could come up with is something modeled on the European system. Hey! its going to be free. Except that its going to cost you more than your paying now. Oooh, how exciting! Ah well, at least my friend who's been yammering for government healthcare is going to get what he wants.

We sat in the sun and the silence a beautiful fall day. Lee mentioned how amazing it was to him that we could be sitting in the sun under a cloudless blue sky with temperatures in the seventies, "Only in California!", he said. Lee is from somewhere else, I am not sure exactly, but his slight accent reminds me of my friends from Boston. He was reveling in the joys of being here at this moment in this place. He echoed verbally what I was thinking inside. I really enjoy hanging out with these guys, we are all roughly in the same generation although I think Rick seems to be slightly more youthful then myself. Somewhere close to noon we decided to head back and I suggested we could climb up to the top of the ridge and traverse it rather than following the same route we did to get here. After much huffing and puffing we arrived at the top. Eric pointed out Tinker's Knob off to the East. I could see Granite Chief above Squaw Valley and peeking around the edge was Squaw Peak. I reflected back on my afternoon hike from Granite Chief to Tinker's Knob a few weeks ago and how far it really is. How deep the valley between the two was and the long hike back up and out. A long day that ended with a three hour hike to my truck in the dark.

We made it back to camp sometime in the early afternoon and I thought about being home with my wife tonight. As fun as these guys are and as beautiful and this place is. I want to take my wife out to dinner and sleep in my own bed tonight. I took my iPhone off of Airplane mode and found that I had two bars of 4G service. I texted an invitation for dinner to my wife and reverted back to Airplane mode. I think it's pretty clever of Apple to come up with the term Airplane mode. From what I can tell what Airplane mode is, is a  phone that has all of it's radio electronics turned off. That is quite a few different radios in an iPhone 5. There is the cellular radio, the data channel (I am not sure if this is the same as the cellular radio but since you pay for it seperately, let's pretend it's a different radio). There is also the wi-fi, the Bluetooth, and the Location service's GPS. That is at least five radio devices in a hand-held device. I find that truly amazing. I remember my first job installing 800 mHz tw-way radios in commerical vehicles and the size and complexity of a single communications radios. To have all that times five in the palm of my hand is remarkable.

Eric, Cliff, and I are all heading out today. Rick and Lee are staying another night. Perhaps the bears will find them once we leave. From the stories they told, they must have some sort of bear magnetism. Eric suggested that we try to take a short-cut from High Loch Leven to Lower Loch Leven that I had put on the map I shared with him. I was thinking about dinner and really didn't want to try to find a new route off trail. My experiences off the trail have always taken significantly longer than following a trail. So we decided to put that off for a another day. After saying our goodbyes the three of us started down the trail and Cliff and I chatted a bit about our families. Cliff is a great guy that I hope to have a chance to get to know better in the future. We made it down to Middle Loch Leven and scoped out the short-cut we were thinking about from the opposite side. With the cliffs and brush it definitely looked sketchy and I was glad we opted for the trail.

Eric and Cliff stopped and looked and the peaks to the East trying to determine which one they had climbed yesterday. I kept hiking. There was nothing before except for open trail and I picked up the pace. I wanted to see if I could maintain the pace that I did a few weeks ago. As I stretched out my stride and put a bounce in my step I felt exhilarated. The blisters and muscle aches from the last trip were gone and it felt good to feel the burn in my calves and quads. I moved along the trail stopping a few times to take a picture. The joy ot the trail is a personal one. I find that I am most exhilarated when I am moving at a pace that pushes my stamina and endurance.

I stopped briefly at the top of the long descent to the trailhead to pull out my trekking poles. I had been luggin them around for the last day and a half for just this moment. I have found them to be of great assistance when you are descending trails with loose rocks and scree. Descending seems to always be harder than ascending with a backpack. Especially when you are going across and down slopes with unstable footholds. I have found the extra two "legs" that trekking poles provide to be extremely helpful and a knee and ankle saver.

As I descended I found that watching the trail for the next footholds becomes almost a game. The faster I descend, the more focus it takes, the sensation is not unlike the sensation of playing one of those first-person shooter games in zombie mode. You sort of get into this zone, your trekking poles are clickity-clicking on the rocks and you take one step after another, trying to avoid the loose tippity rocks and attempting to only step on large flat rocks and solid ground. Moving as quickly as you can trying to keep your eyes a few steps ahead of your feet. It is scary to think what might happen if you loose concentration for even a moment and step on a rock that rolls your ankle or twists your knee in a way it's not supposed to twist. The idea of being stuck on a trail in the middle of no-where with a leg injury is  daunting, but the "beating" the game when it really matters brings a satisfaction that is all it's own. Ask any gamer.

Trailhead means home, and home means dinner. Happy trails till next time...

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