Friday, August 29, 2014

The Dark Tunnel of Forever

Yay! We have a permit for desolation wilderness by walking up to the Taylor Creek Visitor Center at 3:30 pm on the Friday before Labor Day. I didn't think it was possible but here we are with a valid permit and everything.

Jack drops us off at the Echo summit trailhead for the PCT at 4:15 pm and we start hiking. The trail starts ascending immediately and in a few short minutes I am gasping for air. We initially make good time with a brisk pace. We pass the Echo Lakes, lower then upper and continue climbing past the 'entering wilderness' sign because we have a permit.

The breeze whips the water of the lakes into angry waves going in all directions. The clouds hide the sun and the sky is gray and looks threatening. It doesn't  follow through with its threat though and the only result is that it is extraordinarily warm at eight thousand feet of elevation. 

We walk until darkness begins to make its way out from under the rocks and behind the trees. The mountains crowd out the light so we stop by a cool flowing stream labeled WA1102 on my Half Mile maps. We pull out our stoves and began heating water. 

I am introducing my new Caldera Cone to my world. I have only tested it at home so I am not sure how much fuel to use. I go with 15ml which is about one half an ounce, and I plop the cone with my pot atop it just like the video showed me. I feel heating oozing from the upper vents, that's a good thing, it means the alcohol is oxidizing and heating my pot of water. While I wait a get more fresh water from the stream and we prepare Aqua Mira to completely sterilize the water.

I pull out my chili Mac dinner and Jon does the same. In a few short minutes we poor hot water from our pots into our dinner bags and set the timer for ten minutes. One of the things you do not want to do is eat freeze dried food before it has rehydrated. I over estimated on my fuel needs and my stove conirues to burn. One of the biggest drawback of an alcohol stove is this feature. I suppose as time goes by I'll get better at estimating the amount of fuel I need. 

I take a few teaspoons of boiling water and put it in my trail brownie mix. They come out perfect. Like brownies in a bag. Not to runny or to dry. I toss a couple of Fritos into my chili Mac and share some with Jon too. Chili Mac with Fritos is the awesomest dinner ever! 

While we sit the the sun suddenly lights up the sky with startlingly pink glowing fire. The clouds are on fire, they sky is dissolving into a furnace without heat. The rosy alpine-glow lasts for about twenty minutes and the darkness descends in earnest. We still have three miles to go. 

We don our headlamps and begin hiking after quickly stuffing our things pack in our packs in the last sputtering light. The trail becomes a long twisty tunnel without walls. Trees pop into few suddenly as if they sprouted like mushrooms in the dark. We can no longer move as fast and pay careful attention to where to place your next step. There's nothing else to look at anyway. Jon doesn't know that yet and I see the beam for his headlamps swinging wildly from left to right. I wonder if he's a little bit spooked. This is his first time night hiking. Because of the. Slower pace the trail stretches and time slows to a snails pace. We are snails we are slowly inching through the darkness. Snails lost in a dark tunnel. There is no end. We have been hiking forever. This is all we have done forever and forever. 

A post pops into view it signifies that progress is occurring, and just as suddenly it is gone and we are back into our eternal splunking through the dark. After a few decades we finally arrive at our permitted destination Gilmore Lake. Though we can't see it. Thee is just more emptiness than normal onone side of the trail. We see moving sparkles through the trees, the lights of other campers who arrived and this lake when we were younger. We search for a site, find one and then move a little bit further to an even  better one. We set up camp and I explode my pack into the open door of my tent. One of the things I like about my tent is that it has a real tent floor and the things you put in it won't sneak out the back. Slipping out under the netting when I am not looking.

We need water so we start an Aqua Mira cook and head to the lake our our water bladders and bottles. We can't see the lake and are not exactly sure which direction it is. We use the lights of the other campers to orient ourselves because the clouds are blocking all the stars. We eventually find the lake and refill our water. Uh oh, we have lost our way. It is impossible to tell whee out camp is we head one way then another. Jon thinks moe to the right, I think moe to the left. Let's go around in a circle and poof we are total disoriented. We head back to the lake only there is no lake. We wander and wander. I remember that my iPhone is in my pocket when the timer goes off indicating that our Aqua Mira can be poured into our water. Only the Aqua Mira is at our camp and we a re lost in the dark. We wander past a camp where on of the occupants phone is playing a tune, incoming call? I'm surprised they have coverage out here, I don't. Jon says, "Scott, over here" apparently the phone belongs to Jon. The tent that looks a lot like my tent is, in fact, my tent. Huh! We were about to walk by them because we didn't want to distrib the occupants. It's nice to be warm in my tent rather than wandering in the dark. Thank you Jon!

Good night!

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