Chapter One: It All Begins Here
I woke up this morning with a wave of excitement. Today was the day I had been planning for for weeks. Of course the recent course of freak spring storms has brought a good amount of snow to the higher elevations and I have been contemplating moving my hike to a bit lower elevation, but I have been training hard all spring for this one time trip.
This was my solo trip of the year… me and my dog… my favorite pack and a few miscellaneous items I carefully put together, weighed and weighed again, to be sure I wasn’t carrying more than I felt I could handle.
I had prepared 7 dinners, 7 lunches and plenty of coffee and carbs for a good morning start each day. I afforded myself the luxury of 3 cliff bars… even though they added almost 2 lbs to my load. All my water filtration gear was in order, the last thing I need is giardia or some water pathogen that would render me unable to hike on to the rondevue at the end of my seven day sojourn.
I lie in bed and go over the specifics of the hike. The three passes I have to climb, all three over two miles high. A few years ago there was a huge fire in one area I will be hiking through and I have heard that there is a lot of dead timber for almost two miles of the hike. I was also told the Trail monitors had been out and keeping the trail clear and well marked. I had six major stream crossings and one big river that I am sure has swollen far beyond its banks… but I was told that the monitors had built a makeshift backcountry bridge and the crossing was safe.
My pup jumped up on the bed and broke my trance. He was making sure I knew it was time to feed him and go for our morning walk. This was the start to our every day together… morning belly rubs, kisses, and food then a walk. This trip was going to be my break from my mundane existence… a chance to see what I was really made of. Even with months of preparation, I still felt a twinge of fear, but I am writing it off to my women’s intuition telling me to proceed with a good healthy caution.
The morning wore on at a snails pace. I packed and re packed. Checked my list and rechecked it three times until I felt I had packed everything just perfectly. Hoisted the pack on my back, adjusted the straps and shoulder pads until it sat just right and I could bend and stoop without getting off balance… last thing I needed was a twisted ankle or busted head from something as silly as falling over. I can see it now… ” hiker found wandering around in a daze from busting her head open on a rock”… great headlines. I had no intention of becoming some statistic.
I made a call to my support team. We went over my plans and the rondevu time and place seven days from now. I went over the pick up and drop off of my car. I went over the check in times and the emergency contacts. As much as I hated the added weight I brought my 32, my Garmin and my big multi tool Leatherman. These three items alone added 5 lbs to my load… that’s 5 lbs I can’t eat or won’t keep me warm or dry… 5 lbs all the same extremely necessary. I felt confident all the bases were covered. Eight am… time to get going.
I piled my pack in the back of my FJ and double checked the map and the latest weather forecast. I opened the passenger door and Breeze hopped in. He seemed to know we were off for a long walk in the woods and was as eager as I was to hit the trail. His doggy back pack held two days of his food, 6 little sausage treats and his favorite toy. All set… time to get to the trailhead. I fired up the FJ and flipped the radio to The Grateful Dead channel and set off to the High Uintas.
Arriving at the dirt road that lead to the trail I could see the damage caused by all the Spring run-offs. Patches of snow still held tight to the shady grottoes of the mountains and the few streams we crossed were flowing well beyond their banks. Rounding a corner I saw a mama moose and her cow grazing waist high in the marshes caused by the over flowing streams. Driving on the canyon opened up and I was delighted to see endless fields of yellow and blue flowers. The flowers blanketed the hill sides and fenced in pastures.
I pulled over to snap some pictures and let Breeze out. A silence overcame me and almost hurt my ears. The azure colored sky was brilliant. A soft cool breeze foretold of the cool evenings to come and yet the sun was high and felt scorching on my bare skin. The pine trees stood tall against the deep blue sky in a contrast of colors and shadows. I felt a rush of emotion overcome me. This is why I try to do this this time of year. Another thirteen miles to go.
The further in I went the worse the road became and I was glad I had good ground clearance. There were times I had to cross small roadside streams that had been diverted across the road creating pools of dark muddy water. Throwing caution to the wind, I plowed through each pool and straddled each rut and finally arrived at the trailhead.
I know that I tend to be a little absent minded so I shot a picture of the trail and area with my phone so if I got distracted I could refer back to the picture and get back on track. Breeze is pretty good with direction too so between he and I we should be good. At the check in for the trail there was a notice of high water conditions and to take care at stream crossings. I signed the register and double checked my car to be sure I didn’t forget anything. Breeze ran around marking every rock and stump. He had a puppy type hop to his movements even at 9 years old.
I secured Breeze’s pack and adjusted the straps so nothing hung low and there were no straps dangling to possibly get tangled or caught. I secured my pack and it almost immediately felt like an old friend. I chugged my celebratory Trail beer, grabbed my hiking poles, locked the car making sure the note I always put on the dash was in plain sight. It was just the final precaution I always took when hiking solo. One last look behind and we were off.