Two Miles High: A Rocky Mountain Tail: Chapter Two

Chapter Two: A Rocky Start

I checked my watch… 2:34pm. OK… I have 6 miles to cover till my first planned camp, aside one of the many Alpine lakes at around 9800 feet. I had hiked to this lake many times before in the dog days of Summer just to escape the heat of the valley. It was quite picturesque and held a bounty of small brookies that I liked to catch and throw in the pan. The clear cold water seemed to make them taste even better than ones caught at lower altitude streams. There was a particular stand of sub-alpines that I like to camp by. The morning sun came over the far ridge of the lake and warmed up the tent and camp area nicely. It made for an easy transition from the warmth of my sleeping bag to the warmth of the morning sun.

I knew that there were two stream crossings between here and there but there had always been some rocks to hop on and even a makeshift log bridge at the second. I headed out with a steady stride figuring I could cover 2 to 3 miles an hour. That would put me at camp well before dusk and give me some time to explore the lake, collect fire wood and maybe… if the fish gods are with me… catch some fresh fish for dinner.

Breeze was off to his normal trail running. He would run ahead and disappear for a few minutes then come happily bounding back like a big goof and seem to ask what was taking me so long. Every now and then he would catch a scent and look back at me as if to ask if it was ok to go check it out. He was a wonderful companion. A loyal friend and my protector from large animals. His antics have caused us both some grief though. Two years ago we were hiking the Grand Daddy lakes and he happened upon a hole. At first I thought it might be a badger, but we both soon found out it was a skunks nest full of babies and momma skunk was not happy. That was a very long three day hike considering he loved to sleep right outside my tent’s vestibule. Pee uuu…

The day was absolutely perfect. The sky was cloudless and a warm breeze rustled through the pines high overhead. I was quite saddened by the black pine beetle plight that had claimed so many majestic trees. It looked as if a wild fire had tore its way through the forest and picked out only certain trees to burn up. The skeleton remains of these trees stood as a stark silhouette against the true blue of the sky. There were hundreds of dead standing trees. As the breeze blew they would creek and crack. I had heard of campers being squished by these trees falling over in storms at night. Poor souls never knew what hit them. Note to self: camp far away from any dead stand.

I could hear the first stream off in the distance. It didn’t sound like the innocent stream I remembered. The closer I got the more springs came trickling out of the forest and made a muddy mess of the trail. I had to spend a good amount of time scampering over dead trees that had fallen in the past winters strong storms. Several had fallen but not hit the ground. The trail was muddy and the area around the trail was no less dangerous or easy to maneuver. It took almost an extra fifteen minutes to get to the stream crossing. It looked like a ragging river and the rocks to hop across we’re now creating rooster tail rapids. I looked up and down the river but could see no easy crossing point. Ah hell I got my sticks… this will be a snap.

I grabbed Breeze and looked him squarely in the eyes and told him to stay! I then proceeded to step down into the icy water. One foot in front of the other, pause, plant my sticks and move one foot then balance, move the next, plant, balance, move. It was only about twenty feet or so wide and the current was strong. I just took it very slow and methodical. I was about two thirds the way across and Breeze just couldn’t take it. He jumped down into the water and hopped across the stream in five or six strong bounds. Nearly knocked me off my feet and caused a rush of fear to run right up my spine. Damn dog!

I made it to the other side and scolded him with all the seriousness I could muster. He licked my face and gave me his cold, wet paw. My heart melted and I forgave him with a shake and scratch. “When I say STAY… I mean STAY!” I reiterated. He took a shake and bounded off down the trail. I found a downed tree and sat down to catch my breath and calm my racing heart. I was a bit concerned since this was only the first of six crossings. Were they all going to be this full? Would I be able to find a safe crossing point? If I continue on and find one I can’t safely cross I would be caught between here and there only to be forced to turn around. Maybe even have to camp in the dead standing trees and maybe be squished like a bug in my sleep. OK enough negative thinking!

I stood up and for the first time I could feel the altitude and my pack seemed to gain ten pounds and my legs felt like lead. I took a few deep breaths, looked up at the sky and moved forward. Whatever “intuition” I was feeling I wrote off as blowing this whole thing out of proportion… the rants of an altitude crazed mind. I am a seasoned hiker, I got this. The next hour and a half was uneventful. I climbed my first pass of 11,435 feet. Breeze made it look so easy. He just ran ahead, then back, then ahead again. He was my energizer bunny. I longed for even a tenth of his energy and enthusiasm. I headed down into the next depression and the second stream came into ear shot. Again it sounded like a rushing river instead of a little trickling stream. I could feel that intuitive side of me whispering in my ear… of course I dismissed it as fatigue and altitude not letting me think clearly.

Descending from the pass I came upon a clearing and I could see the lake I was hiking to. It energized me and I picked up my pace. All these detours off the trail to escape the numerous springs that would find the trail and flow across it, were burning up daylight. I was hoping the bridge I remembered was still there… OR the trail monitors had built a makeshift one to expand the length so the crossing would be safer than the last. I was placing my hopes on the newly built bridge I was envisioning.

Two Miles High : A Rocky Mountain Tail : Chapter One

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.

Overland Expo West… Here We Come!

It seems like forever since I have written. Life has been crazy… to say the least. We are continuing to sell cars, go to work everyday, walk the dog every morning, pay bills, do yard work, fix up the house for the eventual sale, and still try to fit some fun time in. I will be happy when the list gets cut in a third and all we have to do is plan our next destination, walk the dog on a beach or jungle trail, make new friends and LIVE.

We have been beefing up Lucky, our 1998 Adventure Cruzer. She has almost a complete ‘face lift’ now completely replacing most of her front end suspension parts, installed the roof top tent, added a great, non-ostentatious stereo with Bluetooth and XM, second battery system installed and cold air intake installed.  There is still the interior build for storage coming up… but first The Overland Expo in Flagstaff this weekend for some over the top experience and lots off good ideas from fellow minimalists and overlanders.

It is amazing to know that there are other crazy people in this world that like to “hit the road”, abandon the “responsible reality lifestyle” we all have been raised to live in and forced to conform to. With the instability in the political climate of this world it it scary to even turn on the TV and wonder what stupidity has occurred overnight. To be reliant on fossil fuels, electricity, consume water like it’s a right… these items are what keeps most of us chained to our homes, our repeating loop of everyday living to support our reliance on our carbon footprint. Hitting the road forces us to downscale. Live life at its fullest without being tied down. It allows us to move freely about, exploring the world and all it’s back roads and byways, without having time limits.

In two days I will hit the road with Gandaulf and Lucky for our first 600 mile road trip. I hope to connect and be motivated. To be inspired by fellow travelers. To accept criticism on ways to better keep us secure as two women travelers. Stay tuned as we post some incredible pics and share great ideas as we travel to and attend the Expo!

Until we chat again…

Gray

Why have all the leaves and flowers gone away?

Where is the color in my day?

Is there rain on the way?

Will the clouds hold the sun at bay?

What will the weatherman have to say?

When can I go out and play?

Maybe tomorrow… but not today.

The silence of winter is here to stay.

Gray

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The Deepest Scar

In all my travels I have seen the good and the bad. A common thread in most indigenous cultures is the reverence for Mother Earth. It’s not hard to see why.  These people depend on the bounty of the Earth for substinance. They rise up against their government when the government takes money over the sacred to build hydro-dams, cut down forests, strip mine, fracking, bartering land for oil production… the list goes on.

I have heard stories of the people rising up to stop dams on some of the most beautiful rivers in South America, Central America, and the US. There is a constant battle to heal Mother Earth rather than ravaging her further. A battle to restore the deep scars generations before have inflicted. To stop damaging oil production in the sacred lands of the deserts, oceans and mountains. Protests against the development of lands held sacred by the indigenous people, who themselves have been set aside on lands thought useless, and now find those same “useless” lands are not only full of mysticism and history, but oil, minerals, or some other perceived riches.

It is time to stop! It is time to look at the signs that are “in our faces” and reverse our global destruction and instead take a stand to help the Mother.  It’s time to join the connected people and heed their warnings. Mother Earth will continue to react to the poison, disrespect and abuse. Floods, fires, earthquakes, destructive weather and drought are all her attempt to get our attention… the problem is the powers that be… the big production companies don’t care about anything but the all mighty dollar.

Personally I feel helpless. Together we can have a voice. Together we may be able to effect a change. Corporations with deep pockets will still be able to sway politicians to give away these sacred lands. Would we be willing to lay down our lives, give up our freedom, to stand up against “the Man”? Would we be willing to stand hand in hand with those entrusted to protect the Mother? Would we be willing to take a minute to sign a petition to have our voices heard? We are not the ones who are helpless. Our world… Mother Earth… Pachamama .. however you call her is the one who is helpless. We must commit to heal… no longer ravage and destroy our “home”

WALL-E… Our Future?

This has been another week that has made me embarrassed to be a United States citizen. It’s all over the news how our new commander and chief acts like a stupid child when he doesn’t get his way. From here on out I am Canadian if anyone asks.

It is beyond me how a group of elected officials can’t do what’s “right” for their constituents. I do realize there are many facets to this issue. I do understand that no matter what happens someone is not going to be justly served. It is difficult to put everyone into one box and find a health plan that fits all needs. What I don’t understand is how some countries can do it and have excellent healthcare. I have experienced this care myself while traveling as a tourist and gotten hurt.

A major contributing factor to us moving out of the US… as we move into the next phase of our lives… is a direct result of our broken healthcare system/government. There will be no way for the two of us to retire here and afford healthcare… or protect our accumulated nest egg. As a result we have chosen to leave everything behind. Cash out and travel. I have serious concerns that some or most of money we have paid into the Federal government for our “retirement” will be sucked up by said government.

Another issue is the lack of concern for our global wellness. Our symbiotic relationship with Mother Earth hangs in the balance. There are SO many documented symptoms to the ever changing climate of the earth. So many that it can no longer be ignored! Yet again our commander and chief has the audacity to look these in the face and still choose to ignore them stating it’s all “fake news”.

This is not something we can run away from… no matter where we travel to. This is a global problem and all nations must participate or it will be like lighting a bonfire in the middle of a dry field of grass… without serious intervention and planning, eventually everything will be consumed. The world will be plunged further and further into catastrophic disasters that will always be linked back to our lack of caring.

I am deeply saddened and feel utterly helpless. What kind of world do our elders want to leave for their children? Just because it won’t effect the earth in their lifetime… doesn’t make it a non-issue. We can’t wait for them to die off or be removed from “power positions”. We must somehow convince them the symptoms such as melting glaciers, rising ocean levels, catastrophic storms and droughts are a direct result of our choices to continue to rely on fossil fuels, forcing poison into the earth to make her yield minerals and fuels. The next generation will be handed a broken and poisoned world to try to repair so their children will have a beautiful planet to explore and enjoy. The Earth and the human race depend deeply on each other. Heavy sigh… WALL-E here we come…

 

 

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