September 14: 7 miles

When I saw this photo of people crossing the mountains here in the late 1800’s I marvel at how easy we have it. People and animal teams clearing a channel in snow that’s deeper that a person. Then moving carts and wagons over a “road” that’s full of rocks and boulders. Why would anyone do that instead of waiting until the snow was melted? They certainly had a good reason. My mind can’t create one that would have that kind of necessity.

As I start to gather our things together to pack I get a horrible cramp in my right calf. I can’t put any weight on it. I put on my shoes and go out side to stretch my calves, knees, thighs and hips. Better. I take care of a blister on my right big toe. I almost never blister while hiking… hmmm…

I hadn’t thought about the forest being full of pine tar. Duh. It’s a pine forest…

Last night Sherman worked on cleaning the spaces between his pads. After cleaning awhile he came to lick me and his breath smelled like pine. He did a good job. This morning there are only two spots for me to trim out. I get my tiny sharp scissors out of the first aid kit and cut them out.

I start to roll my calves with a water bottle. It doesn’t work very well. I realize it’s a third empty and the air is more compressible than water. I fill up the bottle to the very top and it’s now an excellent roller. After 10 min of micro rolling it releases a lot. Time to finish packing and head north.

I look at he map and find the next originally planned stop. It’s about 14 miles. We’re not going to make that. So I look for known good water sources and plan to head for a stream about 10 miles away. Off we go.

Coming into Big Meadow

We head downhill for about 4 miles to Big Meadow. It’s just that. A big level meadow with dry yellow grasses waving in the wind surrounded by the forest. About a half mile across the meadow is Big Meadow Creek. It’s flowing gently and near the the bridge is a pool about 10 feet around. In it are small trout and newts. It’s also surrounded by green grass. The first we’ve seen. Sherman goes in for a drink. I sit on the bank, take off my shoes and soak my feet in the icy water. I wash my dirty ankles and feet, my first pair of socks, and a small towel in the pool. Water washing only. No soap allowed in the water.

After our hour long refresh, we’re off. From here the trail is headed up one of the small mountains. My altitude adjustment (growing more red blood cells) is much better today, but I’m still very winded and we climb. Sherman doesn’t seem affected at all.

As we continue uphill we take scheduled breaks very hour and unscheduled ones when either of us need one.

This is the first really exposed rocky terrain we’ve hiked through.

And… it’s my 68th birthday! Happy birthday to me. Happy birthday to me. Happy birthday to me…

I’ve spent 3 of the last 4 birthdays on a trail. I like it. Not that I dislike birthday gatherings, but it feels right to start the year in the wilderness, flushing the old and allowing the new to arise.

Up here the obvious is honored. Keep the water clean. It is the source of life. We are water bags walking around hung on bony sticks. Where people congregate en mass this honoring of the pristine is lost. Compromises needed to produce profits are more important than renewability and sustainability. The earth suffers the unintended consequences.

We’re not going to make my 10 mile intention. We’re currently about 7 miles and I am tired. I start looking for a place to stay. I’d rather be in a bit of a hollow as it provides better wind protection. But, no hollows here. It’s all trail traversing a slope. We come to a pretty level section and I start looking. I stop and assess 3 spots and they don’t feel right. Too exposed. about 4:30 I see a spot that feels right. Some protection from thick trees downhill and a large rock formation.

I take Sherman’s pack off of him, hook his hiking leash to a tree and setup the tent and then camp. In an hour everything is organized. We eat, put the food in a bear safe place (as much as that’s possible). We enter the tent, make the bed and get ready for sleep.

Before I sign off here I want to share how our food is made “bear safe”. I use bear sacks made by Ursak. They are made from bullet proof Kevlar with rope ties at the mouth that fully close the hole. In the Ursak I put an odor-proof plastic bag. I’ve seen videos of these plastic bags with fresh salmon in them placed in bear enclosures. The bears don’t even go to them to sniff. 2-3 days later, still no smell. So all the food and other smelly stuff goes into an odor-proof bag which goes into an Ursak. The Ursak then needs to be tied to a 4+ inch tree brach that keeps the Ursak off the ground so an interested bear can’t stand on it. They suggest hanging the bags at least 50 feet from the tent. So I have 2 Ursaks. One for Sherman’s pack and snacks and one for my food. I used them on The Long Trail in Vermont 2 years ago also. So far… no bears.