Layover - a day to explore
Wednesday, September 6 When you are laying in your sleeping bag, and you have experienced three days of weather that sane people would classify as marginal, at best, and about 5:30 am, it starts raining, it is hard to maintain one's composure. But knowing that we did not HAVE to go anywhere today, I just rolled over, mentally shook my head, and tried to sleep. I got out of the tent about 6:45 am, and could tell right away that things were different. Sure, there was fog, but I could see patches of blue above. The visibility was somewhat improved, and I could see the faint outline of a huge rock wall, across the lake from us. I told Ray that I saw some blue sky, but when he exited the tent a few minutes later, it was gone, and I could tell that he was more than a bit skeptical. But sometimes, it pays to keep the faith. Sure enough, the fog began to lift, and we could see more and more of the spectacular location that we were inhabiting. There really was a lake to our immediate south, and beyond that, a huge rampart, soaring straight up for more than 600 feet. And we were camped on a lovely little knoll, dotted with larch trees. It seemed to me that some sort of front had indeed moved through, and at least for the immediate future (like the next few hours), life might be a bit brighter. We all just stood around and watched the weather evolve into a lovely, partly cloudy day. Life, indeed, was good.
The cursory nature of the previous evening's bath was revealed as I inspected my feet. Cursory baths usually do not include washing one's feet, and as I pulled off the wool sock I was greeted by a large spot of blood right under my big toe. Seems that it all the fun of yesterday, a blister, which I had never felt, had eaten into my flesh, prompting a release of hemoglobin. It was not pretty. It also meant that traipsing around the countryside today was probably not prudent (recall that Susie is noted for her long dayhikes on layover days). Susie and I compromised for the day's activities: we would hike together up to Cathedral Pass, and I would turnaround and spend a bit of time in the open meadows below the Pass, whereas Susie, still more than a bit hacked that she had missed the views down Cathedral Creek yesterday due to the snow squall, would go on and do a bit more serious hiking. Meantime, Andy and Sue were headed cross country for the Canadian border, Ray was going up to the pass and work around to the NW corner of Cathedral Lake, while Tim was going to do some major fishing, finally, and Diane would curl up in the sunshine. We spent a good chunk of the morning airing out sleeping bags, drying tarps, etc: all the stuff one does when one finally gets a break, both physically and mentally, from the skies.
We took our time getting up back up to the pass, on the excuse that I needed to baby my foot. (Hey, sometimes any excuse will do.) We took the opportunity to have lunch - you need the replenishment after the long, 1 km hike from the camp - out of the breeze in the sun on the east side of the pass. Andy and Sue joined us in a few minutes: it felt great to be warm, even if the air temperature was struggling on it's way up to 50. After lunch, we went out to the switchbacks right below the pass, and I climbed out off trail maybe 100 meters, before it got a bit exposed. We waited for a horse party to pass, one of the first we had seen away from our camp. Susie headed out for a couple more miles of hiking, while I went back down to the meadows. I spent a bit of time photographing, and turned back to camp, anxious to get an early start on my bath. There were a lot of folks out. I talked to several parties on their way from one place to another. I recall one couple had come to the Pasayten instead of going to Montana, because - due to all the fires in the west - the Pasayten was about the only wilderness left in the NW USA where one could legally have a campfire. I went down to the lake to get my bath, armed with a full complement of pots for shuttling water. I was getting ready to strip down, strategically placing myself so as the view of my nubile body would be blocked from two parties, one on either side of me, when another party shows up, and this woman sorta stares at me. I told her that it was ok, I didn't care who watched me at this point. She talked with her friends for a while, and then took off.
Susie showed up back in camp, ready to take advantage of the sunshine for her bath and laundry duties. Sun was pretty essential, because the temperature seemed to be hovering right below 50. Tim reported back that he had gotten a couple of bites, but that we should not be planning on a high protein dinner for this evening. The remainder of the afternoon was spent soaking up available sunlight, relaxing, and looking forward to dinner. The upland bird hunters (that's a joke: The spruce grouse that they were "hunting" were so tame that they would walk to within a few feet of you on the trail. The concept of them blasting these nearly tame - or stupid - birds from a distance of 5 feet or less seemed a bit shy on the "sporting" concept. Don't get me wrong: I think hunting is fine, but there has to be some challenge.) had moved out of their horse-supplied camp, and had left a big pile of cut wood. In the interest of diminishing the visual impact of their camp (they had left the ground pretty well worn and the fire still smouldering) we appropriated some of the wood piled near the smouldering fire ring, and scattered their fire a bit more. We had a real show tonight: there were several nearly tame deer around that seemed to be really disturbing the squirrels. I had never seen a squirrel chatter at a deer. Then, one of the squirrels made a big leap over Sue's polartek jacket onto her and Andy's tent. Of course, the squirrel could not get any kind of purchase in the taunt nylon, and started to slide backwards down the fly. It leaped off right before it hit the ground and took off, likely more embarrassed than threatened with bodily harm. Tonight was Pesto pasta and chicken with mushrooms. A bottle of Chardonnay would have been nice, but the company of our friends and the spectacular alpenglow on the wall across the lake from our camp more than made up for the lack of fermented grapes.
During the night, I had to get up four times to relieve the pressure in my bladder: instead of wine, of which we had none, I had opted for peach tea, of which we had plenty. When it is warm outside, getting up is no big deal. But when you are swathed in goose down and nylon, just unzipping yourself out of your sleeping bag can be a major production. After the second time, Susie called out "WHAT is going on??!!! I reminded her that SHE did not have to suffer the consequences of diminished testosterone output and the concomitant increase in prostate size, all designed to help you enjoy the view of the Milky Way more frequently.
© Roger A. Jenkins, 2000