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Begins: Jul 6, 2009
Date: Wed, Jul 8th, 2009
Start: Porcupine Lake
End: Parks Creek Road
Daily Distance: 8.7
Trip Distance: 38.4
Hours Hiked: 12
Min Elevation: 6770
Max Elevation: 7620
Entry Lat: 41.342826
Entry Lng: -122.53747
People Met: 0
Entry Visits: 839
Journal Visits: 14,856
Guestbook Views: 1,868
Guestbook Entrys: 31
Very Frustrating Day
When I wrote this paragraph, I was hoping it would be the worst part of the day. It wouldn't be:
A bad start to the morning - I suggested after last night's flirtation with hypothermia that we get an early start. Chris replied that he was planning on waking up at 5. He was up when I awoke at 5:30, and we still were not on the trail until 8:15. "Hiking your own hike" is harder, I assume, when you're with other people, and I wouldn't want to pressure Chris to go any slower or faster than he wants, just as I wouldn't want him to do the same. Still, after last night, it seems that we should have been ready to go bright and early.
We started out at a good pace and climbed to the section's high point, where we encountered our first snow bank. I took several pictures of the rock outcrops, mostly so I could ask dad about them later. They had a reddish dust colored exterior (possibly just from the surrounding dirt) and a bright grey interior. The outcrops sloped down at a steep angle and had numerous nearly parallel cracks running top to bottom.
My next stop was at a creek just past the two deadfall lakes which are apparently a big draw, as we met many packs of day hikers. I took a long break here to do some cleaning. First I sterilized the output hose on my water filter, which had come in contact with the lake and dirt, by dunking the ends in boiling water. I then washed out my socks and took a mini bath of sorts, washing my head, face, hands, legs, and feet. After not bathing for three days, this felt fantastic and was a real morale booster.
All of these little tasks take a lot of time - boiling water is not as simple as grabbing a pot from the drawer, turning on the stove, and throwing the pot on the drying rack, nor is bathing as simple as turning on the shower and jumping in with your soap and towel ready to go. There's a lot of unpacking and repacking, taking care not to get certain things wet or have them fall in the dirt. I was at the creek for at least an hour, but clean feet and clean water are definitely worth it.
We eventually arrived at the source of the day hikers, a parking lot and our first paved road, which climbed about 10 miles from I-5 at Weed. We crossed the road and descended about 3 miles around a rim to a meadow. After a very necessary stop, I came across Chris sitting on the trail. He told me that he could no longer walk on his left knee.
I knew he was having trouble with various ailments (who doesn't have pain after a few days of backpacking), but this was a shock. I told Chris to take some pills, which he hadn't taken yet, and rest while I filtered some water. I presented what I hastily determined were our options - continue 5 miles to our campsite, camp where we were, or go back 3 miles to the road, where we could go for help. Chris chose the last option and, due to the pain medication, the prospect of not hiking tomorrow, or some combination of both, hiked at a brisk pace back up the 3 miles we had just descended.
As we hiked back, I tried to consider my options - find someone else to hike with me for the next 3 weeks before I meet up with my brother? Wait for the pack of thru hikers, supposedly only 10 days behind? Hike by myself? Go home and back to work for two weeks before meeting my family at Crater Lake? I was hoping to get cell reception back at the road and talk things over with Kim, but no such luck.
Chris mentioned that he had no history of knee problems, so we both speculated that his extra heavy pack was the likely cause of his issues. I was a tad miffed, then, when he pulled out an electric razor and mirror and started shaving in the parking lot, as we waited for someone to give us a ride. That's some extra weight that we don't need to carry, and besides, what better time to start next year's playoff beard than now?
After waiting for nearly an hour with no success, I suggested we set up camp. I had barely pitched my tent when a middle aged couple came down the path. Chris explained this problem, rolling up his pants to reveal his ace bandage, and the couple offered to give a ride down to the hospital. Chris had not seemed to consider the possibility of seeing a doctor about his injury, so I told him to get an MRI to check out his ligaments.
The couple told us that an elderly woman had also hurt her knee, and that she and her hiking partner were coming back to the car and heading for the hospital. Chris was set - he was heading down the hill. What was I going to do?
Laurie, who camped with us the previous night, had told us that she was planning on camping at Chilcoot creek, 6 miles down the trail from the road. I examined the maps and felt pretty confident that if I left early and hiked at my pace, I could catch her tomorrow. The problems that I saw were two-fold. One, I would have to camp off the road by myself, which intimidated me because I am not a very brave guy. Bears, cougars, crazy people - so many things to be scared of! Two, I was not really relishing hiking the exposed ridge again (third time's a charm!) by myself, with no cell reception or hiking partner - no safety net. Brian and Cindy, the middle aged couple, offered to drive me part way down the hill so I could call Kim and talk things over with her.
Kim was supportive but obviously scared (probably because I was myself) and I was leaning towards taking up Susan's (the woman taking Chris to the hospital) offer of a bed and a shower. Brian and Cindy convinced me otherwise. Brian told me about a road trip he took by himself when he was my age and how rewarding it was. He said I would be proud of myself if I did it, and would regret it if I didn't. Cindy wisely said that I shouldn't make too many decisions when I was this tired - I should just camp at the top of the hill and decide if I wanted to hike in the morning.
So I decided to camp near the trail, with the probability that I would hike by myself and attempt to catch Laurie the next morning. Camping by yourself may not seem like a big deal to anyone else, but I especially did not like being out of cell reception and, as said before, I am not exactly a courageous guy. I grew up with the buddy system - having a brother, swimming/hiking in boy scouts; someone even said that I was a "serial monogamist" when it comes to dating. Going solo is unnatural and uncomfortable for me, but it does bring to mind the Woody Allen quote from the GREAT movie Annie Hall: "Don't knock masturbation, it's sex with someone I love."
I called Kim again and told her about my plan. I said I would contact her tomorrow, either down the hill where I knew I had service or up the trail, where I was fairly certain I would have reception with views of Shasta. I told her to send for help if she didn't hear from me and told Chris the same.
I have read about "trail angels," strangers who help you along the way, and my first encounter with them was wonderful. Susan took Chris to the hospital and offered both of us at her house. Brian and Cindy drove me down and back up the hill and waited patiently as I talked to Kim. Brian stayed with me as I set up my sleeping bag and stowed my gear. He said he was proud of me and I would be, too. We'll see.
Lucretia Walks Into The Woods
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