Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Carrying a Bag of... Rocks? Yes, Rocks.
Tradja and Jess packed up camp before I did, but I wasn't far behind them on the trail. I planned to fill up my water needs for the day at the water cache a little ways ahead, and use the water tank if the water cache was empty. (Rumor had it that the water tank for fire suppression purposes was pretty nasty, and only a water source of last resort.)
When I arrived, Tradja, Jess, and Go-Go were filling up from the water tank. "No water cache?" I asked. They didn't see any. The water did look nasty. Green, foul-looking stuff. I thought I had enough to push on, maybe to find a better water source than that if I rationed it carefully.
We traded stories for a short while, then I pushed on again, finding the water cache not 50 feet further along the trail. *heh* There wasn't much left, only a couple of gallons, and I took as much as I felt I needed to make it to the next reliable water source. I figured the others would see it when they started hiking again and could decide if they wanted to throw out the fire water and replace it with cache water or not then.
According to my guide, we would pass Sawmill Campground in a couple of miles, at mile marker 499.2. Just 0.8 miles after that would be the 500 mile point for the trail, and I hoped there was a marker in the trail marking the location. I was determined to make one if there wasn't, however. Five hundred is a particularly big, round number, and it needed to be honored properly.
The trail was nice and shaded much of the way, and the slopes covered with a thick layer of miner's lettuce. (Yes, I realize that the photo above does not show miner's lettuce. It was taken earlier in the morning. I didn't take a photo of the miner's lettuce, however.) After passing Sawmill Campground, I checked the time. At the pace I was walking, I should cover 0.8 miles in about 20 minutes. But the miner's lettuce grew everywhere, and I grew increasingly concerned that I wouldn't be able to find rocks to build a 500-mile marker if I needed to.
"What are you doing?" they asked.
"Picking up rocks," I told them.
"No, really, what are you doing?" they asked.
"Really, I'm picking up rocks," I replied. I held up the bag of rocks. It wasn't a clear bag, but you could see the sharp edges of the rocks pushing against the sides of the bag.
"Why are you collecting a bag of rocks?" they asked.
"My pack wasn't heavy enough," I replied, straight-faced.
Go-Go cracked up at this, telling me that that was "funny as hell, and you just made my journal entry for that!"
Is that all it takes to make it into someone's journal? Carrying a bag of rocks on the trail?
Then I told them the real reason for the rocks--my concern that I wouldn't be able to find them at the 500-mile marker on the trail, and by golly, I was going to plant a marker if there wasn't one there already. So I decided to quarry for rocks about half a mile early where rocks were plentiful rather than risk not finding any up ahead. Which made sense, but Go-Go kept going on about that being the craziest thing he's ever seen someone carry on the trail. "A bag of rocks! That's funny as hell!"
I continued hiking with the three of them, checking my watch for the optimal place for the 500-mile mark. Tradja and Jess fell behind Go-Go and I a little ways, and I finally announced to Go-Go, "This is where I think the 500 mile point on the trail is." That section of trail was narrow and slightly overgrown, however, and didn't really provide a lot of space for me to lay out a "500" in rocks. So we walked ahead, looking for a wide spot in the trail to set up the marker.
It only took another minute or so of walking to find the place. I took off my pack, took out the bag of rocks, and emptied it on the trail. Tradja and Jess walked up as I was putting the arranging the number on the trail, taking pictures of me setting it up. Go-Go kept saying the whole thing was funny as hell.
Jess asked how I decided where to set up the marker. "The trail was wide enough to hold my message," I told her.
She laughed. "That doesn't sound very scientific!"
No, indeed it was not. Really, the marker is just an estimate. A fairly good educated guess, I felt, probably accurate to within a quarter mile, but I didn't really have any way to get a more accurate measurement than that.
But when I walked up on the dirt road, I saw Avo there, setting the last pinecone in place for his own 500-mile mark. It was an impressive marker, probably three feet tall, entirely made out of giant pinecones. He even added an exclamation mark after the 500, so it read, "500!" It was beautiful. It was art.
I called back to the others behind me. "Well, isn't this awkward. There is another 500 mile marker," I told them. It was a little past the 500 mile point of the trail, but such a large marker would have never fit on the trail anyhow. It needed the space that a dirt road could provide.
Avo said he felt there should be a 500 mile marker, which is why he set it up in pinecones, not realizing that I had just set one up with rocks not five minutes down the trail from his location.
We all laughed, except Avo, who might have thought we were crazy and not really sure if we could be trusted. We all took photos of the pinecones that now read 500.1, then continued our hike.
Posted by Ryan at 5:00 PM