Friday, February 3, 2017

Day 10: Perseid Meteor Shower and Silver Pass

I set an alarm to wake up at 2:30 in the morning--just to make sure I wouldn't miss the peak of the Perseid meteor shower. Meteor showers tend to peak a couple of hours after midnight since that's when our location on earth faces towards the direction that earth is moving. It's the difference between looking through the front windshield of a car and the back windshield where mosquitoes represent the meteors. You'll hit a lot more mosquitoes on the front windshield than you will on the back!

Well, earth is the same way. It'll hit a lot more meteors on the side facing the direction of travel--which doesn't happen until after midnight. The time of day when our position on earth gets the most meteor strikes would be about 6:00 am, but because that's roughly when the sun starts rising, the brighter sky begins to obscure all but the brightest of meteors. Consequently, to our eyes, the best time to view meteor showers is typically after midnight but before sunrise--about 3:00 in the morning should work. Give or take a bit.

We woke up with frost on our gear. It got cold during the night!

Thus.... I woke up at 2:30 with the plan to watch the meteor shower for an hour or so before going to sleep again. I woke up Karolina as well since I knew she was interested in watching the meteor shower too.

Conditions were perfect. There was a quarter moon, but it had set by around midnight so none of the moon's light would ruin our night vision. We were far removed from any light pollution from cities, deep in the wilderness. The weather was perfect--not a cloud in the sky. We were even camped at over 10,000 feet above sea level getting above much of the atmosphere's turbulence. Conditions couldn't be more perfect! The Milky Way spilled across the sky and thousands of stars twinkled.

We watched from the comfort of our sleeping bags. I didn't have a thermometer, but it was definitely cold out. Perhaps our coldest night thus far, and we saw maybe one or two meteors per minute. Sometimes we'd go a couple of minutes without seeing any, then see half a dozen in barely a minute. Most were faint and hardly noticeable. Sometimes one of us would see a shooting star but the other missed it--particularly if it was very faint. When we saw a particularly bright one, we'd both get excited. "Did you see that?! Wow!"

We chatted while we watched, theorizing about the existence of alien species out there somewhere. We saw the occasional plane pass by, and a surprising number of satellites guessing at what they might be doing up there. Abandoned? GPS? Spy satellite? International Space Station?

Eventually, we went back to sleep. We still needed to get some hiking in after sunrise, and we would need the rest!

Marmot on the trail!

We slept in late. Karolina seemed to like sleeping in late on a regular basis, but I was in total agreement this morning after spending much of the night wide awake.

The night had been cold. By the time we got up in the morning, frost had formed on the ground all around us and even on us.

But by 9:00, the sun was coming out strong and we were on the trail hiking.

We stopped later in the morning to take more videos for our upcoming music video. This time, we focused on the part of the song where the lyrics were "No, I won't leave!" We thought it would be funny if Karolina grabbed onto a small tree and I tried to pull her off by her legs. We also took some generic videos of us walking back and forth in front of the camera which I had set up on a small tripod. We wasted entirely too much time trying to make these videos given our late start in the morning, but it was a fun diversion.

Looking at our maps, we decided to take a snack break at the Fish Creek Trail junction, but wound up resting our feet at McGee Pass Trail instead. It wasn't a change of mind on our part, but rather a mis-reading of the maps and we had stopped at the wrong place. Oops! Not that it was a problem or anything, but given our late start and time messing around with the videos, we had covered surprisingly little ground given the lateness of the afternoon. We did have a schedule to keep to!

After the Fish Creek Trail junction, the trail started a long, 2,000-foot climb up Silver Pass which seemed to wear out Karolina rapidly. The lack of sleep the night before and heavy pack were having a noticeably toll on her, and she took a short nap at Squaw Lake partway up before pushing on to the top.
 
Almost at the pass, we stopped on the side of the trail to let another hiker coming down pass by, but she stopped and asked if we were on the edge of a major cliff. No.... She explained that from her point of view, it looked like we were standing on the precipitous of a thousand-foot cliff or something. Really? The trail did slope down steeply from where we stood, but nothing that we considered noteworthy. I walked up to where the woman had said this and looked back at Karolina and holy crap! She was right! It looked like Karolina was standing at the edge of a major cliff! What a neat effect! We took some pictures--we had to now!--then continued on to the top of Silver Pass.

We hadn't realized it until a hiker in the opposite direction pointed it out to us, but from this vantage point, it looks like we were at the edge of a massive cliff that goes down to the plateau below. It's steep, but it wouldn't have been difficult to scramble down because it's definitely not a cliff. (The affect shows up better in real life than it does in the 2D photo.)

The views were spectacular! Jaw dropping! Awe-inspiring! We admired the views a bit, took photos and videos, and after a brief break, continued down on the other side. Now on the downhill side of the pass, Karolina picked up a bit of speed at first, but soon started dragging again. She seemed to have a tough time, but she pushed on knowing we had to reach our minimum distance for the day or risk running out of food later. It wasn't exactly a huge distance either--just 10.2 miles. Less than a mile more than we had done the day before. But I think the lack of sleep the night before was pulling her down. The 2,000-foot climb over Silver Pass didn't help matters either.

Eventually we reached our destination for the night near the Mott Lake Trail junction alongside Mono Creek. We had arrived late in the day--after sunset, in fact, but only because it was in a deep canyon where the sun probably set at 2:00 in the afternoon. The best campsites were already taken, but we squeezed into an available spot near a couple of older women. The campsite felt a little claustrophobic, deep in a canyon, surrounded by thick trees, and unable to see but the smallest glimpses of the sky. It wasn't a terrible campsite, but it wasn't anything to write home about either. Compared to the rest of the trail, it was our most disappointing site so far.


We quickly set up camp, deciding to cowboy camp again, cooked dinner and ate then settled into our sleeping bags. We had started reading Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris to each other in the evening to kill the time. It was a book I had on my Kindle. I'd read it before, but Karolina hadn't so I figured I'd introduce her to the book.

Tonight, we read the chapter about David Sedaris going to a party or something--I don't remember the exact details anymore off the top of my head--but he went to use the bathroom and discovered, to his horror, a giant poop in the toilet left by the previous person who had used it. He wanted to leave, but then someone else knocked on the door and wanted to use the bathroom, and he knew if he left it, he'd be blamed for the poop. It was a moment of panic for him. What to do? He flushed the toilet, but the poop didn't go down--just whirled around a bit but still left intact. He considered picking it up and throwing it out the window, but heaven forbid, if someone caught him doing that, it would be worse than just leaving it in the toilet.

I won't spoil the rest of the story, but it was a strangely appropriate story for the trail. Not that we had access to flushing toilets or anything so glamorous as that, but because on the trail--I can't explain why--but somehow, everyone always starts talking about poops and farts. Every long-distance trail I've ever walked, poops and farts are a popular subject to discuss, and Karolina was no exception. So an entire chapter dedicated to what David Sedaris would do about this poop he discovered in a toilet seemed an oddly appropriate trail choice.

"At least we don't have to worry about toilets without enough suck!" I'd later tell Karolina.

"At least he doesn't have to bury it afterwards," she'd retort. Good point.

But anyhow, while reading the book, Karolina absolutely lost it. Imagine if you can: It's dark, all of the other hikers have long since gone in their tents to get some sleep and the only sound is a light breeze blowing through the trees. Then we start reading this book to each other. Not loudly, mind you. People were trying to sleep, after all. Then Karolina loses it. Cracks up laughing, hysterically loud over a poop that wouldn't flush.

I had little doubt that anyone who was asleep within a quarter-mile of our campsite had to have been woken by Karolina's uncontrollable laughing. I couldn't imagine what they must think was happening out here.

After finishing the chapter, Karolina continued to laugh and giggle for a rather long period of time. I also laughed and giggled, but not like Karolina did! We tried to go to sleep then, but the giggling kept us awake far too late into the night.

Virginia Lake


Marmot on the trail!


Creating a scene for the line "No, I won't leave!" in our upcoming music video.


















I pretend not to fall off this giant "cliff"

Views from Silver Pass are spectacular!


Now this was taken near a small cliff.... =)

I not only like the view from Silver Pass, but I love how the sunflower tattoo looks like it's growing out of Karolina's sock in this photo. =)





Our campsite for the night would be deep in this canyon and in the trees. Rather claustrophobic compared to our other sites!

No comments: