Wednesday, June 16, 2010

National Science Trail

Green Hornet passed me while I was breaking down camp. Him and his son had made it to the campsite after all, and I was a little disappointed I hiked passed it and camped alone. His son was still back there, packing up his stuff, as was Charmin who he told me was not far behind.

I finished packing up. Happily, it did not rain during the night, so all of my gear was still dry. Green Hornet didn't hike especially fast, so I caught up with him quickly and hiked with him for a half hour or so talking about planes and flying. He used to work at or for an airport in Van Nuys and flew for years, and I told him of my life-long desire to learn how to fly. So he told me a bit about flying, and I told him about my gliding experience in Warner Springs, and I got to thinking that someday, I really need to learn how to fly. It always seemed so expensive, but when I considered the cost of hiking for five or six months on the Pacific Crest Trail, it probably wasn't much worse than taking flying lessons. And for the first time, I seriously considered that that should be the next item on my Things-To-Do-Before-I-Die list. (Yes, I realize since that Bucket List movie came out, everyone calls it a bucket list, but I actually wrote down a list of 50 things to do before I die back in high school, and learning how to fly was on it, so I still call it my list of things to do before I die.)

Thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail was on that list, but surprisingly, thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail was not. It's been quite some time since I've checked anything off that list, and it seemed like I should revisit it again. Maybe in 2011 will be the Year I Learned To Fly. =)

So anyhow, I enjoyed the conversation with Green Hornet, and gave myself a new goal for next year.

But he hiked pretty slowly, then he stopped completely to give his son some time to catch up, so I hiked on without him after that. I finally stopped for lunch at High Bridge, still limping from my sprain the day before. It was rather hot out, so I found a shady place, laid out my groundsheet, ate some snacks, and laid down for a nap.

About an hour later, a voice spoke up behind me--Charmin--and we started swapping our war stories from the trail. Apparently, Hiker 816 told her some silly story about me (but strangely, I forgot what the story was now... hmm....), and she asked if I had heard any stories of her, but sadly, I said no. I couldn't remember hearing any funny stories about her. Wait, I do remember the story.... Hiker 816 had told me about hearing that I darned near stepped on a snake without even seeing it, and I asked how he had heard that story--only Charmin was there when it happened, and she was behind us as far as I knew. I couldn't figure out where Charmin would have been able to tell him that story. He heard it in Idyllwild after hitching out on the road when I kept hiking, but Charmin hitched into town. I didn't think the story especially noteworthy, but I guess Charmin was spreading it around like it was the best story ever.

But I hadn't heard any stories about her, and I was a little disappointed that I didn't have any "dirt" on her to share.

Until.... we were about to leave, and I picked up my pack, then I looked at her pack sitting on the ground on saw the patch she pinned to it. The patch looks a little worn, perhaps like it was homemade, and that's because it IS homemade. And I suddenly did remember hearing a story about Charmin, told to me by Swazey and Dinosaur.

I turned and looked at her, smiling. "Yes.... I do remember hearing a story about you," I told her.

And she got that deer in the headlights look. She saw me see that patch, and she knew what the story was. She had decided to make her own patch (she's quite the artistic type, as it turns out), but she made a small, little error in the patch. It looks like the PCT logo, except on the bottom, where it would normally say "National Scenic Trail," she inadvertently wrote "National Science Trail." For years, she thought the Pacific Crest Trail was designated a national science trail, and didn't learn about the mistake until she arrived at the kickoff to start hiking the trail. =)

"I thought a science trail seemed weird," she explained in her Swiss accent, "but it made sense. Botany, geology, and..., stuff."

Indeed, there is a lot of science one can learn on the trail. One could study birds, insects, flowers, weather, astronomy, rocks--heck, even people on the trail could turn into an interesting study. I rather liked the idea of a national science trail. Sounds more.... intellectual than a mere national scenic trail. How boring is that? Frankly, I wanted a patch that said National Science Trail on it myself! =)

Charmin was clearly a little embarrassed about the mistake, but I assured her that she really had a coolest patch ever for the PCT. I think she's still a little embarrassed about it, but seems to have accepted it well.

We hiked the rest of the afternoon together. At one point, she was hiking ahead of me, and I spotted a small snake on the side of the trail. I exclaimed, "Snake!" pointing at it, and Charmin jumped a little, then seemed surprised to learn she had just walked passed a snake without even seeing it herself. The shoe was on the other foot, and I loved it! =) She told me that she didn't actually believe me at first, thinking I was making up the snake.

"Me?" I shook my head sadly. "Why would you think I'd joke about snakes like that?"

Clearly, she saw right through my nice facade, but she didn't seem to hold it against me. But there really was a snake. It would certainly blunt the impact of my almost stepping on a snake now that she was guilty of the same thing.

It was very interesting hiking with Charmin. She's a farmer in Switzerland, and is absolutely fascinated by the plants on the trail. She'd grab miner's lettuce to eat, grazing like a cow. She was also fascinated by the horny toad lizard, and I encouraged her to try to catch one. (I saw Motor catch one earlier on the trail. The first time, she seemed proud of catching a lizard. After catching the second one, she noted, almost sadly, that she didn't think the lizards were very fast.) Charmin made a half-hearted attempt to catch it, but didn't seem to think that a lizard could be caught.

So I tried to catch it myself. I chased it around the trail for a good ten feet or so, slowly trying to sneak up on it, and finally nabbed it when it made a run for a bush. Two thoughts went through my head when I caught it. First, "Wow, I actually caught it!" (I had doubts that I'd actually succeed, despite Motor's claim that they're just naturally slow.) And second, "This is so cool!"

Charmin wanted to know if the lizard would bite, and I said I didn't really know. It didn't try to bite me, however, and Motor never reported any lizard bites. Charmin tried to get the lizard to bite her, all but forcing a finger down its throat. (Those Swiss folks.... they're a strange bunch, I guess.) It wouldn't bite her, though. I gave her the lizard to hold, then we released it back into the bush it tried to hide in.

Charmin didn't want to camp alone that night and convinced me to stop a few miles short of my goal along the banks of Deep Creek. The trail followed the creek for miles, but rather high up the canyon with a very steep slope down to the river and no trails leading down to it. We had a great vantage point of the river and could see what looked like great places to camp along the edge... if only we could find a way down to it.

We scrambled down the hillside, sliding in the sand, to a flat area near the river and set up camp. Charmin took out a harmonica to entertain me with, along with another 'musical' instrument I'd never seen before that she'd pluck at and seemed designed to make noise more-so than music. Perhaps it sounds better when it's just an accessory to a larger musical instrument. Kind of like how kettle drums don't really sound like music all by themselves.

Just before going to sleep, I asked her how to say "Good morning" in Swiss German--her native language--so I could wish a good morning in her own language. Actually, I started with "good night," but that sounded really hard for me to say correctly, so then I tried "good morning" as the next best option, which sounded learnable to me.

So I had her say it several times, slowly, and I wrote in my journal like it sounded in my ear, "Gwita Morka!" I knew that likely wasn't the proper way to spell good morning in Swiss German, but I didn't need to write it for her--just pronounce it correctly. She wanted to see how I spelled it, however, and cracked up laughing at the way I butchered the written phrase. I had her write the correct spelling--just to make my notes complete, of course--which was "Guetä Morgä". Just in case you ever find yourself in Switzerland and wanted to write a good morning to someone.

Then we went to sleep.


Romana said...

I think a national science trail would be cook, too. And Ryan, just in case you come back and read this, if you rub the horned toad's belly, he likes it so much he will lay there darn near paralyzed in your hand...not only is it not a particularly fast lizard, it's also not too bright, and very easily caught by children...who think it's a cool thing to play with, especially since most of their parents are shuddering in "gross out" mode while the kids play with the lizards.


Anonymous said...

"Gwita nukht und shlawf wall!!!"!!!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Charmin might be on to something there. Her patch is one of kind and sounds very educational. Boy and Girl Scout troops would eat that right up!

So, are you any closer to reaching your goal of learning to fly in 2011?

Hike On!
~Twinville Trekkers

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Oh and I forgot to add that horned toads are so cool. My uncle from Texas once brought me a pair when I was about 9 years old. They were so much fun, but my evil step mom refused to let me bring them in the house and they didn't survive the winter in Maryland living in a box. :(

Hike On!
~Twinville Trekkers