Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Boker Tov!

June 19: It was damned cold outside when I woke up. The elevation where I camped was about 11,500 feet--the highest I'd camped so far--and I was completely surrounded by snow on all sides in my little patch of dry ground. My socks I noticed first--they were frozen solid. I knocked them on a rock, and they didn't flex an inch. Frozen solid.

I ate breakfast, packed up my pack, put on a pair of dry (and unfrozen) socks from my pack, then went to put on my shoes and discovered that my shoes had frozen solid as well. Absolutely and completely frozen solid. I put the toes of one foot in the shoe, and squiggled my foot around trying to get it to go into the shoe, but it refused. There was no flex in the shoe at all. I huffed and puffed in it trying to thaw it out enough to fit my foot in, but that didn't seem to get anywhere fast. I considered lighting my stove to thaw out the shoes but felt that was too much hassle. Finally, I gave up and put on my camp shoes instead. I'd hike in those for the first couple of miles and let my shoes thaw out as as the day warmed up.

A short ways down the trail, I found the trees where Charmin and Hasty had set up camp--next to a lake, and right next to a sign that prohibited camping alongside the lake. They both still appeared to be asleep, but I wished Charmin a happy "Gwita Morka!" and continued on. My main purpose with the greeting was to wake up Charmin. I wasn't trying to be mean or anything, but rather I did so for two reasons. One, I wanted to make sure she knew I had passed through and that I was no longer behind her, and two, I wanted to wake her up in the hopes that she wouldn't dwaddle around all day and actually leave me waiting at the trail junction for two hours like she alluded to the evening before.

At the junction, I retrieved my bear canister, safe and sound. I set my shoes and socks out in the sun to thaw and dry. Then I waited for Charmin. I read from a book I had. I wrote postcards. I wrote a letter to Charmin, afraid I might chicken out saying the things I wanted to say, or even get too choked up to say them at all. I wasn't sure if I'd actually give the letter to Charmin, though. I really wanted to talk to her, not leave a Dear John. I also sewed up some of my clothes that started getting rips and tears.

As promised, she did keep me waiting for nearly two hours. Hasty hung back with me for a few minutes while Charmin went off to retrieve her bear canister, and I wondered if they had planned it that way. Hasty tried to make some talk with me, about him coming between Charmin and myself, even suggesting that maybe he should just go on on his own. "It's too late for that," and I didn't much want to talk to Hasty at the moment anyhow. Even if Hasty left Charmin and I in peace, the damage was already done. Charmin would probably reset me for driving him off, and. I still had issues with some of the decisions that Charmin was making without my consent.

Charmin got back with her bear canister, and the three of us sat around, rather awkwardly, not saying much of anything, before Hasty excused himself and went down trail leaving Charmin and I alone to talk.

I won't get into the details of that conversation--it seems kind of private to discuss on a blog--but it was a difficult one. We parted on good terms, though. She wanted us to stick together at least through Independence (the next trail town where we intended to resupply), but I insisted that we needed to part ways before it seriously damaged our friendship. The one thing I had asked of Charmin was to watch my back. I trusted her to do that, and she failed me miserably going up Whitney. No, I didn't trust her anymore, and I didn't want her as my hiking partner anymore.

And anyhow, the snow wasn't nearly as bad as we had feared. I'd be fine hiking on my own. There are lots of other hikers around anyhow. I think she felt a little sad about the whole situation, eventually concluding that, "This sucks!"

"Yes, it does," I agreed. "Definitely not awesome."

We talked for nearly an hour, or at least it seemed that way to me, gave each other a big hug, then Charmin went up the trail in search of Hasty. I still had to pack up my possessions and get my shoes on. After three hours of sitting in the sun, they had definitely thawed to the point where I could put them on once again.

Once back on the PCT, I hiked alone, and already started feeling better about the whole situation. Hiking without Charmin was the right thing to do. I was told that two of the creeks ahead were considered "dangerous," but I didn't see any warnings about the crossings in my information and I stayed skeptical.

As it turned out, the two creeks were a lot deeper and faster than anything we had faced before then, but I still wouldn't have called them dangerous. The fast-moving, ice-cold water came up just past my knees, and a fall was certainly possible, but it wouldn't have been dangerous. Uncomfortable, miserable, and wet, yes. But it wasn't deep enough or wide enough to take me downstream very far.

I lost the trail completely in the snow over the Bighorn Plateau. It wasn't steep or dangerous snow, just annoying. The trail was buried, and the snow deep enough to posthole which is slow and exhausting.

Anyone watching the crossing at Tyandall Creek would have been amused to watch my crossing. It was late in the afternoon, and I figured I'd camp on the far side of the river for the night. I didn't want to put on wet clothes in the morning, however, and since I was alone, I decided to take off my shoes, my socks, and my pants, then cross the river. =)

"It'll be good practice for Hike Naked Day," I kept telling myself. Like Good Friday before Easter, it'll be "Hike Pantless Day" a couple of days before Hike Naked Day.

I crossed the creek without any mishap, however, put on my pants again, and started to set up camp for the night. About ten minutes later, a couple of girls arrived at the creek, and I went over to take pictures of them crossing "the most dangerous creek on the trail" (so far). (Needless to say, I didn't get any pictures of myself crossing!)

The girls were Noga and Shani, from Israel. I had heard about two Israeli girls hiking the trail together, but this was the first time I had met them, and they told me they planned to camp a couple of miles further up, as close to Forester Pass as possible, to get over it first thing in the morning, and they invited me to join them.

I was a bit leery about Forester Pass. Forester Pass is the highest point on the Pacific Crest Trail, cresting at 13,153 feet above sea level. I'd seen terrifying photos of Forester Pass, even in the latest issue of the Pacific Crest Trail magazine that I carried in my pack right then. If snow was a problem, it would be found on a 13,000+ foot pass. And with Charmin gone, I was left to face it alone. I'd probably be okay, but still, I was leery, and more than a little worried about what I would find.

So when the girls invited me to join them in camp for the night and to go over Forester Pass the next morning, I jumped. "Give me a couple of minutes!" I quickly broke down what I had already set up for camp. I had barely begun setting up camp, so it only took me a few minutes to get everything back in my pack and my shoes back on.

We hiked another mile or two up the trail, among a small group of trees, surrounded by snow on all other sides, and absolutely amazing views up and down the valley we camped in. The elevation was probably close to 12,000 feet above sea level, and after having my frozen shoes the night before, I put my wet and dirty shoes in an extra bag I carried, put the bag in my pack, and slept on my pack, hoping my body heat would prevent the shoes from freezing solid again overnight.

While cooking dinner, I asked the girls what "good morning" was in Hebrew. "Boker tov," they told me. I spelled it out, exactly like it sounded in my ears, then asked them how it was really spelled so I could write that down too, and it turns out that it was spelled exactly how I had written it already! I told them about always wishing Charmin a "gwita morka" in her native Swiss-German language each morning, and it just seemed like a fun thing to do. "At this rate, I'll know how to say 'good morning' in a dozen or two different languages by the of the trail!"

After the sun set, we all went to sleep. I don't know what the girls were thinking, but my thoughts turned to Forester Pass. It worried me. If I could get past the highest point on the PCT without any trouble, I'd feel a lot more confident about my decision to "go it alone." And how fortunate that I happened to hook up with two other hikers just this side of Forester Pass right when I did. I wouldn't have to go it alone for this pass, at least.

During the month of August, I'll be participating with Amanda in the Washington Trail Association's Hike-a-Thon. If you haven't already, please consider sponsoring us. (Especially me!) The folks do great work helping to fix up and maintain trails such as the Pacific Crest Trail and help make thru-hikes such as mine possible. If you enjoy reading this blog, consider giving something back to the trails that make it possible. Thanks!


Anonymous said...

hmmmm....what a tangled web is weaved when saying good morning in foreign languages.

Me thinks there is reason that women aboard ships was thought as bad luck by men for so many ages.

Steve, Christa, Emily, Meghan, Charles & Elizabeth said...

I am happy to see that you and Charmin parted on good terms. I have been thinking about it since your last post.

Ari C'rona said...

Boker tov?! You certainly caught my attention with your Hebrew, Ryan! :o)

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Yes....how fortunate for you.

Maybe these two ladies will watch your back to your specifications, since Charmin "failed so miserably" at that responsibility. *rolling eyes*

Hike On!
~Twinville Trekkers

word verification: latin

How ironic is that?