Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Calm Before the Storm

June 14: In a way, I felt a sense of impending doom. The High Sierras were just around the corner. The fears, the dread, the horror stories of what I would face would soon become a reality, and I wasn't looking forward to it. Amanda picked me up from Kennedy Meadows and whisked me away into a "real city," Ridgecrest, where I could walk around in supermarkets and select from a plethora of dining options. It would be my last taste of civilization for who knows how long.

I had finally caught up with all of my blog posts, and spend most of the day just working on Atlas Quest, catching up on old episodes of Lost, and relaxing indoors. Not just because I'd seen more than enough outdoors to last a lifetime, but as one bank sign blinked in bright lights, it was 103 degrees outside. That was late in the afternoon--perhaps earlier in the afternoon it was even warmer. No reason to spend a lot of time outdoors! I rooted for high temperatures. "Imagine all that melting snow ahead," I'd tell Amanda. "It's a comforting thought."

Amanda pulled out the bear canister from the box it arrived in to check out. It was a standard thru-hiker canister, the one most hikers carried. It was a BearVault, blue with a black lid, and clear enough that you could see into it through the hard blue walls. It's most notable feature was its weight, which seemed to weigh at least two or three pounds. (Pounds!) I groaned at the thought of all that extra weight on my pack. "And it's still empty!" I whined.

Amanda played around with the bear canister for five minutes or so, trying to open it, and finally threw up her hands in frustration. "It's Amanda proof!" she said. "I can't open it!" I laughed and took it from her, trying to figure out how it worked. It's okay if Amanda can't open it, but it was very important that I be able to open the canister! I'd never actually used one before. It took me a couple of minutes, but I popped the lid open, and immediately thought about putting any food in it that I didn't want Amanda to eat. =)

The ice axe wasn't much better in terms of weight. I bought one of the cheapest versions available from REI under the assumption that I may very well never use it again after this hike and didn't want to waste a lot of money for the "lightweight" version that would never get used again. It was a heavy ice axe, and between it and the bear canister, it probably added five or six pounds to my pack weight. Ugh.

I almost considered not bringing an ice axe at all. Many thru-hikers do without, and even those that do have told me that there were only a couple of small, sketchy areas that I'd likely use it, but that I'd be really glad I did when I came to them. Deciding that living a long life was more important than my temporary comfort, I sprang for the extra piece of equipment.

It looked like a wicked implement of torture, though. I'm not sure if it was to torture other people, however, or the person who carried the implement. It seemed like a harbinger of doom.

For lunch, we ate out at the Sizzler, where I proceeded to use up a lot of minutes on my pre-paid cell phone before they vanished into thin air forever. I stopped to buy food and miscellaneous supplies for my High Sierra adventures. Then tossed and turned all night long, worried about the next section of trail, hoping I wasn't walking to my doom.....

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!


Krafty Kat said...

I can't wait to see how much snow you encounter. It looks like we almost crossed paths--we were in Yosemite on the 20th-22nd and Sequoia on the 23rd, I believe. There was definitely still snow in places:) Hope you get to use the axe at least once to make it worth its weight!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

High Sierra Adventure has a great ring to it!
Of course, after you add the bear canister and ice axe to the mix, it's sound a little more ominous.

Hike On!
~Twinville Trekkers