Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Homesickness and Digging Holes

June 16: Early in the morning, Charmin and I crossed over our first 10,000-foot pass. There were a couple of small patches of snow laying around, but given the high elevation, we were amazed that we weren't postholing and utterly miserable.

I hiked ahead of Charmin for awhile, but started feeling in a funk. I often feel that way after a visit from Amanda, missing her and the comforts of home. I sat down on a log and just felt a little depressed. When Charmin caught up, I asked her if she ever feels homesick--she's a heck of a lot farther away from friends, home, and family than I was! And she said that yes, she sometimes feels homesick. If she's felt that way around me, she's hid it well.

So we fell into hiking together, and Charmin asked me to tell her about Amanda. She already knew a little about Amanda, but it was usually associated with some story that happened to the two of us. I never really talked about Amanda by herself, so I told her a little about Amanda.

Then she asked me what I liked most about Amanda, followed by what I liked least about Amanda. I won't get into my answers, but it was an interesting question. Nobody ever asked what I didn't like about Amanda before, but it strangely did make me feel better talking about it. Charmin didn't get me completely out of my funk, but she cheered me up quite a bit.

At one point, Charmin turned around to talk to me, looked at me, and asked if I was crying. "No, damnit!" I stared at her, unblinking. Okay, maybe a little misty-eyed, but I wasn't crying. She said she was going to write that in her journal for the night, and I told her to at least have the courtesy to write it in her native language so nobody else could read such filthy lies. =)

The rest of the day was largely uneventful. Charmin and I shared two apples today. I tore the spartan apple in half very easily, and it was a pretty clean tear. I savored the feeling, finally feeling like I succeeded in ripping in apple in half. Charmin and I took turns trying to rip the jazz apple in half, neither of us quite managing to get it to split. We got it to make cracking sounds, but couldn't manage to get it to fall in half until I tried a "knee cheat" where I stabilized the bottom of the apple against my knee and used the full strength of both hands to finally knock that apple in half.

We stopped to camp for the night at the Dutch Meadow Trail, at about 9,950 feet above sea level--our highest campsite to date. I'd occasionally walk out to the meadow to search for bears but never found any. Running Wolf joined us for the night, and near sunset, we heard and saw a few other hikers in the distance that we called out to to join us, but they somehow missed the side trail (including the arrow we made out of sticks directly in the middle of the trail) and they accidentally passed by us.

Charmin's eyes were bigger than her stomach and she wound up with a heck of a lot of food that she didn't want to eat for dinner. I had already eaten my own dinner and was quite satisfied already, but to help, I took a bite of her dinner and it was, in a word, awful. I don't know what she did to it, but it was all I could do to not spit it out. "Sorry," I told her, "I can't." I looked at the pot of food. "I just.... can't."

I suggested that she bury the excess food. I'm not sure it would prevent animals from digging it up, but it seemed like a better option than just dumping it somewhere. "Dig a deep hole," I suggested. "You can even use my ice axe." I didn't really want her food attracting bears, after all.

Then I thought, hey, maybe the hole can do double duty. "After you dump the food, don't fill in the hole again," I told her. "I'll leave a nasty surprise for any bear that might think about digging it up!"

So she went off with my ice axe (the first time it had actually been used for anything, I might add, so at least now that extra weight wasn't a total waste), dug a big hole, dumped her dinner, then came back and told me where to find the hole into which I unloaded the previous night's dinner and finally filled up the hole again. =)

Running Wolf went off to hang a bear bag. A pinata for bears, if you ask me. We all had bear canisters, but we also had too much food to fit all of it into the canisters. Charmin and I just slept with our extra food, but Running Wolf, the responsible guy he is, properly hung his excess food (and soap, trash, and anything else with a scent) from a nearby tree.

Then the three of us all went peacefully to sleep. =)

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...

Actually a question. Does anyone know what the first picture is. They look beautiful.

Greg said...

It's a fungus called snowplant.

Regarding the second comment: I agree that food should be properly stored and that the matter is a serious subject, but your tone is lot less likely to change someone's behavior than if you commented respectfully. But no one knows who you are, so no reason to care about social norms, right, anonymous?

Anonymous said...

I lived in the High Sierrs's (Lake Tahoe Area) and the snow plant that you are admiring is illegal to pick (how they are gonna catch you is beyond me) but the snow plant usually pops it head up just as spring thaw is starting...those flowers against the white snow is one of the most beautiful visions you have ever seen. They are amazingly beautiful. Thanks Ryan for posting a great memory...gosh, now I am homesick.