Friday, January 28, 2011

Lemah Meadows and Area

It wasn't raining, but it wasn't exactly warm and dry either!
September 10: The rain continued hard nearly the entire night, but it finally lifted by morning. I lurked under my tarp for awhile, hoping to let the tree snot drop off before hitting the trail, during which time Neon, Little Engine, Plain Slice, Wyoming, and Otter passed me. Lots of hikers on the trail today! Even more remarkable, I actually knew all of them already!

I finally got hiking and Epic and Max Chill caught up with me shortly afterward. More people! These two I had both met before, but just briefly and I didn't feel like I really knew either of them.

Today I was pretty excited. I was in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, an area I had been in a couple of times before. Today I would pass through the Lemah Meadows area, where I had done trail work a few years ago. I was anxious to see how the trail was looking all this time later--it would be my first visit back since I did the trail work in 2007. And, I knew from my previous visits, the area had absolutely spectacular scenery. Not that you'd know it looking around at the moment. The views were largely obscured at first by clouds and fog, but it would improve throughout the day.

Spectacle Lake was awesome, and marked the furthest point south I had ventured on the trail during my trail work days. I sat down to admire the lake, which looked suspiciously like spectacles... spectacular spectacles! One thing had changed significantly since the last time I was there, however. A large burn area, just to the north and east of the lake. That was new, having burned badly the summer before. This section of trail, in fact, had been closed due to fire damage for most of the summer and only reopened a few weeks before.

I cursed the clouds, trying to ruin my view!
While sitting and admiring the view, the other seven hikers caught up with me. They were hiking mostly together now and I passed them earlier in the morning, and I wanted to sit and enjoy the view, eating from my bag of White Thins. We were all taking pictures, and I asked one of them if they'd get my picture. Fussing around with my camera, I accidentally dropped my bag of Wheat Thins, spilling out onto the trail. Simultaneously, seven other hikes gasped. "Nooo!!!" If it were a movie, they would have played the scene in slow motion, me trying to grab the bag in mid-air, and the camera zooming into the other faces with growing looks of horror. It was a tragedy of the greatest proportions!

Little Engine took a couple of photos of me with my camera, with the Wheat Thins still spread across the trail. I picked up the Wheat Thins and put them back in the Ziplock bag. It wasn't raining, so they weren't wet, and I didn't drop them on a particularly muddy part of the trail, so they were largely dirt free. Good enough for me! They were still edible in my book! =)

The trail descends steeply from Spectacle Lake down to Lemah Meadows, through the area burned by the Lemah Fire. I remembered this section of trail being severely overgrown. Our trail group didn't work on this side of the meadows, and I wondered if it had still been severely overgrown before the fire swept through. If so, the fire certainly cleared a lot of that problem out of the way! =)

Nooo!!!! Not the Wheat Thins!!!!
Near the bottom of the slope, I found Neon taking a snack break and I stopped to chat. I was a little surprised to see her at all--the last time I had seen her, she told me that she was getting off the trail in Ashland to go back and do a large hunk of the High Sierras she had missed earlier. At that point, I figured she was a couple of hundred miles behind me, and I made some big miles going through Oregon. How the heck had she caught up with me? I assumed I'd never see her again! At least not until Just Dave told me he'd seen her at the convenience store at White Pass.

I also had heard that she had hiked three consecutive 40-mile days. "Is this true?" I asked.

"And where did you hear that?" she asked in return.

Umm.... Where did I hear that? I closed my eyes, trying to think. It seems like I heard that nearly a week earlier. Who said that. Think! Think! I rubbed my forehead, but I couldn't think of it.

She watched me straining my brain for about ten or fifteen seconds, and suggested that maybe it was Noga.

"Yes! That's it! She told me that!"

"Well, it's true," she finally answered.

I shook my head. "You're crazy. Definitely crazy." =)

Notice the bag of Wheat Thins,
still at my feet.
I'm pretty sure I could hike 40 miles if I had the drive to do so, but I think it would be miserable. I'd have to start before sunrise and finish after sunset. I'd be tired and miserable. And--more importantly--I had no reason to push myself that hard. I just don't have that "get up and go" kind of attitude. So I did what I thought were respectably big miles through Oregon, but Neon's miles put mine to shame.

I also told Neon of a particular "reroute" I made of the PCT. I wanted to see if I could find that reroute. There was an "iceberg" boulder involved, where a small part of the rock stuck out of the ground, but the bulk of it was buried and would have been difficult to remove, so I left it in place. But the trail used to go around the right side of the rock, and I rerouted it to go around the left side of the rock. Nothing else about that section of trail was at all noteworthy, but I knew I could remember that iceberg rock. It was unique, and I spent a lot of time working around it. I wanted to find that rock and see if my reroute from August 17, 2007, was still holding up. It was the one piece of work I did that I knew I'd still recognize as my own. =)

Neon and I were in the burn area, and I couldn't figure out why they felt the need to close the trail for a year because of the fire. I had heard it was closed because an important bridge burned, but all of the bridges I crossed looked like they had been there for quite some time. Maybe they were afraid of dead trees or branches falling down onto hikers? Several minutes of hiking ahead, Neon and I caught up with the rest of the hikers who were stopped at a washed out bridge. The one bridge that looked like it had been washed out (rather than burned down) was still washed out, but the trail was open now.

The Lemah Fire burned through this area.
I had already told everyone that I did some trail work near Lemah Meadows and was excited to see how it looked now, and when Plain Slice and I were looking down at the washed out bridge, he joked about my "shoddy" work. I told him that all of MY shoddy work was on the other side of Lemah Meadows. =)

I pulled ahead of the others and continued hiking, passing Lemah Meadows where our work party had camped. I also found a waterbar we had installed on our first day of work: August 12, 2007. I remembered them explaining how to make a good solid waterbar, and I remembered thinking at the time that that's nice, but why are you showing us this? We were supposed to be brushing the trail, not creating waterbars. And where we installed it, I couldn't really see a good reason why it was even necessary.

But I found that waterbar. I knew it was the right one because it was the only one on that section of trail for probably a mile in either direction. It was holding up well, but it did seem completely unnecessary even today. But I still smiled--I helped install that waterbar. I even had a picture to prove it! =)

Further along, I found the reroute I had created. The iceberg rock was still on the left side of the trail, and it looked like that that was where the trail always was. The dirt on the trail didn't look fresh anymore. The trail looked like it could have been there for a hundred years, and there's nothing to indicate that the trail ever went on the right side of the rock. I was so pleased with myself. =)
A photo of me three years earlier building
a waterbar.

The same waterbar today.
I built a tiny little cairn in the trail next to my handiwork. If I saw Neon again, I could ask her if she saw that cairn, and say that THAT was the iceberg rock I had told her about earlier that morning. Then I took pictures of the trail from the same angle I remembered I had taken photos of it when I originally completed the work. After, and WAY after photos for comparison. =)

Then I started hiking up and up and up, a few thousand feet through the area that I carried up a cross-cut saw and rolled large trees down the steep slope on August 14th and 16th. Good times! =) I really need to go on another work party.

At the top of the ridge, everyone stopped to throw out their gear to dry out from the rain the night before, including myself. My tarp was soaked, and the sun had finally come out in force. Use it while we can! When I saw Neon there, I asked her if she noticed the little cairn I created in the trail and told her, "YES! That was where I single-handedly rerouted the PCT!" =)

Little Engine overheard that and said she had noticed the cairn too and had wondered about it. It was so small and cute, but so completely in the middle of nowhere. Usually cairns are used to mark tricky spots in the trail, or perhaps at a viewpoint where idle hands do their best work, but that particular cairn seemed to have no reason for existing. I think Little Engine was pleased to find that it did have a use. There was a reason for its existence.

The others left while I was still packing up my tarp, now dry. I took about 20 steps on the trail when I heard a loud SNAP! and my shoulder strap flung upwards. Damn! Again?!

I stopped to check out the damage. This time, it was my other strap buckle that broke. Well, technically speaking, broke for a second time. It was the same buckle that broke while descending Forester Pass over a thousand miles earlier. I didn't have any extra buckles this time. I used the one I did have the day before fixing the other strap's buckle. And like yesterday, this buckle broke exactly the same way the one yesterday did, and tying a simple knot in the straps wasn't going to fix things. Hmm......

The reroute as it looks today.
Note the little cairn I created on
the left side of the trail. =)
The PCT reroute I created back in 2007.
The only reason I could find this exact spot again
is because of that iceberg rock on the right (now!)
side of the trail.

I had a plan. I took off the buckle, then hand-sewed a loop onto the bottom strap, and used a spare piece of rope, threaded through the loops, to tie the two straps together. I was a little concerned about how well this arrangement would hold, but I didn't see that I had any choice in the matter either. I was probably 35 miles away from the nearest paved road.

The broken strap set me back, and I didn't catch up with the others again until I found them camped near the Waptus River where I joined them for the night.

Time to dry out!
Beautiful scenery!
After the fix.

Before the fix.

Watum Lake. The PCT skirts near the far side of this lake. (Not ON the shore, but fairly close.)

Some of the fall colors are starting to come out in the trees. =)


Kristin aka Trekkie Gal said...

Looks like your last couple of captions got cut off.

Anonymous said...

I like the Then and Now shots!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Sounds like your backpack was trying to tell you something...hmmm?

Hike On!
~Twinville Trekkers