Saturday, January 8, 2011

Raining Apple Pies

Amanda drops me off at the trailhead, knowing we
may not see each other again until Canada!
August 31: Almost as soon as Amanda dropped me off on the trail, it started to rain. And rain. And rain. Sometimes it was a hard rain, and sometimes it was a light sprinkle, but the cold rain never let up completely. The forecast called for quite a bit of rain in the near future so I traded out my homemade umbrella for a small, real one. It was a bit heavier, but I also didn't have to go around looking for sticks to make it work. As long as I was using the umbrella, I'd take the extra weight!

But the rain still soaked me through, and I pretty much hiked with hardly a rest. It was too cold to stop. I caught up with Rising Sun and M (Em?--not really sure how he would spell his name) at a bucket of trail magic a couple of hours into my hike. I knew someone (or someones) wasn't far ahead of me because I could see fresh footprints as the rain started. The prints were dry, but the ground around it was damp from rain. So I knew they were ahead, and finally caught up with them at a food cache. I'd never met them before, and Rising Sun seemed stunned that I was wearing nothing but a short-sleeved shirt, asking if I was cold. "Yes! That's why I can't stop for long! As long as I'm hiking hard, I'm fine!" =)

Look at that beard growing in!
I kept hoping for relief from the rain, just long enough to dry out a little and find a place to set up camp while the rain wasn't coming down. I passed a couple of pretty lakes, and I saw some hikers camped nearby including a roaring campfire. How they started that fire is a mystery to me--it had to have taken some serious work to get going! It was tempting to stop and try to cozy up with them at the fire, but the tents were large, bulky things that suggested folks out for a short trip. They weren't thru-hikers. Not that I have anything against non-thru-hikers, but I was also hoping to find some friends somewhere along the trail and I wouldn't know any of the non-thru-hikers.

And, I really, really wanted to reach Junction Lake. Today was the last day of the Hike-a-Thon. The evening before, I was studying maps and trying to figure out where I would likely get to this evening. Normally, I'm not one to plan so far in advance, but I'd been keeping a mileage log of my hike for the Hike-a-Thon, and I was going to leave the paperwork with Amanda to turn in for me. I still had to hike, after all! But what do I put for August 31st? It would have been nice if I could call Amanda at the end of the day, tell her how far I had hiked, and she could fill out the rest of the form for me, but cell phone coverage out here was not exactly reliable. So I made an educated guess to how far I'd likely hike: Junction Lake.

There weren't many views along this section of trail.
Too many darned trees. But the trail was fairly
easy, so at least it had that much going for it. *shrug*
I knew I could stop before then. If I did, though, the amount of miles I claimed to have hiked for the month would be overstated. Something like 780 miles instead of the 775 miles that I really hiked. Somehow, I think the WTA would forgive me for accidentally claiming five extra miles. But I really wanted to be honest, so I really, really wanted to reach Junction Lake. So despite the rain, despite the alluring campfire, I pushed on, cursing the miserable weather the entire time.

The trail soon passed another lake, with tents scattered all about. I was a little surprised at the number of people camping in such miserable weather in the backcountry, and on a weekday no less! I was closing in on Junction Lake, though--I figured it was only another mile or two ahead--and hoped it wouldn't be quite so busy with people.

The trail went past a large group of people under a tarp, seemingly cooking dinner, and I couldn't help but notice the hexagonal-shaped structure it had. It looked familiar to me. I'd seen that tarp setup before, when I did some volunteer work for the WTA a couple of summers before. I took a closer look inside the tarp, trying to verify my suspicions, and saw bear boxes designed to be carried by horses. I haven't seen these things very often. In fact, the only time I'd ever seen them before was when I did volunteer work with the WTA. They loaded them up with food, hung one off each side of the horse, and packed them up there. We'd also use them as stools while eating or cooking. And these people had those exact same bear boxes. I was pretty sure this was a WTA work party!

The flash on my camera really makes those
raindrops "pop," don't you think?
I have a special fondness for the WTA, and I couldn't walk by without stopping. In fact, it was entirely possible I could actually know someone who was there! So I poked my head into the tent and ask, "Hey, is this a WTA work party?"

They almost seemed surprised that I even knew what a WTA work party was, but yes, they were a WTA work party. "Oh, man, I just LOVE you guys!" =)

I didn't recognize anyone at this work party (drats!), but I introduced myself anyhow and told them I'd done a couple of those week-long work parties in the past. The regulars there asked about where I had worked and who I had worked with, so we started swapping war stories. I may not have known anyone from this work party, but we did know some of the same people which was just as fun to talk about. =)

The leader of the expedition, Taylor, said that they had some extra food for dinner if I wanted to stop. Oh my God it was tempting! But I told them I wanted to get to Junction Lake for the Hike-a-Thon--to raise money FOR THEM!!!! =) Already gave the mileage reports to Amanda, already on its way to WTA headquarters in Seattle, and so I really wanted to get to Junction Lake.

They looked around at each other, until one of them told me, "You're at Junction Lake!"

What a miserable, wet, downpour.
I was hating life at this point!
"I AM?!" This was a delightful piece of news! I still thought I had another mile or two to go before hitting Junction Lake. I hadn't been checking my maps much at all because of all the rain--I didn't want to ruin them in the wet, so I had only checked the maps two or three times the whole day. I must have been hiking a lot faster than normal. Or, I realized, I was taking a lot fewer rest breaks than normal. Yeah, that was it. *thumping head*

But I reached Junction Lake! And there I found a WTA work party offering me real food, and hot food! Sweet! "I love you guys!"

By now, I had been stopped for about five minutes, and was getting so cold my teeth were chattering. I could barely talk without stuttering. Now that I had reached camp for the night, I needed to get out of those wet, cold clothes ASAP. I swapped out my shirt for a dry one, threw on my fleece layer, and a shell over that. It would take awhile to warm up again, but nothing that a hot meal can't cure. =)

They suggested I set up my tarp before it got too dark, and I agreed wholeheartedly with that suggestion. Problem was, they took all of the campsites in the area for themselves, but one of them offered to share a space with me. He marched me off to the location, and I set up my tarp. I left my backpack back at their kitchen, only bringing the tarp to set up.

One of the road crossings along the trail.
They fed me dinner. My journal fails to state what it was they served, and now I've forgotten. Seems like maybe it was spaghetti or something? As good as the dinner was, though, I filled nearly an entire page of my journal writing about apple pie. After dinner was over, it was time for desert, and they had an enormous apple pie, picked up at Costco. If you've seen their pies, you know how big these things are. They're huge!

And the whole group of them could only manage to wolf down about 3/4 of the pie, and looked about ready to throw the rest of it away. They had too much food with them--it seems that a couple of people dropped out of the trip at the last minute--so a lot of their food was going to waste.

"Give it to me," I told them. "I can eat the rest."

They didn't think it was possible, but wanted to watch me try. =) It's only a 1/4 of the pie, but that was practically the size of most full-sized pies. I'll admit, I had my doubts if I could eat it all, but I was certainly willing to try, and I was pretty sure I could make room for most of it.

They gave me the bottle of whipped cream, and I piled that up high, then dug in. If it wasn't for the rain, this could very well have been my best evening ever on the trail! =)

The first part of the pie I ate pretty quickly, but I started slowing down considerably after that. I kept eating, but considerably slower. Eventually, most of the party started going off to their respective tents for the night, and I chatted a bit with Taylor who dreamed of someday doing his own thru-hike. "Don't do it, man! This is what you become!" I told him, jokingly, and shoved another fork of pie in my mouth.

Then Taylor was going to head off to bed, and I didn't want to stand around eating pie by myself, so I finally cried uncle and threw the rest of it away. It was mostly crust, and not even enough for one serving anyhow. But technically, I failed in my mission to eat the whole thing. But damn, it felt good to try! =)

That's a heck of a lot of apple pie for one
person to eat.... but I was willing to try!
I wandered back to my tarp, and actually had trouble finding it in the dark. Took a wrong turn at one point, and the terrain didn't seem to match up with what I remembered. "Just great," I thought, "I'm going to die out here in the rain because I can't find my stupid tarp." Well, I wasn't going to die. I could always go back to the kitchen if push came to shove.

I figured out where I went wrong, though, threw down my ground sheet, pulled out my sleeping bag, and went to sleep. It was a miserable day of hiking, but what a fantastic group of people to meet up with at the end of the day!

If you're interested in reading about those work parties I did with the WTA, they're still online. The first was Mount Adams and the other was in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. I haven't been back to either of those locations since I did those work parties, but the PCT runs past both of them, and I was anxious to see how they looked all this time later. =)


Anonymous said...

way back in 1977 I was in YCC and we worked in the Alpine lakes Wilderness repairing some slide damage on the trail. Spent a couple weeks up there, also did fish surveys on the lakes, had to carry a 100 lb raft all the way in to use for dropping the biologist nets for them. BEAUTIFUL place.

Dave T. PDX

Funhog said...

Indian Heaven during prime huckleberry season? Of course it was packed! I've been there in that cold, cold rain. BRRR...

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

You're supposed to eat the crust, too?

Hike On!
~Twinville Trekker