Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Day 2: The Secret Waterfall

July 17: I woke up with the sun--in other words, much too early. Not only does the sun set late this far north in the early summer, but it rises early as well!

I laid around in my sleeping bag for a couple of hours reading my Kindle and killing time. My permit allowed me to go a measly 5 miles up the trail today, an annoyingly small distance. I would have preferred a campsite about 15 miles up the trail--or even 10 miles would have been nice--but those campsites were allegedly already full when I got my permit. It was baffling to me, though, considering that I was the only person who showed up to this campsite the previous night.

My view during breakfast. Not a bad place to camp....

In any case, it meant I had a measly 5 miles to do today and I expected a great deal of boredom to set in. I had prepared by loading my Kindle with half a dozen library books--not that I could possibly read that many books in a single day, but at least I'd have options to switch between books if I got tired of reading the same thing all day. I also downloaded a bunch of videos to watch on Netflix but with limited battery power, I couldn't depend on that lasting the whole day!

The morning was overcast and gloomy and would stay that way the whole day. Eventually I got up and retrieved my food bag from the cables and ate breakfast at the cooking area. Actually, I took about 15 steps outside of it to the lake's shore and watched the views while eating breakfast. No signs of moose or any other large mammals this time.

After breakfast, I thought this might be the perfect time to give my bear spray a real test. There was nobody around and likely wouldn't be for hours, and I could spray the bear spray over the water where it would disperse in the air and water leaving no evidence of my experiments.

According to the label on my bear spray, there was enough in there to shoot it for about 7 seconds into a 30-foot cloud of eye-watering pepper spray. Obviously, I didn't want to use up the spray--it was for my protection, after all! But I wanted a sense of how it worked. How hard did I have to press the trigger? How far was 30 feet? Would there be a kickback?

There was a fierce wind blowing across the lake so I positioned myself where the spray wouldn't blow back into me and pressed the trigger for a fraction of a second. It didn't shoot out as far as I expected. It seemed like it was closer to 20 feet than 30, but maybe I'm just not a good judge of distance! The cloud that came out was noticeably orange which I thought was interesting.

It was fun and gave me something to do, for a little while, at least! Then I lounged around killing more time and eventually grew bored enough to put on my pack and start walking the trail.

I caught up with a couple of hikers at the next campsite who were still breaking down camp. It seemed like nobody was in a hurry to get going this morning! And I happily sat down to chat with them for the sheer lack of anything else better to do.

I caught up with another couple later in the day who raved about seeing a giant grizzly print on the trail. Directly on the trail! They were walking in the same direction as myself and I wondered how I missed it if it was directly on the trail. Maybe it wasn't as big or obvious as they claimed? But the woman pulled out her camera and showed me a photo of the print and it was one of the most incredible things I had ever seen! WOW! She said it was as large as her face and you could clearly see the print in the mud down to the individual claws at the end of each toe. I was almost tempted to turn around and walk back to look for it. I had time! I could probably walk all the way to my campsite tonight, then back to where I started the day, then back to camp again if I really wanted to.

But it I couldn't make myself walk the wrong way on the trail. If I knew the print was just a few minutes back, I certainly would have, but it seemed like it was quite a bit further back than that. But holy cow, what an amazing photo. I was so envious. I wish I had seen the print, and I slapped myself for missing it. I certainly kept my eyes open for bear prints after that--especially in the muddy areas!

But I never found any. =(

I didn't find any grizzly prints, but I did see a puny little snake! =)

He looks scarier if you zoom into his face!

I reached a junction in the trail about a half-mile before my campsite, and rather than follow the trail to my campsite, I decided to turn off-trail and visit Mokowanis Lake located less than a mile away. The destination was another campsite--an absolutely beautiful campsite located right on the shore of the lake. I was a little envious. I'd be camping at the Mokowanis Junction campsite--a landlocked campsite notable for nothing in particular.

I took a lunch break at the lakeside campsite. The cooking area was located directly on the lake shore so I didn't even have to break any food rules to eat on the shore. =)

After lunch, I read my Kindle for a bit then packed up to hike to my own campsite.

The campsite I wish I had....

I took a brief stop at a bridge crossing a creek where there was a nice view over a lake--another lake--and I suddenly remembered seeing on my topo map a waterfall. It was somewhere near this junction, on this trail. I didn't remember seeing a waterfall on my hike out, but how could I possibly miss a waterfall?!

I pulled out my topo map and took a closer look at it and White Quiver Falls appeared to be on the west side of the trail where a creek crosses the trail and empties into the lake on the east side of the trail. Like the creek I was standing on!

I looked upstream and saw nothing that I would call a waterfall. A few rapids in the water, but definitely not a waterfall. I walked down the trail a bit, taking a close look through the trees and behind me when I spotted the edge of an actual waterfall! I didn't see a trail to it, or any sort of signage. The trees blocked most of the view. If I hadn't been looking for it, I would never have even noticed. I didn't notice it during the hike out to the lake!

I did see what looked like a small game trail heading in vaguely the right direction for the waterfall so I followed it for a better view and... well, it was a waterfall. Not an impressive one, but it was nice. I decided to take another rest break to kill some more time. I dropped my pack next to a log and sat down, admiring the view, eating a snack and reading my Kindle.

The secret waterfall....

About a half hour later, I felt a drop of water on my cheek. Rain? Yeah, rain was in the air. I better pack up and push on to camp. I did not want to walk the last half mile to camp in the rain.

I rushed to camp to find... absolutely nobody had arrived. Not yet, at least! It wasn't especially late in the day so I wasn't entirely surprised that I was the first to reach the campsite. I only had a measly 5 miles to do to get here, after all, although I extended it another mile or two with my off-trail visit to a lake and a waterfall. But still, it was a very short day.

It hadn't started raining yet--not a real rain--but little drops of water that seemed to float in the air were pelting me in earnest. Like a thick, wet fog. At the cables, I dropped my pack and quickly hung my food bag, annoyed at the delay in setting up my tarp.

Then I rushed around the camp checking out the individual campsites. I settled for one under a beautiful, giant tree. I hoped the tree would shed water outward when it started to rain and act like a rain cover of sorts. My tarp should do the job as well, but the less rain that reached my tarp, the better!

I got my tarp up and minutes later the rain started coming down in earnest. Just in the nick of time!

I pulled out my Kindle and started reading. It was much too early for dinner, and anyhow, I didn't want to cook in the rain. Hopefully it would die down later and I could make dinner then.

It was during this time when I went to grab my water bottle for a drink that I realized that one of my water bottles was missing! I knew I had it at the waterfall--I drank from it there--so I had to have lost it somewhere within the last half mile or so. But where? I really didn't want to search for it in the rain. Maybe another hiker behind me would find it and carry it into camp? A guy can hope!

It was maybe an hour or two later when I heard talking at the front of the camp. People! The rain had slowed down into a light sprinkle so I pulled on a rain coat, pulled out my umbrella, and left the safety of my tarp to chat with them. People!

The new arrivals were a couple of women who turned out to be from Seattle. They had started hanging their food bags on the cable but their rope got stuck on another rope that had already gotten stuck high on the cable. They complained that their rope was too short--they didn't realize how long it needed to be to reach up and over the cables so hanging their food was problematic. Getting the rope stuck didn't help matters either.

One of the women started climbing up the tree, eventually freeing their rope and cutting down most of the other rope that had gotten stuck up there as well after I assured them that it wasn't mine and they were welcome to have the extra rope if they wanted it.

What to do when a your rope gets stuck in a tree? Climb the tree! (Those are my food bags hanging on a cable in the background. Their food bag isn't up yet.)

They tied the two ropes together to make a longer, easier-to-use rope for their own food bag and eventually got it hung, then they wandered off to select a campsite and set up camp.

I had asked the women if they had seen a water bottle on the trail, somewhere within the last half mile or so but neither of them had seen it. I felt the most likely location that it fell out of my pack was at the waterfall--probably fell out of my pack while I was putting my pack on after taking a break. But it could have fallen out of my pack at any time after that and rolled off the trail or something.

The rain had stopped, though, so now was a good time to look for it. I figured it was less than a mile to the waterfall and back--my worst case. And I wouldn't even have to carry my pack! I could probably make the round-trip trek in 15 to 20 minutes!

But I hoped I'd find the missing water bottle a few minutes from camp and save myself the extra effort.

It was, in fact, near the waterfall where I found the bottle. Not at the waterfall, but rather on the short game trail between the main trail and the waterfall. I was glad to have my water bottle back and equally glad that I hadn't accidentally littered in the backcountry. (Not this time, at least!)

I returned to camp and my tarp where I killed some more time, then I returned to the cooking area an hour or so later to make dinner. The rain had mostly stopped, but it looked like it could start again at any time so I brought my umbrella and rain coat--just in case.

I noticed a new food bag hanging from the cables and wondered who had left it. I hadn't seen or heard any other hikers sneak in to camp, but clearly they had. The two women from Seattle came out just before I did and were already whipping up their dinner when I arrived.

We chatted for a bit, but they weren't very talkative. It seemed like they weren't really interested in chatting or getting to know me which disappointed me immensely. It was lonely out here by oneself!

After they finished dinner, they headed back to their tent. After I finished my dinner, I decided to look for the mysterious new person who had sneaked into camp. I decided it was probably a single person based on the size of the food bag. If it belonged to two people, then they weren't going to be in the backcountry or more than a day or two! I found an unknown tent set up in another part of the campsite and all was quiet inside.

"Hello?" I asked softly, not wanting to wake anyone up if they were taking a nap or something.

Nobody was asleep, however, and my guess about it being just one hiker was incorrect. There was a couple inside the tent, and they unzipped their tent to introduce themselves. They guy got out of the tent to talk and we chatted for about five minutes or so. He had a light shirt on and was clearly getting cold exposed in the chilly air--I knew this conversation wouldn't last too long.

The girl stayed in the tent, occasionally offering her commentary from the warmth of the tent. They seemed like they would have been fun to chat with more--I got more conversation out of them in 5 minutes than I did with the two Seattle women during the course of an hour during dinner. But it started to rain and the guy ducked back into their tent and I rushed back to my own tarp.

Which is where I stayed for the rest of the evening, reading my Kindle until I fell asleep.

It's called bear grass.
So much mud! So few bear prints....

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