Monday, November 4, 2019

Day 4: Over the Continental Divide!

July 19: It didn't rain during the night and by morning, my tarp and gear were largely dry. The morning looked promising as well with partly cloudy skies.

This campsite was the last one my permit was good for. I didn't necessarily have to make it entirely outside of the park, however, as there was an auto camp 16.6 miles away that was available on a first-come, first serve basis. But I did need to make it into that campsite before it filled up or else I'd have to hike well over 20 miles to a location outside of the park's boundary in order to camp legally. I didn't think I could do that.

So I woke up early. I broke down camp, ate breakfast, and headed out. I was a bit disappointed that Mark and Sam weren't awake yet--I enjoyed their company the evening before. But it wasn't surprising. I knew they only had to cover about 5 miles today so they were in absolutely no rush at all and had even been talking about doing some side trails just to see a bit more.

They still weren't awake when I departed camp at 7:30.

The trail climbed steadily toward the Continental Divide at Browns Pass. It wasn't as dramatic as the climb over Stony Indian Pass but still quite pretty and I took a short break to rest and ponder the Continental Divide. Just looking at the pass, there was no reason to think it was anything unique or special. It just looked like your usual mountainous terrain, but what a difference in travel that a drop of water landing on one side of the pass than the other would have! It seemed remarkable one raindrop could flow downhill to the Pacific Ocean while another drop right next to it--a single millimeter away--would flow out to the Atlantic.

It's kind of a metaphor for life, really. Those little decisions or randomness in life that seem inconsequential at the time but could have life-changing effects. I grew up in San Luis Obispo, for instance, as did all of my classmates from grade school through high school. We were like the two drops of water, beginning our lives at essentially the same place but wow would all of our lives diverge!

You'd never know you were on the Continental Divide here except it was marked on a map. (This is looking toward the Pacific side of the divide.)

With those deep thoughts in my head, I became the proverbial drop of rain on my way to the Pacific Ocean. A drop of rain would have it easy, though. The drop of rain would go downhill the entire way to the Pacific Ocean. I would be going up and down mountain over and over and over again. It certainly wouldn't be the easiest route to the Pacific Ocean. Even Lewis and Clark realized that the easiest route was to be the drop of water and keep going downhill avoiding all those pesky mountains.

I hadn't looked at a map with precisely where water would flow from here, but I had a feeling that it would eventually lead to the Columbia River and exit into the Pacific at Astoria. A drop of water that fell here--assuming it actually reached the Pacific and hadn't been diverted to farmland or a municipal water supply ending up in someone's shower or toilet or just evaporated or drained into the ground water or was consumed by a hiker or bear--so many obstacles for that drop of water to overcome in order to reach the Pacific Ocean!

I too had a lot of obstacles to reach the Pacific. Different obstacles, of course, but still obstacles!

With these heavy thoughts, I picked up my pack and pushed on. I didn't really have time to dilly-dally. I needed to reach the auto camp before it filled up.

The sun shined for much of the day and the snakes seemed to enjoy it. I found four of them sunning themselves on the trail! Actually, two of them were sunning themselves on the trail and two others appeared to be in a very intimate moment and like they were.... busy....

From the Continental Divide, the trail drop dramatically for several miles, and I was quite a way down from the pass when I heard thunder rolling through the mountain tops. It looked like there was rain in the mountaintops as well so I was glad to be on lower terrain where I would stay for the rest of the day. I hoped to reach camp before any rain caught with up me, but rain was in the forecast and it seemed likely.

From the Continental Divide, the trail dropped into this canyon before reaching the east end of Bowman Lake (which is partly visible in the distance). Then the trail followed along the north side of the lake (the right side from this point of view) seven miles to the campsite at the far end of the lake.
I eventually reached the east end of Bowman Lake. The trail followed parallel near the lake for 7 miles with occasional glimpses of the water through the trees. I bet that was the first "rest break" for a drop of water that fell on the Pacific side of the Continental Divide at Browns Gap. Even water needs to take a rest break from its exertions. =)

My campsite was located at the west end of Bowman Lake and I found myself dragging the last few miles into camp. It wasn't as long or hard of a day as yesterday, but I was already a little sore and beat-up from yesterday's forced march. A couple of times I felt the ever so slight touch of a raindrop on me, but the heavy rain managed to stay away. For now, at least!

I finally reached a parking lot at the west end of Bowman Lake and I looked around for the campground. I didn't have a detailed map of the area and wasn't sure where to go. The place was packed with people. I was officially out of the wilderness! It looked like there were a hundred cars in the parking lot and dozens of people milled around. The trail along Bowman Lake was fairly crowded with day hikers and fishermen as well, so I asked a couple of nearby people if they knew where the campground was located.

They pointed me in the proper direction and I crossed my fingers that there would still be an empty site. If there wasn't, I'd go around begging someone to let me share their campsite! That was my Plan B! =)

I was surprised that half the campground appeared to be empty, though. I walked around checking out a few different sites before settling on the one that seemed like it offered the most privacy and comfort. I paid $15 at a self-pay station and set up my tarp.

This campsite was luxurious compared to the wilderness camps I had been staying in!

I hadn't been there long when the campground host came by to warn me that there was a resident bear who had been visiting the campground lately and told me that proper food storage was absolutely essential. Most people kept food in their cars hidden from the bear's view, but I obviously had no car for that purpose, but there was a general bear box available for the whole campsite near the restrooms which I could use. (I did--it was a lot easier than hanging my food bag!--and I was the only person in the entire campsite who actually used it.) The camp host did say it was okay for me to tie my Ursack in camp since it was officially sanctioned, and I actually chose to do that to keep some snacks nearby without being required to walk out to the bear box for a snack.

I hoped this meant I would see a bear and get some great photos, but I didn't. I did see a couple of deer who seemed very unconcerned about all the people roaming around the area, and I did hear a loud explosion like someone set off a bunch of firecrackers which I suspect was an attempt to scare off the visiting bear but I missed him.

Within a couple of hours, the empty sites around me started filling up one by one. An older couple from Pennsylvania took up residence on one side of me. I welcomed them to the site like I was the ambassador and the woman offered me a homemade chocolate-chip cookie which I was happy to take off her hands. =)

They had originally planned to camp at one of the sites more central in the park but all of the other campgrounds had filled up by 8:30 that morning. That took me by surprise--when I got my permit, I saw a list when all of the campsites had filled up and most of them hadn't filled up until about 4:00 in the afternoon. This park was bulging at the seams with tourists today! The couple had driven nearly two hours to get to this campground with no certainty that there would even be any space available when they arrived. If there wasn't anything available, it was another hour plus drive back to civilization.

A campsite visitor! He looks guilty of something, doesn't he?

On the other side of my campsite, a family originally from Texas but now living in northern Idaho staked a claim. I could tell they weren't originally from Idaho because of their thick Texas accent. Even the young kids had thick Texas accents, and I could almost swear their dog seemed to bark with a Texas accent! Plus their license plate was still the Texas plate.

Once all of the campsites were taken, we'd see cars drive through the campground clearly looking for empty sites. I kind of felt sorry for them knowing that they had a long drive back to somewhere they could camp legally. If any of them had stopped to talk to me or ask if I knew about any empty sites, I would have offered to share my site. It was a giant site and I wasn't using the space for a car at all and two tents were allowed at each campsite and I was just using the one tarp. I'd have been more than happy to share a space, but nobody stopped to chat with me so I never made any offers.

It sprinkled a bit later in the afternoon, and I waited out the rain safe and dry under my tarp. Life was good!

After the rain stopped, I cooked dinner, then went for a short walk along the shoreline of Bowman Lake to watch the clouds rolling by.

After sunset, I headed back to my tarp, curled up in my sleeping bag, read my Kindle and drifted off to sleep. All-in-all, a pretty good day!

It was when these clouds started coming in that I heard thunder in the mountaintops--and I was quite happy I was way down here away from the thunder (and probable rain).
Bowman Lake
Still Bowman Lake. (I followed the lake for 7 miles! I took a lot of photos during the three hours I walked alongside of it!
People were quite common along the lake. Dayhikers, backpackers and fishermen--all sorts of people along the lakeshore!


Arlene (EverReady AT2015) said...

Beautiful country. In fact breathtaking! It’s hard to tell, but can you sit under your tent tarp or are you talking about a second tarp when you say you sat under one to read?

Ryan said...

I just have the one tarp. When it rains, that's the one I get under. I can sit up under it, though, if it's placed high. =)

Karolina said...

Georgeous views!

Rose said...

When I went to Iceland I walked on the Continental Divide between North America and Europe. It looked similar to this. -Rose