Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Backpacking Eagle Creek: Day 2

I awoke to the sound of chainsaws and thought, “what are they doing running those things so early in the morning?” Oh wait, that’s Zach snoring. No offense to the guilty, but next time I’m bringing earplugs.

12 hours of sleep made a big difference, but not as big a difference as 12 hours of restful sleep would have… I’m still getting used to my closed-cell foam sleeping pad, and the fact that our tent was situated on a slight slope didn’t help either. The cool thing about my sleeping pad is that it folds up into 6” segments (kind of like a paper fan), so you can double it over to add head support, or if you need additional back support. I was also missing a pillow - a stuff sack with my coat inside just wasn’t cutting it!

Wahtum Lake in the morning.
Wahtum Lake in the morning

Breakfast improved my spirits, even though it consisted primarily of instant oatmeal. I found that I was one of the few people on our trip who was able to tolerate the stuff, but I can heartily agree with the others with the fact that instant oatmeal is not good for the world. Starbucks Via, on the other hand, is very good for the world.

Our campsite the next morning after we packed up.
Our campsite, all tidied up. "Leave no trace" as they say...

We broke down camp and were back on the trail by about 9:30am. Our destination for day 2 depended on a few factors: how far we wanted to hike on the 3rd day, and how navigable the snow conditions were at a higher-elevation junction we needed to reach.

Zach's fun-meter was fresh after 12 hours of sleep (we know he was sleeping because of the snoring...).
Fun-meters were skyrocketing!

The junction with the Pacific Crest Trail. We had a good mile of GPS navigation due to the several feet of snow that still covered the trail, but we managed to follow the

Nope, coat stays on! It was a bit chilly that morning, and the snow certainly didn't help.
The coats ended up staying on until we got through the snow.

When we reached the junction, several feet of snow blanketed the ground, completely obscuring the trail, so we had to rely on the “blazes” (double notches cut into the bark of trees at intervals along the trail), and GPS (Jonathan’s iPhone) to navigate and correct our route. Oftentimes we had to fan out and search or even retrace our steps for indications of where the trail should be. Fun times!

Consulting the map.
Consulting the map

This was taken before we reached the bulk of the snowpack.
I shot this photo before we reached the bulk of the snowpack. It got to the point where all you could see was snow and trees - no trail.

After about a mile, we again reached open trail and descended down to Mud Lake. Despite its name this little lake was quite scenic, so we dropped our packs, grabbed our snacks and enjoyed the sunshine.

Hills surrounding Mud Lake.

Mud Lake was quite pretty actually. It seems to be named for its color, not for its high mud content...
Mud Lake. It seems to get its name from its color, not because it has a high mud content (it doesn't appear to). I thought it was beautiful.

Continuing along the trail, we encountered at least 2 campsites, one of which - Noble Camp - was situated in a grove of massive cedars. It would have been a great place to set up camp but none of us wanted a 14+ mile hike on the next day, so we pressed onward until we reached Casey Creek junction. Here we found an excellent campsite and decided to call it a day. We had hiked just over 9 miles from Wahtum Lake.

We crossed innumerable small streams the second day

Getting water was much trickier this time, and involved scrambling down a very steep ravine with no obvious trail, filling up, and climbing out again. We figured that we only wanted to do this once, so we brought as many of our “receptacles” as possible, and retrieved enough water for use in camp as well as for hiking the next day (knowing that we would need to stop again the next day to fill up).

Supper was excellent. I finally managed to get my little “penny alcohol stove” running - the previous night I had to give up since it wouldn’t prime - and cooked an awesome (spicy!) meal of rice, beef, and veggies. If you’re looking for an ultralight, warm-weather, cheap stove, look no further than the famous penny alcohol stove. With only 2 soda cans, some heavy-gauge wire, some aluminum foil, and minimal tools you can make a stove that will work quite nicely (provided you figure out how to prime it). It burns denatured alcohol, found cheaply at your local department store - probably in the paint section, marketed as a paint thinner. Here are the instructions I followed.

The "penny stove" in action. There are six holes drilled around the rim of the stove cup, channelling the vaporized fuel into six distinct jets. The way it works is the fuel in the top primes the stove by boiling the fuel in the "canister," causing it to vaporize and travel through the 6 holes, at which point it ignites. Pretty nifty!

Supper! This evening it was a homemade dehydrated meal - brown rice, beef, jalepeno and bell peppers. Mmm.
One of my homemade dehydrated meals - it was actually really good!

After supper, there wasn’t a lot to do around camp besides crack jokes, stare blankly into the fire, and take photos. Not that we didn’t have fun, but it would have been great to have some stories that surpassed my retelling of the “shaggy dog” story. I don’t know… Wodehouse or something. We’ll give it some thought for next time.

We hit camp at the Casey Creek junction around 2:30 in the afternoon, so the sun was still high and there was plenty of time to lounge around before an early bedtime at 7:00.

Best fire so far!

After hiking 9+ miles, my feet need a break. That's why I bring flip-flops.
Happy feet :)

There. This picture proves I was actually there.
Yes, I was actually there!

Rather an idyllic scene, don't you think? It reminds me of those paintings of a medieval shepherd boy reclining in the shade, playing a flute, while watching his flock... :)
Rather an idyllic scene, don't you think? It reminds me of those paintings of a medieval shepherd boy reclining in the shade, playing a flute, while watching his flock... :)

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