01 October 2011

how not to relax, part LXVIII

How about a 3½-day hike to help me relax? Sounds great.. until life intervenes. First it's the weather: none of my WA Cascades hikes will be available with 1-2" of rain in the forecast. Plan B minus is a long drive to the Wallowas, an excellent place to relax and clearly the best weather. So..

Day 0 - long drive, camp just after sunset in NE Oregon. Already dark, fire danger extreme and I just have a tarp, so a rough night in the car - oh, and 12 hours of darkness, welcome to autumn!

Day 1 of hike - start hiking at 9:30, arrive just before 5PM at Douglas Lake. Trails are poorly marked and my map skills are not great - and I've already blown out a blister on my left heel. Dinner was not to my liking, so about half of it came back to the trailhead. And strangely enough the camp was fogged in most of the night, at 7400 feet!

Day 2 - given the sore foot I'm thinking a loop over Glacier Pass is a bad idea, so I'm revising the plan. Today will end after a 45-minute walk to the infamous Mirror Lake, and I will retrace my route to exit. Instead I caught myself 1/3 of the way to Glacier Pass anyway, after taking a nonexistent trail around the Left side of Moccasin. I returned to Moccasin and found neither Glacier Pass nor Mirror Lake junctions - and a new blister has formed on the right heel. I sit down at the shore, soak my ruined heels in the lake and patch the blistered areas. Now I am getting upset: I've found a half-dozen "trails" that lead to illegal horse camps but no clear hiking trails to well-known destinations?!? The trail to Mirror Lake was never found, so I limped toward lower Horseshoe Lake to cut my losses (I'm a solo hiker and had seen no other people, so conservative play is the rule). By the time I reach there I'm so angry at the situation that I no longer want to stay an extra minute in this 'horse wilderness'. At 5:45 I'm back at the car, exhausted and limping. Camp is once again in the car, at Wallowa Lake park.

Day 3 - instead of 1½ more days of hiking, I'm driving back to Anacortes where my wife awaits. That is my fourth straight day of working myself to physical and/or mental exhaustion - somehow contrary to the "relaxation" plan.

So in summary - I have a few photos that may have turned out well, thanks to the K-r, 18-55 and 55-300 - but very few memories that I wish to share or relive. The drive was far too long, even for a 3½-day hike: four day hikes with a warm bed in Anacortes would have served me far better. Other than the excellent Z55 backpack and the nice weather, little comes to mind as positives. At least I was allowed to vegetate in Anacortes with few responsibilities, so I did an extra day of nothing - that's relaxing!

As to my errors, they are quite surprising to me. It has been a very long time since I had to find moleskin in my pack, and it was a great relief to find that the first-aid kit contained some (now nearly all gone). I have had so few foot issues in the wild I cannot recall the last time with certainty - it may have been 1998 in the Wind Rivers. As to my map and routefinding issues, they too are a shock as I have done several x-c navigations in my time. My feet required a trail this time. Taking the non-mapped route to the left of Moccasin Lake can only be seen as a confusion/repetition of seeing the route go to the left of the previous (Douglas) Lake. In any case failing to find the mapped path just below Moccasin that leads to Mirror plus no path to the right of Moccasin is a real head scratcher. In either case my maps were poor: the USFS Wilderness map is too small a scale to be useful here, and my Topo! printout plots a trail right through Douglas Lake which I chose to disregard. After Horseshoe Lake I found Zero trail markers, and given the number of horse paths I feel that this lack is not reasonable. Had I only gone via the main and not Alt path through the Basin this would not have happened - but my maps failed to show the 50-foot drop between the Basin trail and Douglas Lake, which is why I retreated to the Alt trail and a campsite. Waay too many 'if only's on this trip - so I'm done with it.