I hope this works….

If you don't experiment, you don't learn.

Adventures in the Wilderness: Part -the third

Back at the Historic buildings, Comedy Girl is having problems with her pack. She sees us leave, but doesn’t realize we weren’t heading down the trail, but off to look at the collapsed building, so when she gets her pack together, she starts off, thinking we are ahead of her and we will stop and wait for her. When we turn around and don’t see her, we think she is the one that is ahead of us and will stop and wait for us.

You must realize that we are in the valley created by Lost Creek. Lost Creek got it’s name because it disappears under lots and lots of boulders that have fallen off the mountains above it. These boulders are HUGE and are everywhere, piled up on top of each other. Some of them must be 50-60 ft tall. Where we were, you rarely have a long view of something, because a boulder is in the way. The other thing is that creeks are noisy. We were yelling, but not hearing each other, so we missed each other. We just didn’t yell soon enough, while we were close to each other.

So Comedy Girl keeps on following this trail, that while rough, did not peter out. She follows it for about an hour. She doesn’t have a good distance sense, we only needed to go about 15-20 minutes to go the quarter mile. And this is the strange part. We never found another trail, but she did. She even found a really cool campsite, complete with fire ring on this trail. She had quite the adventure, and ended up at this campsite and wisely decided to stay there. She had everything she needed, except a water filter. (I thought she had one, but it was still in the car…I had missed giving it to her when we left) She knows I have the personal beacon and figures I would use it if anything happened.

She sets up camp, hangs her hammock, makes a signal fire…does everything right, even hanging her food in a bear hang. (Unlike me, who can’t eat dinner, but goes to bed with a bag of trail mix in case I get hungry in the night….I didn’t, so put the bag in the little gear hammock that hangs under my sleeping hammock. The mice chewed through the gear hammock and the trail mix bag and ate a half quart bag of the mix, leaving only the coconut. Yes, they can smell through plastic.)

At around midnight, she decides to go to bed, putting the fire out. The moon isn’t up yet, so she can’t see the hammock in the trees and has to use her bic lighter to find the hammock….:) She had a huge 15 inch machete knife-like blade and sets it next to her shoes. She is ready for anything.

personal opinion time: I try to be a lightweight packer, Everything I bring is as light as possible. Comedy Girl brings things I think are crazy…a down pillow, a solar shower…that huge blade…. but you know? She had everything she needed and used everything she brought. I will never bug her again. After all, she is the one that carries it, not me…. end personal opinion time.

She is in her hammock and hears shouting. It is far away and getting further, so she doesn’t try to answer. After a bit, she hears the shouting again, this time closer, so she yells back. At one in the morning they find her.

They are yelling my name so she knows I must have set off the beacon and so pretends to be me until she can explain the situation. They admire her set up and comment on the knife. They ask if she wants to hike back with them and after thinking it over, she agrees, so they help her strike camp and head out into the moonlit night. One of the guys has a GPS and says they need to be 850 higher up the mountainside. So they climb straight up…in the middle of the night…almost a thousand feet. They compliment Comedy Girl on her cardiovascular strength. They reach the main trail and head back to the car.

Two hours later, another team finds me and SpiderWeb and the beacon. We decide to hike out the next morning as it is a lot safer to walk when you can see. When we reach the trailhead, we find the car and her gear, but Comedy Girl is nowhere to be seen. Not again! We shout and she answers this time…She is up on the hill picking up trash. She comes back down with a bag full of broken glass, beer cans, and a mylar balloon. Yes, Comedy Girl has class.

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Wilderness Adventure: Part the second

My husband says I should subtitle this, “Ropes, ropes and more ropes.”

We get to the historical site around 3 and explore a bit, then decide to see the pump house where they tried to block the creek. It is only a quarter of a mile away.. There are lots of camping sites along the way, so we decide to look for one to camp at.

The youngest member of our group (whose trail name is now Spider Web) calls me over to look at a collapsed building on the other side of the creek and when we turn around, Comedy Girl is nowhere to be seen. We figure she will wait for us as we have been waiting for each other all along the hike, so set off down the trail. About 5 minutes later we haven’t caught up with her, so think maybe we missed her and stash the packs and head back to the buildings. Nope, she isn’t there, so we turn around and start back down the trail, thinking that we will see her soon. Nope. We find a place to camp, drop the backpacks and I think I will continue to hike down the trail, maybe we will see her. the trail peters out about 15 minutes later, so I turn around and talk to Spider Web and we go back to the buildings and head off on another trail that goes in the opposite direction of the first trail we were on, but there are spiderwebs on the trail so we figure she hadn’t gone that way and turn around again.

We meet a group of hikers coming in and ask if they had seen anyone, no they hadn’t, so we explain what is going on and bless their hearts, they offer to help. After they set up camp, (One guy has a hammock!) they join our search party. They jog! down the trail that had the spiderwebs across it, saying that is the trail to the pump house and we were the ones that had gone the wrong way. They are shouting her name every turn and bend and they get to the pump house and Comedy Girl isn’t there. They are troopers and follow the trail a little more until it ends in a beautiful campsite and a jumble of HUGE boulders. We head back. By now it is 3 hours since we have seen Comedy Girl and we are starting to get worried. The guys ask how far we had gone down the trail we thought she was on and said that it did kinda just wear itself out, so there was no need to check it again. I start to pray. I set up my hammock, hoping that she will appear as quickly as she had disappeared. Nope.

I have in my backpack a device that is called a Personal Beacon Locator. About three months ago, a hiking friend said I should have one with me at all times in the wilds. It was quite expensive, but well recommended, so I bought it. I had to register it and get a code. When activated it sends out a signal that within 5 minutes will contact a satellite which will forward the signal to a place in Florida and they will send out a local Search and Rescue Team. it needs a clear place to send the signal, so at 6:30, I climb a nearby high hill and activate the signal. And then I wait. and wait.. there is no way to tell if the signal got through, it just flashes a strobe light every few seconds. About 2 hours later, it was getting dark, so I head back to camp. I expected helicopters to come roaring up the valley, I expected guys to parachute in….nothing, there was no way to tell if it was working, except that strobe light.

SpiderWeb had done a good job of setting up camp. She tried to get me to eat something, but I wasn’t interested. I didn’t want to go to sleep, so I puttered around and prayed using Psalm 139. “Lo though I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall thy right hand guard me and even the night shall be light around thee.” That isn’t the correct quote, but it was what I remembered. I also remembered Daniel and the Lions Den, knowing that Comedy Girl would be safe from wild animals.

Around 10, I pack it in, only to think a few minutes later that I should hike out and get help as the beacon didn’t seem to be working. What I didn’t know at the time, was that help was on it’s way. The Alpine Search and Rescue team from Evergreen! had been contacted around 9 and had to drive 2 hours to get to the Wilderness Area before they started up the trail and surrounding areas in three groups. My husband had been contacted around 8 and he verified all the info. My other emergency contact was a Christian Science Practitioner who started praying immediately, even tho she didn’t know what the problem was. No-one knew the problem, they just knew that a beacon registered to me had been set off.

Strangely enough, I got this very strong urge to stay put, so I did. I was worried, but I wasn’t freaking out. I wondered if I should be more worried, but I knew she had her pack with her that had everything she needed. The biggest thing was the part that we just didn’t know what had happened to her. Did she fall? Was she hurt? We had called and called, but no answer, but we were also next to a very noisy creek. So I kept on praying.

Before we left I made a clear tarp out of heat-shrink window wrap, because I wanted to see the Perseid Meteor shower. When I finally was in my hammock, I laid back and was amazed at what I saw. The sky was clear and very bright; it was a full moon, so I didn’t see any stars, but it was so beautiful, I just relaxed a bit. I didn’t get much sleep at all, but I must have fallen asleep at some point, because I was woken up by someone shouting my name. It was 3 in the morning and the SAR team was there! They told me that Comedy Girl had been found about 2 hours ago, she was unharmed and the team that found her was walking her out. I gave my car keys to the guys that found me so she could get into the car. I hugged one guy and was crying a bit. They are all volunteers and do this because they want to help others! They left and I was finally able to sleep. We hiked out the next morning in record time (for us) and we finally got to hear her side of the story. You will too in Part the third…

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Travels of a Tripmuch, part 2

I love the Lost Creek Wilderness Area.  It is an anomaly in the Rockies.  Instead of high ridges and upthrust mountains, it is almost pastoral.  Almost.  The mountains in the area are mostly rounded off and have these strange and wonderful rock formations all over the place.  A novel (“Black Mountain” by Robert Leisure) describes the area better than I can.

“Jim, I took only a quart of whiskey to help out my breakfast coffee, but I saw whales, teakettles, cowled monks, ships and sheep, frogs, dragons, Indians, colonial squires, kings, clowns, and goblins. It seemed like a city in the sky, its ornaments both noble and grotesque, a strange, secret place where silence in those tortuous corridors and rubbled granite avenues is broken only by the monotone of a crazy river.  I call the river “crazy” because it seems to hate the sunlight.  It forms 9 separate box canyons and flows as often under the ground as above.”

Yep.  That is what it is like.  Only better.

We were only a couple of miles into the place and already had seen two formations we wanted to explore.  The next day, we decided to cross the creek and find our way up the mountainside.  Bear Boy decided to stay in camp and make up for lost sleep (darn rock), while we wandered. After crossing the creek, we followed the trail beside it for a ways, then struck off uphill. I am glad to have observant friends.  They saw the little cairns of rocks leading the way long before I did.  The ‘trail’ went straight up the mountain, and I do mean straight up.  No switchbacks, nothing, just up and up and up, scrambling over boulders and shimmying under fallen trees.

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A break on the way up to the rock formations, Harmony Arch and Finger Rock.

As we progressed up the mountain, we could see the bare granite that these formations were sitting on to our right.  I was wondering how we would get to them. It turned out the track led us up and above the formations.  We came out of the trees and wondered across the lichen-streaked granite looking for them.

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We had to go up some more before we could go down.  It was an amazing place.  Water had carved shallow channels in the granite and green and grey lichen covered everything.  Trees grew in stunted forms in cracks where dirt had accumulated and boulders just sat there and made the water go around them.

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We did make it to the formations.  We stopped and ate a bit and yelled to see if there were echoes and we could see our campsite along the creek far below us. I found out after that we had hiked almost a thousand feet straight up. It took us about 4 or 5 hours total, up and back down.  We are not power hikers…..lol

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This is the largest Arch in Colorado.

This is the largest Arch in Colorado.

Back down again, sliding, slipping and testing footing we made it.  What a lovely experience.  We saw some hummingbirds, and picked some wild rose hips to dry for later.  Made for some lovely tea this last winter.  Brought back good memories.

I want to go again.  There is a trail that goes all the way around the outside edge of  the wilderness area and it supposedly takes 4 days to do it if you are not in too big of a hurry.  That is my goal this summer. Hopefully we can all get the same days off work and go for it!

 

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Travels of a Tripmuch….part one

Don’t ask how I got that nickname.

Last September, a week before the floods that devastated part of Colorado, I went back-packing with three other friends. The main purpose of the hike was to test the Hammock out in a real-life situation, rather than the back-yard simulations I had been engaging in.  We went to the Lost Creek Wilderness Area and started on the Goose Creek trail. I should let you know that I hadn’t been seriously back-packing for at least 10 years.

My equipment consisted of an ancient, external-frame backpack (Alpinelight) that was bought in the 70’s, a brand-new Jetboil cookstove, an old Polarguard 3D Sierra Designs sleeping bag, the ENO doublenest hammock and a Profly tarp that I wanted to test out, and clothes and food.  Food that I had dehydrated myself and was yummy. (That is another post) (If you are interested). The pack weighed 30ish pounds.  I weigh 120. It was heavy. I also had a new pair of trekking poles that I had bought in the kids section because they were cheaper….Kids have trekking poles nowadays?  Who knew.

One companion does Wilderness Therapy stuff with troubled teens in the Rockies. She had all her gear with her in a beat-up backpack that must have weighed 40 or 50 pounds. It sounded extremely heavy when she dumped it on the ground.  She wore sandals…..Sandals!!!!!  Whatever happened to good, strong, tough hiking boots?

One companion was loaded for bear.  Seriously.  He had the bear can (for food), the bear spray, the holster for the bear spray and a gun. He had on sensible hiking boots and his gear probably weighed in at 50-60 pounds, even after he left his tent at the car because everyone decided to sleep under a tarp that Wilderness Girl had. He had a camera that he forgot to use for the most part, but he did take a vid of us putting up the Bear hang…..lol.  What a bunch of fashionista’s we were.

The last companion is an artist, a comedian, rides her bicycle everywhere, and like me, hadn’t been back-packing in decades.  She had a conglomeration of borrowed stuff that actually was pretty efficient and lightweight.  It just looked awkward and unwieldy. She was also the only one that remembered to bring and actually use her camera.

Got to the trailhead after only getting lost once (thanks Ms. Construction Lady for the correct directions). We started hiking.  The first part of the hike was/is through the burnt remains of the Hayman Fire.  New growth aplenty, just not a lot of trees tall enough to shade the trail, so it was hot going at first. We stopped for lunch (vacuum-packed salmon mixed with shelf-stable mayo spread over a tortilla and sprinkled with dried fruit and nuts and rolled up.) at the creek and then continued on, following the creek until we found this really nice camping spot between the trail and the creek.  We set up camp.

Through the Hayman Fire burn area.

Through the Hayman Fire burn area.

My hammock and tarp were slung nicely between two old pines and over some wild roses and juniper-like prickly bushes.  The others cleared out an area of pine cones and rocks and threw down a ground cloth and put up the tarp.  Everything was nicely hidden from the trail.  Bear Boy stayed at camp, while the three ladies explored the area some more. Dinner was cooked and enjoyed, multitudes of stars came out, we stayed up late talking. Aaaaaaah.

 

Over the rose-bushes and under the pines...

Over the rose-bushes and under the pines…

Goose Creek before it turns into Lost Creek.

Goose Creek before it turns into Lost Creek.

The next morning after brekkies, the ground dwellers wanted to try the hammock.  Even tho they had removed any rock they found, there was still one under Bear Boy. Comedy Girl’s self-inflating air mattress hadn’t self-inflated, so she spent the night rather cold and was grateful for Bear Boy’s warmth next to her.  I was proud to show off my hammock.  (They all have hammocks now….).

Anyway, that is part the first.  Join us again for the rest of the trip as we climb straight up the mountain to some cool rock formations named “Harmony Arch” and “The Finger”…..

 

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