Friday, February 9, 2007

Around the Seven Devils ( seconds!)


our second loop hike around the Seven Devils,

July 11,12,13, 2005


Most everything went off according to plan. We left Boise at 6:04 am
Monday morning and got to the Windy Saddle trailhead at 9:57. We
walked 12 miles along the eastern side of the Hell's Canyon Wilderness
to Horse Heaven junction. Our intent was to climb up to the Horse
Heaven Lookout and camp up there, but we were spent after the final
climb up to the junction. I cooked my specialty boiled water for
Steven's dehydrated meal (Pasta Primavera) but was so nauseated that I
couldn't eat dinner. I just drank a cup of hot water. (BTW I need to
show a picture of my new stove to you is a Go-Torch alcohol
stove and weighs just 1.25 ounces! Works great!) Being too tired to
climb to the lookout, we found a place in the trees 100 yards from the
junction and set up the tent. The next morning I climbed up the trail
to the lookout to start the day. We could have stayed in the cabin,
which looked to be a prospector's type of log cabin. There was no bed
but we could have put our mats and sleeping bags on the floor. Maybe
another time. I took some video footage and then started back down
the trail. I had gone about 200 yards when I suddenly noticed that I
had nothing in my right hand....hmmm...what was I missing?
POLAMA!!!! I left it leaning on the front porch of the cabin!!!!!!!
I turned around to go back up. It was almost like the scene in
Castaway where Tom Hanks is saying "I'm sorry Wilson!!! You're OK"

POLAMA now safely back in my possession I started down the hill
again. I cut across on a game trail on the way down to shorten the
distance. Steven had the tent down and was waiting for me. Our goal
today was Echo Lake or Hibbs Cow Camp. We got a late start so the
morning sun was quite hot. After a gradual climb of about a mile, we
turned to the north and began to descend across some very rugged
terrain. The blow-downs that we had fought our way through, over,
under, and around last year had all been cleared away by a trail
crew. We were so relieved that we didn't have to go through all that
again. The trail is hard enough without them. It was a very warm
day. I struggled a lot with the uphill sections. However, the views
of Hell's Canyon and of the Seven Devils were spectacular. I sure
hope that the video turned out well. What it took us three days to
accomplish, I hope to (with the help of Storm Shelter Productions) be
able to allow each of you to experience a hike around the Seven Devils
through our eyes. That way you, too, can travel "Around the Seven
Devils seconds!"

Somehow we missed the turn to Echo Lake. I remember seeing it last
year, but we were coming from the opposite direction. We didn't
discover how far we had gone until we came to a trail junction that
said Hibbs Cow Camp. That was actually good news to us because we had
made it further than we thought. There was still a lot of daylight so
we pushed on. Soon we found another water source, so we tanked up
again and refilled our bottles. After another hour or so of marching,
we stopped at a rock out-cropping to cook our dinners. I was finally
hungry enough to feel like eating. We both had Beef Stroganoff, and
it was wonderful to feel the hot food going down my throat and warming
my stomach. The nausea is an effect of altitude on me that I just
have to accept if I want to keep doing this. While we were sitting on
the rock I kept studying the terrain and feeling as though something
were not right. We should be traveling across a flat ridge, and yet
we were continuing to climb. To the east was a stunning panorama of
mountains that I didn't remember seeing last year. We never got this
good of a view of the Seven Devils last year. Also there was a long,
flat ridge spread out before us down in the valley. After dinner, we
moved on, intending to make camp soon. We continued to climb and I
kept thinking, I don't remember this part. We realized we were out of
position when we looked down to our right and saw a lake. After
studying the map I believed that it was Bernard Lake and that we had
missed our turn to Iron Phone Junction. It was getting to be dusky on
our side of the mountain ridge and the skeeters were getting very
thick. At about that same time, Steven's pack broke a strap at the
bottom. Our exhaustion, the coming darkness, our wrong position, and
his misfortune all hit us at the same time. We were both very
discouraged. It was the low point of the hike. We turned around and
headed back down the trail, rather than continue going toward Bernard
Lake. We selected a less-than-ideal patch of ground to set up the
tent. After "landscaping" it with our feet, we pitched the tent in
like, two minutes, then placed all our stuff at the door. I told
Steven, we gotta move fast if we don't want all these mosquitoes in
there with us. They were absolutely swarming us in droves. I
said, "Ready? Go!" We zipped open the door, Steven threw his entire
pack inside, I threw my pack and my extras inside, Steven dove
headfirst into the tent, then I dove in, and he zipped the door shut
as soon as my boots cleared. Outside, we could see the mosquitoes
hovering around the mesh netting like several squadrons of Apache
helicopters. They wanted our blood. We were safe inside. I had to
make one very brief trip out to hang the food bag in a tree.

At first I didn't think I would sleep at all. The ground was very
rocky. My air mat helped but I couldn't get my body situated
comfortably. Finally, after we both took a Benadryl, sleep took hold
and we passed a fairly comfortable night. Things looked much better
the next morning. I studied the view out the mesh part of the door
and studied the map. I was convinced that we had missed the fork in
the trail and had taken the left trail that led to Bernard Lake. The
flat ridge I was seeing below us was where we were supposed to be.
And I had an undeniable reference point miles across the valley,
Heaven's Gate Lookout. That point is only 2 miles from Windy Saddle,
so I knew we were supposed to head in that direction. We had strayed
to the northwest. We COULD have gone to Bernard Lake and taken the
loop trail back to Iron Phone, but that would have been twice as long
as simply back-tracking and finding the correct trail. I shared all
of this with Steven when he woke up and that's what we decided to do.

With everything packed up, we found the fork about a half mile down
the trail. I studied the three-way intersection for a few moments,
realizing what I had done the previous evening. I walked by with my
head down and we didn't see the sign way off to the right leading us
to Iron Phone. Case solved. It was a relief to be back on the
correct path again. Steven and I had a discussion (mostly I had a
discussion with Steven) about how this was a good life lesson about
losing the path, then finding it again. Our exhaustion had fueled our
anxiety and made us feel "lost." Everything looked much better after
a good night's sleep and a bright new sunny day. We cruised along the
ridge to Iron Phone Junction. We were now at the high point of my
hike in the blizzard with Glen Liberty from 2 years ago. We descended
a rugged ridge down into the forest, and stopped at the next water
source to cook breakfast. We split the last remaining dehydrated meal
for breakfast (Chicken ala King with noodles). Good stuff. Ahead of
us was a 1000 foot climb up the other side of the valley. It took me
an hour to climb it, doing my turtle shuffle. After that it was
another 3 miles through the forest, a long traverse beneath some
cliffs, and then another hard climb up to the Windy Saddle trailhead.
We made it back to the car at about 3 pm. The ice cold colas and
Gatorade in the trunk were very welcome refreshments, and we knew that
big greasy hamburgers were waiting for us at This Old House down in
the town of Riggins below.

The Lord of the Rings, Napoleon Dynamite, and Star Wars move quotes were
flowing freely between us throughout the entire trip. Right at the end, I told
Steven, "You do not know do not know will
taste COW FLESH!!!!!" He raised his Polama Jr. and made the
appropriate ravenous Uruk Hai noises....



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