Sunday, October 11, 2009

tarp shelter

here is another lightweight shelter that can be set up,
using an 8 ft. x 10 ft. tarp with six stakes and a trekking pole.

this would make a very quick and easy shelter, and not much weight
in the pack.

for bugs and rain, you would need to add another piece of fabric
with some mosquito netting sewn on.

Wild Oasis

Six Moon Designs "Wild Oasis" tarptent, shown with fly open

Friday, October 9, 2009

various shelters

this is the silnylon shelter I am currently using
Six Moon Designs "Wild Oasis" seen at Kirkwood Ranch campground in Hell's Canyon

Brawny Tarptent

correction: it is the REI Roadster tent that I used, not the Coupe (that is the two person version of the Roadster).

Thursday, October 8, 2009

the Wake Up Call (part 7)

ah, tents.....I can never have enough TENTS. During a recent garage clean-out session, I made a big pile of all our tents. Most of them are car camping sized tents. I have used many different types of shelters in my backpacking adventures. I have used small 7x7 ft dome tents. I have used a polyethylene green tarp. Once in the Seven Devils mountains I experimented with an orange poly emergency tube tent (it was lightweight, but slept very cold with the wind blowing through both ends!). I also have spent a couple of nights sleeping without a shelter with just a small 5x7 ft. tarp beneath me for a groundcloth. For a couple of years I had good results with the REI Coupe, which is a double wall tent that weighs 2 pounds (+ a few ounces). Although the REI tent was a bit small for my size (I am 6 ft. 3 in.) I felt very comfortable inside it. It was/is a good ventilating double wall tent with some vestibule space outside. My most successful lightweight shelters have been silnylon tarptents. My first one was a Brawny Tarptent. It weighs about 1 pound. The tarptent I have been using for the last two hiking seasons is a tarptent called Wild Oasis, made by Six Moon Designs. It is based on the successful Gatewood Cape design, with the addition of mosquito netting sewn along the bottom perimeter and with a zipper added for access. It does not have a floor. I lay out my 5x7 tarp as my groundcloth, then tuck the edges of the mosquito netting beneath the tarp to keep the bugs out. I have been very pleased with this shelter system. I have been through three good rains inside this tent and I have stayed dry. My biggest challenge, as with all single wall silnylon shelters, has been condensation on the INSIDE. The answer to the condensation problem has been to keep the bottom edges raised a few inches to allow ventilation. This shelter has a ton of room underneath, and for 13 ounces it saves on weight in the backpack. I will try to post some pictures of the various shelters I have mentioned above.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Thursday, September 10, 2009

the Wake Up Call (part 6)

The sleeping quilt keeps a person warm on the top, but what keeps him/her warm on the bottom? The answer is an insulated sleeping mat. A closed cell foam mat can be used, such as Z-rest or Ridge Rest, or an inflatable air mattress with insulation. Here is another area where I gained significant weight savings in my pack weight. I used to carry a twin-sized inflatable blow up mattress which weighed about 6 pounds. Now I carry an REI 48"x20" inflatable insulated mat which weighs about 1 pound. Various sizes and shape configurations are available. The closed cell foam mats tend to be bulkier in size but very light to carry. Next time I will discuss the process of reducing my tent weight.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

the Wake Up Call (part 5)

The sleeping bag, or sleeping *system* as it is sometimes called, is another part of the Big Three. The sleeping bags I carried before were always bulky and had 4 or 5 pounds of loft. I also carried an inflatable camp mattress that weighed 6 or 7 pounds. HEAVY. BULKY. did I mention it was HEAVY? In the Beyond Backpacking book, Jardine describes an ultralight sleeping "quilt." It is not a quilt in the sense that your grandmother made for a bedspread. Using the new ultralight synthetic insulations available today, Jardine describes how they constructed a two person *quilt* by laying the insulation between two sheets of 1.1 ounce un-coated nylon material. It has to be UNCOATED so it will breathe. With the two sheets sewn together, a loop of knitting yarn is threaded through at 12 inch to 18 inch intervals, to hold the insulation in place. It was easy to make one for myself, after I ordered some specialty insulation and fabric. I didn't need the two person model, so I guess-timated about 84" by 60" wide. My wife sewed the perimeter of the two sheets together, after we had them sandwiched over the double sheets of insulation. Then, as shown in the diagram in the book, we laid a ruler over each location to be sewn. The loop of yarn went through the layers, out the bottom, back around the bottom, back up through the layers, then was tied off on the top layer. This helps to hold the insulation in place. The first few times I attempted to use this quilt on a trip, I had to also use a fleece sleeping bag to supplement. I didn't realize that the quilt had to be CLOSED at the foot end in order to keep the feet warm! I think it says that somewhere in the book, but I must have missed it! It wasn't too hard for my wife to retro-fit the quilt with a footbox. We simply folded two corners in towards the center, then used an extra piece of fabric to sew them together. The result is a MUCH warmer and highly useable piece of gear for about a pound. This quilt has now served me for many backcountry nights over several seasons, and is still going strong.

Friday, August 14, 2009

the Wake Up Call (part 4) now I'm an ultralight hiker, I have this new ultralight backpack that only weighs 14 ounces, I've got it made! Right? Well, umm....not exactly. The pack fit great, since my wife pinned the straps in place before sewing. It is a custom fit for me. Loaded with 25 to 30 pounds of gear, it feels comfortable on my back, although after several miles my shoulders would start ache-ing. Therein lies the main consideration, something that I had to learn by hard experience. When you switch to an ultralight pack, most of the other gear items also have to switch to ultralight as well. I was using my ultralight backpack to carry most of my old items, most of which were heavy and bulky. The ultralight pack should be loaded with no more than 15 to 20 pounds to carry comfortably on your back. I was still loading up with 30 to 35 pounds, sometimes even 40 pounds. With only two straps and no hipbelt, this placed a very heavy load on the shoulders. Not only that, but I also experienced two failures of a strap, on separate hikes, and a complete rip of the backpanel from the main body of the pack on another hike. It really sucks to carry all your gear 7 miles back to the trailhead, loaded in a garbage bag that you carry out in front with your arms! It was a painful learning process, and subjected that backpack to an enormous amount of abuse that it was not designed for. Each time I have torn it up, my loving wife has patiently sewn it back together. But the failures taught me the hard lesson, that all my other gear has to change with the pack in order for the ultralight system to work as it should. Now the stage is set to talk about the next items in the Big Three triad of backpack, sleeping bag, and tent. In the next installment, I will discuss the creation of an ultralight sleeping *quilt* with specialty synthetic insulation, that weighs about 1 pound.

Monday, August 3, 2009

the Wake Up Call (part 3)

Silnylon lightweight backpack made by my wife.

This was the first piece of ultralight gear that we made.

This was a learning process, not only in making the pack, but in purchasing the specialty fabrics needed to make it with. These fabrics are typically not carried by craft stores like JoAnn Fabrics. We found this out by stumping several employees with our inquiries. We did find several online retailers. We selected Seattle Fabrics. I bought 2 yards of maroon 1.3 ounce silnylon fabric, and 1 yard of 330 denier coated nylon in navy blue for the side of the pack that goes against the back, and for the bottom of the pack that touches the ground. The mesh fabric for the 3 pockets also came from the specialty fabrics. For the padding in the straps, we found a thick spongy green 3/4" foam at JoAnn Fabrics.

Using the pattern from the "Beyond Backpacking" book, I cut out the pieces for the sides, front, back, straps, pockets, and top extension cover. I didn't have a real sewing pattern to work from, I just used the dimensions suggested in the book and eye-balled it. The pack roughly measures 24 inches height x 12 inches width x 9 inches depth, with a 12 inch tall extension collar at the top. My wife, an experienced sewer, shook her head at my rough cuttings but was able to make it work. I had made 1/2" allowances at the edges for sewing the seams. But I did not cut the extension collar piece correctly. She made it work by adding an additional piece of the silnylon fabric. I also screwed up with the mesh pockets. She said it would have been better for her to sew the pockets on the side pieces and the front piece first, THEN sew the big pieces together to form the pack. My other rather glaring error we found out after the pack was sewn together. I had her put the coated side of the fabric, which is supposed to face the internal side, on the OUTSIDE! Oops...

Pictures of the finished product can be seen above. It turned out very nice, thanks to my wife's expert skills, and despite my errors with rulers, scissors, and getting the fabric wrong side out!

More on the loading and carrying of the backpack in the next posting.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

the Wake Up Call (part 2)

Some time after this hiking incident, I came by chance across the phrase "ultralight backpacking." I do not remember what the link was, but I do know it was life changing with respect to reducing the weight of my backpack and increasing my mileage. I am not going to present myself as an EXPERT in ultralight backpacking, since there are many equipment companies now specializing in ultralight backpacking gear, and many books, articles, and forums with information on the topic. I do, however, want to emphasize the contributions of a man named Ray Jardine. His book, "Beyond Backpacking," has probably done more than any single source to influence my thinking and practice in ultralight backpacking. The book is now out-of-print, but has recently been updated, upgraded, and re-released as "Trail Life."
Jardine's system of home made gear, presents a departure from the heavy gear of traditional backpacking. He advocates increasing mileage while decreasing the load one is carrying. (End of commercial).

As I read and learned more about the ultralight philosophy, I began to see how I could incorporate ideas into my own collection of hiking gear. The easiest changes to make with the greatest weight reduction were to be found in what is called "The Big Three" : backpack, sleeping bag, and shelter.

The first piece of gear I changed was the backpack, and it is the backpack that I want to make the topic of my next post.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

the Wake Up Call (part 1)

the summer before I turned 40, I went on a hike in the Sawtooth Mountains with my son Daniel, who was 14 at the time. It was 10 miles from the trailhead at Stanley Lake to Alpine Lake, our destination. I was carrying a large external frame backpack loaded down with 50 pounds of gear. Over the course of two days I struggled up to the lake and then back down again. I couldn't believe how much I struggled with the hike. Had I gotten that old so soon? I felt crushed beneath the weight of the pack. I began to wonder if my time for backpacking was over. I can't carry a full backpack in comfort the distance that I need to go. Although we completed the hike, it was discouraging to me to struggle that much.

I am several years down the road from that experience, and now I have 800 + more miles and 70 percent of the Idaho Centennial Trail under my belt. How did I get from there-and-then to the here-and-now? I would like to describe the process by which I reduced my pack weight and increased my comfort level AND mileage. The process of becoming an *ultralight* hiker has made possible my quest to hike the Idaho Centennial Trail.

stay tuned....

Monday, July 13, 2009

Clark Fork


Tuesday July 7th 2009 we completed an 18+ mile section of ICT between Trestle Creek Road and East Spring Creek Road.

The view of the picture above is looking at the town of Clark Fork. Although it looks fairly close, we still have another 8 miles of ridges and a 3,500 feet elevation drop down 28 switchbacks to finish. Then it is another 4 miles into Clark Fork.

With the completion of this section and another section of the Stateline Trail, I have now finished the ICT sections in the panhandle from Priest Lake to Interstate 90


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Walk longer, sleep less

Walk longer, sleep less
a hiking adventure in Hell's Canyon
Granite Creek to Pittsburgh Landing
April 04-06, 2008

The title for this chapter is an adaptation of a line from the Disney movie "Iron Will." In the movie, the character Will Stoneman enters a 500 mile dogsled race. He is trained for the race by the character Ned, a farm hand who happens to be Native American. Ned knows that his young friend will be facing a field of toughened and experienced dogsled racers, as well as brutal winter weather. One of the lessons that Ned teaches Will is "Run longer, sleep less." As the story plays out, Will wins the race by following this wisdom.
Going into this hike, I knew that there would probably be a lot of elite hikers, and probably some trail runners as well. I also knew from past experience that I am usually the slowest person in any given group of hikers. I resolved in advance that I was going to "Walk longer, sleep less" in order to complete the 25 mile hike. At the time I didn't realize just how poignant and relevant this expression was going to become for me.
The following *advertisement* appeared on the Idaho Outdoors Yahoo email group, announcing an upcoming hiking trip in Hell's Canyon:
Carrie Gemmill wrote:
We have a friend with a jet boat who is willing to take approximately 10 people 25 miles upriver on the Snake River from Pittsburg Landing. We will hike about 25 miles back to Pittsburg Land that day. If you are looking for a shorter hike, you can get dropped off at other locations along the river. The trail is a well marked trail along the Snake River with a few steep sections, but mostly level or rolling hills. We did this last year and really enjoyed it. The cost should be about $50 a person for gas if we can fill the boat up. We are going to drive up on Friday, April 4 and spend the weekend camping at Pittsburg Landing. We will get up early on Saturday morning for the hour jet boat trip up the river. We will be back to camp before dark late on Saturday afternoon. Please email me direcly if you are interested in joining us. ---Carrie
On Friday April 4th, I drove north from Boise on highway 55 to McCall, then continued north on highway 95 from New Meadows. Just before reaching the town of White Bird, I turned off on Deer Creek Road (Road 493). This is the road to Pittsburgh Landing recreation area in Hell's Canyon. As I began to drive the gravel road, rain began to fall. By the time I reached Cow Creek Saddle at over 4,000 feet elevation, it was snowing large, fat, wet flakes of snow. It continued snowing as I descended the switchbacks on the western side of the saddle, then went back to rain as I dropped below the 4,000 foot mark. I could see the road descending for miles ahead towards a great big canyon wall which looked a lot like Hell's Canyon. I arrived at the Pittsburgh Landing campground, and looked for a large group of people camping next to a large jetboat. Steve and Jeff Ostrom and their family members had occupied the first campsite inside the gate. I selected a campsite across the road from them, and struggled with getting my tent, rainfly, and extra tarp set up in the wind and blowing rain. Ironically, once I got the tent set up, the wind died down and the rain quit. Figures! I heated my dinner and made a large cup of instant coffee. After eating my dinner, I took a folding chair and my coffee and went to sit by the fire at my neighbors' campsite. In this way I got a little acquainted with some of the folks with whom I would be hiking the next day. Most of them were experienced long distance walkers, and some were planning on running the last 10 miles of the trail. I knew that it would be a test for me, but I was excited about the challenge. My sleep was less that night, thanks to some inconsiderate campers next to me who stayed up laughing and talking around their campfire until the wee hours of the morning.
Saturday, April 5th
Eight a.m. was the appointed gathering time in the morning for the group to assemble. There were about a dozen people and three dogs who would be leaving on the boat, with a couple of people remaining behind in camp. Carrie with her recently broken leg was one of these. It was probably 08:30 by the time they told us to start walking down the road towards the boat ramp. The F350 truck pulling the enormous jet boat circled the campground and came down the road toward where we were waiting, then swung around into position to back down the ramp. It took several minutes to maneuver the large craft down to the water. Captain Steve oversaw the backing process from the stern of the boat while Doug backed the rig downhill. Life jackets were distributed and each person donned one. Once the boat was afloat, the group assembled on a large dock 100 yards south along the river bank and Steve nosed the boat in to the dock. After we had all climbed aboard, we started off to the south on our great river journey. Or at least, so we thought. Steve throttled up the dual 6.0 liter Chevy engines and they roared to life, propelling the boat with great speed against the strong river current of the Snake.
The first order of business on the river was to travel one mile upriver to the official trailhead to pick up some more passengers. Before we got a half mile up the river, I overheard Captain Steve voicing a concern about a temperature gauge on one of the engines. As we approached the river banks near the trailhead, I could see three people waiting for us to pick them up. One of them happened to be my friend Nick Abshire, with whom I have hiked quite a few times and about 100 miles. The other two people were Andy and Julie Rad. Captain Steve maneuvered the boat carefully near the bank and we took the threesome aboard. Then Steve announced to everyone on board that we had to return to Pittsburgh Landing so that he could figure out what was wrong with the engine. Since we were getting a later start than I had anticipated, I inwardly groaned at this news, but the Captain is the Captain, so back we went. They unloaded all of us at the boat dock.
Then Steve maneuvered the boat back onto the trailer, and the F350 pulled the boat and trailer out of the water up the ramp. Steve crawled under the stern of the boat and started investigating. After about 15 minutes, Ben came walking back over to the docks where most of us were milling around. He showed us a small rock, about the size of a walnut. Two such rocks had been found in the water intake for the right engine. Just the two small rocks wedged into the intake louvers had been enough to cause the engine to overheat. With the problem fixed, the boat was lowered back into the water, and within a few minutes we were all back on board ready for re-departure.
The ride upriver through the canyon was very enjoyable. Steve handled his watercraft like a seasoned river runner, expertly picking his way through rapids and around large boat eating boulders in mid stream. The ride was very rough and bouncy in places as the powerful engines propelled us through the wild rapids. I overheard Captain Steve commenting that "this boat is like a Cadillac compared to the old boat." I also heard him saying that, in the calm stretches of water, the boat was reaching 50 mph, even with 15 people on board!
From inside the enclosed cabin, we were able to preview the day's hiking in reverse, from the water level looking up. We passed by Kirkwood Ranch, Suicide Point, Johnson Bar, and Bernard Rapids. After about an hour's travel up the river, Captain Steve began saying that he was looking for a certain mountain which was a landmark for him to know that we were close to Granite Creek. Around another bend in the river, a snow-capped mountain appeared in the distance to the south. Steve pronounced this mountain to be his desired landmark. We were not quite all the way to Granite Creek, but we could see rapids further up the river which corresponded with the approximate location on the map of the creek outlet. I would guess based upon what I remember and looking at the topo maps that we were about three-quarters of a mile from the creek outlet. We pulled in to the bank on the Idaho side and prepared to disembark. I looked at my little clock, which read 11:00 am Boise time. We were getting a much later start than I had hoped for. Steve asked us if we were all *really* sure that we wanted to walk all the way back to Pittsburgh Landing. I answered in the affirmative along with everyone else. Walk longer, sleep less. I tried not to think about the extreme distance, just the adventure ahead of me and putting one foot in front of the other.
The *river bank* at this particular point consisted of lots of irregular shaped boulders lying jumbled at the bottom of a steep slope. The group assembled here, then began to climb the steep bank to reach the trail above us. We had to ascend the sometimes slippery slope at least 150 to 200 vertical feet before we actually could set foot on the trail. I was already huffing and puffing before I reached the trail. We looked below to see the few people still left in the boat pulling away from the bank and setting off down the river. Some of the group members were carrying FRS radios in order to stay in touch with the boat.
Hence began the great journey through Hell's Canyon. Most of the group set off ahead of me, with a few folks behind. It wasn't long before I stepped aside to allow Paul and a couple of others to pass by me. I was trying to settle into my pace and didn't want to try to win the race in the first half hour. For the first mile and a half, the group played a sort of leapfrog game, with some folks stopping to peel off outer layers as they warmed up. I got ahead of some of the faster members, then had to pull right over again and allow them around me. After we had gone a little over a mile, the trail lost all the elevation that we had fought so hard to win when we scrambled up the hill from the boat. The trail came down to a water drainage or creek of some size. The depression was filled in with a lot of small trees and tangled undergrowth. I stopped at the edge, looking around for the trail which seemed to vanish. Great, I thought this was supposed to be a "well-defined trail" and "easy to follow." I wound up doing what the others in front of me did, which was to bend to the left, down into the creek bed, through the thick undergrowth, and down to the river's edge trying to pick my way along through slick rocks and boulders. We fought our way through the brush and came out on the other side of the ravine, then had to fight our way back up another steep cliff section to the trail which now made itself apparent above us. All through this bush-whacking process I kept thinking "I hope I don't see a snake, I hope I don't see a snake." Again, I was sucking lots of wind by the time I clambered my way back up onto the trail. We hadn't gone even two miles yet, and I was already feeling fatigued. I was beginning to think that this trail was going to be a whole lot more than I had bargained for.
Fortunately, after this point, the going became much easier and I settled into a comfortable walking pace to go the distance. The sun had now gone up high enough in the sky to shine down into the canyon. It was becoming warmer but not uncomfortably so. It was still fairly chilly in the shaded sections of the trail. People had by now peeled off a lot of layers and were walking in shorts and T-shirts. I kept my outer shirt on and the zip-on leggings of my pants on, due to the frequent brush we had to go through. I was still on the lookout for serpents and ticks, and didn't want to invite either to sample my flesh.
The overnight group, consisting of Nick Abshire and the Rad's (Andy and Julie), had stopped ahead of me. I jokingly asked them if they were making camp already. Nick grinned and said, "Yeah, we're tired." I passed on by and that was the last I saw of them for the rest of the hike. Their plan was to take two nights to do this section. I hope to return some day and do likewise.
The canyon walls were steep and high on either side of the river for the first few miles. Nearing the four mile mark of the journey, the terrain on the Oregon side underwent a significant change. The high canyon wall receded and gave way to a large valley opening up for a long distance up into the high country on the Oregon side. This valley was the drainage known as Saddle Creek. At the bottom of the drainage is a large brushy triangular area which has the appearance of a river delta. Apparently many centuries of sediment washed down from high above and deposited at the mouth of the creek where it drained into the river. According to the maps, there is a trail that follows Saddle Creek down to the Snake River, where it connects to the river trail going north along the Oregon side. The Saddle Creek trail climbs into Oregon all the way up to Freezeout Saddle, and from there to the National Scenic Trail high on the rim. It looked to me like another great adventure, although it would have to wait for another time. I took a picture of it and continued on my way. On the other side of the creek, the canyon wall once again rose several hundred feet above the river.
From about the three mile mark onward, I was hiking by myself almost the rest of the entire trip. This I was prepared for, since my walking pace is typically slower than most other hikers. I had already accepted that the majority of this group were “racehorses.” That would make me a “Clydesdale,” I guess. The thoroughbred stallions and mares had already taken off and left me behind. I just kept clopping along with my slow steady pace. I did catch up to Lydia at the five mile mark, which was at McGaffee Cabin. She was resting and eating as I passed by. I took some pictures of the historic cabin and went across the bridge. It was time to get my first bottle of water. I had decided to use Potable Aqua tablets for this trip, so as not to have the weight of the water filter. I would simply dip my bottle and fill it in the creek, put two Iodine tablets in, and carry it for a while to dissolve the Iodine. The second part of the treatment is two Ascorbic Acid tablets (vitamin C basically) to clear up the water and take away the Iodine taste. The system worked well for this type of trip. Water stops just took a couple of minutes and then I was on my way again.
As I passed by upper and lower Bernard Rapids, I noted that my topo map showed these were 5 miles along from our starting point. I set my sights ahead to reach the next 5 mile interval, which was near Johnson Bar. I kept cruising along through the canyon, pausing occasionally to admire the snow capped mountains above, to marvel at the river's power and volume as it flowed relentlessly along through the canyon, or to watch a passing jet boat go by. The trail was not hard to follow and I made reasonably good progress as the sun shifted past the halfway mark and began its downward progression through the afternoon. I only caught occasional distant sightings of my fellow hikers as they pulled further and further ahead. The one exception was Lydia, whom I saw again briefly as she was stopped near Johnson Bar for lunch. I took the opportunity to grab a few bites myself as I spread my stuff out on the convenient rock slab beside the trail. By now it was mid-afternoon. I studied my topo maps for my upcoming objectives. I was not quite to Johnson Bar, as Captain Steve had made sure to point out the gauging station on the Oregon side of the river as we had passed it earlier that morning.
Done with lunch, I continued walking and within a mile or so came to a large sandy beach. Across the river I could see the gauging station, and knew that I had arrived at Johnson Bar and the 10 mile mark of my hike. Only 15 more miles to go to the trailhead, then another mile beyond that to the campground. I tried not to think too hard about the miles ahead. I had an awareness that I was racing the daylight, yet felt comfortable with my progress and was not (too) anxious about finishing the remaining distance. I just tried to concentrate on the next mile and keeping my footing on the narrow winding trail.
Another mile or so beyond Johnson Bar I came upon Sheep Creek Ranch. Crossing the bridge over Sheep Creek I saw a sign marker that showed it was 11 miles back to Granite Creek, and 13 miles to Pittsburgh Landing trailhead. Almost halfway there. I briefly stopped here to refill a bottle and drop the treatment tablets in it. Then I came upon a row of trees and a picnic table set up beside the trail. I rested here for about 10 minutes. There was a house and several small outbuildings here and a lawn with green grass. I saw the proprietor of the place headed down another trail toward the river. After several minutes I walked ahead and met him as he was walking back up to his house. We exchanged greetings and I continued on. The trail merged with the broad path that led to the house. Down by the river the trail resumed its single track and continued northward. Here there was a U.S. Mail box on a post. Whoever brought the mail to this address was a dedicated postal employee.
The next several miles were a succession of cliffs and bars. I passed by Pine Bar, High Bar, and Little Bar. Pine Bar was a hillside sloping down to a gravel beach. The pine trees lasted for about a quarter mile. High Bar was a large mounded hill that went on for over a mile. The shade from the cliffs on the Oregon side was starting to get long and cover the trail on the Idaho side as I walked on. At Myers Creek the trail ascended a cliff and turned eastward until it crossed over the creek. A large cliff loomed ahead of me. From the topo map I could see there was supposed to be an old mine ahead, and on the cliff I could see a long section of pipe running from the direction of the creek horizontally across the cliff. Up and over a saddle and I continued marching north. Ahead was a long field on the Oregon side with several buildings, and on the Idaho side adjacent was a long field with a dirt airstrip. This corresponded on my map with Brockman Ranch. The daylight was waning. I paused for a few pictures and then continued on. I wanted to get around Suicide Point before the daylight was gone, but the longer I walked the less likely it looked that I would get there.
Suicide Point. That had to be the massive rock formation I could see ahead of me in the fading daylight. I checked my topo map and compared features on the map with what I could see ahead of me. I decided that it was Suicide Point. I had hoped that I could make it up and around the big climb before I lost the daylight, but it became apparent now that the sun was going down. Not only had the sun already dropped beneath the western wall of Hell's Canyon, the Oregon side of the canyon, but the amount of light in the sky above was diminishing. I continued my dogged pace. The trail was not difficult, and I kept a good measured rate of travel. All the same, even as the physical light was fading, an intuitive *light* was dawning inside me. I was going to be walking in the dark.
At the time, I was caught up in the adventure of my hike. I didn't become fearful or terrified, but I felt great respect for the terrain I was in and the prospects of encountering something big that went bump in the night. There was no way that I was stopping, at least not at this point. I was constantly making mental calculations as I walked, judging the distance remaining against my present speed of travel and the twilight. I still had the strength to continue walking. Perhaps I could make it to Kirkwood Ranch, and then possibly stop until daylight. The air was growing cooler and I felt that I would stay warmer if I kept moving. Walk longer, sleep less.
At about 8:45, the trail turned briefly into the eastern wall of the canyon and began climbing a draw. I decided here to stop and get out my headlamp before I totally lost the daylight. I knew it had fresh batteries in it, and hoped that it would light my way. Suicide Point loomed massively on the other side of the draw. I could see the trail snaking its way up the opposite wall. I would soon be over on that side making my way up for several hundred feet to go around the western point of the cliff where it jutted out into the Snake River.
I slowed my pace down to climb the trail and made steady progress, to the far point inside the draw where it crossed the creek bed. Stepping across, the trail then bent to the west and continued its upward progress now along the southern cliffs of Suicide Point. This was one big hunk of rock! My headlamp made a 2.5 to 3 foot diameter circle of artificial L.E.D. white light on the trail immediately ahead of me. I kept the beam tilted down at just the right angle. My concentration became very intense on the trail. I was very aware of the large drop off the cliff on the trail's edge, so I made sure to keep my eyes on the trail. If I wanted to look at something, like the river below me to my left which was becoming further down with each step, I made sure to stop, plant my feet, plant my hiking stick, then look.
One worry began to gnaw on me. I had no way to contact the hikers ahead of me or the ones remaining back in camp. By now Captain Steve would have pulled the boat off the river. It was too dark to take a boat out on the Snake River, no matter how good of a boat driver one might be. I wondered if the group back at camp was wondering about my well being? I didn't want to create worry, and I didn't want to create extra work and extra searching for anyone. This in part became my driving motivation to keep walking. I was tired for sure from an already long day, and feeling the chill of the evening beginning to seep in. I had another layer if I needed it, but did not want to put it on and then sweat it up inside. As long as I kept moving I was generating warmth.
By the time I reached the *top* of the trail around Suicide Point, it was a very dark night. Stars were out, but so were some clouds. My headlamp continued to shine the way for me. I pursued it like some animal chasing an enticing morsel of food dangling on a string perpetually just out of reach.
At the time, it seemed as though I was 1000 feet above the river. But now in retrospect, seeing 3D versions of Suicide Point on Google Earth, it wasn't that high, but it was still a few hundred feet up.
I could hear the roar of rapids somewhere far down below to my left. Occasionally I would stop and shine the beam toward the river. I could see reflections of whitewater. This was a powerful beam of light. I was very glad to have it. For the record, it is an Energizer brand from Walmart, which I bought for about $9, and uses 3 AAA batteries.
Now passing the northern side of Suicide Point, the trail turned to the east and began descending, before bending to the north again. The river's sound steadily became louder as I dropped to within a couple of hundred feet. I was still aware of LARGE amounts of empty space off to my left, so I kept my intense focus on watching where I placed my feet on the trail.
I had thought that Kirkwood Ranch was just a couple of miles beyond Suicide Point. I began seeing small lights of lanterns and campfires down near the river bank. I thought I was nearing Kirkwood, but I still had some distance to go. It was almost midnight by the time I made my way along the trail to the front gate of Kirkwood Ranch. My breath steamed as I knelt on the ground at the official sign for the ranch. I could see a building with lights on and people moving around inside. A creek ran briskly down to my left. I was tired. I rested for a few minutes, eating a snack and drinking some treated water as I considered my options. I could try to catch a few hours of sleep here and continue on at first light. The main drawback to that option was staying warm. Since I only had my daypack, I did not have a sleeping bag. I considered covering up in my rain poncho and wrapping a mylar survival blanket around me to try to stay warm. Where? was the next drawback. I got up and studied the Kirkwood layout on the sign. I could see that campsites were located across the creek. I remembered when we had passed by Kirkwood many hours ago on the river. There had been many tents and many hikers along the river. After resting for a few more minutes, I made up my mind that I wanted to keep moving.
I crossed the creek on the footbridge and slowly made my way in the dark along the footpath. There were several outbuildings that I could see. Then I went through a very large open field with many tents pitched to either side. Off to the right, there was a bathroom, so I made a stop there. To my surprise, it was pleasantly warm inside and had indoor plumbing with a flush toilet and sink. For a few minutes I considered sleeping in the bathroom. There were two of them. Everyone was in bed, no one was up and moving around, except me. The bathroom was heated, and had a locking door. I thought about locking the door and stretching out on the floor with my pack as a pillow. I was tired enough. I had come 20 miles to this point. However, I wanted to finish the hike. Walk longer, sleep less. I made up my mind to continue on, despite the cold, the darkness, and the terrain that I knew awaited me.
(now) Sunday, April 6th
From Kirkwood Ranch, the trail going north makes a climb up several switchbacks before continuing parallel to the river. This was my first challenge, after I had slowly walked across the large open field and followed a narrow gravel road to a fence on the north end of the ranch property. A signpost for the trail helped me to get oriented. As I began ascending the first switchback, I could imagine that people in their tents below probably wondered who that NUT was that was hiking the trail after midnight? They were probably right. I got winded going up the switchbacks, but continued making steady progress. I had to take a couple of brief standing rests to catch my breath, but soon was on top of the switchbacks. The river was now several hundred feet below again. The trail continued north and I resumed my pursuit of the bobbing circle of light a few feet ahead of me on the path. I can remember images from those miles, but the next six miles seemed to go by in a blur. They are not blurred because of my non blazing fast speed, to be certain. They are blurred in my memory because of the fatigue I was feeling. I remember a creek that went across the trail, from which I drew one last bottle of water to replenish my supply. I made sure to keep myself hydrated.
At around 3 a.m. I could tell that the single track trail was getting wider. Then it became a double track trail. Trails always tend to get wider and better maintained in relation to their nearness to the trailhead. The terrain to either side of the trail began to broaden and get flatter. At last, I could see the reflection of vehicles ahead, and then a large trailhead sign. I made it to the Pittsburgh Landing trailhead! YES!!!! Despite the exhaustion and the chill, I had to smile. It was a great feeling of accomplishment.
However, before I could let go of the long hike and allow myself to stop and rest, I had one more task to finish. The trailhead was just over a mile from the campground. I had turned on my GPS about 3 miles back and had been checking the distance remaining to the campground. I had taken a reading the previous evening right at my tent, so this was my reference point for how far away *home* was. I began walking again along the road, past 20 or 30 cars and trucks which seemed ghostly and other-worldly in the beam of my light. Beyond the parking lot, which seemed to go on and on, the road became asphalt and widened out. I trudged along, keeping an eye on the GPS and the arrow which pointed slightly west of north from my current location. As I staggered along, the distance to allowed myself a small celebration with each tenth of a mile passed, telling myself to keep going, another tenth, another tenth, another tenth.
I was unsure of where this road was going to come out on the main road to the campground. When I got within two tenths of a mile, the arrow on my GPS was pointing almost straight west. I decided at that point to cut through the field to my left and trust that I would make a beeline for the campground. What I didn't realize was that if I had just stayed on the road, I would have come to the T junction in another one tenth of a mile. The field that I was going through abruptly began to drop off and became a hillside going down through sagebrush. Ahead I could see these strange twin points of light. I wondered what they were? As I descended the steep hillside, it became apparent that the little points of light were little beady eyes belonging to a herd of deer who were grazing on the edge of the campground. The hill continued to drop until it came to a bank just above the road. It felt confusing to me in my exhausted state of mind. I stepped down the steep bank back onto the pavement. The campground sign should be somewhere close, where is it? I thought. Finally it came into sight. Then there was the bathroom. Then a couple more campsites over, there was the rental car. I was done. The day was done at last. From 11 a.m. Saturday morning to 3:20 a.m. Sunday morning. Sixteen hours and change. For all of that time, I had perhaps allowed myself a total of about an hour resting, and only a couple of times sitting down.
Walk longer. Sleep less.
In reflecting back on this trip, a couple of things come to mind. I would like to re-visit the 10 mile portion that I hiked in the dark in the DAYLIGHT, so that I can see what I missed. Second, I would like to repeat the jet boat ride and hike as a multi-day trip. Nick's group did a three day two night adventure. I would like to do the same so that I would not have to rush through it. There were so many things that I wanted to stop and really look at, such as the many old homestead foundations and old rusted farm implements. There just wasn't enough time to take it all in during a single day excursion. I blasted through Kirkwood Ranch at midnight and didn't get to take in the many buildings and side trips that are available. And then of course, I would like to repeat the 27 mile one day trip, but with a MUCH earlier start than 11 a.m. An overnight stay at Granite Creek and a 5 a.m. departure would be reasonable start, assuming that a boat ride to Granite Creek can be obtained.
____________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _________ _____

Finding my place

It is interesting to see the progression from the earlier hiking stories to now. When I first started going out in the wilderness of Idaho everything seemed much more frightening. There is just something about the word "wilderness" that evokes images of being eaten alive by something ravenous with sharp teeth. As I have spent more and more time in the outdoors I have found that I am more *acclimated* I guess is the word I am searching for. Not that I want to grow complacent and take the wilderness for granted. After all, there are still large things out there with sharp teeth that can devour you or shred you into remnants of your former self. And let's face it, more people are undone in the wilderness by their own human foibles. It's easy to get mixed up and turned around and lose your sense of direction, or not layer properly and get caught in unexpected weather, or twist an ankle while miles away from anywhere. I'm looking forward to more long distance treks in the wilderness of Idaho this summer. LORD willing.

Towing Pains

Towing Pains
an Idaho Centennial Trail adventure
Jerry hikes from Rocky Bluff Campground to Five Mile Campground
Ron hikes from Five Mile Campground to French Gulch and return
August 8 - 12, 2008

During the course of our many trips across Idaho, both Jerry and I have experienced car problems. Some trips have been relatively problem-free. Still others have been made, shall we say, more memorable by vehicle breakdowns. In some cases, the actual hiking has been easier than the complications caused by a vehicle breakdown on the way to get to where the hiking is. In the case of this particular hike in central Idaho, a vehicle breakdown caused us to almost abandon our hiking plans. Although it did create a temporary difficulty for me, as well as some unexpected expenses, it also resulted in an unexpected hiking success story for me. The situation showed that it pays to be flexible.
The story of the Apollo 13 moon mission is an illustration which relates well to this story. The Apollo 13 astronauts blasted off from Earth on April 11, 1970 with intentions of landing on the moon and going for a *hike*. However, while enroute, they experienced an explosion in the service module. The ensuing loss of oxygen and electrical power caused them to radically change their plans. Instead of landing on the moon, their mission became one of survival against all odds and returning home to Earth safely. Our hiking adventure, while not quite as dramatic and life-threatening as their mission, shared some general parallels that I can relate to our adventure. Their trip included a launch, travel to a far away destination, a planned excursion when they reached that destination, and a return home. They had two vehicles to begin with, then one vehicle broke down, and they improvised a new plan, using the other vehicle to survive until they could bring the broken one home. I will be drawing from examples of the Apollo 13 story during the telling of our trip in August of 2008.
Our plan was to hike a 40 mile section of ICT, from west to east, along the northern edge of the Gospel Hump Wilderness. We were to begin on Saturday morning at Rocky Bluff Campground. We would hike a few miles along the western edge of the wilderness, then turn east toward Sourdough Peak Lookout and campground. Further along the path we would pass by Twentymile Lake, then descend into John's Creek and then climb out the other side. We planned to come out on Tuesday at Five Mile Campground on the other side of the wilderness. This hike would make an ICT connection for Jerry between Rocky Bluff C.G. and Five Mile C.G. We departed from Boise about 6 p.m. on Friday evening to drive northward. Jerry was driving his Jeep Cherokee, which had replaced the famous Suburban. I was driving my Aerostar minivan.
On Friday night at about 10 pm, as we reached our intended campsite at Leggett Creek, I started hearing weird noises from under the hood. We thought it might be the water pump. During the night, we had a hard but very fast moving thunderstorm which roared through. I was nice and dry sleeping in the van, while Jerry was in the Jeep (and missing the spaciousness of the Suburban). On Saturday morning, we continued on to Five Mile Campground about 10 miles up the Crooked River. This is a remote location south of Elk City. About 3 or 4 miles from Five Mile, I noticed the steering wheel was fighting me in the turns. Great, no power steering. We pulled to a stop at the campground, popped the hood, and saw the belt was broken and water was pouring from the water pump. Oh man. My heart sank.

Jerry's reaction was external and immediate. I had a delayed reaction. Usually in a bad situation like this, this means that first, I go numb. Then, gradually, my response grows into panic mode from the inside out over time as reality sets in. Jerry exclaimed, "well, today is shot." I knew what he meant. It looked like the prospects for the 40 mile hike were blown. We had planned on planting the van at Five Mile, then driving around to the other end to get an early start. Now we had a whole new reality in front of us. We had just "lost the moon." I will explain that saying. We left the van there and started heading back toward the town of Grangeville.
Fortunately, we had over an hour to drive from the campground back to the town of Grangeville. This gave us time to talk and discuss our options. I also prayed for guidance. The options that we discussed were to :
a) get a tow to a repair shop in Grangeville.
b) get a mechanic from Grangeville to go out on site to fix the van.
c) one of the options above *plus* renting a vehicle to have a shuttle vehicle on the other end of our hike.
d) some combination of a + b + c
e) stick out our thumbs after completing our hike.
As Jerry drove, and we discussed the advantages and disadvantages of all the different possibilities, I started thinking about the Apollo 13 story. When the oxygen tank exploded and damaged the service module's fuel cells, both the astronauts and their NASA controller counterparts back on Earth realized that they would have to "improvise a new mission." The commander of the astronauts also told his comrades, "We just lost the moon. " This meant that he realized the reality of their situation. The damage to their craft, and a remedial procedure to isolate their fuel cells, which failed, had killed any chance they had to land on the moon. They had to deal decisively with their new reality. I felt, in a similar way, that Jerry and I had just "lost the trail" as far as our hiking plans went. However, as we drove back to Grangeville, and made arrangements for towing the van and repairing the van, it began to dawn on me that perhaps we could "improvise a new mission."
Before we went to breakfast, we made a couple of stops in Grangeville and made a couple of phone calls to get pricing. It was obvious to me that it was NOT going to be cheap or easy. The most financially painful part was going to be the TOWING charge to retrieve the van from the remote campground 50 to 60 miles from town. We talked to the crusty, hard-bitten owner mechanic at the repair shop, and got a reference from him for a towing service. I made a phone call and talked to the wrecker driver, who said, "Oh yeah, Five Mile Pond, I know where that is, I go fishing there all the time!" He estimated that it was going to cost about $250 just for the towing. Instead of growing pains, I was having *towing pains.* From all the discussions, it had now become apparent to me which of the above options were feasible and which were not.

Over breakfast at the local cafe' on main street, resolve came over me about what needed to be done.

1) Surrender my part in the 40 mile hike.
2) Get the van towed.
3) Get the van repaired.
4) Drive Jerry to the start point, let him go solo.
5) Drive his Jeep Cherokee back to Five Mile and wait for him.

This was my new reality, and it was my problem to be dealt with. There was no reason to drag Jerry down with me. It was a sad feeling, but there was also a settled peace that went along with it. There would be some anxious moments for me in the coming days, but overall the peaceful feeling remained.

Jerry was accepting of my idea to let him hike solo on the same trip we had originally planned. This would allow him to complete a vital connecting section of his ICT quest. He said that he had always wanted to take the challenge of a long distance solo hike. Now was his chance. Meanwhile, I would drive his vehicle back around to the take-out point, Five Mile Campground, and wait for him to arrive 3 days later. This gave me plenty of time to figure out my own "new mission."
After the arrangements were made with the towing guy and the repair shop, we set off for Rocky Bluffs Campground, about a 50 mile drive back to the south from Grangeville. Jerry had been to Rocky Bluffs before on a previous hike. He had completed the ICT from Rocky Bluffs going south to the Salmon River, about 26 miles away. When we arrived at the campground, I hiked the first mile of ICT going north with Jerry, taking lots of pictures along the way. I took one final picture of Jerry as he set off to complete the remaining 39 miles all by his lonesome. After some more photos of road junctions and directional signs, I hiked back to the car. I took a scenic back road back to Grangeville. I had to hang around town until the tow truck showed up with my van in tow. I needed to transfer some camping gear out of the van. That completed, I drove east again on Highway 14. I made a side trip to see Elk City, then drove the Crooked River Road again to Five Mile campground.

After I set up camp and made dinner, a plan started to form in my mind. I had three nights to wait for Jerry. While I waited for Jerry, I wanted to make this trip count for something on the ICT. I didn't just want to sit around camp for 3 days, nor did I want to burn a lot of $4 a gallon gasoline cruising around sight seeing. I *could* have hiked west on the ICT to intercept Jerry somewhere on his way east toward me. But what I really wanted to do now was hike from Five Mile back toward the Red River and French Gulch. Jerry had done this section, but I had not. French Gulch was the last point where I ended our 40 mile Anderson Butte hike back in July. I slept on it, and awoke resolved on Sunday morning to go to the Red River.
If I had actually known just how far it was to the Red River before I started, I might not have tried it. I had traced the route on the National Geographic Topo program, and it looked to be about 15 miles one way, so I knew that it was going to be a long walk there. I didn't realize that it was going to be almost 19 miles one way.

I left camp at approximately 8:30 Sunday morning. I knew that the first order of business after crossing the log bridge over Silver Creek would be to gain 1,000 vertical feet within the first mile. After the first mile, the road would follow the 5500' contour for a long ways, then drop gradually to 5000 feet. Then it would contour along the 5000' line for most of the rest of the way to the Red River, when it would drop the last 500 feet to 4500 feet. So the 1000 feet was front-loaded on the outbound trip. On the return trip, the 1000 feet would be gained in two 500 foot stages.

F.R. 9836 began from Five Mile campground as an ATV width trail. A signpost announced that Elk City was 17 miles away. After the first mile of climbing, the trail widened to a four wheel drive Jeep width road. I took one wrong turn, which dead-ended in a clearing. That was only a half mile added to my day. I continued on the jeep road, until 9836 intersected with 1803, where it became a full width graded all weather gravel road. A sign at the junction showed that this road was part of a network of snowmobile trails in the backcountry.
I didn't see very much wildlife during the ascent. I did see and hear a couple on an ATV who came by me from the direction of camp. They first passed me going the same way I was going. They then met me on their way back around the 12 mile marker. They said they were curious about what I was doing out here? This gave me an opportunity to tell them about the ICT, which they seemed very interested in. They then drove off in the direction of Five Mile, while I continued on toward Relief Creek. There was a fair amount of road construction equipment parked at the big curve at Relief Creek. They were installing new culverts in two locations. Apparently the road had been washed out during spring melt off. Relief Creek was flowing moderately through the newly installed culvert. I noted that it was a good water source should I need one for the return trip.

The ascent along the west flank of Porter Mountain resulted in some fantastic views to the southwest, west, northwest, and north. I topped out at around the 5500 foot mark and took numerous pictures of the sweeping views. At the trail marker for F.T. 844, I chose to deviate from the *official* ICT West route. Jerry had done the hike previously from the Red River, together with Dave and Jeff, back in July, and had reported that they had become seriously lost by following the official trail. He had advised me to take the road around it. After our many bushwhacking adventures, he doesn't have to tell me that twice.

Within another 3 miles from the trail junction I found the forest road that I had traced out on my Topo program at home. F.R. 9803 started north from a five-way road intersection at the 5 mile marker post on F.R. 1803. I had followed 1803 for about 8 miles to this point, and would now follow 9803 for another 6.5 miles down to the Red River. This road was posted as being restricted to motorized traffic, and was only open to foot traffic. That suited me just fine. The road was designated to be returned to a natural state, and it was obvious that it had not been in use for some time. There was knee high grass down the center of the lane, with two paths on either side of the grass where wheels had once rolled by.
This road followed the 5000 foot contour closely for about 2 miles, then came to an unmarked Y intersection. The left fork looked to be the well beaten path. The right fork curved up and to the east and had a fallen tree blocking it about 30 feet up. This seemed to be the right location on the northwest side of Wheeler Mountain, according to the map portion I carried, and the maps I had studied on the computer.

I knew that 9803 had to bend around to the east and contour around the northern side of Wheeler. I followed this lesser travelled section of road 9803 for several miles. To say it was *less travelled* is an understatement. I felt like the first human being to walk upon it in decades. I kept thinking it was going to dead end around the next bend 100 times, but there was always more road to follow. The condition of the growth on the road worsened the further I went. At one point, the trees and brush got so thick that there was just a single track going through the middle. I noted that there were orange ribbons set at intervals along the path. These kept me going until I was through the thick part and it widened out again. I called out "hey bear!" periodically to announce my presence to any bruins that might be lurking about.
As I went along the north side of Wheeler, I could see a large valley below me directly to the north. Within the valley, off in the distance, was the town of Elk City. I knew that I needed to continue in a generally easterly direction to hit the Red River. I came to a bend in the road that went down and to the left, but with what looked like to be a ramp going down forking off to the right. The orange ribbons on the trees were showing to continue along the curve to the left, but this didn't seem to jive with my desired direction. I followed the left path down for about a half mile or so. My bad vibes were getting stronger. I thought since it was descending that it might curve back around to the east, but I seemed to be going west now. I took my compass out and confirmed that I was heading due west. I didn't really want to climb back up the half mile that I had come down, but I thought I would go back and see if that small ramp going down the other way was the correct path. It was now going on 5:30 p.m. I made up my mind that if the ramp was not the right way, that I should turn back even if I wasn't going to make it to the Red River. I didn't want to extend myself out any further along a wrong trail. No one even knew where I was, so I should at least walk back near the main road.

When I got back up to the junction, I examined the ramp again. What I thought before was a sketchy path and undefined now looked much clearer as a trail. I followed it tentatively and saw that at the bottom of the ramp it flattened out and continued due east as a roadbed. My progress eastward continued on for another 45 minutes. I began dropping in elevation and could see glimpses of a valley below through the thick forest cover. I hoped that I was going to come out at the Red River. The trail kept dropping and curving around and dropping some more. I wondered if I would ever make it. Finally I came to a big gate and a sign marker for 9803. YES!!!
I also saw the trailhead sign marker for F.T. 508 which was the *official* ICT route, the one which Jerry said they had gotten lost on. From the gate, 9803 dropped down onto road 1800 for about a quarter mile winding down until it finally bent around to the left and there was the bridge over the Red River. I pumped my fist and said YES!!! It had taken me 10 hours to reach the bridge. After briefly walking over the bridge to put my feet on Road 222, Red River Road, I went back over the bridge and walked down on the western bank of the river to make camp. I put my tarp on the ground and laid down with my backpack for a pillow. I was so spent that it took me almost an hour of laying there before I could make myself get up and start doing camp chores. It was 9:30 by the time I crawled under the tarptent.

I awoke on Monday morning to misty fog over the Red River. By the time I was fed, packed up and ready to hike it was 8:40. I followed the same route back to Five Mile Campground, minus the wrong turns, in 10 hours and 10 minutes. The 1000 foot elevation gain came in two stages on the way back. It seemed as though I had done better climbing the 1000 feet all at once yesterday, than I did climbing it in two 500 foot stages today. Monday was also a warmer day than Sunday. I went through six liters of water on Monday's walk back. I had gone through about three liters on Sunday.
I arrived back at Silver Creek and Five Mile Campground at 6:54 p.m. I didn't know whether I would find Jerry there or not. He was not there. There were new campers and ATV's in camp. I collapsed in a chair and rested for a while before I started boiling water for dinner. Tonight's meal of Mountain House brand dehydrated chicken breasts and mashed potatoes was outstanding. For a dehydrated meal, it was outstanding. Did I mention that it was outstanding? I kept watch for Jerry to possibly arrive, but by 8:30 I was ready to get in the tent to lay down and escape the mosquitoes.

Apart from two bathroom breaks, I did not get out of the tent until 9:30 the next morning. After breakfast I made my way down to Silver Creek and took a quick dunk under the bridge. It was very cold but it felt good to get the sweat and bug spray and trail dirt washed away. While I was there I also washed my dirty trail clothes so they wouldn't smell so bad. There was plenty of time as I waited for Jerry's arrival to hang up the wet clothing and to get my tarptent dried out from the condensation it had accumulated on Sunday night.
Jerry arrived at about noon (11 local time) on Tuesday at Five Mile. He was exhausted from his 40 mile trek. He had already put in 7 tough miles that morning from the place where he camped above down to Five Mile. He was so spent that it took him 30-40 minutes to recover. I unfolded a chair for him and handed him a Gatorade to drink. As he rested and recovered, he began to tell me the details of his ordeal. He said this 40 mile section had been horrific, due to an appalling lack of trail maintenance and proper signing.
He told the story of lost trail, no trail, heavy bushwhacking, falling many times, incredible amounts of fallen trees, coming dangerously close to running out of water....and then things got really tough! He said he pushed himself to the maximum physically every day of the hike, almost to the breaking point. The toughest part had been the massive elevation drop into John's Creek where one side of the mountain had collapsed. Jerry had traversed the western side of the mountain without a trail going down, and then had climbed the opposite side, also without the benefit of a trail. The only evidences of a real trail that he had found were the intermittent wilderness boundary markers on the trees. These markers, and my GPS which he borrowed for the trip, were the only indicators he had that he was heading in the right direction. He sounded immensely relieved that he had survived the experience.
It will fall to Jerry to give a proper and, I'm sure, entertaining, written account of his ordeal.....

For my part, in summary, on Sunday I hiked 17 miles (plus 1 mile added for 2 wrong turns) all the way to the bridge at the Red River. On Monday I walked back without the wrong turns. 10 hours going there, 10 hours 10 minutes coming back. The 2 miles on Saturday, plus 34+ miles Sunday and Monday, gave me 36 miles, plus 163 miles hiking to date, which gave me a new total of 199 miles to that point for the year 2008.

I think, in the long run, it worked out for the best that I didn't go on this particular section hike with Jerry. I will plan on doing a combination of road walking and taking the trail directly through the Gospel Hump Wilderness to avoid this unmaintained trail section in the future.
We drove back to Grangeville to see if the van was ready. I have included a scan of the bill for posterity.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009