Monday, August 21, 2006

Camping at Cutthroat Lake... almost!

` Last weekend, I went to the Seattle Hemp Festival, but I'm really getting ahead of myself because I still haven't put up things I have done before that! And camping was one such thing....

` Last-last weekend - August 12 & 13 - Lou and I decided to trek the Cutthroat Lake trail while shopping at Cascade Craigs, where a youth national rock climbing champion was practicing for her trip to Europe. I saw a newspaper article about her hanging on the wall; apparently, she can go up the store's 30-foot rock-climbing wall in thirty seconds!!
` Anyway, just making our way to the trailhead was somewhat perilous because each time we met an oncoming vehicle on our drive up, we had to back down and find a place to pull off to the side without the Burgundy Rectangle tipping sideways and/or plummeting off the edge of the cliff.
` Truly, that was a challenge in itself. Evidently, we did not die trying. Behold the mountain vista!

` Just look at all those trees, just waiting to be destroyed by a forest fire!

` While being savagely attacked by sweat-eating flies, we put on our packs and began our ascent, dodging many people along the way. Unfortunately, I was having trouble balancing, and so I was humiliated as I passed many people on their way back and was unable to progress forward without my arms being stuck out at odd angles caused by my puzzling new predilection to having all my weight resting on my left heel.
` Why, I couldn't say.
` All I knew was that I was not able to balance, and I couldn't seem to put any weight on my right foot without leaning way over and slinging my pack to the right. Even worse, I couldn't seem to be able to step upwards over the boulders because I had to shift all 40 pounds of the pack from over my left leg to over my right leg - in other words, the constant momentum of shifting caused a little too much extra strain on each of my legs. Instead, I had to find a zig-zag path over or around any steep obstacles - anything to keep me from collapsing due to not having enough strength to lift myself up on a bent leg.
` Lou kept telling me to stop waddling, but when I did that, my right foot wound up stepping to the left of my left foot, because my balance simply shifted that way unless I leaned to the right! So, whenever I did this, I kept losing my balance and so he told me to keep my left foot on the left and my right foot on the right. ...Which could only be accomplished by waddling!
` He also told me to bend my knees, but when I did that they tended to buckle from all the extra strain involved in constant weight-shifting and trying to keep myself standing! In fact, I was so off-balance that I continually fell over boulders and logs in the path. Afterwards, I couldn't get up because my legs were so fatigued that I couldn't get them to straighten while being both completely bent and supporting 180 pounds while at the same time not being able to find my balance!
` After a while, my left leg fatigued and became cramped and I could do nothing but walk crookedly. I kept cursing myself because I expected more from me! I kept thinking about how much I'd been ridiculed in the past by various people for not being able to keep up because I kept falling, slipping and tripping because I wasn't able to maintain my balance, nor feel the bottoms of my feet well enough!
` Not having enough pressure on the bottoms of my feet through the cushioning of my hiking boots was not much of a problem here, however, because of all the extra weight. Unable to think of why I was so off-balance, I became so ashamed of myself that I started crying! Lou told me not to be so hard on myself and kept encouraging me. Being Lou, of course, he wasn't angry, he just insisted that we get up there before nightfall!
` That's pretty reasonable, considering that it gets cold up there!

` When we finally came to a flat spot in the trail with a log I could sit on, I took the opportunity to tighten my boot laces and to take a Crappy Digital Photo (CDP) of... more trees and blue sky!

` There were also little pools about, but I couldn't fit any of them in - this would explain the multitude of mosquitoes that eventually forced us to apply Deet, which wound up spelling the end to one unlucky insect as it alighted on my arm at the wrong moment.
` When we began moving again, I took another picture of Lou in the nice, open meadowy area - which is not at all like most of the trail!

` ...But I didn't photograph the rough parts, only the scenic parts, due to my very limited amount of CDC memory.
` It also wasn't long until we'd found a tiny stream, which for some reason magically turned the right side of the picture blurry while leaving the left side untouched.

` We hiked on and on, my inability to concentrate on merely staying upright was getting a little more than frustrating. I did my best to shut out the scenery and chirping birds and frogs, and missed a lot of things that Lou had pointed out because the only thing I could do was stare at my feet and do my best to find foothold after foothold. Otherwise, I stumbled, which is a problem when falling could mean plummeting to one's death.
` As a result, I hiked in the hunt-and-peck fashion of someone who doesn't yet know how to type. Problem was, the footholds always changed and so I could never establish any sort of pattern.
` I could not believe how horribly I was doing, and it was all caused by the severe trouble I was having simply keeping myself from falling over! Each step was either an under- or overcompensation; each time I took a step was different, and so with each step I had to correct my balance!
` Just as the sun was dipping below the hill in front of us, we came upon a cute little glacier, and I gave myself permission to stop and take a look at it. ...And take a CDP!

` It was probably relieved that the sun was leaving it alone for the day. As relieved as inanimate objects can be. A look down below revealed that the valley was now in shadow and that my camera was once again unable to negate the polarizing effect of the sun (which is why the sky appears mostly white).

` As I moved directly underneath the small glacier, I took one last CDP... which was mysteriously blurry, though at least it was uniformly so.

` Shortly after that, I wished that the birds would shut up more than ever: We were scrambling over boulders and I kept having to stop because I was completely clueless as to just how well my next step was going to go!
` My anxiety about falling down this long spillage of jagged rocks all the way down to the bottom of the valley was only exacerbated by the extreme effort of willing myself to move despite my wobbling steps and dizziness due to being unable to catch my breath.
` Eventually, we wound up going downwards into another valley in which a small glacier sat, cowering in the shade and melting into a small and very blue pool....

` At last, we'd made it all the way up to the top of some peak or other which was still bathed in golden sunlight. Undoubtedly, we were close to Cutthroat Lake, though we could not afford to continue because the sun was setting.
` Nevertheless, there was plenty of flat ground, several nice reflecting pools, and a nice view, so it wasn't a bad area in which to set up camp.

` In fact, there was a bare dirt area right near where we had stopped, with a sand pit for building fires. It may not have been Cutthroat Lake, but at least it was some kind of designated campsite!
` Because of all my muscling the backpack from one side of my body to the other, taking it off resulted in my body uncontrollably bending and swaying from side-to-side like a slithering snake every time I tried to walk. For several minutes I stumbled around, dazed and confused in this rubbery state, snapping a few more pictures.
` Here's the pink light from the sunset catching the mountains to the east....

` And here's the sun peeking over a hill of some sort, although we ultimately watched it set over a distant mountain from our campsite's vantage point while we were busy being eaten alive by tent-pitching mosquito sabboteurs....

` Eventually, we were alive and well and safe from the mosquitoes within the tent as they hungrily buzzed at the flaps. Such is the situation when your campsite is surrounded by many small pools!
` Problem was, we needed to make a fire! So, Lou braved the mosquitoes to find firewood and rocks for a firewall to direct the heat towards the tent. I followed suit, and then began putting the fire together when enough materials were obtained.
` Then, we went off to one of the pools and pumped some water through a filter for cooking. Finally, the temperature dropped so low that dew was forming all over everything - presumably, the mosquitoes were included because they were mysteriously absent!
` After making sandwiches and eating reconstituted desserts - mine was instant pudding with instant coffee that I mixed with a cup of boiling water to create mocha mud pie - I went off to try to photograph the mist over the pools via flash.
` I heard Lou behind me call my name and I said; "I haven't been mauled by a bear - don't worry!" Since the photography was failing miserably, I went back to the campsite and Lou said; "Listen! Do you hear them?"
` I didn't have a clue to what he was talking about. And then I heard a distant squeak. He explained to me that there were apparently a couple of mice hauling ass down the path (which I had just stepped across), squeaking as they went through the deafening silence.
` Since I wasn't able to take a picture of anything but the two white dots that were the moon rising over a mountain and its reflection, Lou took a CDP of me reclined next to our most ambient sorce of light, the campfire.

` Look, Ma! No flash!
` In turn, I also photographed him as he went about his business while wearing his LED headband.

` Even before the sky was completely dark, we could already see many more stars than from the city, plus a bunch of meteorites being torched as they skimmed through the earth's atmosphere. By the time it was pitch black (save for the western ambiance from the city lights), it was more than clear on which axis the galaxy rotated.
` Mysteriously, at one point we saw a very intense blue flash that seemed to be as bright as the moon, yet it only lasted a few milliseconds. It was very much like a blue camera flash. We're not sure what it was - be it stellar explosion or sattelite - but I can tell you that it was fairly low in the sky and roughly south of southwest relative to our vantage point ...if someone would be interested in verifying it.
` Eventually, after much tooth-brushing and tying the food from a tree branch (to deter bears, along with peeing around the area), we each put a hot rock from the firewall in a wool sock and used it to help us keep warm in our sleeping bags.
` After a long while, I fell asleep. When I woke up, the sky was light and birds were chirping. I got up to pee, too tired to even photograph the sun rising over the eastern mountains, and then went back to sleep. Eventually, I woke up once again to find that our tent had turned into a solar-powered E-Z Bake Oven!
` I leapt out to find Lou trying to attend to camp-type things while being repeatedly vampirized by mosquitoes. We lit another fire to burn toilet paper and such, and then packed up. But before we left, I took this CDP of the mountain we had watched the sun set behind (except, of course, the sun was being oppressive instead).

` At the top, you'll notice the moon, which had already passed overhead and was on its way down. At the bottom you can see yet another mosquito breeding ground.
` We left only a pile of ashes, puddles of urine, and probably a lot of crumbs as we trekked back down the way we'd come. After keeling over from trying to climb over many a rock and fallen tree, which was especially humiliating because a lot of people saw me, I began having serious problems with choosing places to put my feet: Gravity was pulling me downward, and being too unstable to step down, I was forced to jump. Lou kept telling me to bend my legs, and every time I did - since my swinging pack was bearing down fully on each step - my legs just buckled and I fell on my knees.
` Finally, we stopped at a boulder-covered stream, climbed down the rocks, filtered some more water and ate some red and orange salmonberries. That was when I figured I'd try adjusting my pack. After a few stops of doing so, Lou helped me by pulling the right-hand strap because I could not help but notice that I couldn't see the right-hand buckle even though I could see the left one.
` We started off again and, being used to my center of gravity being just behind my left armpit, I fell headfirst into a bush to my right! Lou bent down and pulled me out, and as I got used to this new balance, I noticed that I no longer had to waddle to take steps! In fact, walking with the pack was suddenly extremely easy! I could walk by putting my legs more in front of the other (rather than more over to the side to catch myself from falling) and not strain either of them!
` Lo and behold, straddling fallen trees and climbing over boulders was no longer any problem! My footholds were quite easy to calculate, I was able to look around at things, and on top of that, I had the breath in me to tell Lou when I needed to take a break!
` Do you understand the implications of this discovery? MY PACK HAD BEEN UNBALANCED THE ENTIRE TIME I HAD BEEN STRUGGLING UPHILL FOR MORE THAN THREE MILES!
` I could have, if I'd realized that my pack had been the problem instead of myself, had a much easier time! Then again, I guess this means that I am super-extra tough, because the difference between walking with a pack that is balanced on your tailbone as opposed to one that is pressing down on and fatiguing the top of your left butt cheek, is like night and day:
` When you have an extra third of your body weight that's pulling your center of gravity to the left of your left foot, you're shifting and gyrating uncontrollably and exhausting various parts of your body unneccesarily - it's a lot like trying to lift weights while going through an uphill obstacle course.
` When the extra third of body weight is in line with your center of gravity, you actually have the ability to walk normally without slouching (because it's possible to balance the weight on your hips), except that you have to lean a little bit in your forwards-backwards axis. Never having been backpacking for such a long distance, I just didn't realize that it was the way it's supposed to be!
` So, finishing the trek down was a cakewalk, and I feel like a very promising beginning hiker because my handicap meant that I'd took a lot more of a beating than did Lou, who also has the benefit of being quite muscly!
` And, when I was finally able to unload my pack, I noticed that the only automatic compensations that my muscles continued to make were all back-to-front, rather than exaggerated side-to-side undulations, which are almost impossible to walk with.

` Well, that's good to know. Next time, I'll have to remember not to totally screw up my balance.

3 comments:

Wed-nes-day said...

Gee, Sa-ra, Sa-ra
Loved the pics....I so envy you.
Those are my favorite types of landscapes!!!

Too bad the 'blurries' interfered with the one by the stream, but the one where your crotch appears to be on fire is a real panty wetter.

Hugs, and all that Jazz,
Wed-nes-day

Galtron said...

That sounds vaguely dirty, Wed-ne-day.

Yes, I don't reccommend one screwing up one's balance when carrying a pack. At least you figured it out. Of course, this is why I prefer traveling via river... I haven't done that since about October, though. Then again, if you aren't balanced right you can tip over.....

By the way, what is with this paragraph:

...had a easier time! Then again, I guess this means that I am super-extra tough, because the difference between walking with a pack that is balanced on your muchtailbone as opposed to one that is pressing down on and fatiguing the top of your left butt cheek...

Did the italicized words get married or something?

S E E Quine said...

` Yes, actually... html code sometimes causes italicized words to cluster together like that.
` I shall have to give them a divorce.

` And yes, wet panties + Wed-nes-day looking at a picture of me conjures up an image I'm not sure I want to ponder.
` ...But that's just because my mind is always in the gutter.