Wednesday, August 19, 2009

notes from the backcountry

It all started with a delicious pepperoni pizza. Now, the first time I hiked Half Dome, I indulged without incident in eating pizza & a pint pre-hike, so I thought this would be fine, especially considering that this hike in was only 3 miles and 3 fairly flat miles at that.

Wrong wrong wrong. Nothing about that tasty pizza settled and I spent the first two miles of the hike convinced my appendix was going to burst at any minute. We're not talking some nausea here. I quite literally almost cried with how much it hurt. (Not that I would cry. I don't cry. I make Chuck Norris cry.) Finally, it got a little better and my countenance shifted back to normal, which is really more like “excited puppy” and tends to freak a lot of people out.

Arriving at camp was fairly anticlimactic. We set up camp without incident and shortly therafter broke out our camp dishes for some grubbin'. Everyone stayed pretty close to camp and we got a good fire going in our pit. There was what I consider unnecessary haste in bear bagging our foodstuffs, but I'm not the boss. I went over to watch the bear bagging occur so that I could reverse the process in the morning as I am an early riser at camp. (Why this is not also true back home I don't know. Though I wish it were.) Before I knew it, I was the one rigging the bear bag, utilizing a couple of my favorite climbing knots to rig it up, much to the surprise of my male campmates.

We then returned to the campfire for more chatter with the neighboring campers. The conversation lasted until the fire died down to ember, and then we parted ways towards our respective sleeping arrangements.

As expected, I woke up absurdly early, forcing my body to sleep until at least 7. I won that battle, but just barely. I happily navigated down to water's edge to filter some breakfast water, then brewed myself some delicious coffee with my oatmeal. The only problem with this situation is that by the time everyone else is finally crawling out of their tents, I am fully caffeinated & probably singing nonsense songs. Not exactly the best way to make friends in the morning.

All things considered, the morning was quiet and lazy, as a Saturday morning should be. We didn't do much of anything until a group decided to head to the caves for a little bit of exploration. I stayed back, enjoying the rarity of a quiet camp. While the rest of the crew was gone, more of our party arrived on site & started setting up camp.

When everyone got back from 'sploring the caves, we donned our swimsuits for what was supposed to be a refreshing turn in the lake. Most everyone got in and some went fishing instead. I decided to give the cliff jumping a go. It is NOT fair that I am not allowed to be a little skittish about dropping 30 feet into water off a veritable cliff. “Why are you scared? You jump out of planes!” is not my favorite thing to hear as I'm trying to muster the cajones to hurl myself off said rock into said (cold) lake.

Nevertheless, I finally took the plunge and that was that. Once was enough, though. I scrambled back up the granite boulders to our campsite and promptly fell asleep on the rock behind our tent. After my little nap, I changed out of my wet swimsuit and into my climbing shoes, which had arrived just hours prior thanks to A, who had also hiked in my MadPad. We assembled a small group of would-be climbers to explore the boulders near camp, which mostly consisted of the dads and their kids and me. I inadvertently inserted the word “sketchball” into the vocabularies of the three kids (ages 9, 8, & 7) during our little climbing excursion. We didn't do anything super crazy, but definitely found a few fun problems to pump out on.

Everyone started trickling back towards camp as dinnertime loomed, and eventually we all found ourselves back at the campfire, hungry and tired and dirty. A discussion ensued over the superiority of certain freeze-dried meals over others, and I've decided that I'd rather have a pocketrocket over a jetboil, though both are pretty sassy compared to the Coleman my dad used to bring to camp when we were kids. I ate a dinner almost exclusively consisting of rice, which was slightly disappointing if not filling. You can't always win. And I like rice, so it works, I guess.

Following dinner, we sat around the campfire, stoking it with the sparse logs A was able to gather. I managed at one point during the evening to drop both my hat and headlamp actually IN to the fire, and pulled them out fairly intact save for the horrible burnt plastic smell that still lingers all over the hat. Good thing I had a 2nd one to wear to bed that night. We roasted marshmallows and played with sticks in the fire. I sent smoke signals on over to @theclimbergirl, but she says she didn't get them. So now my campmates think I'm nuts and @theclimbergirl didn't even get my message. Good thing I think she's rad anyways. :) Worth people thinking I'm extra nuts for sure.

Sunday I couldn't sleep past 6:15 and woke up just minutes before the sun peeked over the mountain across the lake. I pulled down the bear bag, enjoyed a quiet breakfast and a lazy morning as the rest of camp slowly rose to meet the day. I enjoyed a lovely conversation with the fellow at the next camp, and as we talked we realized we had attended the same wedding in my hometown back in 2001. Even the backcountry is a small world, I guess! We're now FB friends with plans to backpack again someday.

Come late morning, we started packing up camp for the hike out. I stubbornly volunteered to pack out my MadPad, a situation which required some creative rigging and extremely tentative balancing. It was figured out, though, and I managed to hike the three miles out with only four rest stops.

There was a much-needed pizza stop on the way out, where we washed our dirt-embedded hands in the restroom sink. Everyone else in the restaurant looked so clean! I dozed most of the two hours home, trying not to upset my slightly sunburnt face. Upon arriving home, I first jumped in the pool with the kids, then promptly unpacked, happily wrapping myself in the delicious aroma of camp as I prepared my laundry and sorted my gear and food out.

Now, with everything put away, I'm anxious for the next adventure! If everything goes as planned, I'll have at least one trip each month until November, which would be wonderful, and then next season will be here before we know it.

Katiebeth: Young Adventurer Extraordinaire (or something like that...)

P.S. I'd appreciate it if the power company would remove whatever cell tower was giving us reception up there. It's not real backcountry if I can Twitter! (and I haven't the willpower not to. I love my Tweeps too much.)


  1. hehe, I dont think Edison Power comp would appreciate you having their cell phone tower removed :D

  2. Sounds like a wonderful trip! You're welcome to wake up early and sing nonsense songs on any trip we're ever on together. And I agree, having access to Twitter while in the backcountry might not be a grea thing... you should talk to @jennfields, she asked her followers about something similar yesterday about tweeting from the backcountry. Keep the trip reports a 'comin!

  3. Your trip sounds like it was so relaxing!!! Definitely makes me eager to plan our trip.

    Now bearbagging is something I've only had to do a few times back when I was actually backpacking so I'm sort of fuzzy on the details like how far from the tree and how high off the ground... At least I still have the knot skills! =)

  4. I absolutely can't wait to meet you.

  5. You could fill the cell tower with food and the bears will take care of it:

    (unfortunately bears are not good electricians and don't know to turn off the main power first)

  6. Haha, sounds like the camping trip was fun.