Canada Day Camping Trip

I’d returned home Thursday because I had an appointment with the orthopedist Friday morning. Good news: it’s not arthritis. The MRI revealed three things “wrong” with my knee. Two of them are asymptomatic and I can ignore them. The third is some cartilage damage. It’s more of an abrasion than a tear. The doc would prefer I not run, but I can run. I pledged to start off easy, to stay off asphalt, and to monitor the pain. I go back in six months to see how things are going. I have the option of a steroid injection, but we’re going to wait until I need it; in this case, “need” means I can’t deal with the pain and it’s interrupting my life.

With that happy news, I finished packing the truck and returned to our campsite at Owhi campground. Prior to leaving town, I bought this cart to make hauling gear easier. (We wanted a stouter cart, but this was less than half the price and it folds flat. That will make it easier to bring along with us when we’re driving the Prius.) Jim wasn’t able to take a vacation day on July 3rd, so we planned to pack up on the 2nd and come home. I had the option of staying up there a few more days. It was tempting, but I really didn’t want to haul all that gear back up to the truck by myself. Hauling it downhill was enough work for me.

Jim drove straight from work, and arrived around seven Friday evening. I was just making dinner. The fire was already going. He figured he’d lucked out, but I put him to work hauling some things from the truck. As dinner was simmering, we walked around the campground. He decided I’d picked a pretty good camping spot. As it turned out, our neighbors on Friday night were much noisier than the ones who were camped their earlier in the week had been. Because they had a half-dozen children with them, I assumed they’d be quiet late at night. Nope. Although we could not see their campsite, the trees provided no protection from the campsite karaoke and general raucousness.

We didn’t have any plans for Saturday, so we took advantage of being only an hour from the Liberty Café. After noon breakfast and pie, we headed back to the campground to switch from driving the Prius to driving the truck. We headed up to the trailhead to Hyas Lake. The road is unbelievably bad. I think I spent most of it driving at 10 mph or less.

We started up the short trail to Hyas Lake. I wasn’t wearing hiking boots, as this is a fairly flat trail and I was only carrying a water bottle. I wish I’d worn the boots. There was deep mud toward the beginning, and there are numerous stream crossings. My worn-out running shoes lack the grip of a good pair of hiking boots.

Shortly after we started our slow meander up the trail, we were passed by a group: two boys (a teen and a tween), an adult man and an adult woman. The woman was the only one wearing a ‘proper’ pack and hiking boots. The younger boy was wearing a Camelback on his front and one on his back and had a towel over his shoulders. The older boy was carrying a car-camping tent in its carrying case on his back. The adult man was carrying a duffle bag the same way. All of them had something in each hand: another car-camping tent, sleeping bags, folding chairs, a box with floaties in it, a bundle of firewood. It looked miserable, but only the teenager appeared to be miserable.

They were a little faster than us, but they’d have to stop frequently to adjust their respective loads. We approached the first stream crossing at about the same time. We offered to help carry their gear over the stream, and while we were helping them we chatted briefly. They got ahead of us again, and while they were out of vocal range Jim & I discussed offering to carry some of their gear up to Hyas Lake.

When we approached them during one of their gear-shifting stops, we made our offer. They gratefully accepted. We worked it out so that everyone had at least one hand free. When you’re walking, carrying large or heavy things in your hands disrupts your stride. I find that if I can switch something from one hand to another, it’s easier in the long run. And there were places on the trail that having a free hand was important, especially on the stream crossings.

Once they were less encumbered, the group was faster than us. We caught up with them at the first camp area at the lake. We discussed areas a group can camp at the lake, and they decided they’d leave their gear there and scout it out. They were very grateful for our assistance. Jim pointed out later that they were going to have to carry it all – except the firewood – back down to the trailhead when they left. On the plus side, by then they’ll all be experienced hikers. 😉

Based on the fact the woman had hiking boots and an expensive pack, I’m guessing the she was the only hiker in the group, and this was a “dad’s girlfriend hikes, so we’re going hiking” trip. I’m hopeful the group had so much fun that this year’s Christmas presents will be packs & hiking boots & backpacking tents. They’ll have a lot more fun with the right gear.

When we got back to the truck, we had a snack and noticed the almost all of the ice in the cooler had melted. We drove all the way back to the Last Resort to buy ice. By the time we arrived at the store, it was already 8:30 p.m. Jim had planned to cook dinner at the campsite, but that would have meant we wouldn’t have eaten until ten. We opted for burgers at the Last Resort’s restaurant. We only ate two meals on Saturday, but both of them were huge. We skipped the pie with dinner.

Our noisy neighbors were less noisy Saturday night, but we still didn’t get to sleep until around midnight. As we had on Saturday, we slept in until around eight.

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One of my favorite sights.

After breakfast, we started packing up. The cart made things much easier.

Once Jim was on his way home, I headed to the Pete Lake trailhead. The trail between the boat launch at Cooper Lake and the Pete Lake trailhead has numerous blow-downs. The trail isn’t likely to get maintenance from the Forest Service or the Washington Trails Association, as there’s an alternate route available to get hikers to the trail (the road). But this trail is an extension of the Cooper River trail which starts at the Salmon la Sac trailhead, and it winds through the Owhi campground. It’s a great trail if you’re camping with kids: mostly flat, no stream crossings, and just a mile long. I’ve hiked it coming from the Salmon la Sac area, and I wouldn’t want to have to hike the road. So I decided to spend my Sunday afternoon doing some guerrilla trail maintenance.

As I was heading to the trail, I saw this. You can’t see what’s on the paper on the windshield, so you’ll have to trust me: it’s a warning, written by a Forest Service employee, warning the driver of this Forest Service vehicle that they’re not displaying the correct Forest Service pass. *snicker* You’d think the US Government plates and the emblem on the door would be sufficient… IMG_20170702_125756

I took out one blow-down, cut back one live slide alder that was across the trail at waist height, and I cut the branches off a few larger blow-downs, making it easier to pass.

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Trail Obstruction Before
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Trail Obstruction now less obstructy

Once I’d finished my work, I headed back to the trailhead for lunch. IMG_20170702_151124

While I was eating my lunch, a group of four women arrived at the trailhead. Based upon their attire – caped dresses, small bonnets over their hair bun – I assume they are members of an Anabaptist sect. The woman who appeared to be the leader of the group — she was driving, she was dispensing information about the trail, and she seemed to be sharing equipment and giving advice — put on K-9 vest with a radio on it, and the dog with them was wearing a tracking collar. Apparently this dog is the second SAR dog she’s trained. (I’d just been on the trail a few days earlier, and I described the conditions of the trail as I found them.)

I was charmed by her independence and outgoing nature, as well as the fact this woman trains dogs. I imagine this runs exactly counter to the image most people have of women in religious sects that dictate how they dress and expects them to cover their hair. She and I may have different views of the role women should play in the Church, but she was no doormat.

On the way back, I stopped at a spring along the Salmon la Sac road. It’s a popular spot to fill water jugs, and locals and people who camp in the area frequently are familiar with it. Jim & I stopped the day before, and we were surprised by how low the flow is. There’s so much water in the hills right now as the winter’s snow is still melting. But in this area, numerous homes have built on the hillside above the spring. I’m sure the wells dug for those homes have impacted the amount of water coming out of that spring.

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Low Water Flow from Spring

As I was walking back to the truck, carrying a few jugs of water, a vehicle stopped near the spring. The whole family got out. As I was driving away, I noticed one of the adults taking a picture of the other adult filling his water bottle while the children watched. It’s kind of a novelty, I s’pose.

Last night, we ate the dinner we’d planned for Saturday. Jim is now at work, and I’m doing laundry and packing up our gear. I don’t want to go back to work – civilization sucks! – but the chance to spend a few days in nature has rejuvenated me.

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4 thoughts on “Canada Day Camping Trip

  1. Man, this sounds like fun! I’m cringing at the thought of hauling all that gear, though. Sorta laughing about “dad’s girlfriend hikes”.

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      1. One hopes that there will be a cheerful story told about the time they hiked up to camp with the wrong kind of gear. I have often said that I knew my beloved husband and I were meant to be because we had fun on our first camping trip – despite pouring rain, inability to get a fire going and poor emergency rations, two canceled open-air theatre productions, and a mis-step on a sketchy trail that resulted in a 20′ long slither downslope into a swamp where my abrupt landing unroosted a family of pileated woodpeckers who proceeded to divebomb us. Super fun, really. He still says he had to marry me – apparently, I’m at my best when I’m a laughing disaster. (Carpe diem!)

        Also, SO very happy to hear about your knee – that seems much less dire than progressive arthritis or something that requires surgery. I hope you find it easy to adapt to the “run softly and monitor pain” rules. (Can you bike, still?)

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      2. The ortho was excited to hear I’m swimming and cycling. I guess I’ll spend the winter cycling a LOT. 😀

        I’ve always thought that the outings & vacations when things go awry are much more memorable than the ones during which nothing goes wrong. I’m guessing you’re right that this family will long tell the tale of hiking into the woods carrying folding chairs and a bundle of firewood.

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