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How to Bearly End Summer
Day 0 -- Sept 18, 1998
Friday came around, and I had no plan for the three-day weekend. What to do... what to do... I decided I was ready for the Olympics. Nope, not the over hyped one on TV every couple years, but the National Park in NW Washington State.
Hastily packing my neato bright pink daypack, and strapping my trusty sleeping bag and a old bivy sack with a large bag o' food, I was ready to go. Foregoing such niceties as a tent and stove, I was going lightweight. In these cases, I fancy myself like the cowboys of old, who travel in the movies with nothing but a bedroll and a 10-gallon hat.
I drove off into the sunset in my trusty "steed" with these thoughts on my mind to the ferry, and three hours later found myself in the dark at the Dosewallips trailhead. I slept in the back of the station wagon.
Day 1 -- Sept 19, 1998
My plan was to make a semi-loop trip, the loop being the far portion of the trip, and the semi driving me to that place. Unfortunately, no trucks are allowed so I walked up the mossy trail westbound towards Anderson Pass. Along the way were numerous lovely campsites. The trail climbed only 2000' in the 8 miles until I reached Honeymoon Meadows. Here, I spent quite a bit of time inspecting the sites, looking for the heart-shaped bathtub that a guy with a smirk told me about. I never did find it. Hmmm... Anyway, at one point a particularly nice looking campsite caught my eye, so I diverged off the trail to check it out. A little ways on, and there was the trail again, so I had skipped part of the trail. More on that crucial point later.
My plan was to climb to Anderson Pass (10.5 miles), camp there, and enjoy viewing the Anderson Glacier. So I trudged up the trail for what seemed like way too far and way too steep. Plus, the trail was not as well traveled as before. Something seemed strange. After consulting the map, compass, and altimeter, I decided I was on the Lacrosse Pass trail. How the heck... what happened? I must have taken a wrong turn. Oh well, this was the loop portion, backwards, that I intended to follow anyway.
The trail climbed endlessly up the forest until it finally broke out into meadows of grass, blueberry bushes, and other shorter plants. What views, what grandeur! What a long way I've walked! But I kept on until I reached Lacrosse Pass at 5560'. Unfortunately, the weather wasn't cooperating and clouds enveloped the far side of the pass. Still, the views that I caught from time to time were fabulous.
Over the pass, I noticed the vegetation change immediately. The far side had a drier microclimate and was less lush. Somehow, the grasshoppers weren't as interested in my scientific thoughts as they enjoyed hopping in front of me on both sides of the pass. The trail was quite brushy, and the dew on the wet leaves got my feet and lower legs soaking wet. My boots gained several pounds as I descended all the way to 2700'. What a waste of precious altitude! By this time I had hiked 17 miles. A nice campsite, but in only 4 more miles was another that sounded even better.
What a mistake, those last 2 miles were shear torture to my feet, legs, and manly psyche as I struggled to do the owie shuffle. Step. Ouch! Step. Owie! Let it be over! Anyway, after 21 miles and nearly 6000' vertical, I staggered into camp at Marmot Lake, quickly ate (yeah, Mom, I brushed my teeth too), put up a tarp in case of rain, and crawled into my bivy sack. Clouds enveloped me and I could not see more than 200' in any direction, but my eyes were closed anyway due to extreme fatigue.
Day 2 -- Sept 20, 1998
The next morning -- gloryosky!! -- The sky was blue and my feet didn't hurt. So I Foxed down some chow and left my sleeping bag out to dry in the sun (derned bivy sack condenses all my sweat inside), and started off towards Hart Lake and Lacrosse Lake. Wow, what a place, views all over of rugged peaks, meadows, and Marmot Lake! Impressive. Up I went to Hart Lake, which is beautiful with several nice campsites. Then back towards Lacrosse Lake. Around a bend I went, then over a hill, then ... uh-oh... whassat? a BEAR! A very big, black bear. Munching and moseying, but across a small valley, he was about 100 yards away. I gazed at him through binoculars, and then made my presence known. "Howdy, bear" (just kidding) "Hey!" I said. He looked at me for a long time (their eyes not too good, but smell excellent), and then went back to grazing. I judged the hike to be safe, figuring he would mosey but I could sneak to the lake and back before he got near the trail. Now I was a bit nervous, though.
I kept going and 5 minutes later, there were two more bears! One only 10 feet from the trail. Well..... maybe I'll see this lake another day. I can just see what mighta happened if I'd camped there:
Daddy Bear: SOMEONE'S BEEN EATING MY BLUEBERRIES
Momma Bear: Someone's Been Stepping on my Scat
Baby Bear: and someone's been laying on my resting place, and he's RIGHT THERE! Oh, Momma, can I unwrap this one, please oh please oh pleeeeeeeeeeeeease?
Momma Bear: Oh, all right, deer... er... baby bear.
The big bear hadn't gotten too far, luckily, so I got back to my campsite, put my belongings in my lovely pink pack, and started up the trail to O'Neil Pass. And what a nice hike it is there, with more grande viewes to bee holde.
Naturally, along the way, there was a bear off the trail. I kicked a rock to let him know I was there, and he stared at me. I stared back, flexing my incredible muscles on my 140 lb frame, then standing tall with my awesome 5'7" build. None of that worked. He just stared. It was then that I realized the pink pack was detracting from the effect. I quickly got out my blue poncho, which made me feel like Clint Eastwood. I whistled the tune from "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly", G-c-G-c-G, and gave the bear my best steely look. (I practice this a lot in front of the mirror while shaving, and if I may say so, it's quite effective.) At the same time, I issued forth a mighty trumpeter tune from the rear gallery (or is it the apse?). The bear finally looked away, acknowledging he was subdominant, I was dominant, and the tune was a bit off tonic. He ambled off away from the trail.
Flushed with this triumph of man over beast, I started to walk a bit differently. There was a swagger like John Wayne in my step (or maybe it was that pesky blister on my pinky toe). I had the tune from "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" going through my mind over and over, and confidence oozed from every pore of my being. Heck, I didn't even need to cover the pink pack any more!
Up near O'Neil Pass, I encounter the fifth bear that day. This time, I was ready. I pulled out all the stops. I positioned my body to hide the pink pack. I gave the bear my best Clint Eastwood look, with a little Elvis sneer thrown in for style and effect. I was shaking my leg, singing "I'm All Shook Up" in a most excellent manner, when suddenly the bear started running away from me. I later found out from a ranger that a bear in that area is deathly afraid of pink, and I had probably exposed the pink pack while gallavanting around with my improvisations. I don't believe a word of that though.
The next 8.5 miles was a glorious traverse across steep meadows. Several times I herd a heard of Roosevelt Elk bugling. The sounds that came made me think "I DON'T wanna know what's going on down there!" but no matter how hard I tried to see them, I never did. Like I don't wanna know what Bill and Monica did (did *you* read it too?!!!!)
Finally, I reached a junction of the trail westbound again from Dosewallips to Graves Creek. I met the first humans I'd seen in 24 hours (5 bears, 0 people, more hoof prints and bear prints than boot prints on the trail!) By this time, my feet were really hurting due to the previous day's ordeal, even though I'd only gone 14 miles on mostly downhill or level. My swagger was more like Young Frankenstein than John Pain. But I had to see the 1930 Chalet in the Enchanted Valley. Only 3.5 more miles. Along the way I saw the world's largest Western Hemlock (who called me the world's largest fool, but I digress again) and finally made it to the Chalet.
This building was built for hikers and horse riders before the area was part of the Nat'l Park. Used today as a ranger station, it's log walls are in pretty good shape. After 17 miles of hiking, I coulda slept in the cold creek nearby, but elected to stay under a tree instead. I put on tennis shoes and hiked a bit further down trail across an interesting suspension bridge, then collapsed in my bivy sack, dreaming of spaghetti, my incredible manliness, and me in spaghetti westerns. I wonder how Elvis woulda done in spaghetti westerns?
Day 3 -- Sept 21, 1998 (last day of summer)
Another gorgeous day dawned, with the cliffs above the Chalet ablaze with the sunlight. Feeling much better than the previous day, I set uphill towards Anderson Pass at a blistering pace (ouch, still hurts on that pinky toe), and met a couple from Davis CA. They couldn't figure out how I'd missed the turnoff to Anderson Pass on day 1, as it was clearly signed. This perplexed me to no end. We all made it to the overlook over Anderson Glacier and talked for a while. Then down, down, down I hiked back towards the car. I knew it was to be another 17-mile day, but it was downhill from here on in.
I passed the VERY clearly marked sign to Lacrosse Pass and Anderson Pass. How the heck did I miss that? Only 30' further I recognized the campsite I had inspected two days before. Aha! You dummy! Next time stay on the trail, no divergence is allowed! Miles later, and extremely sore feet later, I made it to the car. 54 miles total, and I am payin' for it now!