Monday, June 13, 2011

Q. Harrowing, Near-Death Experience? A. My Weekend Hike. (...40...39)

Near entrance to the Garfield trail
The hike this Saturday started off just fine.  Wearing shorts, cotton t-shirt, and baseball cap, I felt great.  The temps were cool but perfect for a moderate hike.  The terrain was challenging enough that we worked up a sweat pretty early on and needed to stop every hour to refuel.  There was rain once in a while, but under tree cover, we didn't get much of it.  About a mile and a half from the campsite we felt confident we could get our tent set up, drop our bags, hike a mile more to see the view from the summit, and then return for dinner.

When we got to this area, a christmasy, pineconey, smell filled the air.  We were walking through a misty cloud among these pine trees:

Pine trees
This was where things got steeper, colder, and windier.  It started raining harder and we were closer to the tree line with less coverage so started getting wet.  Still, we were moving, so felt okay.  A sign directed us left and down a steep incline of rocks to the Garfield Camp Site.  It seemed unlikely by the looks of it.  The path changed from a somewhat rocky path to all rocks and very steep.  With rain, in became slippery.  A little ways in, here's the view looking back up:

Down this rocky path, a few short switchbacks, and then upward again, we found the campsite.  By this time we were soaked and cold.  The plan to look at the summit was dropped.  We opted to take refuge in a wood shelter rather than set a tent up because the ground was getting wet and there was a strong wind.  In the shelter, we quickly stripped out of wet clothes and put dry ones on.  I expected to warm up after this as it was only in the mid-50s, but I couldn't get warm.  I got in a sleeping bag, ate, drank water, and started to panic a bit.  I couldn't stop shivering and my throat, neck, and jaw muscles were clenching tightly.  This was new to me.  I think I was panicking.  More than once I heard myself think "I give up! Take me now! Please."  I wouldn't make it as a bag lady in New England.  

The camp site director gave me boiled water in a bottle to stuff in the sleeping bag.  After a 2nd hot bottle I started to warm up.  By then, exhausted and a little out of it, I stayed in the sleeping bag while one hiker after another filled the shelter.  All of them experienced hikers, decked out in high-tech gear with high-end clothing, had decided to cut their hikes short because the weather was so bad.  One pair of men, finishing a 26 mile hike that day, were on their last day of an 1800 mile hiking trip.  After hearing they were miserable in this weather, we felt less wimpy for feeling so miserable ourselves. 

Pictures from the Garfield campsite:

Shelter with 14 hikers

A composting toilet on the site was "flushed" with a handful of bark

water source

During the night, our camp shelter reached full capacity with 14 hikers lying like sardines along the floor.  The shelter, built to resemble a box car, has a wide open front.  In the summer, this would be a welcome feature.  On Saturday night, this was unfortunate.  We stayed dry, despite ongoing rain, but the wind gusted in, preventing us from getting toasty enough to sleep well.  I envied the two pro hikers who brought small bottles of Wild Turkey bourbon.  A night cap like that could have helped me sleep.  Nevertheless, we were still alive in the morning, packed up quickly, and hauled ourselves back up the steep rocky path to the main trail.  Three hours downhill from there to our car.  We were grateful for the adventure and glad to be only a few hours drive from warm food and drink.

No comments:

Post a Comment