Sunday, October 26, 2014

Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness, Day 2, 22 Sep 14

For some reason, I woke up about 6:34 every morning.  At that point, it was light enough to pack up and do a little work on my feet (spreading hiker goo).  A tree hid my view of the others today, and I was packed up and ready to go before breakfast.  This was the only day that I beat the others.  One thing I noticed was that my down quilt had a lot of condensation around the area around my shoulders, and some very light condensation on the rest of the bag.  The inside of the bivy had similar condensation.  The quilt had no noticeable condensation that evening when I took it out of the backpack.

The plan for today was to hike up to a lake on the plateau at about 9,600 feet.  The distance was only about 8 miles, but the elevation gain would be about 2,150 feet.  At the lake, we would decide our plan for the rest of the trip.

We still followed the small river, and the trail was just as scenic as yesterday.  But this time it was steeper and included some switchbacks.  I didn’t seem to be having any altitude sickness, but I found I was breathing a lot faster than down at 600’ to 2,000’ where I usually hike.  Whenever the heart beat or breathing got a little too high, I would stop for a few moments on the trail and let them settle.  The others didn’t seem to have any noticeable affect from the altitude, and I kept falling slightly further and further behind.  They did slow a little from the previous day’s pace, and I found that I could cross through the rocky trail areas a little faster than N3 until I had to slow and catch my breath.

I did have my first mishap of the trip today.  I was jumping a stream and lost my footing on the muddy bank rising on the other side.  I went down in the mud, but didn’t seem to hurt anything.  I did get my pack and clothes kind of muddy though.

We stopped at a small lake near the top of the climb to make our plans for the next day or two.  R1 demonstrated some mapping skills, and they talked about options.  M2 and N3 had a strong preference to do some bushwacking down a string of lakes and back the next day.  And then using trails to do a loop of lakes the day after.  We needed to bushwack to the edge of the plateau the day after that to get ready for a last-day descent bushwacking back to the trailhead.  Theoretically, if we found the bushwack to the edge of the plateau to be too difficult, we could return to the trail along the river for a 14 mile downhill-day back to the trailhead.

What I haven’t mentioned up to this point is that R1, M2 and I all had Tenkara fishing poles and we wanted to use them on the small lakes.  For M2 and I, Tenkara was new.  R1 had experience and would teach us how to rig our lines and use the poles.  After our planning break, we headed for a larger lake where we could fish and find a camp for the evening. 

It took a good bit of looking to find camp sites near the lake.  Everything was pretty marshy.  We ended up spreading out through small rocky hills not far from the lake.  None of us were in sight of the others.  I picked a flat spot, but unfortunately, it was in a small dip with no trees directly above and I had a lot of condensation that night.  Part of my tarp pitch also covered a small tree/bush.  The bear hang was again inconvenient; you either went a long way around the area or over a small challenging boulder field.  M2 and N3 seemed to like the boulder fields; in my opinion they crossed them as agilely as billy goats.  I worried about my balance and hated the boulder field crossings.  R1 used a group pulley system this evening, for the only time.  The combined weight was about too much to pull up.

R1 gave us some instruction on our Tenkara rigging and usage before heading to the lake.  The Tenkara poles were about 2.5 to 3 ounces and had five or six sections that you just pull out to expand the rods to around 11-13 feet in length.  You tie a fixed length of line to the end of the pole, and some lighter line to  that which is intended to break before the pole does.  A light fly is affixed to the end of the light line.  You just whip it in the air and place the fly as far out on the lake as you can.  We didn’t have much luck this evening.  M2 got his line and fly tangled, and had to sit out for a while getting it straightened out.

R1 built a camp fire in a pre-existing fire ring this evening, so we didn’t have to use our individual wood stoves.  Worked great, but took a little longer to boil our water.  We got done with dinner just as it was getting dark.  We hung our bear bags, and I hit my tent.  As usual during the trip, I slept pretty soundly.  I do roll from side to back to side and reverse throughout the night.  But I seem to be good with the quilt and don’t get any drafts.  Each night I would get up once to relieve myself; I was drinking as much water as I could to avoid any altitude sickness problems.

I didn’t notice any rain that night.

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