FLAWED SYSTEM


I reached the junction of Deer Butte Trail with Hand Lake Trail, turned left on the latter and started ascending.  I was 3 miles into a 17 mile hike in the Mount Washington Wilderness that would reach Scott Mountain and then loop back to where I had just turned.  At least, that was the plan.

I took a break, which I try to do every hour or three to four miles, so I don’t get behind on fluids or food.  I took off my day pack and took out a sport drink with no calories but electrolytes.  It tastes good and I will drink it,  But something was funny about the pack.  Something too light funny.  Something missing.  Where was my second water bottle? 

Oh, it must be down further in the pack, I thought, but a quick check did not show it, as I re-shouldered the pack and started hiking uphill.  I felt fine, not sweating much, and I just took a couple of sips of fluid. Plenty was left.  But my mind was replaying what happened to the second bottle.  Was it in the car?  It seemed unlikely, since I had taken everything I needed from the car.  

The day was warm, a thermal trough laying over the Cascades, which would make it quite warm today. Still, the forest I had been in was cool, and I hoped I could get to the next junction, about three and a half miles away, in a little more than an hour.  Maybe I could deal with the fluid problem, although I had my concerns.

The hike entered a recent burn and the footing became more difficult  The soil is disturbed in a burn, and while the trail had been cleared last year, the blowdowns removed, there were many new trees down already, typical after a burn.  I was chronicling the number, size, and location of each for the High Cascade Forest Volunteers to log out, which could easily involve me, and the tree branches were frequently sharp, penalties for carelessness falling, which I did once, sharp points waiting on the ground.

I had done the 23.5 mile Duffy Lake Loop three years earlier through the B and B burn, hiking several miles in a moonscape and nearly half the whole hike in a burned area. 

Jorn Lake, Mt. Jefferson Wilderness, B and B fire aftermath, August 2016

There were hundreds of blowdowns, and I almost turned around eight miles in.  I should have.  Carrying two liters of water, I was bone dry when I came out after nearly eight hours.  Fortunately, I had kept some water in the car.

Mt. Washington through the burn area, Hand Lake Trail

Trail with Douglas fir blowdown blocking it

I finally reached the junction, had more water and started to hike towards Scott Mountain, but I didn’t like my pace going uphill, and I had another thousand feet of climbing to go. 

I stopped.

I’m turning around, I said to myself. I will have lunch, look at the maps, take stock of things and do this hike differently. Most of the time when I say stop, I quit.  Only on Duffy Loop did I keep going, and as mentioned, it wasn’t a great idea.

I had never forgotten water on a hike here before, and I was annoyed with myself, but I quickly put the annoyance aside to deal with the fact I had limited water and the maps showed the best way back was the way I came.  There was no sense in worrying now about what I did wrong.  I felt fine at the moment, but I needed to put in some serious miles. There were two lakes near the trail on the way back if worse came to worse.

I got up and started walking, but something didn’t feel right.  I was descending.  I took out my GPS and it showed me making new trail, rather than retracing my route.  I was going the wrong way.  I went back to the 3-way junction and still turned the wrong way.  Well, there was only  one other route, and that one was correct.  My shadow was ahead of me, so I was going north, which was what I wanted to do. It bothered me that I went the wrong way on the trail after lunch. I noted that maybe I was more tired than I should be, maybe dry, maybe not, but I was making mistakes I shouldn’t and needed to leave.  I made a similar mistake 20 years prion in Tennessee on the Appalachian Trail. I sat down to take a break and got up to walk.  When I saw a road that wasn’t supposed to be there, I realized it was a road I had crossed earlier.  At the same time, I saw some familiar brush where I had encountered a snake on the way up.  I quickly turned around and almost ran up the trail, as if running would remove my embarrassment at having messed up.  I was tired then, too. This day, I was again reminded that I can get off trail and make significant mistakes.  Fortunately, it was a gentle reminder. I had a short climb to a ridge, descent another 2 miles in the burn, get into the woods, and finally reach the trailhead.

Not having the second bottle of water turned out to be a good thing.  I think with two, I would have tried to do the whole 17 miles, and in my condition I wasn’t going to do well.  I was tired enough when I finished after fourteen.  I saw the two lakes on the route that I might have missed otherwise, because they required a walk in from the trail.  I remembered, when I got to the car, that my wife had put several liters of water in the trunk in case of an earthquake’s hitting if I were away from home.  And I realized that while I had properly placed my Steri-Pen in the pack, I needed the thicker plastic water bottle, not the thin sports drink bottle, to safely use it.   The next day I added chlorous acid pills to the pac for another means of purification.  

Another reason I forgot things is because I deal with two different packs each week, my work pack, which has gloves, my hand saw, loppers, ear and eye protection, and most of my first aid kit, and my day pack for hiking, which has more clothes.  I needed to have a checklist for both of them, rather than depend upon my memory.   I now have three different ways to deal with water on the trail, two first aid kits, sterilizers, and leave two water bottles on the hood of the car the afternoon before hiking or working trail. Spare running shoes go in the trunk so I can change footgear after a hike.  

Tomorrow and Sunday I day hike and work. This will be a good opportunity to see if I have fixed the system.

Kuitan Lake, inside the Mt. Washington Wilderness


Robinson Lake, just outside the Mt. Washington Wilderness

One Response to “FLAWED SYSTEM”

  1. Janice Says:

    Beautiful place! Glad everything turned out good!

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