The Labor Day Death March

16 09 2012

…also known as “The Weekend Justin Tried to Kill Me.”

…or maybe even “The Best Weekend I’ve Ever Had.” It’s hard to pick. They all apply.

So just what kind of torture did I endure, you ask? Only my favorite kind, of course: hiking!  This was no normal jaunt down the trail, however. This was a 3-day wilderness expedition, complete with unmaintained trails, burly mountains, and full packs. And before you start harping on ole JRock for dragging me out and trying to murder poor little me, know one thing: I begged for this trip!

Oh, you heard me. Begged. Three-day weekend, and I needed out. Out of the house, I mean. Away from my desk, away from my chair, away from this house, AWAY. A case of summer-time cabin fever, feeling swamped at work, and too much time at home by myself. So J agreed to take me out with him.

If you’ve been around awhile, you might remember this time last year – J and I celebrated our 1-year anniversary atop a mountain, on my longest ever hike. This trip would get to double as a get-me-the-hell-outta-the-house trip AND our 2-year anniversary back-packing trip!! (Awwwww…) The trip would also trump last year’s and become the new Longest Ever Hike (for me).

I went into this trip knowing a few keys points: I would be covering more mileage than I ever had before, and I would be doing it in some of the most brutal and unforgiving country out here. (insert gameface) BRING IT. I was so pysched to get out and push myself; let’s see what this chick is really made of!

Saturday morning started off well. We made it up to the trailhead at Hart’s Pass, which was a plus since I’ve failed at this before. Day One would be fairly mellow in terms of terrain we were covering, compared to what was in store. We headed down, down, down, dropping elevation as we cruised down the valley of the middle fork of the Pasayten River. This cruise lasted for about 8 miles, miles we filled by practicing Spanish vocabulary (Me: como se dice “bush”? J: “arbusto” Me: Me gusta el arbusto!), discussing the summer of fun (“did you see my killer dance moves at A and M’s reception?!”), and dreaming of our future (“and when I finish the teleporter and become a billionaire, where should we live first?”). There were also times we would both lapse into silence, drifting off into our own heads, entertaining our own wacky brain trains for awhile. This would occasionally result in hilarious random word vomit as one of us would suddenly spew forth random sentences which the other had absolutely no clue about. Even more crazy is that the recipient of this would often add a completely unrelated comment stemming from their own internal conversation and we would both once again retreat into our internal mine shafts. I seriously wonder how I make it out of there alive sometimes….

We met several groups of people out enjoying the weekend. One group was a wilderness leadership group out for 18 days – now that’s intense! Another group of a couple dudes was headed the same direction we were, and we leap-frogged down the trail, re-passing each other as we stopped for breaks at different times.

Pasayten Wilderness, North Cascades, Washington

Down the trail we go!

We reached the bottom of the valley and had the pleasure of hiking alongside the currently calm waters of the Pasayten River. In spring, the river rages, but this time of year it’s content to babble along the rocks, singing us a sweet song as we marched along with it’s beat. With the calmer waters, we had no problem crossing and stopped on the other side, in a nice meadowy area for lunch. The surrounding forests, open meadows, and towering peaks piercing the sky all around made for some beautiful scenery – as usual. No, I will never grow tired of the awesome beauty of Mother Nature’s work out here.

At one point, we came upon a campsite that J checked out, only to find a trail leading up the bank on the other side of the river. Of course, we dropped our packs and rock-hopped across the water to check it out.

Trail to stock camp, Pasayten River, WA

What’s this? A secret trail? Better check it out!

We found a pretty old stock camp from who knows when, which rang a bell in J’s noggin: there was a report of a cabin back here. Time to explore! We set off in opposite directions to see what we could find. I, naturally, caught a glimpse of it almost immediately. Until it turned out to be a tree. I headed across the bottom of an avalanche shoot and back into the trees and saw the real cabin. Until that turned out to be some shrubs. I got fired from discovering the cabin, which we never did find, and we finally headed back to continue our journey. (This was the second time I got fired – the first was for bad navigating. And all in the first half of the first day….)

Not long after this, we came to our juncture: one trail kept going straight, the other turned and headed up. I’m sure you can guess which way we were headed. We rested with a quick snack before the last 2-ish miles of the day. (Snack breaks are my favorite.) Then began the climb. The day so far had been cool and breezy, enough so that I wore my jacket most of the day. Not anymore. I was stripping all the clothes I could as I poured sweat with every step. The climb was steep, filled with switchbacks, but at least in the trees. Despite my intense heavy breathing and disgusting amount of sweating, I felt pretty good and kept on chugging along. As with most climbs, I was delightfully rewarded.

Fred Lake, Pasayten Wilderness North Cascades, WA

Wowzas, I like this place!

At the top, we came to a little stream running down – the outlet of the lake. Fred Lake, to be exact. Our day’s destination. A couple of gentleman were crouched at the stream, filtering their water. We stopped for a chat and discovered there were quite a few people up here. All but these guys had continued on, headed to Doris Lake. We had thought about doing the same, but we decided to stay away from the crowds in case there were no campsites left. Almost immediately within arriving at Fred, I started adding my layers back on. A brutal wind was whipping down from the peak, chilling the air quickly. I had grand plans to soak my feet in the lake and rinse off my filthy legs, but only one leg got dipped before I decided I’d rather be dirty. Brrr!! I raced back to camp and shimmied into my long johns. We set up camp and ate dinner, huddled against the wind. I had serious doubts about making it through the night.

Fred Lake, Pasayten Wilderness, WA

I was freezing. I have on every piece of clothing I brought, plus J’s rain jacket. J put on a light jacket and hat. Show off.

Finally, out came our food – dinner time! J and I each brought a dinner for the trip. I had made a cold pasta salad for us, which immediately became Day 1 Dinner since the cooked pasta was heavy. Oops. But it was delicious and lightened our packs! Then J fired up our little stove and made some hot apple cider. The sun was still up so we headed over to the lake to enjoy the view and drink our cider, warming our souls and bellies before getting ready for bed. He even let me hold the pot (which we were drinking the cider straight out of – we don’t need no stinkin’ cups!) so the heat could seep into my cold thighs.

Despite the beautiful setting, we hustled back to get everything prepped for the night. J tried teaching me how to make the bear hang (a bag with all our food, etc, so bears couldn’t get it and so it’s not in the tent with us in case they try), but I was shivering and just wanted in my sleeping bag. Yes, knot, ok, four feet from tree, right, a bunch of feet from the ground, sure ok, whatever you say, let’s go! Finally there was nothing left to do…so off to bed. Burrowed in my cozy bag as tight up against J as I could get without slipping off my thermarest, he poked just enough face out to kiss me good night. Happy Anniversary, darling. And that’s the end of Day 1!

Fred Lake Stock Camp, Passayten WA

Resort de la Fred, home sweet home for the night.

Day 1 Stats:
Start: Harts Pass; End: Fred Lake;
about 10.5 miles total; elevation drop: 2000 ft; elevation gain: 2000 ft.

***Editor’s note: I’ve been working on this post a heck of a long time. My blog has not been neglected, but I’ve been unable to publish. Writer’s block maybe? I finally decided to break out each day of this trip into separate posts so I could actually publish something. I don’t flatter myself in thinking anyone has been on the edge of their seat for weeks, waiting to see what I’ve been up to, but I wanted to just assure any who cared that I had not, in fact, been eaten by the monstrous spider who is STILL outside my bedroom window. Days 2 and 3 of the Labor Day Death March will be up shortly. Then probably another post right after that because I just have SO MUCH TO TELL YOU!!





2 responses

16 09 2012
Lucille Glasgow

Sounds like fun; I like your conversational style of writing; take care and God bless. Grandma

20 09 2012

Thanks, Grandma! I’m glad you like them. 🙂

Give it to me straight -

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