Thursday, April 26, 2007

Some more bad decisions....

I am sitting at my house, on a semi-comfortable chair, with my leg wrapped up and on the coffee table.

Good thing this is a small house, 'cause I can't move very far..

Of course this means I have not been getting out, and have no new fun to write about.

I have decided to turn to the vault, for a story full of many bad decisions.
It took place in around 1993, or sometime back then.

My roommate John Sibela and I decided to go camping in the gorge. I had done this 1 day, 14 mile hike up Eagle Creek once. It was a long and not very fun journey. I was also carrying a 3 pound bag of granola. That night we camped at Wahtum Lake, 13 plus miles out Eagle Creek Trail.

I had no tent, and slept next to the fire. It dumped down rain that night, and most of the tents had actual puddles in them. We were camped in the basin that held the lake, and all that water came down the hill.

The sleeping bag I was in had high qualities about it, and kept me dry. I had slung my jean jacket over my backpack, and it soaked up all the water and kept my stuff dry. Through a night of torrential rain unscathed...

Back to the trip with John...

We drove out to Wathum Lake, and set up camp. It is a great, kinda cold because it is in a deep cut between the hills. The water is very cold all the time. And very very blue.

After setting up camp. we went on a hike. We carried nothing, (I mean no water, no food, nothing) wearing shorts and t shirts.

We hiked up the hill to Chinindere Mt. This is a spot where the Native American's would gather, and hold some sort of rituals. They also built up little shelters in the shale, piling them up over the years. I have seen this also over in the mts. above the 'Couv.

I recall that we had no time frame in mind for our hike, and really no destination, except to get back to the camp at some point. We continued on down the trail to the Benson plateau. This is at 4,000 feet as it turns out.

This is a look at the Benson Plateau, above the Bridge of the God's.

It was here that we smelled smoke, and wandered over the top of the ridge to find a recently burned area, and a sign saying "Eagle-Benson Trail closed".

We hadn't even known there was a there. It was not marked, and after reading about it even more today, it is steep, dangerous, and hard to follow.

We decided to take it, which changed everything. Fisrt off, there were actually spots where little flames would sprout up, and we would of course stomp them out. But to be in the area of a forest fire, so soon after that it is still burning in areas, was very amazing.

Also, the fact that it had been burned made the already hard to follow trail impossible. I led us down the ridge of what is rated the second or third most difficult hike in the gorge, with no trail in front of us. Some spots were very exposed.This is an image from this trail, I found it on the web.

I can't recall how long it took us to get down the ridge, but between stomping out flames, and backtracking around things that would kill us, it took quite a while. it was getting later in the day, and hard to see.

We found the actual trail down near the bottom, and it dropped us out Eagle creek trail, right below Tunnel Falls.A look up at Tunnel Falls, with the trail seen above also.

Safely down at Eagle Creek trail, in a place I had been before. we relaxed for a while. It was definitely getting dark, and fast. A quick calculation told me that we had about 8 miles to go to the campsite. The first mile or two would be along Eagle creek, and the trail cut high above the it, into the rocks. This is not the place in the dark, and is exactly where I stood.

The road, and light, was 5 or 6 miles in the opposite direction. I made the decision to go for the campsite. I must say here that this is not what you are supposed to do.
when you are out in the pitch dark, in the woods, you must head for civilization.

Back to the story. We headed up the trail, through Tunnel Falls, hugging the side of the rock wall as the darkness fell around us. Above Tunnel falls is Twister falls, where the trail goes even higher up the wall, and the exposure was not good. I guess in reality we couldn't see how bad the drop was..

From this point we started moving more up hill, basically in pitch dark. John was behind me pretty much the whole way, and was not having a good time with it.

We actually passed campsites where people were hanging out. Though we could have stopped there, I pressed on into the night.

I hadn't realized he had his cell phone, until we started rising higher, and he got a signal, and decided he was calling for help. I took the cell phone away from him, stopped, and started explaining it to him...

If we called for help, they would either....

Send someone from the gorge, which would be 7 or 8 miles below us. This would involve hiking to us for many hours, possibly four hours, as we sat cold on the trail, waiting for them.

Or they would:

Drive out to Wathum Lake, park, and come down the trail to us, like 6 miles... This would involve us waiting for 2 hours or more.

Either way, we would still be walking out of here eventually. I could see the wheels turning in John Sibela's mind, as he was understanding the consequences of our actions.

I rallied for going on up the trail, back to our campsite. I told him I knew that there was one spot where we could take a wrong turn, to the east. I didn't know where it was, but I knew as long as we did not take it, we would make it back to the lake, and our cold beer and dinner.

I also discovered that the combined light of the cell phone and the pager was just enough to make it safely through the water crossings. it was not the water itself that was a problem, but finding the trail on th other side of it.

I had to constantly push the buttons on the two devices, so they would light up. The trail turned away from the creek, and off into the darker, deeper upper woods. Through a lot of this, John was holding onto the back of my shirt, as I moved on forward. He was really freaked out, and kept wanting to call for help.

We would hear noises in the woods that sounded like people, or campsites, or who knows what. Of course, no one was around us by this time.

I cannot even begin to relate to you what you learn about yourself on a trip like this. I think the one thing that really helped me out, was that John was so freaked out. I had no time to get too worried about what was going on.

The shadows, at night, in the woods, are overbearing. It really helped to just look up, and try to identify the cut of the trees, where the trail was pushed through.

Though not always prominent, a glimpse of this let me know I was still on the right track.

We spent hours on that trail in the dark, I think as many as 6 hours from Tunnel Falls to Wahtum Lake.

When we finally arrived at camp, we were exhausted, mentally drained, and very happy. We cracked some beers, made some huge sandwiches, and went to bed.

Sometimes when I think back on some of the things that have happened to me, I am amazed I have made it this far really. Some of the things that have gone on are just amazing.

Just amazing..

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