Today began as I'd hoped. We awoke and promptly left the KOA located in Rock Springs. Everything was packed, we had not overlooked any of the necessities. Charles brought up the question why are we doing this trip. I'm sure this same question would have hit me or Tom later. I came up with a bad answer, but that was much later in the day. We ended up a bit behind schedule as the Big Sandy Entrance was difficult to find. We had the GPS with the coordinates but couldn't seem to find the correct road. Another group eventually drove by and directed us, thankfully, else we would have wandered around all day! I'd guess a group of three dads and eight of their sons in a Tahoe from Utah. Our departure was quick. All bags and CD's were hidden in the back of the Nissan van we borrowed from Charles's folks (for which we were lucky to have… a cow darted across the road and we nearly hit it while wandering the desert for the entrance earlier). Doors locked, we packed up and left. The Utah group was bound for the same general area as us - but we will split up either tomorrow or the day after. As for the answer to Charles's question, I realized that a Diamond Rio would be of equal cost to our outing the entire week. But that is silly to think cost is really and answer right? I think we all know this trip is the first when we are without parents - truly on our own! We must rely on our skills and our physical being - I'll admit mine is very tough to work with :-). More ponderation later on that subject. The mosquitoes are horrible. They say my face is all bit up though I cannot tell. I resorted to a mosq. net that slips over my head while I hiked … actually pretty much all the time except when we were in the tent. I believe the net is meant for sleeping, but I have to go with what works. Another packer said the area had seen a late snow, pushing back the bug season by two weeks. Hopefully the higher we go the less demonic bugs. The tent is safe, thankfully. The view is already beautiful; our tent overlooks a lake and a mountain. Truly what I was wanting … we just got done eating Lasagna. Not too filling but that is how one eats while out on freeze dried food. The mosq. are being more hellish. We have talked of the psychological effect of them. They seemed to really swarm when we were putting up the bear bag. The bear spray, however, is with us in the tent. I'm not sure of that as a good idea, but I guess the protection is nice. The wind has stopped, unfortunately, and some darker clouds are approaching. We have planned for a very early morning to avoid the bugs tomorrow. Until then.
No such luck on getting up early. We were all dead tired due to the altitude. We ended up eating granola and departing at 10:00am. We all took care of business quickly, though - bear bag, tent, dining fly - they were all packed in no time. Today's trip was another elevation increase like yesterday - though 2/3 the lateral distance. By noon, we found ourselves in an unbelievable valley at 10,200 ft. Small lakes and sage brush were all around with a panorama of snow splattered mountains. Soon after, we came upon a large creek, Washaki creek, that needed crossing. There was no other option but to change into sandals and wade through. The rest of the day was uncomfortable due to the limiting mosquito cover. Charles may be some what sick from the altitude, but hopefully he will be able to take the pass tomorrow. We have spent three hours so far today after the hike zipped up tight in the tent. We are considering shortening the trip. Same distance and trails as planned, but go for longer days. Tomorrow will be astounding. I cannot wait to use my panoramic at the pass! Perhaps that is one of my reasons for this trip - the photo opportunities.
Today was everything I had expected and more. We actually got a relatively early start - 8:30 am. We were unable to stand the flying hellions. Almost immediately we exited the treeline to see only grass, rocks, and mountain flowers. The climb was steep - higher than we had ever been previously with packs on. After each time the pass seemed to be getting closer, another hill appeared beyond forcing us higher. Finally, we rose to the top - low on oxygen due to the 45 pound pack and 11,800 foot atmosphere. It was amazing to see the "other side." The peaks towered above with snow on all sides. I ventured off from the wind shelter at the peak (the winds are 25-35 mph) on my own to see a better view. While off, I maxed 11,850 ft in altitude (approx.). Amazed, I picked a few of the surviving flowers and put them in a bag for taking home. At 11:15, after nearly 45 minutes of resting at the peak, we began our voyage down the other side of the Continental Divide. In case you didn't know, this is the point at which all water drains to the Gulf of Mexico instead of the Pacific Ocean. Snow, again due to the late April storm, had not melted making one trail extremely difficult, and admittedly dangerous. Tom began scouting other routs and found the one that was eventually taken. Rock, the size of watermelon at the top and the size of a car later on, was the only terrain we could follow - until we were forced to hit the snow. Charles's boots fared well in the steep incline of snow, but unfortunately my boots did not. Each step could have sent me dwn the embankment into rocks - I was unsure if I could stop myself. This group had a similar experience go bad at Philmont where a hiker from Red Cloud had to be trucked out with a broken ankle. This descent was definitely a point of no return. An accident now would have meant a day of travel to get help if your cellular did not work. We ran into more hardship as we had entirely lost the trail. The topography map helped little as I must have missed the trail. I believe that read right or not, the rock field would still have to be crossed. At a ˝ mile, the going was slow. At any time one rock could have rolled and induced a rock slide. After about an hour and twenty minutes, we found the trail and began at a fast pace, just under 3 miles per hour. At this speed, the day would be able to close in a superb position to shorten our trek from seven days to six - Much Manlier! Charles, Tom, and I ate lunch late and filled our bottles - running dangerously low - in a clear, snow run-off creek. Due to the downhill, we easily blew through the valley to our next fork - the one that would take us to what I believe is the most difficult day, Lizard's Head Trail. Soon after taking the correct fork and rounding a hill, a large river crossing barred our passage - again (as we did yesterday that I failed to mention) we changed to sandals and waded through the twenty foot wide river - Today's crossing was simple compared to yesterday's. The cross yesterday was much deeper and colder, not to mention the current. On our last bit of energy we trudged up past Valentine Lake below the treeline to prepare for tomorrow's leg. Currently, we are illegally camping - too close to the trail. We do not have any other options, though, as the other sites are all ridden with rocks or sloped too much. This is rocky enough, and none too desirable. The mosq. on this side of the divide strangely are fewer and weaker, allowing us time outside of the tent - a true blessing. The site is 10,300 ft high; we will max out in altitude tomorrow at 11,800 feet (approx.). Dinner was great for me though Tom was nauseated by it - sweet and sour pork and teriyaki beef. Yum! I definitely got my fill. As for Charles's altitude sickness, I think he will be thankfully fine for the remainder of the trip. We have decided just now to end the trip in six days instead of the planned seven. We are all needing showers and need real food. I am particularly glad for this decision as camping above the treeline would pose much unnecessary danger and difficulty. The true reason, I now know for sure, for the trek is the unlimited freedom - we can cheat danger and all be truly in control of how these eight days go. Charles and I are both college bound, but Tom is getting a real treat being able to do this before his senior year. I cannot wait to develop the cameras from today. The views were breathtaking;-- until tomorrow. Good night.
At this point in the expedition, we are all motivated by showers and fast food. The good news is that the past two long strenuous days have paid off - we are currently two miles from being one full day ahead of our planned schedule. Hiking today started late at ten-thirty. I was worried about the time - if the sun went down things would get difficult quickly above the treeline as we were. Light, wind, and lack of rockless ground posed a problem as did the utter lack of trees to hang our bear bag. Everything turned out well, as we arrived at your site at four o'clock PM - only a six point five hour day as compared to the much worse nine-hour day we did yesterday. We climbed 1,200 feet today to leave the majority of our hiking at 11,800-ft. This far into the trip, a hiker is as acclimated as much as they will be ever. The only major obstacle today was another glacier / snowfield blocking the trail. There was question if we were anywhere around where we were supposed to be as the only viable path to walk was around the extreme far side of the slick, steep snow. After forty-five minutes, the trail was found and the rest was easy. No snow and cairns were setup so the trail was visible. We met a group from N.Y. who had relations in Omaha. They also took our only group photo so far. The team was finally beat after a 2,000-ft. descent into Lizard Head Meadows where we are set up now. We are eating Ramen noodles for dinner tonight despite the return of the mosq. On the Lizard Head Trail today, we experienced fifty five degrees with the cold wind where I had to wear my thermal pants and my usual long sleeve shirt - occasionally I needed my gloves. Now, however, it is between seventy and eighty degrees. The good news is that we have no more difficult days - at least they will not compare to the past two days. Our elevation change is ˝ as much and we only need to go ˝ the terrain distance. Personal Note: On the descent, I began on camera number two and am down to six pano's. Tom and I are going to complie our photos for the web page you are now looking at. I will write again after we once again hurdle the divide.
From ten-thirty to three-thirty, today, we finished our last major elevation change - Big Sandy Pass. Overcast by clouds, the party feared rain when we were so close to the Nissan. One last night until a shower is ours. As for the day, it was not as simple as I'd hoped, yet child's play when compared to the 23rd and the 22nd. I was a bit too motivated going up the pass from Lonesome Lake. I found it very difficult to catch my breath, though the altitude wasn't that bad! I did slow down once we reached the first peak - the rain began. With pack covers and rain suits on, we trudged on through a snowfield next to a frozen lake. Then, we crossed two boulder fields until we reached Arrowhead Lake. By then, the weather started to spook me. I was above the treeline with a metal pack as lightning struck to the West. I hurried down to North Lake where we began slowing down for the day - approx. five miles. Tomorrow, at this time, I will be full of fast food and be on my way home. Every decision we made on this trip was a good one. I feel really great about overcoming such a rugged trail as the very one we took. Six days was great - much better than seven. We never starved nor became dehydrated. We never had a close call though we still experienced danger. Truly, this was a great retreat from civilization though as always I want to go home. College starts in three weeks for both Chares and I. I'm looking forward to trying life on my own as we have these last seven days. The car ride home will be uneventful - mostly anime and sleep. Hopefully, this journal of events will have entertained or interested you as the reader. I probably did not mention everything from the trip, but this should give you an idea with the other media I included as to how hard this trip was, though fulfilling it was at the same time. Thanks!