From the Waptus River to Deception Lakes
Due to the falling rain, we make the decision to keep our foodbags dry and inside the tarp tonight, instead of dealing with a bear-hang like we usually do. (Rodent-hang is more like it, seeing as we usually hang it about mouth-height for the average bear.) It’s bad backpacking form, but classic thru-hiker move, keeping your food inside your shelter. Seems to work for everyone else… I snuggle myself down into my sleeping bag for the night.
I’m tossing and turning long after it gets dark. The rain makes me uneasy, and the mouse that keeps crawling over my face isn’t helping. (Shouldn’t-a put the food bag inside the tarp.) As the rain falls harder and harder, the ground stops absorbing it and small rivulets begin coursing inside the tarp. I make small dams of the loose pine needles around me, fall back asleep.
Mouse on face, rain falling harder – I’m awake again, our campsite is flooding, and there’s a hole in my food bag. J wakes up at my rustling around. “What’s up?” he mumbles.
“We’ve got a serious drainage problem!”
J rouses himself and looks around: “holy s—!”
The earthworks begin!
I trench on one side, scraping away at the dirt with rocks and fingers, J on the other – we’ve got rivers flowing around us and not under us now. We put our mugs, water bottles, and cookpot under the tarp to collect some of the flow. Back to uneasy sleep.
The mouse, again! More importantly, I think our Neoairs are about to lift up and float away. The water is two inches deep on my side, about to lap over the top (good thing I don’t have a z-rest tonight!). All the water containers we put out are overflowing and we dump over five liters from the pots and bottles, just from one side of the tarp. More earthworks. J and I scrape trenches deeper with our small rocks. We can see Blue next to us, his headlight flashing through the dark, as he leans out his tent and does the same. We screwed this up pretty good.
I take my food bag and curl up with it, too tired to care anymore. I pull my quilt over my head and go back to sleep, water running all around me. So tired.
The rain lets up, the mice back off, and we sleep in, exhausted. What a terrible night. Somehow we are OK this morning though. We’re rested, (miraculously) dry. Our clothes are (miraculously) dry. Our sleeping bags are (miraculously) dry. Absolutely everything else is soaked and dirty, but that’s ok. Our neighbor Blue is still in his tent, no signs of movement.
It’s past ten when we finally start the wet, dirty process of packing up. It’s still raining, but it’s more of a mist. Wipe, shake, wring-out, wipe again. Hiking time. Blue is still in his tent.
It was gray yesterday, but we’re totally socked in this morning. I resent the lack of visibility. It’s an inconvenience to be wet and cold, but an outrage to hike through this country and not get to see it. It’s not exactly easy hiking either. Oh well, maybe the clouds will lift. I’m in good spirits, really.
We meet some section hikers and they’re in good spirits as well, and just as wet. If I flew out from Alabama just to hike this section and got this weather, I don’t know if I would be as cheerful.
There are glimpses along the way -Deep Lake, blue in a golden meadow, Cathedral Rock, looming out of clouds. I feel good, warm and strong. My feet are holding up great with the wet. My umbrella keeps my head dry. I occupy my time worrying about the “potentially dangerous ford” which is marked in the maps as coming up. Pigpen and Kentucky pass us when we eat lunch, then a little while later we do the same to them. “If you see our brains dashed out on the rocks, don’t cross the ford.”
The ford ends up being tiny, just a normal hop across some rocks to cross the creek. It’s probably a rager in the spring. Nice to have that over with, I had myself all worked up.
Then we see it: the dangerous ford. Oh. That thing back there was just a creek. This is a cascade, pounding down the mountain, and my heart leaps into my throat. I don’t know why I’m being such a chicken – if it looks really slippery and dangerous I can just walk through it, get across with feet colder, but no wetter. (Importance: safety << cold feet)
J goes first, walking across the slender, wet logs balanced over a deep section. They bow under him. I follow suit, thinking my mantra from climbing days: "the absolute certainty I will not fall, is the reason I do not fall". It works.
From there we put in a hiker hustle to get to Deception Lakes, trying to make a full day of hiking in a half-day's time. It's just before dark when we get there, a deep fog everywhere, the water shimmering almost black in the half-light. There's a huge campsite area, sandy, slightly domed. It is the opposite of last night's campsite in every way. "Perfect! No flooding tonight!" I exclaim. Then I do extensive preventative trenching anyway. The food bags get stowed outside, an emergency poncho wrapped around them to keep them dry. It's going to be a good night.
A very wet morning. Can’t believe we screwed this up this badly, like a couple of noobs. How long have we been hiking now?? On the plus side, the tarp performed like a champ, it’s just the idiots selecting the sites that are causing problems…