Alright all, I’m just going to cut to the chase. I’ve been writing papers and taking tests more or less non-stop for the past three days. My mind is mush and I need to get away from this computer. Therefore, todays entry will be another copy and paste effort from my 2007 PCT journal. For the sake of continuity we might as well use this prequel to the mountain lion story I posted on Tuesday. If you didn’t get a chance to read that one, I’ll have a link at the bottom of this page.
I really like this photo, but rather than give away the reason why, let’s jump right into that story and I’ll discuss a little more after…
The day began with an awesome climb up to Muir Pass. Mentally this may have been the toughest climb yet, as the pass had a number of false summits. You would look up and seem to be reaching the top, only to rise to a small plateau, and keep climbing. I enjoyed it, though. Much of the climb was along the Middle Fork, and then cascading headwater streams cutting through scattered snowfields. There were a number of small alpine lakes, water crystal clear yet blue as the sky. Atop Muir Pass was a cone shaped stone hut, constructed in 1930 as an emergency storm shelter. Cole, Will, and I rested there for over an hour, being entertained by the small colony of resident marmots.
From Muir Pass, the trail dropped in a long winding descent, past several lakes and back below treeline. I was feeling good, inspired by my scenic surroundings, and moved swiftly. Pulling away from the guys, I walked for several hours without needing a break. That was a blessing, as the lower I got, the worse the mosquitos became. In time, I came to a sunny open rock ledge beside Evolution Creek. There was a slight breeze keeping the insects at bay, and I dropped my pack, walked over to the waters edge to check out a small waterfall. Below the falls was a deep, tranquil pool, and I couldn’t resist the temptation to go for a swim. I took my shoes off, emptied my pockets, and dove into the water, fully clothed. Figured while I was bathing, why not do a little laundry as well. I believe it’s called multi-tasking. The swim was great. Submerging head first in the inviting pool evoked an overwhelming sense of joy. It doesn’t matter how old you get, a good old fashion swimming hole can bring out the kid in anybody. I splashed around beneath the waterfall for a bit, then returned to the rock ledge to dry in the warm afternoon sun.
Will and Cole came along about a half hour later, said they intended to push for a cabin they believed to be near Piute Creek, about eight miles away. They kept going, and I hung back for awhile, cooked and ate dinner. With evening approaching, and the impending threat of a mosquito feeding frenzy, I shouldered my pack and moved on. Back in the woods, the mosquitos became immediately evident. They were worse here than ever before, lower in elevation with many slow trickling side streams to cross in the shady dense forest. After a few miles, I came to a point where I was required to ford Evolution Creek. Until now, nearly all stream crossings had been simple rock hops, but that wasn’t an option here. Under normal circumstances, you would want to change out of your hiking shoes and socks, and into water shoes before making a ford. I started to take off my pack with the intention of doing just that, but the mosquitos wouldn’t allow it. In full attack mode they swarmed, thick enough to kill a dozen with a single swat. I had to move.
I plunged into the water, thigh deep and cold, and fighting the current through long deliberate strides worked my way across. Back on dry land I kept moving. Without so much as looking back, I continued down the trail. About half a mile later, I came to what looked to be a pretty cool little waterfall. “Heck with the mosquitos,” I thought. “I’m stopping to take a picture.” I reached for my camera, which I carry strapped to my hipbelt, and discovered it no longer there. My heart sank. I began to panic as I checked my pockets to no avail. My camera was gone! All I could think was I had lost it at the stream crossing.
I dropped my pack and sprinted back to the ford. Tearing across the water, I searched the bank where I had loosened my pack. It wasn’t there. I scoured the shoreline, being eaten alive by the still hovering swarm. Nothing. I jumped back into the water and started wading back and forth, checking log jams and anywhere else it might have washed to. The water was clear enough to easily see the bottom, and I dove under in a deep pool, wondering if it might have sank there and become lodged beneath a rock. I figured even if the camera was ruined, perhaps I could still salvage the memory card. No such luck. It was nowhere to be found. I was absolutely sick. It wasn’t simply a matter of losing a four hundred dollar camera. That sucked, too, but what really bothered me was losing the photos I had stored on that card, and the realization that I wouldn’t be able to take anymore until I could get a replacement. Photography is something I really enjoy, something very important to me. It is a means in which I can chronical my adventures, capturing these special moments in time. I tried to convince myself the camera was gone, but couldn’t accept that. Dripping wet, I returned to where I had left my pack, desperately hoping I’d had the camera there all along and had somehow overlooked it.
Of course, this wasn’t the case. In total dismay, I shouldered my pack and took a few steps down the trail. Then I stopped. While I was almost certain I must have lost it in the stream, I couldn’t be positive. The last place I knew to have had it for sure was where I had cooked dinner, four miles back. Although it was getting late, I knew I had to go back and look. I figured I’d hike back to that spot, and if I didn’t find it, make camp there and look some more in the morning. There was a ranger station in route, so I would also stop there and leave my contact information, just in case a good samaritan found it and turned it in. It was worth a shot.
Retracing my steps, I again trudged across the stream and back through the mosquito infested forest. I kept my eyes peeled to the ground, and believe it or not, two miles back sighted a dark object on the trail ahead. My camera case! I ran to retrieve it, clutching it to my chest in total relief, overjoyed. I don’t know how I lost it, but that didn’t matter, I had it back now.
-July 2, 2007
Now, some of you may be thinking this sounds familiar. Sort of like the story I posted about Robin from Maine a few weeks back. I swear, I don’t make habit of such misadventures. You have now read about the only two times I’ve ever lost a camera or related items, and hey- two for two in getting them back against unlikely odds isn’t bad.
As for this photo, I like it because it conjures memories of a truly exciting day. You’ve heard of the calm before a storm; this photo represents the calm between storms. At the point this was taken, I was so lucky and grateful to have my camera back that this beautiful photo op seemed almost celebratory. In hindsight, it was that, but I had no idea what the rest of the night had in store.
You can read the conclusion to that story (my post from Tuesday) by clicking HERE.
Meanwhile, I’m turning this computer off and going to get some fresh air.