Another backpacking photo essay

Yet another, because this trip was too freaking awesome to care about being repetitive on the blog!  I can drive again, have enough sense to plan out a route in advance.  But still not too much common sense: twice over the divide, and lots of class 5 creek crossings!  But lets start with day 1:

I started early afternoon, after yet another doctor’s appointment in the morning, and made it up near Lake Isabelle by evening.  When I stumbled upon this spot, it was time to camp:

This'll do

This'll do

Room with a view

Room with a view

Early sunsets in these parts

Early sunsets in these parts

I could see the lights of Boulder, miles and miles away (and below!), and a beautiful starry night.  And I had some company in the morning!  What an auspicious start for day two.

Mornin', chuck

Mornin', chuck

After breakfast, I headed up towards Pawnee Pass.  It wasn’t simple; all was still covered with snow, and the trail was mostly covered.  So I had to chart my own path up to the ridge.  Exciting and fun!

Got to figure out how to get up there. I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to cross this divide-thingy.

Got to figure out how to get up there. I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to cross this divide-thingy.

Panoramic from the pass, looking east.

Panoramic from the pass, looking east.

Pawnee pass, ~12,500'

Pawnee pass, ~12,500'

I reached the divide around lake morning, and started down towards Pawnee Lake.  The terrain on the western side of the divide was astonishing.  Huge rock pillars, hundreds of feet tall, precariously perched on the steep slopes of Pawnee Mountain.

The west side of Pawnee Pass was nuts.  Look closely down below, you can see the trail zigging and zagging down to Pawnee Lake.

The west side of Pawnee Pass was nuts. Look closely down below, you can see the trail zigging and zagging down to Pawnee Lake.

The trail cut tenaciously into the landscape.  Its construction must have been a grand undertaking.  Large stone retaining walls held the steep mountain back above the path in many places.  And upkeep was clearly no small task either.  Large sections of the trail had been destroyed in rock slides through winter.

Glad I wasn't here when this went down...literally...

Glad I wasn't here when this went down...literally...

Below Pawnee Lake, I descended into lush woods.  I realized that I was the first person to take this route in a long time; there we only animal tracks in the snow.  Where trees had fallen across the trail, and I was forced to break some branches off to push through the timber, no other branches had been broken before me.  No human evidence at all.  And there were some gnarly crossings!

Before: nervous. Those are some nasty consequences.

Before: nervous. Those are some nasty consequences.

After: Phew! Little wet, but glad to be on dry ground!

After: Phew! Little wet, but glad to be on dry ground!

Better wet than sorry!

Better wet than sorry!

I stuck with the old strategy: if things are dicey, forget about staying dry.  Just focus on staying upright and don’t fall or get swept downstream.  In this case, this meant wading, and holding on to pine branches for dear life.

Glad I'm not fording that.

Glad I'm not fording that. Getting wet from here.

Wow, a handrail and everything.  Luxury.

Wow, a handrail and everything. Luxury.

Practically the Golden freakin' Gate

Practically the Golden freakin' Gate Bridge.

I was tired and happy; upon spotting some cozy woods and a stream off the trail, I started towards sleep.  Threw up the tent, and cooked some tasty black beans with shredded coconut for dinner.  But I couldn’t find my pot grabber — I must have left it at camp this morning!  Bummer.

I improvised an oven-mit (some clean socks) but spilled about half my dinner trying to take the boiling pot off the roaring coke-can-stove.  I sparingly cooked some more, worried that I wouldn’t leave enough to the nights to come.  I woke up hungry, got up and lowered my bear-bag for some midnight snacking, but again made sure to leave enough food to get home.  It was a long and hungry night.  Still, morning came quickly, and a big hot bowl of oatmeal drowned all my worries!

Mmmm, breakfast.

Mmmm, breakfast.

As usual, I had company at breakfast, and ambitiously began day three.

and some company at the table! (look closely on the log)

and a guest at the table! (look closely on the log)

I hit the trail again, back up towards the divide; this time Buchanan Pass.  And winter’s ravages continued to dominate the scene.

Winter was rough on the infrastructure.

Winter was rough on the infrastructure.

But winter gives and takes. Snow bridge!

But winter gives and takes. Snow bridge!

Again, the trail was obscured with snow, and it was map and compass time!  Once above treeline it was a playground.  I just had to look at the map, figure out which mountain was which, locate the pass, and walk towards (and up to) it.  And, as Alex wisely instructed, “Just don’t ever walk under any cornices, or on anything steeper than you’d climb when it’s not snow-covered, and you’ll be fine.”

Yikes. Almost to Buchanan Pass.

Yikes. Almost to Buchanan Pass.

There were these red streaks in the snow everywhere. Wow that's a lot of mountain lion kills or...?

There were these red streaks in the snow everywhere. Wow that's a lot of mountain lion kills or...?

I made the pass, again in late morning.

Up at Buchanan Pass, looking west.

Up at Buchanan Pass, looking west.

Up at Buchanan Pass, looking east.

Up at Buchanan Pass, looking east.

And the trip down the eastern side was anything but arduous:

See that look on my face? That's the grin on a dude who just butt-sledded down a thousand feet from the continental divide into a bowl on Sawtooth Mountain.

See that look on my face? That's the grin on a dude who just butt-sledded down a thousand feet from the continental divide into a bowl on Sawtooth Mountain.

and there's the evidence.

and there's the evidence.

Another few miles, and I made an early camp, in the temperate woods of Peaceful Valley.

Reading Sogyal Rinpoche in an afternoon thunderstorm

Reading Sogyal Rinpoche in an afternoon thunderstorm

The next morning, day four, my last day, consisted of a few miles on 4WD roads, and a section of the Sourdough Trail:

There's my red (well, orangy red) white (err....yellowish-white) and blue for 4th of July!

There's my red (well, orangy red) white (err....yellowish-white) and blue for 4th of July!

What an adventure!  It was nice to be home, and I had a top-notch welcoming committee:

Committee member #1

Committee member #1

Committee member #2

Committee member #2

Happy 4th of July!  I wasn’t able to stay awake late enough to see any fireworks.  Surprised?

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~ by awerbuch on July 12, 2011.

2 Responses to “Another backpacking photo essay”

  1. My river crossing strategy is to just take off my shoes. Brr!

    Awesome pictures, glad to see you’re enjoying your summer with some top notch butt sliding.

  2. [...] spring training ride on March 19, 2011. It has been a long, difficult year, filled with new exciting adventures, and…challenges…to put it euphemistically. I wrote a bit about my recovery, hiking, [...]

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