Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Much hiking

As Sarah and I walked on Saturday, I thought of ways I could start the blog post I planned to make about our adventures...

One thought was to start in the traditional way when telling such a tale: Both Sarah and I are okay.

Another was to reference a sermon I heard a few months ago, one in which the priest talked about his experiences when he didn't ask for a guide and probably ought to have.

But I think what I've finally settled on is a bit from The Hobbit, where Gandalf says 'don't leave the path'. By which I mean to say the man's a frickin' angel, if he says 'don't leave the path' he means don't leave the damn path.

See, the day began...well, no. The day began okay but the explanation begins the night before. I went over to Tim and Ray's and there we were, busily inventing dinner a little late, and the phone rings. It's Vince, saying 'hey, you guys coming to gaming tonight?'.


So they headed off to gaming and I lingered there long enough to put away our abortive attempts at dinner and then went home. When I got up the next morning their car wasn't there, and I decided that they must have gone down to Vince's after gaming and decided to stay over; not unusual. I was taking care of Dwen's dog and kitten over the weekend anyway, so I mentally added Sarah to my list of care-ees and went on with things.

Walked the dog, walked the kitten, took laundry over to Tim and Ray's around early afternoon and fed Sarah, who was awfully happy to see someone after having been horribly neglected and starved. What could I do but to promise her a treat? And anyway it was shaping up to be awfully hot, and since Tim and Ray weren't around to drag up into the mountains, I'd drag their dog instead.

I almost left them a note:

I came over!

You weren't here!

So I stole your dog!

Love, K.

But Ray called before I found a piece of paper and asked me to feed the dog, so I told him that I already had and they could safely stay out for the rest of the day without endangering poor neglected Sarah (see above link). Didn't intend to go endangering her myself, but, well. (As it turns out they went to the zoo without me, which causes grumpitude because I like the zoo, but they both want to go back with me along so I didn't kill them. Also, they fed me that night, which was good because I certainly wasn't up to doing it myself.)

I packed up the dog, two bologna-and-cheese sandwiches, a lot of water (or so I thought), a pair of binoculars, homemade bug spray (works against mosquitoes!), homemade salve to put on any scratches I might inflict on myself, got it all in the car, realized that I had to find a place to hike because the trails in the park don't allow pets, got the dog back out of the car (the backpack and most of its contents are still in it, and it's Wednesday), searched several web sites, cursed, wrestled Tim's printer into submission, got the dog back into the car, and off we went.

The best (indeed, only) method of getting Sarah to lay down in the car is to turn a corner quickly enough that she falls over. Even this is frequently temporary. Sarah thoroughly enjoyed our run up into the hills despite (or possibly because of) swallowing several high-velocity bugs along the way. Her only dismay came along the last two-and-a-half-miles of our route, which were rather bumpy; apparently in order to keep her balance she was required to keep a hind paw on one of my legs at all times. Did I mention I was the one driving? It's tough to drive with half of a dog on your lap.

The path I'd chosen involved driving said two-and-a-half-mile dirt road, circling Beaver Reservoir, and driving four miles along a four-wheel-drive-only path. I in my exuberance assumed that my '98 Saturn Wagon would be up to this task. Well, folks, when they say four-wheel-drive-only in this part of the world, they mean it; I left my car at the intersection of two-and-a-half-miles and four-wheel-drive-only and set out, bereft of directions but armed with plenty of water (I thought), one bologna-and-cheese sandwich (having eaten the other en route), et cetera, and one very, very excited dog.

There was a promising-looking path, so we took it. After a bit, the path divided; one fork going off to the left and a bit up, the other going off to the right and a bit down. A nice gentle fork and we could see down both paths a good ways. The left fork looked less well-travelled and so I chose that one (thus reminding myself, as I type this, of another approach I could have taken to beginning this post). After we'd gotten far enough that I didn't really want to turn around and retrace my steps (it doesn't have to be far; I hate hate turning around) it became clear that the path wasn't well-maintained. Or indeed at all; several large, fallen, branch-spiky trunks across the path left that pretty clear. And while I'll climb over a trunk or two to keep going, there were a lot, and Sarah doesn't climb near as well as I do.

So, perfectly logically, I turned right and said, that other trail can't be too far. And I headed off into the woods, Sarah bouncing along behind me.

Never, ever do this.

The other trail was not, as I'd expected, about forty or fifty feet off to the right. Nor was it a couple hundred feet off to the right. What was a couple hundred feet off to the right (and, of course, well after I'd decided that I wasn't likely to be able to find my way back to the original trail) was a huge tangle of large, fallen, branch-spiky trunks. Except these weren't neatly lined up across the path; they lay in all directions and all angles.

Firmly convinced that the path must be close, I pressed on, coaxing Sarah over tree trunks, snapping branches off at times to clear space for her. She, of course, thought this all was grand fun; dogs don't know the meaning of the word 'lost' (or most other words, really). I wasn't admitting to knowing it for a long while, either, but eventually I gave in and said, yeah. We're lost.

Decisions had to be made. The first was easy; don't eat the sole bologna-and-cheese sandwich until I'm really hungry. The second, equally so; we could fight our way back uphill, or continue down. Both my legs and conventional wisdom agreed on downhill.

And so we went, scrambling over logs, stumbling into tiny creeks dug down into the ground; I stopped several times to rub salve onto tiny scratches, and once or twice to dole out water to both of us. Off in the distance came a faint sound which could be motors, and I angled towards that. An undetermined but awkward time later we came to a spot on a rock with a good view, from which I was able to spy the unnatural blue of a nylon tent through the trees. At a guess it was several hundred yards ahead and a roughly equal distance down. Both of us out of breath but a firm goal within sight, I decided it was time for a break.

Water for all, brief contemplation of the bologna and cheese sandwich but I passed on that as we weren't out of the woods (so to, er, speak) yet. I took out the binoculars and surveyed the horizon, such as it was. Sarah lay next to me and panted, and hindered my attempts with the binoculars by resting her head on my left arm. I figured I'd give it a good ten or fifteen minutes, long enough for my pulse to go back to resting and for Sarah to catch her breath, and we'd continue on.

About five minutes in I heard a rumble. Not a car. Sarah panting in my ear, I reached out without looking and held her muzzle shut just long enough to listen unhindered for a moment.

Yep. That was thunder.

Up and packed, Sarah bouncing and still panting. Down the hill at speed, bouncing over rocks and sliding down slopes on my butt. Dogs, or at least Sarah, are better at traversing near-vertical rocky slopes than I would have thought they'd be. Shortly we reached a path. Salvation!

I turned back in the direction of the reservoir, or so I hoped. (As it turns out I was right; it was just irrelevant.) We trotted merrily along, Sarah taking brief forays into the woods to chase squirrels. Upon crossing paths with a couple we found out that the end of the trail was but (but!) a mile or so ahead. We forged on.

To come out in a totally unfamiliar campground, with no reservoir in sight.

Did I mention the incoming thunderstorm?

I walked through the campground to the other side, in case the reservoir was there (it wasn't). Sarah briefly met a small dog who wanted very badly to play with her. We walked back through the campground, stopping to look at a huge signboard covered with notices, postings, even a map of the campground, but no map of the area. We continued on, stopping at the other-other (first?) end of the campground to ask a lady with a convenient map if she knew how to get to the reservoir.

After explaining to her that, no, we needed directions for walking there, we consulted the map and made some guesses. Back through the campground again, but (but!) a mile further on to another campground, up this path, turn left, turn right, and there you are.

Salvation! On we went, pausing to refill our (long empty) water at the pump. Which provided us with water brown enough that I couldn't see the bottom of a half-gallon cooler through it. I shrugged (any water is better than no water) and on we went. Paused along the road to refill the cooler from the stream, as the water there was significantly clearer, and stick our paws in the water. To the next campground, where, after wandering in vain for a bit, we asked for directions again.

While his wife carried their two small dogs, one under each arm, into the camper (as they explained in no uncertain terms that they would eat us all if they could just put me down Mom this is undignified) the male half of the 'camp host' couple gave me rapid-fire directions (the path is up there, turn right, turn left, up the hill, and there you are). Fortified finally with clean water from this camp's pump, we set off through the campground. Salvation!

Five minutes later, still in camp, the pair came roaring up in a golf cart (apparently standard issue for the camp hosts). She doesn't trust his direction-giving, and so out comes a pile of photocopied maps, on one of which she draws a line in black Sharpie as she rattles out directions (the trail is between campsites 34 and 35, just up there, can't miss it; turn left, turn right, up the hill with the switchbacks, turn right, but (but!) a mile and there you are).

Good thing I had the map, because by then I had enough rights and lefts in my head to walk to New York City, or possibly Ottawa.

We set off. Up the path, turned right, passed the lady I'd asked for directions at the first campground, got about a hundred feet, turned around, passed her again, turned right. Up the switchbacks. Laboriously. With breaks. Passed the couple who'd first told us the campground was but (but!) a mile ahead, who looked confused. Got to the top, paused for a bit, turned right. Thunder still threatening.

Not much of a pause. But when we got far enough along that path that I was pretty sure we were actually right this time, I declared it was time for a celebratory and triumphant sharing of the bologna-and-cheese sandwich with Sarah, who was awfully pleased.

By then I'd decided that if it rained, well, I'd be wet, and that was fine, because it could thunder all it wanted and I wasn't going any faster. What did get me going faster was the mosquitoes, finally out in enough numbers to overwhelm the homemade bug spray.

And so up the last portion of the trail (and there you are!) when finally we were, and my faithful little (not four-wheel-drive) car was the most beautiful sight I'd seen ever in at least a week. I took a long swig of water, poured the last not-much in Sarah's bowl, tossed my backpack in the car (where it still is) and brushed my hair. Because if I hadn't, I was going to pull it all out.

It had, after all, been an awfully long day.

The rain started just after I turned around and stopped shortly before I got to the second campground to tell the camp hosts that we were okay, and thank them profusely. He told me to come back sometime, and I replied that I certainly would, now that I knew how to get there on purpose. Sarah laid down the whole way home, without any necessity of sharp turns on my part, and rested her chin on my right arm in friendly fashion. Upon achieving 'home' I dropped Sarah off, went into my apartment, and entirely failed to be capable of so much as taking a bath I hurt so much.

Sometime later I stumbled over to Tim and Ray's to pick up my laundry, and they fed me homemade macaroni and cheese (along with other food such as carrots, steak, and mashed potatoes, but after the day I'd had, macaroni and cheese was my limit). And sometime after that, I went to bed, whereupon I slept like a rock for roughly eleven hours, and only woke up because I'd been smart enough to set the alarm clock.

And Sarah? Wants to do it all again.


Mother Laura said...

I am really really glad that you're okay.... (((hugs)))

And you sure tell a good story.

Mother Laura said...

Oh, and I just looked at the Sarah pic. What a beauty...and with an innocent face you'd never suspect of refusing to lie down in the car antics....

Reverend Bitch Sir! said...

I am very happy to have discovered your blog. I will be back often.

God Bless

Kate said...

Thanks, hun! Oddly enough, I never did get scared, and in fact mostly was having the time of my life. I know a certain amount of nervousness ought to have been appropriate, but I couldn't seem to summon it up...after all, I had a lot of water, a bologna-and-cheese sandwich, and a dog!

Which of course I dyslexiad as 'go', which I had too.

And yes, Sarah is a sweetie. And beautiful, and knows it. And with an innocent look that _almost_ works. Brains? Perhaps not so much...

Reverend Bitch Sir, glad to have you aboard! (Is the exclamation point considered an essential part of the name as well? If so, your pardon...)