Sunday, August 8, 2010
Here we are at the beginning of the trail. Ready to go! You see we have our rain gear out because when we got out of the car it started raining.
Cataract Gulch is a four mile hike, very steep. Although it connects with at least one other trail that keeps going further, we were just going to do the Gulch up to Catarack Lake in-and-out. The original plan was to hike two miles in to camp for night one, two more miles to the lake for night two, spend one day at the lake playing, taking pictures, relaxing, etc, then four miles down on the last day.
We made it two miles up and were getting pretty tired. That may sound wimpy to some people, but this was my first time carrying 30 lbs up a steep hill and frankly I was very impressed at all times that my body kept going. It was getting later, it was still raining, and we found a workable place to make camp, although it was not as flat as we would have liked. Pretty though. We made Pad Thai for dinner this night.
The picture above was a shot the next morning. We put out our wet clothes to dry in the sun, and left a little later in the day. We did not know that this would be the last time we saw sun on trail!
Also at this point we realized that though we had lugged up my nice, HEAVY DSLR, extra telephoto lens, and tripod, somehow the battery for the camera was left in the car.
Right ahead and above our first campsite was this great series of waterfalls, which lulled us to sleep. Another bummer was we found an even better, flatter place to camp about 100 meters past where we camped, but such is life. We met a nice couple from Oklahoma who offered to take our picture with his camera and email it to us.
Continuing up, we had to cross lots of streams, which I did not expect. I was thankful for my $24 consignment leather, rainproof hiking boots for sure! Dan was really encouraging and let me lead all the way up so I could set the pace. I think he really enjoyed the hiking with me and I was proud of carrying all that weight.
We finally got above treeline the second day, and had some great views. The trail was really rocky and had some steep drops off the side occasionally. Lots of little critters lived in the rocky areas. We saw a lot of chipmunks and these critters that looked like a rat but with rounder ears, kind of like chinchillas. They made noises like "meep meep" and Dan would "meep" back and forth with them a lot.
We had to drink lots of iodine water, yummy! We definitely overpacked on the snacks, we had candy bars, hershey nuggets, gorp, dried mangos, and laughing cow cheeses.
About an hour after we got above treeline, it started to sprinkle, and then rain pretty quickly. We stopped to put on our rain gear and continued. The rain got harder and then very suddenly it was a hail storm with thunder and lightning and tiny little needles hitting my head and shoulders. Dan was not totally sure what to do at first, because he had never been in a hailstorm above treeline- there were no trees to get under! We ran down the hill on the side of the trail to maybe squat under some shrubbery, but saw that wasn't going to work because a stream was forming from all the runoff. We hiked a little further on until we found some higher shrubbery to squat under, and Dan got out the rain fly from our tent to put over us. The hail was really coming down, about pea-sized, and starting to cover the ground so much it looked like snow.
Dan was worried mostly about hypothermia and kept asking me how cold I was on a scale of one to ten. I kept saying 6 or 7 (it WAS cold) but I certainly had been MUCH MUCH colder before. We kind of hugged for body heat, not wanting to get out warmer clothes since we needed dry things for later to stay warm at night. We were both praying for God to protect us and make the rain stop soon! It was about 3:30pm and we really wanted to be getting into camp before evening. Finally the hail subsided to just a steady rain after about 30 minutes of huddling.
Dan decided he wanted us to get the packs back on and keep going to keep our body temperatures up from hiking. We put the packs back on and continued with him leading. We didn't really know how much farther to the lake and campsite; the map we had was small. I followed and we were able to go a little faster since the trail had leveled out some and wasn't so steep. We were mostly going over hills, up and down, crossing engorged streams in between them.
I remember at one point the trail itself was basically a stream, completely muddy and there was no way to not just splash and muck my way through. I was cold and soaking wet, tired from carrying a heavy backpack up a MOUNTAIN, and this was the one moment I could not help thinking to myself, "That's it! I just do not want to be here anymore!!" I think I only said out loud to Dan that I just didn't want to DO this, but before I finished saying it I was already splashing through. What other choice did I have? There was no where else to go but forward.
We reached the campsite about an hour after the hailstorm. I remember coming over yet another hill and Dan saying, "Here it is, this has to be the lake." And I was just so happy! "We made it!" I yelled. The rain was now just a sprinkle. Dan told me what he wanted us to do was immediately pitch the tent, take off our wet clothes and get in thermals in our sleeping bags to warm up. So we quickly unloaded the stuff, trying not to stay still for too long to avoid getting the shivers. At this point I remember thinking, "Thank you mom for buying me cuddle duds four years ago. Thank you Dan for buying me a fleece for Christmas. Thank you REI for having fleece pants in my size the night before we left for the trip. Thank you MyPoints for paying for this sleeping bag." We fell asleep for about an hour, then decided we should try to cook dinner before dark. We made guaco tacos, which were delish.
The next day we woke up to lots of fog and mist. Since it had been cold, rainy, foggy and misty the whole first two days, and the third day looked like it would be the same, we decided to cut the trip short and go home that day instead of spend a day being cold in the tent. We did hike up a little hill near our campsite at the lake to take pictures with Dan's point and shoot camera.
This shows the end of the trail. If you look at the tiny white dot in both pictures, that is our tent. To the right is Cataract Lake. Other than the critters, this morning was the first and only time we saw an animal on trail. A deer of some kind was hollering at us from across the lake. I don't know really how to describe the sound, I didn't know deer made sounds. It was kind of like a hooting or a honking, but more guttural.
We packed up and started back down the trail. Right as we were leaving the lake, we met another day hiker who had just made it up the trail with her dog Astro. She made me wish Lucy had come with us, although I don't know how she would have done being so wet the whole time. Astro was a poodle but you could hardly tell because of all the mud and muck covering him!
It took us more than four hours to make it down the four miles of trail. All the way down the trail I was thinking, "Thank you Ed and Kathy Sunder for lending me a hiking stick." Because my knees started hurting from the impact about a mile down and hurt the whole rest of the way. My left knee is still hurting when I walk today. I'm icing it.
This is what it looked like the whole rest of the way down, if you add rain:
But we made it down! Hooray!
And now it's time for Brittany to get some TLC. "Thank you mom and Japan, for my car."