Sunday, July 28, 2019

Mosaic Monday #38: The Beanie, The Gaiter and The Wife

Fit as a fiddle at Lubec Trailhead
What do these three things have in common?  As of 2 pm Mountain Time on Wednesday, all of them were nearly blown off Calf Robe Mountain while hiking near Firebrand Pass.  That's right, this is the latest installment in "How to Risk Your Life While Hiking" series.  Read on, dear readers, read on!

The day started well enough. Spousal Unit obtained our pre-reserved back-country camping permit without incident, setting us up to enjoy one night each of camping at Ole Lake and Ole Creek.  My dear neighbor friend played shuttle, so that we could leave a vehicle at our exit point.  As we drove, we talked about Ole Lake's reputation for mosquito infestation, and she mentioned that we were unlikely to be pestered by the winged ones given the wind advisory.  Little did we know how true that would be!

After bidding her a fond farewell, we departed the trailhead with great expectations for the adventure ahead.  In June, we completed our one-night backcountry camping "experiment" (see June 23 post), and this two-nighter presented additional challenge and FUN!  I was immediately enthralled with the trail as it passed through colorful meadows and aspen groves stunted by decades of wind and harsh winters.  Mushrooms were abundant, some as big as dinner plates.  At one gap in the trees, we glimpsed a spectacular beaver dam, together with its lodge.
Yes, that is my boot in the lower picture to give you a sense of size!
Upper Left: Parrot's Beak; Upper right: Lupines in meadow
Bottom left: Aspens;  Bottom right: Caterpillar

As we continued our ascent, we met about 20 people already on the descent (one group of 12 might have been an organized hike), and all warned that they failed to reach the summit due to the wind.  One buff-looking hiker, who planned (like us) to camp at Ole Lake, described himself as crawling across the Pass.  He decided to turn back - if something happened to him, who would be there to help?  (I suppose that's why the permit advises AGAINST solo hiking?)  Another hiker cautioned that the wind could easily whip your hat or sunglasses off your head.
Top: Lupines
Bottom left: Lanceleaf Stonecrop      Bottom right: Monkeyflower

We thanked them and proceeded; we could SURELY handle it!  As we reached the final slope before the Pass, I was knocked over by - you guessed it - the wind.  I landed on a flat slab to the right of the trail, grazing and bruising a significant portion of my right thigh.
Approaching the Pass - looks calm, doesn't it?
I picked myself up, examined the damage and carried on.  We could see two approaches to the pass - the normal trail to the left across a scree and a small snow field, and a steeper animal trail that appeared more sheltered by trees and the normal topography.  We opted for the latter (against regulations!!!)
Firebrand Pass is the flat spot straight ahead between the two mountains.  If you look closely at the left-hand
mountain, you can make out the trail crossing the rock scree halfway up the mountain

Man with Beanie hunkers down behind trees
When we reached the top, we could not believe the force of the wind.  (I wish now that I had taken a video so that you could at least hear it.)  A cairn in the middle of the pass seemed to mark the way, and Man with Beanie made his way to it, deeply crouching.  I was half-seated on the rocks some distance from him, and I finally decided to crab my way over to him  (just like a baby might before it learns to crawl) because we couldn't even communicate over the howling of the wind.  Once I reached him, we talked over the options and decided to descend a short distance backwards and take shelter for an hour behind some trees.  Maybe the wind would ease.  As we reversed course, the wind grabbed his beanie and tossed it into the air.  Lucky for him, we found it lodged in some moss a short distance away.

While we were waiting, I went as far as I dared onto the Pass to get a shot of the view westward.  This picture is like offering candy to a baby - you want more!

After 30 minutes and no sign of the wind abating, we decided to approach the south side of the Pass, in the hopes it might be more sheltered.  Nope.  A very short distance demonstrated the wind power, even pulling a neck gaiter out of the pocket of Man Not Wearing Beanie.  Once again, we quickly located the gaiter as we beat a hasty retreat.  Defeated, we began our descent.  By now we knew it would be necessary to hitch a ride to our truck, parked at the exit point.  Appearing on the mountain above us, like manna from heaven, came a young couple.  We shared our wind stories, and then I asked if they were heading our direction.  They kindly agreed to give us a ride as long as it would not delay them in picking up their daughter from daycare.  Perhaps I was thinking too much about keeping pace with people 20 years younger than me - a few minutes later, before I knew what was happening, the wind had pushed me off the narrow trail.  Belly down on the rocks, I was clinging to the edge of the trail to prevent sliding down the scree field.  Man Not Wearing Beanie and the young couple ran to my aid.  I suffered a hard blow to my right forearm that left a quail's egg size lump, scrapes on my right shin and a broken nail on my left hand from scrabbling at the rocks.  It could have been much worse!  We have since learned that some people call this area of the mountain the Elephant's graveyard.  It could have been mine!

The good news?  We didn't see a single mosquito all day!

AND we decided that we deserved a night that did not involve a tent or wind, and that's how we found ourselves at the Izaak Walton Inn, enjoying all of its creature comforts - adult beverages, a hot shower, a delectable meal and a comfortable bed.  

The next day, we cooked our camp breakfast on the tailgate, parked at the Bear Creek put-in on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River.  Not quite the Ole Lake campground, but the oatmeal with a handful of dried blueberries was delicious.

By 9.15, we were on the trail to Ole Creek.  After a mile, the Fielding Patrol Station cabin was a pleasant surprise, situated in a lovely meadow with a small stream running behind it.  Too bad it's not available for rental! 

Left: Huckleberries   
Upper right: Sulfur Buckwheat    Lower right: Nodding Onion
We covered the 3.5 miles to the campground in short order, noting the location of a bumper huckleberry crop that we could pick on our way out the next day. 

Of course, there was one more hurdle to jump before reaching the campground - Ole Creek has no bridge, is deep enough that it must be forded and of course the campground is on the other side!!!  Below is a video of me fording the river the next day so you can get the idea.  Trust me, that water was bone-chilling cold!

Ole Creek Campground is a delightful camp nestled between Ole Creek and Soldier Creek, which runs directly behind the food prep area.  Quite convenient when you need water for your meal or coffee!  The tent was up in no time, and since we had arrived so early, we passed the time rambling a couple miles further along the trail, collecting firewood and playing cards by the fire.

We were very amused to discover a new style of pit toilet at this campground - new to us anyway!  We have since heard that this is called a "low rider" and is likely to become more common than the small shed-style pit toilet.  Not sure how I feel about THAT!

After our gourmet dinner, we strolled back to Ole Creek to collect more firewood, followed by a dessert of s'mores with coffee.  The Honey Jack was a special treat.

Earlier in the day, we had predicted the day would close without seeing a soul, but just as we were preparing to go in the tent, three hikers appeared.  They had already covered 20 miles, and planned to finish the day with the 3.5 miles back to the trailhead.  Wow!  I hope the mosquitoes did not pursue them; they were sure nipping at us on our way to the tent!

It was a cold night and we were pleased to have our "long johns" and our down sleeping bags.  Hot coffee and a campfire were a welcome start the next morning.

All too soon we had packed up camp, forded the creek (brrr …) and left the Ole Creek valley below us.  We stopped only to pick hucks (a half gallon in about 30 minutes), and before we knew it, another hiking adventure was complete.    Although I was a little scraped and bruised, I would not give up hiking or backcountry camping any time soon.  As Man with Beanie likes to say: "This is my happy place."

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  1. Of course everything is so pretty but boy oh boy, that wind must have really been something. I'm sure glad you didn't get blown away!

  2. ...gorgeous countryside. Being the softy that I am, i'll hike and then head to my cabin in the woods!

  3. Haha … ridiculously happy … such a great sign! Your encounter with the wind is well told and gripping. You can never see the wind only what it does to people, structures and things and by the damage in its wake. Glad you survived with minimal pain! I imagine mosquitoes wouldn’t stand a chance. :)

  4. What an adventure you had, that wind must have been ferocious!! I hope you didn't suffer from your injuries too much. You hiked through such beautiful countryside. Great sugn at the end there.

  5. Hi! Your mountain landscapes are very cool. Wild flowers are very beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  6. That wind was dangerous! So sorry you were hurt, Angie. Mother Nature is sometimes not to be reckoned with. We constantly hear about people on hikes getting themselves into difficult situations in Colorado. There have been drownings in the very full snow melt creeks and hikers falling on ice and snow on mountain hikes and people hit and killed by lightning on trails this summer.

  7. A tough but interesting adventure. I want to get out this week to pick blackberries. I didn't get any last year and I'm out of jam. - Margy

    1. Thanks for stopping by and commenting on my blog this morning. My hiking and backpacking days are over. I did a few in my younger years. Now we use quads to explore our backcountry, but as you said with all of our other modes of travel we don't have much time for that either. - Margy

  8. Well I am very happy you lived to tell the story and that you carried on. I would have stayed at that lodge for another night! You are definitely in the right place for adventures that you can enjoy. Bravo!

  9. what a wonderful lovely it is to see your part of the world. Thank you for hosting Mosaic Monday

  10. Wow Angie, this all looks beautiful, awe-inspiring, and .... frightening! Oh my gosh, that wind and that fall ..eeek! ...and even fording the river looks like more adventure than I would want to handle . But what wonderful rewards are yours for taking those chances. Thank you for sharing the beauty. I really am in awe!

  11. Hello, what an adventure. I am not sure if I could carry on after being knocked to the ground by the wind. I am glad you were ok. The scenery and photos are beautiful. I like the Inn, looks comfy. Thanks for hosting MM. Enjoy your day, wishing you a happy new week ahead!

  12. I truly wish I had done more hiking in my younger days, I have all the gear, and I had the intention, but somehow it seems to have passed me by. But I can appreciate others trail stories. But what are hucks? they look delicious. Happy hiking!

  13. I got so caught up in reading this that I almost forgot to link! I read a lot outloud to hubby so we could discuss it! Makes our hiking seem so tame but right now I'm thankful for tame hiking! heehee! You are tough to brave the elements in the wilderness. What sights you see and hear...and feel! Amazing! You could write a book! Happy MM!

  14. That is some adventure, Angie! Although the countryside is rugged and the weather no joke, you saw some lovely sights. That inn you stayed at sounds delightful after your trials and tribulations!

  15. omg... you're hardy. Glad you turned back from the wind. Even the wind here in the subdivision blows grills and furniture off the porches. LeeAnna

  16. I experienced wind like that once on the island of Maui. Beautiful photos!

  17. You are a tough and bold lady! With bruises and scratches it was worth it - for you, not me :)

  18. Good Monday, it is raining here in St James Trinidad right now, and that's nice. Wishing all a lovely week

    much love...

  19. Wow, to actually be blown down twice from the wind is amazing! I was so glad to read about the huckleberries. We used to have them in our rural place in Maryland and I remember picking them; a lot of work since they were small, but so tasty.

  20. You're living the good life! Glad you didn't get too banged up. You are my hero! No way I could sleep in a tent outside like that. I just know some bear would come by (like in Yosemite)and I would be a Isn't that Inn to die for? Now I could handle Kit

  21. That was quite an adventure! Great pictures too.

  22. Brava, Angie! I was shivering as I watched you barefoot that creek. Oh my gosh. I'm certain I would've done the same thing when I backpacked as a younger thing long ago. I'm to much of a chicken today, bwak, bwak. I loved reading about your whole adventure. I can hear the wind that knocked you around, my gosh. And, yes, I would've stayed in a hotel too. You have me wanting to backpack!

  23. Oh my goodness, you are an adventurous soul, aren't you. Gosh those winds sound a tad fierce! A fabulous read of your hiking travails. I must say I rather love the thought of staying in that lovely accommodation; comfy beds, grown up drinks, hot water and a toilet with some privacy. =)

  24. Angie, I am glad you lived through that adventure! Thanks for sharing. Have a great week. Sylvia D.

  25. Wow - that was some hike! Hope all your bruises are okay.... Lovely shots!

  26. Wow! What an adventure ~ glad you are safe and enjoyed the travails with Nature ~ Bravo to you both ^_^

    Happy Day to You,
    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

  27. What an adventure and great photos. Your report brought me right to the places you were at. Lovely indeed!
    Thanks for sharing the adventure with us.

  28. And at the end of that, you were still smiling. For the camera at least. Full marks for perseverance Angie and Man Still With A Hat. Have you ever thought of taking a nice gentle stroll along a flat, long beach?

  29. That was a fun read! I went on a total of two backpacking trips with my husband, and the main thing I didn't like was leaping over swollen creeks! I didn't have walking sticks in those days, which looked very helpful in your creek-fording video.

    I could well appreciate your escape to a hotel that one night; it reminded me of when we were camping on the desert and the wind was so ferocious our tent wanted to blow away, and we could not sleep. We couldn't do much outdoors, either, because the sand in the eyes and camera lens and food... At those times, it is lovely to know that one can do something else.

  30. Hi Angie what a great post i thoroughly enjoyed your adventures,hope you have a lovely day my friend xx

  31. I guess the moral of this story is to always listen to buff young men with advice about dangers ahead! A broken leg would be a bit of an issue in wilderness like that! A broken nail you can live with.

  32. What an adventure - lovely photographs.
    I think you really deserved that night at the Izaak Walton Inn.

    All the best Jan


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