Thursday, April 24, 2008

My First Time... Part 3. The finale.

Here it is. The grand Finale.

So where did I leave us? Oh yes, we had just found a trail that led us in a circle and it was getting late. Close to the car (we think) but we still needed to get over a mountain.

Okay, here we go. After going around in a circle, we searched high and low for the rest of the trail, but for the life of us, couldn't find one in the immediate vicinity.

There was a dirt trail however, going straight up the mountain next to us. It was a little off the beaten path, but it seemed like the right way to go. Which was up.

In our wisdom, we decided to cross over through the manzanita bushes towards the dirt path. A half hour or so later, we finally reach it said dirt path.

There was one slight hitch. It was not a freakin trail. Still we decided to give it a go. Really at this point we had no choice. Oh sure, we could have stayed put and tried to get out a better way the next day. However camping wasn't an ideal option. We had no food, and hardly any water, so to try to hike around all the next day, in the heat didn't sound all that wise. Plus I still wasn't feeling all that well.

Without any other appealing options, we start climbing the sand trail straight up the mountain. We had about an hour left before dark, and from the bottom, it honestly didn't look that far to climb.

Okay seriously? The sand? Was next to impossible to climb, especially with backpacking gear. Every step you took you ended up slipping backwards about 2 feet.

Also, the mountain was densely populated with manzanita bushes. I used to like those bushes. Did you know they have very sharp branches when you walk through them?

Yeah. I didn't either.

It looked something like this...


But with a lot more bushes.

So here we are with an hour to climb the Matterhorn, slipping backwards every 2 feet in the sand, and trying to wend our way through a forest of evil bushes. This was seriously setting us back.

I'll be honest here, and say that more than once I suggested dumping our backpacks and making the best run we could for the top. We had one of those little maglight flashlights with us, so I figured if we could just get rid of the weight, we could book it to the top and hopefully find a trail, using our flashlights to guide us back to the car.

For some reason, my dear old husband did not care for this idea. I can't understand why. But since he refused, guess what? He got to carry my backpack.


Meanwhile in true Indiana Jones fashion (I only wish I had a machete), I charged through the manzanita as fast as I could, disregarding the fact that my legs were being shredded with step.
Hubby however was more cautious with his appendages, and like a snail, slowly made his way up.

Sadly we weren't making very good progress. Almost an hour had passed and though it seemed like we had climbed for miles, the top was still very much elusive. Plenty of times we thought we were reaching the top, only to find a vast expanse of mountain appear out of nowhere.

Unbelievably, we still had about 3/4 of the mountain to go.

The time? Five til 9:00. It's almost dark, and we are trying to wade through manzanita as tall as we are. What happened to the short bushes? All of a sudden they sprang up into veritable trees. Which would have been fine, had they been spaced out, but the whole mountain was packed with manzanita side to side.

Right at this point, my husband tells me, he lost one of the water bottles. Perfect. Now we had exactly half a liter for the two of us.

Strangely enough I did not panic. I mean what can you do in these circumstances? We weren't going to make it. It was final. We had to make the best of our situation, sorry as it was.

Anyway two good things did happen. 1, we had just passed a semi flat space barley big enough to set up our tent. And 2, I had full cell phone reception! Don't think I wasn't this close to calling a rescue team to come get us.

I could wave them down with our flashlight, and we would be helicoptered out and saved. Although I don't like the idea of flying in a helicopter, and just how would we get in it? They certainly couldn't land anywhere. They would have to ...

Anyhoo, hubby didn't seem to think that was necessary, so camping it was.

We turned around and made our way back. We had to climb over a fallen tree, so I grabbed one of the branches to help me over. Unfortunately, though not surprisingly, the branch snapped like the twig it wasn't and off I went tumbling down the hill.

Just in case you are wondering, I did not roll all the way down. I was thankfully, stopped a short distance away by my manzanita friends. Except for a few bruises and some more scratches to add to my collection, I wasn't seriously hurt.

In the dark, we set up our tent, and since we had no water, or food for dinner, we went straight to bed.

Unfortunately neither of us had really eaten that day, and because of the hot weather and exercise we were very dehydrated. Even though I wasn't actually panicked, I was very concerned that once we made it to the top, we still wouldn't find the right trail, and would be forced to wander around all day, with no food or water. I will admit, that I seriously considered drinking my urine. Totally gross I know, but I was in survival mode now. If we had come across a creek, I would have taken my chances with the giardia and e coli too.

Needless to say, my dizziness and rumbling stomach kept me from actually falling asleep. Which turned out to be a very good thing.

At about 11:30, something very large and probably carnivorous, started to make it way towards our tent.

Okay now it's time to panic!!

Much to my surprise, my first thought was not, "How are we going to escape"? No, it was more along the lines of, "Are you effing kidding me? After everything we had been through on this trip, this is how it ends? We are going to be dinner? Unbelievable".

My husband, who will forever be known as 'my hero', managed to make enough barking sounds to scare off whatever it was.

Do I need to mention that both of us were on high alert, awaiting future visits from it's friends and relatives?

We did not sleep at all.

At exactly 5:00, we packed up and hiked the rest of the way. Fortunately after awhile the manzanita cleared out and gave way to a real forest, with lots of room to walk in between the big pretty trees.

I did see one thing that I didn't like however, and that was mountain lion tracks. Quite close to where we camped actually.

Yeah. I think we got lucky.

It only took about 30 minutes to get to the top. And after a few false attempts, we actually find a large maintained trail. (Cue the hallelujah chorus). I nearly wept with happiness.

Especially when the trail turned out to be the one that actually led to the car!

We hightailed it back, and reached the car in record time. By this time I was shaking so hard from a combination of hunger, exhaustion, dehydration, and whatever happened to ail me the previous day. I practically collapsed into the car seat, and grabbed the nearest water bottle for life support.

Next stop? A ginormous breakfast at Carrows!

And you know what? I didn't care that I hadn't showered in 3 days, was covered in filth, that my legs were scratched up from stem to stern in a very unsightly fashion, complete with dripping blood, and that I smelled like a porta potty. We were safe, breakfast was on it's way, and we weren't headed for divorce court.

Yee Ha!

Okay next time? I'm going car camping. I hear Yosemite Valley is nice this time of year ...

Though last time, I didn't care for the nightly bear visits, which led me to lock myself in the men's room ... But that's another story...


Michael C said...

What a story!!! The visitor in the night would have reduced me to a Don Knotts type reaction!!

I was thinking you deserved a big breakfast after that and that's exactly what you guys did. Kudos! Glad you survived the experience!

Oh, by the way, I may be asking you to illustrate for my blog some time. I love your visual aids. Man those Man-bushes (wait, that sounds bad, I'll just say Manzanita Bushes) looked prickly. You really did them justice. ;-)

Lilly's Life said...

Michele, you are hilarious and your experience and the way you tell it was fantastic. There you go you are out there living life (err not always according to plan but what a great story it is). I cant camp anywhere without an electrical outlet...and as for prickly bushes.....


What a trip. I'm sorry but I'm laughing and I know it was awful for you but it is hsyterical. I am staying away from those bushes. What a story!

Michele said...

lilly- Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it. I think my roughing it days may be over though, I'm like the idea of an electrical outlet more and a bed more and more. :)

Health nut mom-I don't blame you for laughing, it is funny. Now. :) At the time I was scared, but when I look back it seems so outrageous that I have to laugh. Oh and don't get me started on the bushes. I'm surprised my legs don't have scars still. :)