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July 6, 2008

A Little Time in the Backcountry

My good friend Erica, who used to live in Boulder, came into town that afternoon. A small group of us ate and drank and watched fireworks. The next day, we went backpacking.

It’s kind of a tradition in some sense, since Erica and Barbara and I went hiking and climbing and camping over Fourth of July weekend several years ago, and Erica and I went backpacking over the holiday a year or two after that. We didn’t do it on purpose this time—it was just time for Erica to get her butt back out here and get out in the mountains.

We went into the Hesse Wilderness, not too far out of Boulder.

[Erica and Barbara carry small Thermarests. What happened to roughing it?]

The woman who issued Barbara the permit warned of snow, so we brought snowshoes.

Turns out it’s been melting quite a bit recently, though. Erica and Barbara actually put theirs on when we came to snow (they had tennies, Kacey and I wore boots), and… yeah. Took them off about twenty feet later.

Kacey brought her pup, Burrito, who is quite a good dog. Dogs are required to be on leashes in the wilderness area, but some don’t follow the rule the whole time, despite fines and such. Most dogs were nice and were within voice control. However, two dogs approached us on the path before their owner was in sight. The dogs moved forward to check out Burrito—who didn’t like them. Burrito growled. Kacey pulled Burrito in and backed up. The dogs followed. She backed onto a side path, up the hill, the dogs still following. “Whose dogs are these?” she called, tense, and the owner came into view. He didn’t call off his dogs. “Could you call your dogs? They’re attacking our dog.” He was unphased. He called his dogs. “They’re supposed to be on leash,” said Barbara, and he said, “Why don’t you mind your own business.”

Are you kidding me?

[Erica, Barbara, Kacey.]

We made it into King Lake, where we were all alone. Even on a busy holiday weekend, people don’t wander too far from their cars. Splendid.

[The top half of my wounds.]

Except that it started raining right as we started setting up camp.

And, we realized we forgot to bring the pots.

It’s not that we didn’t think of them—it’s just that we ended up leaving Barbara’s pots at her house, knowing Kacey would bring hers, and then took Kacey’s out of her pack and left them in Barbara’s car, because we had Barbara’s. Except we didn’t. Because we’d left them at Barbara’s because Kacey was going to bring hers.

We’d been in hustle mode, setting up tents and trying to get dinner going, and then there was Barbara sitting still and quiet in the middle of it all in disbelief. Thinking hot meal. There *has* to be a way, she said.

There was, as it turned out. After a spell of relaxing and snacking in our respective tents (Erica and Barbara in Barbara’s, Kacey and me in Kacey’s), Erica and Barbara came over and we fired up the stove.

First, we tried balancing and then holding the Tasty Bites over the flames, but that didn’t work so well.

Then, Kacey brought out her cup. Perfect. It even fit some water.

Eating the meal was a bit hilarious in and of itself. Tasty Bites are ready-made Indian dishes that just need to be heated in their pouches in water, open and pour over rice and there you go. But we couldn’t make rice. And we could only heat the Tasty Bites packages one at a time, and Barbara had gotten all different flavors besides, so we ended up splitting each packet among the three of us and eating about five bites worth of meal at a time. Barbara fussed over who did or didn’t have enough in their bowl. “I think you got half a bite more than me,” I said.

I mean, it’s not like we had any shortage of cheese and salami and peanut butter.

The next morning’s weather was still marginal. We had planned to hike along the continental divide for a bit before hiking out, and decided to still do it.

The outlook was not good, though, and we heard distant rumbles of thunder, so decided not to linger on the ridge. Ate a snack and headed down.

As we headed down, we spotted lightning, and the thunder boomed closer and louder. Not so good. Rain, and then hail. We took shelter in a patch of trees.

[I like that Kacey and Barbara are smiling, but I think Burrito and Erica capture the true mood.]

I was thankful for my rain pants. It had been a debate that morning, and I won. Score.

When the storm calmed, we headed back up and over the saddle and back to our gear, reorganized and started out. The thunder started up again, too, so it’s a good thing we made a break for it when we did.

[Our side of the divide was still pretty skanky. Bummer about the water on the lens.]

When it started to hail again, we stopped for whiskey and chocolate. We were well below treeline by that point, in a good spot, but, you know, a little something to warm the bones.

Despite it all, Barbara and Kacey were already talking about the next trip as we walked through the rain. Labor day weekend, perhaps?

Posted by beth at July 6, 2008 11:28 PM

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