Sunday, August 19, 2012

Trekkers Antique Show: Denouement

Despite the late start on Sunday, August 5, the timing of our trip up Buck Creek Pass couldn’t have been better for our party of antique trekkers, for a number of reasons. Even when less than optimal, the weather always ultimately had a higher purpose.

Leaving the trailhead at Trinity at 3 p.m. would not have been ideal in most cases, and the temperatures were warm and black flies were out in force. Fortunately, we had the sense to stop at the 3-mile camp, a versatile spot with many tent sites and easy access to water.

The next day, thunderstorms blew through the Upper Chiwawa River and a light-but-steady rain kept us cool as we plodded up the trail. As a side benefit, the modest precipitation suppressed the black flies for a full 24 hours. Later that day, the sun reappeared and provided a nice veneer of alpenglow on Helmet Butte (below).

On Monday, the weather cooperated with clear blue skies, which provided stunning backdrops for Glacier Peak, Tenpeak Mountain, Buck Mountain, Fortress Mountain (above, behind the antique trekkers) and a plethora of other peaks on the crest of the Cascades.

Fog rolled into Buck Creek Pass on our last morning, but once again, the cool temperatures kept the bugs at bay as we headed to the barn, allowing for pleasant hiking down the trailhead to Trinity.

Best of all, our band of trekkers –- all experienced backcountry travelers –- survived the ordeal with knees, ankles and psyches intact, along with classic memories of our journey into the wilderness.

But at times, between the relentless attack of the black flies and the heat -- and the exertion required to lug 40-pound packs from 2,000 feet to nearly 6,000 feet at Buck Creek Pass over 10 miles of painful, uphill plodding -- some grousing was bound to occur, and it did.

How come this is fun? Actually, backpacking in the wilderness isn’t really fun; that wouldn’t be the word that I would use at all. Does it look like anyone is having fun around here? If it was fun, everybody would do it. Except for the USFS wildlife biology team on the trail of the elusive grizzly bear, we only saw two other people on one of the most popular wilderness trails in the State of Washington.

No, "the here and now" is a sacrifice to the future. Backpacking takes you to a recollective Valhalla, for which you must suffer. The pleasure, though it begins when you reach the trailhead and enjoy a beer, increases every day after you’re done and peaks about a month afterward. "Wasn't that great?" you ask, clearly forgetting the pain.

Everything -- all the blood, sweat and tears -- contributes to the effort of crystallizing a final opinion. Hate it now. Love it later.

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