The day started with a breakfast of oatmeal coated with tons of brown sugar. I've never been an oatmeal person, and while the meal certainly was filling, oatmeal still isn't on my "Top 123 Meals to Eat for Breakfast" list. We gathered at 9:30 AM for a group building session aimed at getting everyone in the correct mindset to enjoy the wilderness. I found it very helpful. The goals was to write the things you want to bring to the group, the things you want to cast away from yourself on the trip, and to prepare some form of self expression. I commented that I wanted to bring reason, confidence, and a desire to learn, and that I wanted to cast away worry and doubt. My self-expression consisted of one sentence that I came up with while looking at Grand Teton: "The problems of the world, people, and one's self seem to disappear when bathed in the elixir of the wilderness". I believe the meeting definitely helped people, especially those who may have been more homesick than others, start down the path of comprehending the importance of this place and the 30 days that we would spend in it.
It took us around an hour and a half to get out of camp on this day as everyone was still figuring out how to pack their bags and get ready to migrate from one campsite to the next. I was able to fit everything I needed in my bag at this point without much trouble, though not necessarily in the right order. The idea is to keep sleeping stuff and extra clothes at the bottom, your bag of food in the middle, and your lunch/rain gear near the top. Sounds simple enough, but it takes being aware of alot of stuff while hastily packing to figure it out. And hell, as long as you haven't left anything at the previous, you certainly get a passing grade for the day in my mind!
On this day I decided to make my white long sleeve shirt my main hiking shirt because it covered my arms. I left with only a half bottle of sunscreen for 30 days. Brilliant! Therefore, my arms would have to make do with merely polyester protection. Woohoo!
We departed camp at 1:30, crossing the Pacific Creek River and heading Northeast. Before crossing, we got an official class on river crossing. For small creeks or rivers, you can cross by using 1 trekking pole and stepping side-to-side without crossing your feet. For bigger ones, you lock arms or hold hands as a group. When the leader yells "Step!", everyone takes a step. The leader and anchor hold trekking poles, and the "Step" process continues until everyone is across. This method certainly proved its usefulness on a few occasions, especially when you've got a 40-50 pound bag on your back. But since this was an unusually dry year, we weren't expected to cross any large rivers. Pacific Creek itself was less than a foot deep but about 40 feet wide, so we used the interlock method to cross. The hike was 5 miles, and my group (Nan, Noah, Tommy, Asante, Hunter, and myself) talked about tons of things, like running, Colorado, and life. You tend find out a lot about people and share alot about yourself on hikes though dense forest, up and over mountains, and through crazy scenery.
This hike was our first encounter with considerable elevation, starting around 7200 feet and going up to around 8400 feet by the time we reached camp at the Northeast end of Moss Lake. Dense trees surrounded us, but the occasional opening in the tree cover provided great views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. About halfway through the hike, our movement was halted by a plethora of downed trees. There were no significant "game trails" (a trail made by the movement of animals) or obvious ways around, so we put our packs down and began to scout. It took us over an hour to find a way around this clump of massive trees felled by a considerable tempest from long ago.
About halfway into our scouting, as I was bushwhacking around the trees, I felt this sharp sting on the outside of my right knee. I immediately thought I'd locked myself into a tussle with a thorn bush, but looked down to see a bee stinging my right leg with another waiting to strike. I quickly shooed them away and got to the trail. Luckily, I'm not allergic, but it hurt like crazy for 15 minutes or so. The pain died down right as we got around the trees through an off-trail way that Nan and Noah found. Then, it was back to elevation climb. We also had to look at the map a few times to make sure we were going the right way. I really enjoyed the challenge in trying to identify peaks, drainages (the cut in a mountain caused by running water), and valleys by matching the map to the surrounding features.
We made it to the X around 6, and being the last group, we got to arrive with kitchen and camp already scouted and ready to go. Andy and I set up the tent and came back to find Max and Tommy cooking rice and beans with monterrey jack cheese and summer sausage, all stuffed in a tortilla. Absolutely, positively scrumptious after a 4+ hour hike. Given the nature of the meal (*cough*beans*cough*), we were all on alert for the havoc this meal could cause in the tent later that night. We deemed the taste and scale of the meal more than a fair tradeoff with the potential consequences.
At 8:30, we all met as a group to discuss tomorrow's hike, which would include 3 "Leaders of the Day" (LODs), who would each lead one group of 6 people. The instructors would provide guidance and make sure the group didn't go off track, but the idea was to get each person used to leading a hike in keeping track of time, making sure that people felt alright, encouraging map checks, and getting the group to the X safely. I volunteered and was picked as one of the LODs for the next day. I was quite excited because one of the other reasons I came here was to learn about leadership and compare it to other leadership experiences I've had in the past. What better way than to jump in headfirst as soon as possible.
Before going to bed, I and some other members of the group took an opportunity to check out the stars of the wilderness night. Quite spectacular. There wasn't an electric light within probably 50-100 miles of this place, and the sky left to illuminate this part of the world on its own. I only stayed out for a few minutes because I had been itching to learn more about the 1972 campaign from my book, but those moments outside will remain etched in my mind: 10 people standing in pitch black darkness, barely able to see one another face to face, staring into a sky of countless little blinking dots, the light of which delivered to our eyes by far-off spheres of gas larger and further away than our brains can legitimately comprehend. Cool stuff.
Rumor was that the cards called for a long hike the next day. I couldn't have been more excited!
------When the city invokes its wired craze
To make your life an unorganized haze
Go back to the basics, it's all so simple
Love, people, good work, and a smile's dimple
Had another great night's sleep on my ridiculously awesome sleeping pad, though I was still figuring out how in the heck to get my sleeping bag in its stuffsack correctly. You have to work so hard to stuff the bag into the sack that it almost acts as a form of caffeine. The very minute you wake up, you have to put your arms to significant physical work. So after you do that, you have no real desire to go back to sleep. Something interesting to bring back to the frontcountry, perhaps.