So we started out of Ross Lake taking the Devils Dome trail. A 5400 foot elevation in approx 7 miles. The trail has not been well maintained and in several places over growth has nearly wiped the trail out of existence. In other places the natural pitch of the mountain side has nearly made the trail crumble away. And several blow downs or dead falls covered the trail making obstacles that had to be climbed over or climbed under. Most of the trail was barely wide enough to place your feet side by side and be solidly on earth.
It was gorgeous, exhilarating, scary, frustrating, and miraculous.
Mother nature had a way of setting up a spot that amazed you just when you were absolutely ready to toss your pack and everything else off the mountain and turn around. And if I was not so utterly exhausted when I reached these area’s I would have images to share. A tree fall laid out perfectly to sit on without removing your pack. A tumbling creek with ice cold glacier water that needed no treatment and an area big enough to remove your pack, sit and to make lunch. A small copse of meadow just big enough for a cowboy camp, with a fallen tree that you could set your pack on just right and hang your bags appears just before last light. And the mountain leveling out in a small camp with huge area’s to set up tents, water within 600 yards( yeah no way was I climbing down the snow covered crevice to get it–but it was there).
Trying to keep pace with others. Most of the group has previous long distance hiking experience and they knew there comfortable pace–which happened to be much faster then my own. And in my hopes to catch up to them when they rested I rushed myself. Rushed from the vehicles forgetting some equipment(My water filter, my compass and my gloves) and rushed along the trail exhausting myself too quickly. Which ultimately made me slower and fall further behind than if I just kept my pace.
If I had just set my normal pace, even slower than the main part of the group and hiked longer I would have caught them in camp that night. I found out I was only two miles behind them when I set camp up the first night, two miles more hiking and I would have caught them. But In my rush I exhausted myself, not only physically but mentally by beating myself up for forgetting some of my equipment and then for lagging so far behind.
So Lesson learned: no matter what others are doing–keep your own pace. If need be hike for longer periods at your pace.
I had to turn around from our planned route. I spoke with two other hikers that came through from the opposite direction I was headed and they advised that with no snow experience I should not continue alone. I waited for a few hours hoping another hiker would appear going in my direction so we could hit the snow together and no one showed. On my return route I only encountered two other hikers, both coming down the mountain with me. So continuing on my planned route solo was not a wise choice and I do not regret turning around.
Unfortunately on my decent I slipped, caught myself and thought I was uninjured. But two steps later I found I could not place any weight on my left knee. I was approximately a mile from the Lake Recreation area. A long slow agonizing mile using my trekking poles as crutches, cursing, growling, howling and grumbling with every step down the mountain.( I feel sorry for anyone who may have heard me and I know I scared the beegeeesus out of any wildlife) And to make things more complicated within the Recreation area my Canine hiking companion had to be leashed. If anyone knows about leashed dogs that pull– going down hill being pulled is not fun! Thankfully my Pup understood I was in a sorry state and that we took a step, waited for me to set my trekking poles again, and then took another step. Dante(my German Shepherd Dog) learned in short order to “Step and wait” all the way down the mountain to the Lake.
I invaded the most awesome peoples camp and explained I was in need of a lift out. They were so gracious! The helped me set my tent for the night and fed me hot food! It was their last night on the lake and they did not want to haul out left over food– so we ate it all. In the morning I was able to wave down a passing fishing boat and they in turn flagged down the Ranger. Two ranger boat rides, one razor ride over a gravel road to the lower lake and Dante and I were picked up right on the road by my folks in their r.v. (they were hunted down and informed of my accident and where to pick me up by another Ranger).
Thankfully my leg was not broken and my tendons were just sprained and not torn. I had to rest in a immobility brace and stay off it, but, nothing major. So ten days and I am feeling like it is time to get back on the trail. My “Godzilla” pack at 45+ pounds has been altered, lighter tent, lighter stove, less clothing and other non essential equipment. We’ll see how far I get this time!