Nature’s Sleep Machine
What’s your definition of backcountry hiking? To some, it might mean hiking far enough to where you don’t hear the traffic on the roads. To others, it may mean carrying your tent with you and camping out for days on end. Mary and I have spent many hours day hiking in and around the mountains of southern California. While we may be miles from the nearest road or civilization, I don’t think of it as backcountry. I was never a Boy Scout, having only made it to Cub Scouts or maybe a Webelo and only camped out once or twice. So much for being a scout in the suburbs of D.C. Even as a naval aircrewman I learned about land survival and spent a few nights in the woods. So, I’m still a rookie with this backcountry stuff.
Being a newbie, I ensured that I had plenty of clean clothes, a poncho for rain, etc. After all, I might need this stuff. Looking back, I could have knocked off about 25% of the weight in my pack. Ten pounds my feet told me. By the fifth day, I would lose ten pounds of body mass.
By the end of the first day, our final descent into the Ten Lakes area was fast as we looked forward to resting and eating a hot meal. Looking for a campsite near the water became our mission. Finding an area with enough flat space for our tent was important. We located a spot that had previously been used and started our chores. Since I had the water filter, I made my way down the hill to the lake. The stream that fed it was gurgling over slabs of rock with cool, fresh water. Tempted to just drink straight from the stream, I began the task of filtering our drinking and cooking water. This amazing piece of technology protected us from the harmful bacteria, including giardia and cryptosporidium, protozoans that once ingested cause intestinal infections that can only be treated with antibiotics. Without filtered or treated water, our journey could be cut short.
Hiking/camping in a small group is great for teamwork. Joe putting up our shelter, Aaron building the fire, and me collecting water – we all had our tasks. It took several trips down to refill our water supply and the climb up the steep hillside took the wind out of my sails. I was ready for dinner and the sleep that eluded me the night before. Dinner that first night was Ramien noodles and dessert was probably an energy bar.
Our campsite, was at least the minimum 100 ft. from the water source but since we were on a hill the lake seemed much closer. The sound of the water rushing over the rocks was amplified as we settled in for the night. As the light faded and the darkness enveloped us, we heard limbs cracking and shuffling on the other side of the tent. We were wondering if we would see our first bear. Shining our headlamps toward the sound, we spotted the first of many deer. I would later learn that the deer are drawn to the salt that was prevalent in our urine. Not wanting to get lost, one doesn’t stray far from the campsite for #1. I know, gross but that’s nature for you. Since this was a national park, man was not a threat to the creatures here. Their curious nature would bring them right into our camp.
After dinner, we sat around the fire, reflected on our day and discussed our plans for the next day. Joe played around with his camera, set his exposure for about 5 seconds and took this pic of me drawing my name with a headlamp:
We hit the sack and the sound of the babbling brook reminded me of the gallon of water that I drank during the day. Thankfully, I was sleeping next to one of the doors. Sometime during the night, the walls of the tent lit up with an eerie glow. Who was coming into our campsite with a torch? As my tentmates were sound asleep, I unzipped the tent and ventured out to see who was there. I discovered the fire had come back to life. I smothered it with water and dirt, spreading the ashes around. Back to tent and into my cozy sleeping bag. The sound of the stream became nature’s sleep machine.
Next: Water, water everywhere.