Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Screaming Trees

 When I arrived back at my campsite after hiking last night I discovered that I had squatters. The property rights type not the highway off-ramp type. They’d set up a tent on my site and were finishing dinner and their beers. I got out and started to explain; terribly sorry but there had been a misunderstanding, my name still hung from the site marker. As I said this I realized that they’d really have nowhere to go as all the campgrounds were full by now and I didn’t need space to set up a tent anyway. So I offered that we share the site with me just needing a place to park and a spot on the table to cook. B and R agreed and when I got back from setting up my bug net on my car I found a beer waiting for me on my half of the table. It turned out that B and R had met while working with the Peace Corps and were here to do some backcountry hiking and camping. We talked for a while and I cooked some bacon and then we went to bed and I wished them luck on their hike.

Today I’ll get in my long hike where my feet actually get to touch ground. It’s a roughly 12 mile hike from Logan Pass, along the ridge under Mount Gould to a chalet that was built up near Swiftcurrent Pass and then descending 2000 feet through some woods. As I start out on the trail the wind is rushing between the mountains at Logan Pass making a roaring sound and almost blowing my hat down the mountain. I almost lost it once already when it blew off near a hot spring in Yellowstone so I take it off and clip it to my canteen.  
There’s a group on a ranger led hike in front of me and the trail is really only wide enough for one so I hang around the back of the group and talk to some of the other hikers until they stop for a break and I shuffle past the line. This ridge is called the Garden Wall because the trail is at the top of a field of brush and wildflowers that grows up the side of the mountain before it becomes too steep to hold soil. Little trickling waterfalls come down the side of the wall and flood the trail and the flower beds below.
The trail switchbacks up an incline and through a pass between two peaks after which it becomes much more rocky. Wide clouds are passing overhead giving me a break from the sun and the chalet comes into view when the sunlight illuminates it after a cloud passes in the distance. I reach it after a few more miles and stop in for a snack before heading back down the mountain.
The forest is below the chalet is a dead forest, the spruce and fir trees have all been killed by beetles. The white stalks of the dead trees provide no cover from the wind and it blows dust up the side of the mountain covering the rock. The wind passing around the curled dead branches and through the hollowed trunks creates an eerily human screaming sound. The trees that are still standing are buttressed by the wrack of fallen trees that are clogging the forest floor. Despite this, water still flows through the forest and the undergrowth is returning as the forest starts over again.
The evening is warm so I set up my car to be open while I look over photos and try to write for the blog. As I’m working I hear a voice in the dark outside my car. It’s my campsite neighbor A who is here with her sister and her dad. I had run into them on the trail today when they were hiking up the hill that I was hiking down. I recognized them from camp and gave them the reassuring news that they were almost at the chalet. A had come to repay me with an almond s’more. With this brain food in hand I hunkered down and caught up with my posts for the last three days.

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