Stranded In The Southland

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Camping in Cedar Glen

Okay, how about a couple little word problems? I always loved word problems in school.

1. The Backpacker's Rule states that, for the average backpacker, the time in hours, H, to hike M miles while ascending T thousand feet is: H = 1/2 M + T. Given a hike of six miles and 2,400 feet, how long should it take the average backpacker to complete.

Answer: Around five and a half hours.

2. Given the answer from question one, what time should the backpacker arrive at the trailhead in order to get to the campsite before the sun sets at 8PM?

Answer: 2:30PM

Sadly, I showed up at the ranger station to get a permit at around 4:15PM. When I got there, the door was locked and the lights were off -- despite the sign out from that claimed everything closed at 4:30PM. When I finally found the ranger out back, busily chasing people out of the bathroom and out of the parking lot, she explained that she was scheduled to work from 8:00AM to 4:30PM, and wasn't paid to close up. Hence, she got started early.

I was a little taken aback. I don't expect any employees to work time for which they aren't paid, whether they work for the US Forest Service or Walmart. I had the impression, though, that it was tough to get a job as a ranger, and the people who worked there did it because they thought it was important, rather than just to get a paycheck.

Anyway, I got my permit and hustled up to the trail. Gosh, that 40 pound backpack sure felt heavy. I was astounded at how much it slowed me down. Of course, the 8 liters of water I had to carry (no water available in Kellys Camp) sure didn't help.

After a couple of hours, with darkness nearing and my legs and back aching, I decided to stop early and camp out at Cedar Glen, rather than Kellys Camp. I'd always held this in mind as a backup, but had really hoped to get in the whole hike. I stopped, picked out a site and settled in.

I really hate those early evenings in camp -- around here, the mosquitoes are bad enough that I really have to duck into the tent to avoid them. And it is kind of a bummer to sit around reading (in this case, Frankenstein on my Treo), waiting for sleep to come.

Maybe I just need to upgrade my bug repellent -- I swear that this lemon-eucalyptus environmentally sound crap just serves as a marinade. I suppose that the bugs are slightly less likely to go for me, especially if I really slop the stuff on, but I'd expected better. Next time it's Deet for me.

I tossed and turned all night. At one point, I got up after hearing what sounded like logs being turned over and rocks being kicked around. I expect to have to scare some bears away from my food, but it turned out that deer were much clumsier than I'd been lead to expect. It's all that Disney propaganda.

And I was apparently located next to a deer freeway. I saw a couple when I got up, and I heard plenty more as the night went on. So much for lithe, silent creatures of the forest. Still, it was pleasant to hear the hum and buzz of bugs and the sounds of the birds.

I was up before dawn -- why sit in bed when you can't sleep? With dawn just breaking, I could see just well enough to boil water and enjoy hot chocolate and oatmeal, and then pack up and head out. It was a much faster hike down.

Lessons learned:
  • Estimate the time before just showing up. I'd started late for a previous, less ambitious hike, and just decided to show up a bit earlier without actually figuring out how much earlier I needed to show up.
  • Switch to Deet, it couldn't be worse than this lemon-eucalyptus crap.
  • No more waterless destinations -- water weighs 2.2 pounds per liter!
  • Carry a fleece blanket and my silk liner instead of a heavy +15 degree sleeping bag on summer hikes. I carry enough warm clothes to make it through the occasional cool night okay, if not in comfort.
  • Lighten the rest of the load -- I carry three pounds of "be prepared" kinda junk, and I could get just as much safety with a lighter, better-thought-out load.