4 July 2010. Backpacking the Kaiser Wilderness, Dario and I find that trying to set up the new tent became a challenge.
by Robert Perry
We had along drive ahead, but Dario and I had our Starbucks and GPS on. We were going to backpack up to Nellie Lake up in the Sierra National Forest, where I had gone with my dad a year ago, to see if we even had what it takes to keep persuing this recent enthusiasm for the outdoors.
On the trip down toward Fresno, we kept hydrated, but found we had to keep stopping at gas stations and McDonald's to use the restroom. No problem. It was summer soltice and the sun wouldn't be setting until late. We arrived at the trailhead at 12:30 that afternoon and began our hike up.
With our topo trail map, we saw that we could divide the hike into thirds where we would encounter a fork in the trail at each third. The first third was steep. And, I remembered this to be the most challenging, because it required frequent rests. Once we got to the first fork, Mary's Meadow sign, I was relieved. The middle third of the hike is more level and allowed for longer hiking before a rest was needed. Dario suggested we have a hot meal. Okay! He heated up water with the pack-stove. The freeze-dried beef macaroni and cheese tasted good and provided some added energy to the hike, but had me belching the for the next three hours.
The altitude started affecting Dario first, but it hit me around the same point on the trail as it did last time. We took a break and ate trail mix, drank water. We kept on. There was snow on the ground still melting, but as we got higher, there was even more snow covering the trail. Other hikers had been there earlier, so we were able to follow their tracks until just beyond the Nellie Lake sign at the second fork. We kept losing the tracks. And, with so many more rocks on this part of the trail, it was difficult to determine where the trail was when we could actually see bare earth.
Ultimately, with the sun setting and the altitude weakening us more, Dario suggested that we camp at a flat area that I was sure was near Nellie Lake, but, I was pooped, too. We agreed to camp there, and maybe search for Nellie Lake in the morning without our packs.
Exhausted, we found setting up the tent to be frustrating. Instructions be damned, we tried at first to figure it out on our own. Nope. So, we got the instuctions. We found that even more frustrating as our impatience, or the affects of the altitude on our brains, caused us to have difficulty reading! It's like we became dyslexic. We both started reading the instructions at step 3, instead of step 1. And, the instructions used terms to describe the parts that made absolutely no sense to us. Anyway, we looked at the really not-very-detailed diagrams, and were able to figure it out.
Dario made a teepee of wood and, with nine matches and mosquito repellant, was able to get a campfire started. We have warmth!
Cooking a freeze-dried dinner was after that, and then we decided to take a nap for 20 minutes, which turned out to be all night. But, we slept warm in our down mummy bags.
The next morning, we found Nellie Lake just about a quarter mile further from our camp. It was beautiful, and made us feel we had accomplished our hike's goal.
© 2010 Chromozoa, Robert J. Perry