Friday, July 18, 2014

Day 3 (July 14, 2014)

The tent shook violently followed by Tim yelling, "Yo yo! Time to wake up!" I woke up startled at first of my surroundings but soon remembered where I was. This was the second night that I had dreamed heavily about things back home causing a bit of a startle when I would wake up in an unfamiliar setting. This was the third day and I had yet to fully assimilate to living in the back country living only with bare essentials.

After a couple of minutes of recollecting where I was, rubbing my tired eyes and allowing the cool morning air to be drawn in from a yawn. A chill broke through me as I slide out from my sleeping bag warning me of the cold that was to accompany breakfast. I stuffed my sleeping bag back in its cover, and quickly layered myself in thick clothing to battle the morning cold. I then stepped out of my tent prepared for the next day of this adventure.

Tess and Meranda were already out of their tents engaging in morning stretching and loosening up from the cold night. We collected our bear canisters and started a pot of boiling water for a breakfast consisting of oatmeal with powdered soy milk and drank hot chocolate relishing in the warmth both brought.  There was a brief moment of dissatisfaction expressed between Tess and I as we realized that we had gone two mornings without coffee that we depended on to be able to function in the morning.

We were quick to have breakfast and pack all our gear in the hopes that we would reach our next campsite as early as possible to enjoy the day. Today was to be a rest day after roughly 10 miles of hiking we had accomplish the days prior.

On the hike through an especially diverse area for conifers. This low elevation meadow is already filling in with trees as the winter snowpacks become lower and lower each year; credit Tim

The hike was a taste of what strenuous hiking was going to be like on our trip. In 2 miles we would climb about 2,000 ft with the first 30 min of hiking had  us traversing on a 35-45 degree slope. We first traversed through an old forest that then lead us to our first meadow of wildflowers and low lying plants. The meadow was expansive ranging from a forest boundary to the steep rocky surfaces of a low peak. Tim had said this was prime bear viewing but we never saw a bear on this day.

The meadow; credit Tim
Elephant heads.

Photographing the unusual elephant head flower.

A tree scarred by a bear's claws. This damage was fresh on our 2013 trip. Bears are starving when they come out of hibernation and will strip the bark off fir trees to expose the nutritious sap. It tastes quite have to try it to believe it.

The trail took us to a small waterfall that was created by fallen logs. We decided to take a rest and refill empty water bottles and restore lost energy with food. We then took a small excursion back to the the meadow to look at the flowers and butterflies that were found everywhere. I distinctly remember a beautiful flower called Elephants Head that was easy to see why it had been called such as each flower was in the shape of an elephants head.

We then returned to our packs, loaded up, and kept progressing forward. For the next part we had to cross Cedar Creek causing some of us to get wet. While most of our boots could remain dry on parts of the low flowing creek, most of us had to take a deep plunge causing one boot and socks to get wet. Others had preferred to switch to camp shoes and pack their socks away. After crossing and a brief few minutes of drying our feet off we were on our way again.

Wet feet crossing the stream

Finally approaching Cedar Lake, hidden beyond the next rise, and below the peak.

A frigid swim ensued.

A fern that thrives in rocks around snow fields.

Headed back to the tents for evening discussion with alpenglow on the peaks above.

The trail continued to climb up and follow along Cedar Creek as Cedar Lake was considered an alpine lake being fed water from melting snow and whatever remnants of a glacier existed. We hiked through avalanche blowouts and open areas as the forests gradually changed from low old growth to alpine. With one final push up a steep hill and battling swarms of mosquitoes, we arrived at Cedar lake just before lunch time.

The lake itself was a beautiful example of what geological process' created. The north side of the lake consisted of forrest vegetation and small alpine plants. As you wrapped around the western the conifers began to get small leading into moraines and boulders left from the glacier. The southern slope consisted of only a carved slope with some conifers existing only closer to the top of the ridges. The eastern side displayed a large snow bank from the last winter; melting creating small water falls and creeks that fed into the lakes. The lake was also home to many Rainbow Trout that flourished. Unfortunately I couldn't bring a rod and reel to go fishing.

We were quick to set up tents and pull out bug sprays as the lake was swarmed with mosquitoes. Many people climbed used the tents as cover or layered themselves to prevent any skin from being exposed to attack. I personally had to wear my sneakers, socks, rain pants, rain jacket, a bandana wrapped around my mouth and nose, sunglasses and a baseball hat with the jackets hood up just to be able to work around the camp with out being eaten. Lunch for my group consisted of mac and cheese with Wasa crackers, salami, and Tilimook cheese.

East side of the lake. Jake journaling; credit Tim
As we had woken up early and only traveled 2 miles there was still much of the day left over for personal activities and enjoyment. Many chose to go swimming in the freezing water hoping to cool off and clean as much of the sweat, sun block, and bug spray away from their skin. I chose instead to explore more of the area feeling that a campsite would not be enough to enjoy the beauty of the area. I traversed over the large boulder field finding a chipmunk scurrying through it and an underground creek that only exposed itself a couple of times.

Later in the evening after a large meal (that I have unfortunately forgotten) we proceeded into Jakes discussion. For the discussion all 10 of us sat in two tents that were Carters and mine, and Tess' and Merand's due to trying to protect ourselves from the bugs. Jakes discussion followed a reading we read that put into perspective about loggers and their impact on forests. The main distinction that we were able to conclude was that loggers are not oblivious to environmental issues. They equally have concern for the health of forests because their livelihood depends on the ability to cut down forests. The discussion did turn to the issue that the logging community has a negative stigma towards Spotted Owls as their need for preservation prevents loggers from cutting down trees which overall prevents an income for loggers. Overall the discussion was balanced as really any issue or side could be strongly argued.

Afterwards we all separated to our tents for the night. Carter and I had chosen to leave our rain flies off and fall asleep gazing at the stars as the threat of rain was very small. At that point I started to think about what nature meant for me. Nature has always inspired me to believe in one thing, how the power and beauty of nature is a random event. Our blue planet was luck enough that it was able to collect water, create a moon, and reside just far and close enough to the sun to create life. Had one variable been off, then nothing that we see today could have existed. When I see nature I see the science behind it that made it to what it was. Evolution allowed us to grow from single-cell organisms to walking, thinking creatures that have developed the skill to reason and think. Plants evolved into a carbon rich environment that not only allowed them to survive but to regulate and balance the planet. The abilities for what science and nature can show I believe has no end. We are already seeing an increase in findings of planets outside of our solar system that have the potential to support life. Who knows what else we will find in 100 years or more.

-Written by Merrick Calder 

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