Thursday, July 17, 2014

Day 4 (July 15, 2014)

Day 4
From the perspective of Serena Starr

Pausing at the base of the snowfield, by a small snow cave with a blast of cool air on this hot day. This snowfield is a remnant of the glacier that was in this valley not 200 years ago. Extensive vegetation has yet to recolonize the valley. Note the small moraine in the background.
The group in the same place, but looking back towards Cedar Lake.
Nearing the top of the snowfield.
Rana cascadae from the tarn we swam in later that day.
Begining the steep trek down to the tarn, after passing by some small lakes that were still sow covered.
Down, down, down...
Having completed the off-trail traverse from Cedar Lake to the Gray Wolf Trail, now charting the path for the afternoon and evening.
Refreshing dip on a hot afternoon. Thankfully, no bugs at this lake!
Arriving at the tarn below Gray Wolf Pass...Anyone up for a swim?
Butterwort, a carnivorous plant that grows at the edge of the lake. Note the insects (black specks) that have been caught by the leaves.
Making our way around the lake, without a trail.

The snow cliffs on the far end of the lake.

Finally breaking out into the open again.

Today was quite a day, although I think you could say that about any day in the wilderness. We woke up next to Cedar Lake, which was so clear you could see straight to the bottom, and cold enough to make you go numb in a matter of minutes. There is a bald eagle that flies there every day from Puget Sound to hunt [rainbow trout that were introduced to the lake via air drop years ago]. I envied him because he could fly above the mosquitoes. They were truly terrible and found every vulnerable spot we had. It was a relief to start walking and leave most of the mosquitoes behind us.
The walk around Cedar Lake
We hiked off trail around the lake to our very first snow field. We learned a little bit about glaciers at the bottom of the snow. There are several ways to tell if a glacier carved out a valley. First, the valley will be more u shaped as opposed to v shaped which is caused by rivers. Secondly, there will be striations on the rocks in the valley. These are caused by rocks caught up in the glacier scraping against the bedrock on the valley floor. Another sign of glaciers is moraine, which is a ridge of rocks pushed up to the side or bottom of the glacier. They are created by the bulldozing and plucking effect of the mound of moving ice, and deposited where the ice melts. After learning about what glaciers can do we learned how to climb a snow field [a remnant of a glacier that existed here 200 years ago] correctly. We started by learning how to use the ice axes that had been strapped to the back of our packs for the past three days. To self-arrest, or stop yourself from sliding uncontrollably down the mountain, you have to flip onto your belly and hold your ax underneath you while digging the pointy end into the snow and covering the sharp end with your hand. While practicing we also discovered that rain pants are great for sledding. Once Tim was confident that we could all stop ourselves we got to glissade, or slide on our butts, down to our packs. This was my favorite part of the day. 
 After donning our packs we climbed up the snow field to the top of the ridge. To climb most effectively we walked in a straight line, with Tim in the lead. 

To walk up a snow field most effectively you have to take tiny steps, so someone as short as me can fit in your footsteps. You also have to do something called kick stepping where you kick your foot into the snow to make a better step and help keep you from falling. As you go up you have to cross your bottom leg over the top so you are not wasting any uphill by stepping back downhill, you know you are doing it right if your steps make a strait line. Your ice ax goes in your uphill hand so that you can self arrest if you need to.  After the climb we stopped for lunch while Tim went off to photograph a rare species of flower. 
The view from lunch, we climbed that snow field!
Once he got back we headed down to a lake. It does not have a name, so we decide to call it Frog Lake after the cascades frog that Carter caught. We took a group swim, glad that the water was warmer than Cedar Lake, even though you could see snow next to the water. Once we were all clean we laid on some rocks to dry off. They were not quite big enough to be comfortable, but they were pleasantly warm from sitting in the sun.
Our little frog friend, he was very eager to get away from us.

Our sun basking was followed by a discussion on mountain goats. The goats were introduced into the park for hunting and have greatly expanded and started killing endemic alpine flowers. The goat population reached up to 900 in its height and is now around 200 or 300. We came to the consensus that a brief hunting period should be allowed in which only goats could be killed to control the population in a cost effective and hopefully humane way. With thoughts of goats in our heads we headed off to make some pasta for dinner. Once our bellies were full we decided to make the push to the top of grey wolf pass. So we would have time to look at alpine flowers the next day.

We made it just in time to see the sunset. Wow. We were surrounded by nothing but mountains, the peaks stretching out as far as you could see. As the sun went down the sky erupted with color, framing the peaks in gold’s, yellows, reds, and greens. It was my other favorite part of the day. The beautiful sunset was followed by a night spent under the stars.
You can get an idea of the sunset from this photo, but you have to imagine it 10 times brighter and bigger

Yoko and I slept next to each other, I was glad of her company because I was very scared that I would roll off the ridge. (Spoiler I didn't). It was cold with a breeze which caused me to hide inside my sleeping bag for most of the night, but when I dared to peak out I was able to see the most amazing stars. Since there is less light pollution you can see way more stars when you are out in the wilderness. It’s worth the price of your face getting a little cold being outside your sleeping bag, and I always find myself nostalgic for the mass of stars you can see in the mountains when I look up at night in the city.

Here we are sleeping on the ridge. My sleeping bag is the green one, it turns out I wasn't even close to rolling off. 

Form a non-linear perspective I think day 4 was the day I started to get use to the wilderness. It was an amazing feeling knowing that we were around 15 miles from any type of help. I felt partially terrified by this idea and partly thrilled. I was terrified because I knew that if something happened it would be hard to get help, if I had fallen off that ridge (even though it would have taken a lot of rolling and was extremely unlikely) it would not be an easy trip to the hospital to get help. On the other hand it was exhilarating knowing that I was off grid and experiencing life in a different way. It was nice not knowing what was going on outside of my little world. I know that I forget to just be with myself a lot when I am home. Even now as I write this I am surrounded by things. The couch I am sitting on it soft and comfortable, my music is playing in the background, and I am drinking a cup of coffee that I did not make myself. All these little things get taken for granted and distract me from the idea that there is more to the world than my comfortable life. Being in the wilderness reminds me that there is so much more to the world. I find it amazing that flower can survive clinging to the side of a rock, while I don’t even make my own coffee. Then I think about the fact that humans use to live like that, without computers or grocery stores and I wonder how I would have done if I had lived off the land. I like thinking about these concepts because it reminds me how far humans have come and how far we have to go. There is something relaxing in knowing that there is more out there. In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter that I did not get an A in o-chem or that I forgot to respond to a text message. Wilderness reminds me of this and that I am part of more than just a school, or a city, or a country, and that my choices affect me, not the whole world. 

No comments:

Post a Comment