Thursday, August 14, 2008

King's Peak--Courage or Crazy--Courage In Women Is Often Mistaken For Insanity!

A couple of weeks ago Karen Boothe, my friend from work invited me, to go on a back packing trip to the Unitas, to hike Kings Peak. I jumped at the chance as this would be great training for hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro. As Kings Peak is the highest mountain in Utah at 13,528. After all I had been hiking, walking, running, swimming, and lifting weights, but I soon learned backpacking brings a whole new meaning to the word exercising. With great enthusiasm I spent $150.00 on a cute mint green, backpack especially for women. The first thing I added to my cute green pack was three small notes Tiff, TJ and Brykn had written to me. Both Tiff's & TJ's had been written several years ago, Tiff always said the "Love Notes" would keep me safe where ever I went. I have carried them with me for 18 years, and I wasn't about to leave them home. Then I proceeded to pack what I would need to be comfortable for four days in the wilderness. Comfort soon went out the window, as I had a hard time even picking up the 45 pound backpack, let alone hiking with it for four days. Several of the comforts of home stayed home as I rearrange the pack five times. I finally had the backpack weight down so I could at least get in on myself, and it was off to met my all women packing party in Salem

Day 1--5:00 a.m.
It was off to Henry's Fork in the high Unitas Mountains, enthusiasm and anticipation in tow. After a long ride we arrived at the trail head, packs on at about noon. Everyone was so excited to get going, including me, as I really didn't know what was in store of me. It was five miles of hiking a steep trail, until we found a place by the river in order to set up camp. I, myself didn't really care about being by the river, all I could think was let's just sit down!!! The tent was soon set up and then it was off to the river to filter some water to drink. My thinking was, oh those poor pioneer ancestors who pushed, pulled, and hike their way across mountain after mountain with far more than a 45 pound user friendly backpack. Dinner was a "freeze dried" meal, filling, but no T-bone steak dinner. Soon it was off to bed on my handy little Therma-Rest Pro-lite 4-mattress, and my 20 below, $200.00 down filled mummy sleeping bag. Well I'm here to tell you the mattress is no pillow top, I have bruises on my butt from the rocks under it. However, I did get my money's worth on the bag as I died of the heat. Needless, to say I slept about three hours and then it was time to get up and start up the mountain, with my inner voice loudly proclaiming OH HELL!!

Day 2--6:00 a.m.
The elevation 10,000 feet, the thick timber and ground brush made hiking difficult. Then add all the rocks, boulders, creeks, plus the mud and life soon got a bit harder. The trail, and I, use that term lightly was narrow and hard to navigate at time. All I could think when coming to a difficult area was T.J. saying “Just step and go Mom, you can do it." Why I even amazed myself at how good I got at balancing on rocks covered with moss, and I repeat not falling ONE time. Lunch was a welcome relief as I inhaled my bagel and tuna, then it was off for the last five miles of our ten mile day. At about six miles the black thunder clouds rolled in and it poured for three hours. I have become a fan of hiking, however hiking in the rain, not so much. This day we were not only putting up the tent, but putting up the tent in the cold rain. Oh HELL, what was I thinking, and where is my trailer. Truthfully, I was thinking if I had cell phone service and I knew how to tell Buck & T.J. where I was, I'd tell them to come get me. Yes, it really did cross my mind for a split second, and then it was time to get all my wet clothes off and get warm. The trick was trying to find my dry clothes in that damn green backpack. The weather cleared and dinner and a fire was enjoyed by all, or should I say the fire was used as a clothes dryer. Cindy dried her bra, and Dianna dried her socks, and Joy hung her garments over the fires heat. Soon it was bed time again; I dreaded that sucky Pro-lite air mattress, which was more like a thin ground cover mat, and my hot goose down sleeping bag. I now know why those geese fly north in the summer, all that goose down is a bit much! I again only slept about four hours, as it rained all night and my back and hips were killing me.

Day 3--6:00 a.m.
Elevation 11,100, today it was off with the backpacks, on with the fanny pack and a nine mile hike to the summit of King's Peak. I felt really good and was so glad not to have the stupid green pack on my back. Hiking to Gun-Sight Pass was really pretty easy and a gorgeous view. The problem is you get to the top of the pass and then you drop back down again, so you end up hiking the same distance twice. Finally King's Peak was in sight, majestically reaching toward the sky. Hiking was difficult as we were hiking straight up over massive boulders, snow, ice, and water. Then suddenly out of no where a huge lighting storm settled in. All I could think was too huddled under a boulder until passed. By now we are at 12,117 feet it was snowing-sleeting and cold. I was exhausted, not to mention the altitude was getting to me. My toes and fingers, were tingling and numb and my lips were blue, I was nauseated and dizzy. I got to all but 1417 feet to the top and that was good enough for me. After all for someone who had never hiked, or had been athletic, I was pleased with my hike. The storm passed after about two hours and it was back down the mountain. Karen and I took our time, enjoying the wild flowers and the beauty of the King of the Utah mountains. That evening I was more than ready for bed, even if it was like sleeping on cement. I remembered I had packed a Phenergan pill for nausea; however they make me really tired, thank God. I slept really well on my handy dandy paper thin pro-lite mattress, and my fluffy, warm sleeping bag.

Day 4--8:00 a.m. All I could think was I did all right and now it was time to head for the car. Little did I know it was going to be a nine mile hike down. We had started at the Henry's Fork made a complete circle, taking the scenic route and now we were making our way back. On our way back I heard someone or something hiking behind me, as I turned around it was a group of boy scouts and their leaders. This group also had ten goats that are used for hiking in the Unitas, complete with fifty pound packs. All I could think was for $50.00 a day I could have had two goats and no blasted green backpack. If I ever go again, me and the “Rent A Goat” business will be friends. Though hiking back down was easier on my lungs and my beastly pack was lighter, hiking down hill was killing on my toes and the balls of my feet. As we started the day the sun was shining, the birds sings, and I was pickin' em up, and puttin' em down. Then one more massive rain/hail storm hit. The trail soon ended up being a river running down the mountain and we couldn't really tell where to go. The forest suddenly took on the feeling of the Wizard of Oz, when the Cowardly Lion and the Tin-Man were in the haunted forest. The lighting suddenly struck about half mile in front of me and lite up the dark dense woods. I was cold, soaking wet and starving, what else could I go through. The lighting didn’t really faze me much, my thoughts were, Lord, if you’re going to strike me died now you’re going to have to do it on the run, because I'm damn sure am not stopping. With all the rain and bad weather I wonder if maybe the hiking God's were trying to tell me something. At any rate I was never so glad to see a parking lot in my life. I found myself some dry clothes and shoes, not to mention a dry, stale, half eaten Pop-Tart I had left in the car. Karen and the other hikers cheered and praised my hike saying I'd done totally awesome. Karen said she had never taken a first time backpacker on a thirty-five mile hike in the Unitas. Oh and by the way if one looks on there will be a damn ugly green backpack, only used once for sale.
I really did have a pretty good time, it was without a doubt the most physically challenging thing I have ever done. I learn a great deal about myself and adversity, plus like Dad always said, "When the going gets tough, the tough gets going!" I was happy with my achievement and looking back to six years ago, with clots in both lungs, who would have thought I would have been able to do what I did? Certainly not me. I have thought a lot about what I learned from this trip. Today, I will contact Dr. Alward, my Pulmonaligist and will have more pulmonary tests done to see to it is really physically possible for me to hike Kilimanjaro. After all I sure don't want to die in Africa at 19,340 feet. Then Kelli would be right they would have to rename the mountain, Mt. Kili-My-Aunt-Lauri!