I just want to say that I really enjoy my former and current co-workers.
So, one very hot weekend in July, two former co-workers, a current co-worker, my brother, and I all decided to go on a backpacking trip. Now, at least three of the five had backpacking experience. At least two of the three had extensive backpacking experience, and one of the two had major-super-hero-professional backpacking experience.
My brother – is an Eagle Scout.
Meanwhile, I have had zilch in experience. None, zero.
But hey, I was more than willing to tough it out and carry my own weight (figuratively, of course. I’m not that strong).
In any case, we all ended up voting for Chewing Gum Lake as the site of our torture, ahem…adventure. Actually, we had tried to do Cathedral Lakes, but permits for overnight camping there are fairly limited and are on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The original plan was that we would drive up all the way to the trailhead (Gianelli Cabin Trailhead), and then start the hike from there. It is about a 4.5 mile hike from the trailhead to Chewing Gum Lake. Round Trip, it would be about 9 miles.
Not too bad. Definitely doable. I’ve hiked the 8.5 miles of Panorama Trail in Yosemite National Park in one afternoon. I can certainly do 4.5 miles.
Well, we hadn’t anticipated the drive to the trailhead to be rather…rough, bumpy, and rocky. It became pretty clear that my co-worker’s sedan wasn’t going to make it. Not to mention all the signs warning that sedans should not move on forward.
And so we were forced to park the cars off the main “road” and start our hike about 2.5 miles away from the trailhead.
What was to be a leisurely 4.5 mile hike was now effectively 7 miles long. And it was hot. And we had a 1,500 foot ascent ahead of us. With 35 pounds of supplies on our backs.
Obviously, within the first few feet of starting the hike…my foot rolled on some loose rocks and I was promptly dragged down by the weight of my bag. To this day, upon the writing of this blog post (nearly 3 weeks later), I still have a scab on my right knee from this adventure.
A few feet later, I slid again, this time on my butt. Loose rocks scrape buttocks, people.
But eventually we got into a little groove and plodded along. Actually, most of the group were very sprightly hikers. In fact, Maria…ran ahead of us to get our camp started. Here, I am, barely surviving, and she’s running the trail uphill and with her pack on. *Hangs head in shame*
Meanwhile, Vanessa, aka Team Leader, aka Group Mom, motivated us by saying things like, “Let’s keep going for the next 15 minutes without stopping, okay, guys?”
Easy, peasy. Wheeze. The altitude really did make a difference. Air thinner, heart pumping so hard I wished I had worked harder on my cardio. To be fair, Chewing Gum Lake starts at about 8,000 feet above sea level and you do the extra 1000 foot climb up. And I normally exist (thrive, dare I say?) in a part of California that sits quite happily at 52 feet above sea level.
All kidding aside, everyone was really patient with my inexperience, and I’m just so grateful that they made the whole process an adventure.
One of the more rewarding things about the hike was the beauty that you could see along the trail. There are panoramic vistas looking down into valleys. In the distance, there was a thunderstorm over the horizon. And then there were meadows upon meadows of wild flowers, too.
Maria, who used to be a Ranger and a “hot shot” firefighter (see what a “hot shot” does here.) would point out all the various flowers, also identifying which ones were edible, which ones were poison, and which ones made for wonderful toilet paper out in the wilderness.
It’s like one of those moments where you are just rendered small by all the things you didn’t know about the world, and all that you take for granted. Like a proper plant to use as toilet paper that won’t have you breaking out in a rash. Important life stuff.
As we went along, Evette’s shoe broke and she had to switch to sandals. Trooper, that lady. Also, an insect flew into…and died in my eyeball.
I saw it fly into me and I felt my eyelid close over it. And felt it … just there. On my eyeball. Stuck. I’m in the wilderness. I don’t have a mirror, or eyedrops. I allowed both Evette and my brother to poke my eye with their fingers while I held my eyelids open for the assault. My brother offered me some water and I squirted it into my eyeball…
…and realized that it was burning and sticky. He guiltily looked at me and said, “oops, I had some flavored electrolyte powder in it.” Aargh!
Finally, using a pair of sunglasses as a mirror, I finally extracted the creature from my eye. And just as I did, we realized we. had. made. it. We were at the lake!
We set up camp and look at how cute our tents are.
Then, we went for a refreshing dip in the lake.
Later, we hung out, gossiped, drank a little Fireball, and I also tended to my little wound from my first fall.
Then, it was time to start a fire. We gathered some firewood, and heck, Vanessa got us an entire log. Gotta admit, our campfire was pretty epic.
We talked around the fire some more. Talking about our leggings, shoes, lawyer stuff, ovulation, babies, husbands, boyfriends, girlfriends, relationships, ethical dilemmas, whistleblower scenarios, finance and banking, ethnocentric identities, our Scandinavian conspiracy…
We covered a wide range of topics but I had to hand it to my brother. For about 70% of the conversation, he probably had no idea what we were talking about.
Hahaha! Poor guy.
Our dinners were dehydrated packs of food. With the use of a jet boil, all you gotta do is put in some purified water from the lake, get it to a boil, mix into the bag, and wait 20 minutes. Next thing you know, BAM! food. Not too bad, either. Then later, it was time for s’mores. Because…camping.
When it was bed time, we set up our bear hang. It was not actually as high as regulation bear hangs…lol. But we felt kind of better by just even doing it anyway. Pretty sure a bear on its hind legs could have easily ripped through our food and toiletries kit. None of us had carried a bear cannister with us.
The next day, we woke up bright and early and had breakfast — again, the dehydrated packs (bacon and eggs for me–surprisingly good).
The day was kind of hazy — and later when we had phone signal again, we learned that it was the day the Ferguson Fire in Mariposa County had just started. =(
We quickly packed up (practicing “leave no trace” principles) and headed back on the (dreaded) 7 mile hike back into civilization.
The trek back wasn’t as tough, given that most of the trail was at least downhill. It was such a challenging, but amazing trip. I’d definitely do it again, but this time, maybe stay a couple nights! It was a great way to keep in touch with former co-workers and get to know a new co-worker (who had co-counseled on previous cases before)!
I also really appreciated the time I got to spend with my brother. He doesn’t do social media, so keeping in touch with him really requires face-to-face hang outs.
So, who wants in on the next trip?