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On the Trail Again
Sunday, 1 April 2007

A friend was looking for this song.  At least I hope it's this song.

 Etta James - Only Time Will Tell

Posted by jmgthatsme at 10:21 PM PDT
Wednesday, 12 April 2006
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Posted by jmgthatsme at 1:35 PM PDT
Sunday, 18 September 2005
Benny Does Tomyhoi (or is it vice versa?)
Weeks ago Burnie and Liz proposed a lastgaspofsummer backpacking trip. The usual suspects joined in: MB, Sherell, Liz, Burnie, myself -- and a couple of special appearances from Roy and Bennie. This group is one that decided when first and figures out where on the fly. We had a few parameters when we met at the Maltby Cafe Saturday morning. Something shorter (six-ish miles in) where we could bring dogs and, hopefully, have a campfire. Over a crazy breakfast of mondo omelets and hashbrowns and a shared cinnamon roll that was as big as your head we decided on Tomyhoi Lake, just off the Mt Baker Hwy.

The drive was long, close to three hours, but the company was good. In MB's car we talked about our favorite song by The Stones, Queen and Elton John. I Car-a-ok'd to anything that I knew that came on the radio.

We hit the trail at the crack of 2. Luckily the trail is only five miles, so time was never an issue. Shouldn't have been, anyway. We had 1,800 feet elevation in, with a 1,600 foot drop into the lake basin on the backside.

The blueberries were out in force, and we noticed that we got different fruit at different elevations. Some plumper, some plants were blazing red, huckleberries in the mix. Near the pass we found someone's blueberry art. I named the work 'Mr. Blueberry.' It's a mixed media piece utilizing natural tints and found objects on wood.

Coming down the backside of the trail was spectacular. The lake basin lay below, a big meadow filled with fall colors, all Halloween orange and chimney red. The trail in this section is kinda crazy, to tell the truth. It was stee-eep. I bet you drop that 1,600 feet in just over a mile. A knee killer, and I'm glad to report my sprained MCL held up just fine. Plus, it was also easy to stop and enjoy the views. This is where you first catch sight on Tomyhoi Lake. Something about the perspective here made me think the lake was just beyond the meadow, but looking back at it the next day I realized that it's obvious that it is a fair amount lower than the meadow.

For a five mile trail, the way to Tomyhoi is actually pretty tough. You climb 1,800 feet in the first two miles, drop almost that far in the next mile-and-a-half, and after an easy section, we were practically bushwacking for the last half mile. I was glad to have caught up with Liz, Burnie and Sherell (I was amazed that Sherell kept up with our speed demons!) 'cause Liz did an excellent job of picking the trail. Someone had tied plastic bags to tree limbs to mark the way. It wasn't too treacherous, but I was glad to have company through that section. When we broke out of the brush we were standing at what is regularly the lake short. In this low water year, it made an excellent campsite, with a stream running beside us and the lake another quarter mile away.

The four of us made camp and waited for MB, Roy and Benny to arrive. We pitched our tents. Burnie set up a tarp to make our site homey, while I collected some firewood. And we were still waiting. An hour later, Liz headed back up the trail. I started cooking my part of the dinner, mushroom soup. I wish I knew more about mycology, 'cause there were some interesting specimens along the trail. Instead I relied on the crimini and portabella 'shrooms I'd cut up and brought with me. I mixed them with vegetable bullion, spices and dehydrated onion, boiled it and let it sit, then reheated it when we were ready to start eating.

MB arrived first and dropped her pack. She told us that Benny was struggling. He was just tired and his feet were sore. The bushwacking section was especially difficult for the big lug. He's a golden/Newfoundland mix, at least we've theorized about the mix. He's a good 120 pounds, is what it comes down to, and he doesn't have the spring in his step that he used to. So MB headed straight back out, and Burnie, Sherell and I kept working on dinner and the campsite. Another 20 minutes, and the group was re-united. Benny came into camp and basically collapsed while the rest of us made dinner. We figured he wasn't too bad off, 'cause every time someone unwrapped something, the sound of cellophane made Benny perk right up. Seems he could eat through the pain.

Dinner was a blast.
I had the bright idea to have a potluck, so we all brought something to share, being careful to not bring too much. Besides my soup, Sherell made a great spinach salad with homemade dressing, Burnie made sukiyaki (pictured), MB made two kinds of pasta (one with meat and one vegetarian) and Liz made bread pudding (and a special non-dairy version for Sherell) that knocked us all off our feet. Wine, vodka, bourbon. Can you see why I love camping with this crew?

As we finished dinner, the full moon was just starting to appear. I know that Sherell and MB both got cool shots of the moon, but this is about all I could muster with my high tech cell phone/camera/blogging tool. We built a fire and brought out our thermarest chairs and just chilled. We drew funny faces on Roy's forehead when he basically passed out next to the fire. The rest of us followed his lead and made for the tents.

We started Sunday our usual way: late.
I think I rolled out of the tent at 10am, and I wasn't the last one up. Sherell always wins that award. But we pretty well just went to work breaking camp. I made everyone jealous when I showed off my lunch for the day.


MB and Roy left as soon as they could, knowing that Benny would be struggling and they would talk longer than the rest of us. So the other four of us stayed back and finished cleaning and took our time breaking camp. Burnie and Liz estimate that two hours is the least amount of time they need to get up, eat, break camp and hit the trail. It proved true this Sunday morning. I tried to relax with a copy of the New Yorker, but couldn't resist helping Burnie bring down the tarp and coil the cords. Whee! We finished tying thing on, Burnie slung on his pack and off we went.

We were on the trail for maybe 30 minutes when we caught up with MB and Roy. They'd made it through the brush without too much difficulty, but Benny was shutting down. He'd walk only a few steps before lying down again. MB and Benny somehow kept positive attitudes about the whole thing though. Benny didn't whine or complain a lot when MB coaxed him along, and MB kept a lilt in her voice while coaxing. MB told us right away that she and Roy would need to stay another night. We considered trying to rig something to haul Benny out.

Instead of hauling Benny out, we decided that with our left over supplies that MB, Roy and Benny could safely stay another night. So, Burnie, Liz, Sherell and I hiked on and left a big bag of goodies at this cool campsite we had spotted on the way in. We were a little nervous about leaving them behind -- at least I was -- but it was a silly fear. MB goes backpacking and hiking by herself all the time. Benny was going to be fine, but sore.

The four of us made it back out without incident and headed home. We stopped at an awesome pizza place, the name of which I can't remember, but it's at milepost 21 on Hwy 542. At least that's what I remember. We each made our appointed calls to Roy's folks (to get them to feed his dogs) and both of their offices. Besides leaving three members of our party in the woods for an extra day, our last trip of the summer had been an unqualified success.

The next day I received this email from MB, telling us they'd made it out safely:

"Roy and I want to thank all of you very much for leaving us food and booze, calling our work and his parents, and helping us with the Bennie adventure.

"We got out of the woods yesterday at noon, after getting up butt early for the 2 1/2 mile trek. We stayed at the campsite where you left provisions. It was quite beautiful. We had a nice night and enjoyed the hummus, veggies and tortillas. Roy, who doesn't really like hummus, thought it was awesome. We had a nice campfire, and it didn't rain that night. And, we even had hot coffee and oatmeal for breakfast. Bennie was very happy with the jerky, although he apparently does not like jerqui. He did like the luna bar, though.

"Not sure how long it took us to make it out, but I'm guessing 4 or 5 hours. Bennie was able to walk anywhere from 2-20 feet before he would have to lie down. Roy invented a system where he got Bennie's back half in a sling made of his fleece pants, and I had his front with a leash, and later Roy's shirt. By the end of the trip, Bennie was so exhausted he couldn't even complain, though his facial expressions were pretty expressive. We're all a bit sore and tired, but we are fine. Bennie did tell me that he never wants to walk again, though."

Posted by jmgthatsme at 12:01 AM PDT
Updated: Tuesday, 4 October 2005 11:38 AM PDT
Sunday, 28 August 2005
Gallagher Head Lake

Sometime in August MB and I did a loop trip to Gallagher Head Lake. It was real perty. And we didn't even have to deal with motorcycles too much. The trail is "multi-use" so you get lots of polluters up there too. Someone with a 4wd could actually drive to the spot where we camped. That would be a fun way to get people of different camping interests to all hang out!

Posted by jmgthatsme at 12:01 AM PDT

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