Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Caribou Lake Trail Backpacking Trip, Pt. 3

Rain during the night on a backpacking trip is usually noticed first by the drumming noise on the tent fly. "Whaaa?" groggily you come awake and then when you realize what it is, you have the "Oh Bummer!" moment. 

What did I leave out to get soaked or messed up? (sigh) But not tonight! No, my first thought was that no reasonable bear would be out roaming around looking for helpless backpackers to maul in the rain. And I knew that great minds thought alike when my tentmate, Loreleigh, said the same thing to me the next morning.

It seemed to me like it drizzled and showered all night long, but my pack was in a garbage bag and under the fly in the vestibule. My wonderful REI tent was dry inside, and my food was safely in odor-lock sacks in a dry-bag hanging from a low branch a hundred feet or so away. 

I rolled my padded bulk out of the sleeping bag and slid into my camp crocs. I didn't care if my socks got wet because I had a pair of dry ones, and this was our last day on the trail. I picked up the pair of little Hot Hands-type hand warmers I had thrown in the corner of the tent during the night. They were still a little warm. These were a perfect example of why you should NEVER go to sleep with them in your socks against your bare feet. I had them in my curled up hands as I dozed off, but they became HOT! Very hot. I could hardly handle them. I was afraid they would melt the nylon floor of my tent. I have had them barely get above ambient temperature in the past, but these were astounding.

I shed a couple of layers, pulled on my raincoat and stepped out to survey our camp. Everything looked undisturbed. I could say that it was a bit of a disappointment after all the preparations the night before, but I WON'T! I was glad and relieved. (OK, just a wee bit disappointed that there were no paw prints or scrapes to write about.)

Coffee was first on my agenda. I lowered my bag and pulled out my Via packet. After a quick little set-up, my butane-fired water was boiling and I was pouring and drinking my wake-up beverage. The others straggled out of the tents, looking around and also noticing no bear sign. We congratulated ourselves, especially on the fact that we hadn't done all those bear safety things on the trip for nothing!

I was stirring boiling water into my cup of herbed mashed potato flakes when Melinda gamely hauled out her armload of tinfoil and her Fancy Feast can and bottle of alcohol. We found a dryish, flatish rock sort of protected by any breezes. 

I gave my piece of windscreen tinfoil to Loreleigh for her stove so she would stop using my Crazy Creek chair for a windscreen. 

Not easy to hold a big stainless steel pot on top of a 2" cat food can punched full of holes and full of flaming invisible alcohol with one hand, and wave a fold-up chair a few inches away in the other hand.

I laid my stove and lighter nearby, casually remarked that there was still a little fuel left (I didn't want to insult anyone by suggesting that they should give up their systems) and again enjoyed the show with my meal.

Now one thing to realize is that Melinda counted out every fraction of an ounce for this trip. She measured exactly the weight of fuel that she calculated would be needed, about 2/3 of a plastic water bottle. As her water approached an almost near simmer, the flame went out. Too much extra fuel was used to fight the low temps and light breeze. One quick blast of my Brunton, and she had boiling water for coffee and breakfast.

In spite of the drawbacks, the Fancy Feast stoves are actually pretty clever and easy to use. In an emergency, they could warm up or cook your food for you. They are pretty lightweight and disposable. But I think a option that has been overlooked is experimenting with high octane grain alcohols instead of denatured alcohol. Just for emergencies, you know.

It did take us about 25 minutes longer to pack up in the rain than we had planned on. It was nice though, to just cram the wet stuff in, since we'd be unloading it soon. We stepped out a 9:25 am. It was Monday, Memorial Day. 

I was pretty surprised that no one had camped in the meadow last night, and no one seemed to be out on the trail at the same time we were. We saw no one the whole way down.

The clouds looked just like smoke from a fire! Coming into the burnt forest, we were unsure of just where that burned tree was blocking the trail. I wasn't looking forward to going around it, but hoping that the moist earth would be easier to climb on than the loose fluff of the other day. Finally, when we got to the granite side of the mountain, we had to realize that while we were gone, they must have drug it off the trail. It was definitely a "stock-stopper." But there were plenty of other downed trees and branches to get over.

It drizzled off and on all the rest of the way. The hood on my raincoat went up, and then down. Up and then down. 

Time for a quick self-portrait. I look a little startled and worse for wear!

It is a wonderful raincoat. REI brand and made of that lightweight breatheable material. It also has zippered vents under the arms to help with sweatiness.

More water was flowing across the granite face of the mountain and running in streams down the trail and the cut steps. It was beautiful and clear and set off the black flecked white granite in a beautiful way.

 I loved the look and sound of the run off.

Caribou Meadow in the rain. No lunch stop today.

The best thing about day 3? Downhill, all the way! Yay! I'd been looking forward to this ever since it had been uphill all the way. The last obstacle was the Salmon River to ford. It did seem a little higher than before, but still below the knees. Loreleigh and I didn't want to soak our hiking boots, so we changed into our crocs.

Icy cold, and a little swift, but not too bad, as I didn't fall in.

The last uphill slog to the parking area at the trailhead, and there was our driver, waiting for us. Even though at first he acted like he didn't see us coming so he could finish the chapter on his audiobook, we we were glad to see him. 12:25 pm, just 25 minutes off our scheduled plans!

We passed a celebratory beer, Deschutes Red Chair, and drove down to Weaverville for Subway sandwiches. 


  1. I have refrained from posting cotrections in the comment about the trip, preferring instead to think of them as differences in memory. but since you continue to make fun of my cat food can stove I need to clarify a few things.... I did have fuel left but took your offer so I didn't have to reset up. Loreleigh had issues because she had no wind screen and she had un suitable pot. and while taking this cooking system saved me over a pound or more, if I had known we were going to be in winter like conditions I would have brought my canister stove :-)

  2. unsuitable for cooking yes. Unsuitable for making loud clanging noises? I think not!

  3. Oh yes, now I remember. You did have some fuel left in your bottle. And it is a clever little stove. And it wouldn't have been nearly so enjoyable to make fun of it if it was a smoked oyster tin. It's on my list to make one. But I want to burn it at night to see the blue flames soot out