Posted by: jawsome | November 3, 2008

It’s not a marathon, but…

Japhy and Matt contemplate the upcoming 10 miles

Japhy and Matt contemplate the upcoming 10 miles

Yesterday I got back from what Matt called “a good hike.”  Ha. That is simply the most inadequate description of what we did this weekend…

Matt and I have been trying to get out backpacking for a while now – and we decided that this weekend would be the weekend. Nevermind that the weather called for lots of rain and the 10 mile hike to the campsite was primarily along a river in the Sespe Wilderness (in which, I might add, an entire boy scout troop drowned in a flood several years ago).  No worries, we thought. Ha.

Friday morning started out lovely. Clouds in the sky, but the 58 degree temps were perfect for backpacking. My pack weighed about 55 pounds, which is pretty heavy considering all the weight is resting on your hips (one of my weak points!).  The first 4 miles were flat or downhill, and we reached the halfway point way before we thought we would.

Little dog, big world

Little dog, big world

The next several miles were harder, as my pack began feeling heavier. We had to cross the “river” four times, but there was never really any water and it wasn’t a big deal. The weather held, and we were treated to some lovely views.

Smiling through the pain

Smiling through the pain

The hike became progressively more hilly as the trail wove around the river. Matt called this “contouring”, but I called it “why God?! Why?” I can’t post all the pictures, because we took many, but the views were really spectacular. The geology of the region was stunning, and Matt decided that on our “off day”  (the middle day of our 3 day trip) we should climb the Topatopas. Here is a picture of the Topatopas. Yeah. Right.

Nah, it won't be bad, it's only four miles. Up a mountain.

Nah, it won't be bad, it's only four miles. Up a mountain.

But, that argument was put off for another day as we finally reached our campsite. We camped at the Willet Hot Springs, which is named (coincidentally) for the…err…hot springs there. There is a ginormous hot tub some poor soul lugged all the way out here, but it was true bliss after 10 miles with a heavy pack.

Our nice cozy campsite

Our nice cozy campsite

We unpacked our things, and settled in. We planned to stay for two nights because the weather looked like it was holding out. We explored around and found this:

Who carried this thing all the way out here?!

Who carried this thing all the way out here?!

We went to sleep after sharing some wine (who says you can’t pack in ridiculous and unnecessarily heavy items?)  Everything was just peachy, until it started raining around 3am. Hard. We had a rain fly over our tent, but one end came loose in the wind and my thermarest and sleeping bag got fairly wet.  The thunder and lighting, which can be exciting safe in your nice home, were somewhat unnerving on the side of a mountain. Japhy was not pleased.

You think you're wet now? Oh you just wait!

You think you're wet now? Oh you just wait!

By the time we got out of the tent the following morning, everything was pretty soaked. The rain was still coming down hard, and we decided that we better book it out of there before the river crossings became untenable. You can’t tell from this picture, but the brown things that look like waterfalls were 1) not there the night before, and 2) rushing torrents of brown muddy death. We packed up and headed out.

Raging torrents of death! Oh, and Matt and Japhy.

Raging torrents of death! Oh, and Matt and Japhy.

Matt consulting a map on day one. Notice the lack of rain, mud, and desperation.

Matt consulting a map on day one. Notice the lack of rain, mud, and desperation.

Now, this next part somewhat defies my memory. As I sit here, clean, warm and safe, I find it hard to get back to that mental place. They say backpacking is good mental training for endurance work, and boy are they right!  The rain was so hard that the river had swollen exponentially. There was absolutely no way to keep our feet dry, and after the first crossing we just slogged straight through the mud. The mud was literally up to our calves in some places. Some of the river crossings were so sketchy we had to carry Japhy across, and once I almost lost my entire pack down a particularly tricky crossing. How many times did I fall in the muddy river?  How many?  My memory says twice, but my knees think it was more like 20 times. We were soaked through, muddy and fairly miserable. But there was nothing to do but keep going. At one point we thought of trying our “emergency escape route, just in case it gets really bad.”  I do think it was “really bad” but the emergency escape route was five miles longer and up over the Topatopas. Not happening.

Are we there yet?

Are we there yet?

My pack was soaked from my multiple river fallings, adding an extra 10-15 pounds, but my misery was so deep I really didn’t feel it. It’s like this zone you get into where you just have to put one foot in front of the other because the only other option is being stuck out in the raging wilderness alone.  In retrospect, it was actually pretty sweet. Mind over matter and all that.

We finally made it back to the car, but I swear I have never been more tired or sore in my life. My calves STILL feel like they will never be the same. We got back and ate an entire large pizza, and I have been non-stop eating all day. Guilt free, at least!  We went to the gym to soak in their hot tub today, which helped, but man I am still hurting. Japhy has been sleeping all day, and I think he wonders why we take him along to share our misery. Needless to say, I don’t think there will be running this week. Maybe I’ll feel better by Thursday, but I don’t know.

All right! When can we do it again? (and seriously, I’m only half joking!)

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