Ambrose and I are trying to get out together almost every weekend in June. The one we aren’t going to be our together for is the one where I’m going to volunteer with the Idaho Trails Association for some trail work. Other than that, the plan is to be out every weekend. So, for the first weekend in June, following our inaugural backpack on Memorial Day, the plan was somewhat different.
I didn’t really understand the plan until we went over it together on Thursday evening. And it’s a good thing I asked then, because the plan was for us to head out to the trail directly upon my leaving work on Friday evening. I got packed really quick after that on Thursday!
We would drive out to the Sheep Creek trailhead, spend the night, pack up in the morning and go hike 6125 (which is the elevation of a nearby mountain with no other name/designation). It’s a great training hike; lots of gain, nice and long. Longer, now, than it used to be since we are using the new official trailhead instead of the old one.
The drive out was nice and relaxing for me. Ambrose was driving and I was feeling a bit floaty from taking a bit more Aleve than is strictly recommended to treat my PMS. There wasn’t a whole lot of traffic, and the road was as good as it ever is. Bumpy, but not frighteningly so.
We saw jetskis coming into the reservoir from upriver and wondered how far they’d managed to go upriver. Ambrose thought they could have made it to Twin Springs, but I wasn’t sure. Watching the water as we drove by, I thought there were some rapids that would have made most jetskiers turn back, but I’ve never tried to take one through a rapid.
At the trailhead campsite, about half the sites were taken; the remaining spaces had some cars in them, but no people. So we parked between the two unoccupied cars and claimed that space for ourselves. I got the tent up in short order, though I did have to re-stake it once the wind decided to test my pitch. No rainfly for this night, because it wasn’t just warm, it was hot, even at 8 pm with the sun behind the ridgeline.
It was delightful to sleep under the stars, with just the mesh between us and the sky. And we didn’t even need our sleeping quilts it was so warm. We ended up using the blanket we usually use for insulation on the air mattress as a blanket.
The alarm was set for 5 am, and I actually felt well-rested when it went off. We proceeded with striking camp in harmony. It was like a dance; I’d finish bagging something, Ambrose would bring it to the car, then I’d have the next thing ready for him. We took the tent itself down together, and ate breakfast and took turns with the shovel.
|I tried several times to get a picture of this bedhead and this was the best of the lot.
We were on the trail before 6:15, beating the sun’s rise though it was on the way. I had planned on using Gaia GPS to record the hike, but it refused to acquire a signal so I asked Ambrose to drop it in my pack instead, just so we could get going.
After Ambrose beat me to the car on Memorial Day, I figured he’d be up on me on this hike. That was not the case, even though I was not feeling my best with my period hammering my guts. I pulled well ahead and stayed there.
|With the sun rising behind me, this ridge looked like it had reverse alpenglow.
At the Sheep Creek saddle, I saw a pair of hikers ahead of me, and I totally used them to speed myself along the trail. They kept going along Sheep Creek, beyond my turn off, before I could pass them, but I got close. I was glad they hadn’t turned off, because I needed to dig a hole, and I didn’t want other people close by.
I thought for sure Ambrose would pass me while I did that, but he only walked up as I was putting my pack back on. I thought, again, that he’d keep up for a while, but I left him behind again, well before I started the evil traverse.
|If I had been going the same direction, I would have totally caught these two!
From where we cross Sheep Creek up to 6125, there’s about 2500 feet of gain. Much of that takes place over about a mile, along a dry, sunny stretch of trail that tends to singletrack and is mostly small rocks, aka ball bearings. It is a rare hike that I do not slip and fall on those rocks – at least on the way down.
On the way up, I didn’t have too much trouble. A few slips, but nothing scary. I just kept going, powering on up even when I very much just wanted to sit down and stop.
Instead, I skipped my usual rest stop at the Twin Springs couch and recited a litany of things I needed to do at the peak. Take off socks and shoes to shake dust out of socks. Finish the peanut butter chocolate chip cookie I was munching for breakfast. Put on sunscreen and convert pants to shorts and shirt from long to short sleeved. See if I could get the Gaia GPS to work so I could record at least half the hike.
After the couch, the wind picked up, and I felt much cooler than I had with the rocks beaming the sun into my face. Flowers abounded, with multiple shades of purple along with a few of yellow and a small stand of bright red paintbrushes. I took a moment to enjoy the view down to Twin Springs, but without sitting. Sitting was for people who made the peak!
|The sun found me! Way earlier than I would have preferred 🙁
|I always find the view down to Twin Springs enchanting.
|These sitting rocks, to me, mark the peak.
Once I made the peak, I found that my list had acquired a new item. Dig a hole! I was glad that my digestive system was moving along so well, even though digging holes is a time suck. Then I wrapped up the other items on my list – including starting the Gaia GPS track – and started down, expecting to see Ambrose at any moment.
He wasn’t the closest that I’ve caught him coming back, but he wasn’t too far down. I expected him to be an hour or so behind me. Maybe 90 minutes.
I had a slip-slide heading down to the couch: my body’s momentum swung me away from the trail and I had to move my feet quickly as well as lean the other way in order to stabilize. It felt a lot scarier than it sounds to write. Probably because I failed to describe that if I hadn’t jerked myself around, then I would have rolled down a steep hill, on rocks, through scratchy bushes.
I tried to take it slow down the ridge traverse, because those rocks just love to slide. Only one more notable slip made for a pretty good trip down. I do like the Altras for their grippiness on a variety of terrain, even though I really wish they’d make a women’s wide. I’ve hiked this trail enough to know that they handle its ball bearings very well.
|There he is!
|But not a rattlesnake 🙂
I was excited to get off the ridge and down to the side stream crossing just before the bridge over Sheep Creek. I took advantage of the stream and dipped my sunhat in to help keep me cool for the end of the hike. Pro tip – rather than let the sun hat’s tail get my backpack all wet, I rolled it up and tucked it under my shirt collar. That kept my neck cool and kept the tail wet a lot longer than if it had been exposed. It worked really well until the wind got strong and blew it off my neck – but then the wind was cooling me, so fair trade.
I passed one pair of hikers heading out as I made my way back to the trailhead, finishing in just under 6 hours.
|My official time back to the car – we started at 6:12 am.
And what, exactly, did I do in 6 hours? Well, the track from the top down gave me a distance of 5.1 miles, so I did 10.2 miles. And, apparently, 2810 feet of descent. I felt like it.
I moved the car to the shade, changed clothes and tried to stay cool while I waited for Ambrose to show up.
When the first hour had passed, I was little worried, but not super worried.
At two hours, I was starting to plan the rescue. Knowing that the total distance was 10 miles, I ended up deciding that I’d give him one mile per hour before doing a rescue. Only partly because I did NOT want to go back out there.
After the 4th time I moved the car into shade, I could no longer read short stories on my phone. I was worried, thinking what could possibly have happened to him that he ended up so much farther behind me. What if his ankle were twisted or broken? Well, then I’d just have to do the Chamberlain hike with Bill and Mike only. He’d just miss out.
After 2.5 hours had passed since I got back to the car, but less than 3, I finally caught sight of him coming down the trail. I had been feeling tired and cranky, but he looked a lot worse than I felt, so I went directly into caretaker mode and got him as settled as possible. When he poured potable water on his sweat rag, I went down to the river to get him some river water for cooling purposes instead. We didn’t have enough potable water in the car to use it like that.
|Ambrose’s official time back – which I only later learned was influenced by not one, but TWO naps on the trail.
There was pretty much no way Ambrose could have driven home in that state. And, his tiredness was actually a blessing, because he discovered just how relaxing a drive could be when he closes his eyes and doesn’t try to backseat drive. I felt quite cheered that he was able to relax while I drove these scary roads. He pretty much only opened his eyes when I talked to him or asked for water.
Now, if only there was a place to buy slushies on the way home, the day would have been perfect.