We knew there was going to be a long day ahead of us, so we got up early and got going. The original plan was to have desserts for breakfast and bars for lunch, but then Ambrose had a brilliant idea: bars for breakfast and desserts for lunch.
That way, we could start hiking without taking the time to do any cooking – even cold cooking. I actually dislike having most of the breakfasts in the morning because we use cold water for them. It’s too much cold for me to handle first thing in the morning.
And that morning was not a fast one for me. I was tired and slow and hardly able to get started. I needed to get my hydration back up to better levels for sure.
Ambrose checked the GPS unit before we left the campsite, confirming that we were indeed in the same place as when we stopped there last night. And then we started the day’s hike. I was definitely in zombie mode and trailed behind Ambrose.
|Ambrose getting his morning fix.|
|I’m hoping our junction is ahead.|
As expected, we reached the junction with Beaver Creek in just a few moments. We crossed it on a simple bridge and then took a left up Beaver Creek and quickly came across another camp site. This one was occupied – most likely by the voices Ambrose thought he heard the night before. It was a decent site, one that we might use in the future, depending on the time of year. It wouldn’t get much sunlight, which can be a good thing or a bad thing.
|Hurray for bridges in the morning.|
|That’s the direction we wanted.|
|The trail continued to the right, but we went left.|
|Just a little ahead on the left is a campsite.|
Whoever was camping there hadn’t yet gotten up. We walked by and the tent didn’t move even a little. The trail headed up, staying above the creek on the east side of it. The trail was mostly clear and tended to be either rocky or brushy. I continued to see berries, most of which I couldn’t identify. I was pretty sure I saw thimbleberries. I’d seen those berries on my solo and made sure to look them up so I could eat them next time. But I still wasn’t sure enough to eat them so I just looked at them longingly as we hiked on.
|Pretty sure these are thimbleberries, but not quite sure enough.|
|Early morning light on the rocky trail.|
|We had to step over a few logs.|
|Not sure what these berries are, so I won’t try them.|
We encountered a few downed trees, but other than that the trail seemed well maintained. I was still tired and hungry, hiking behind Ambrose and trying to force myself to eat the old energy bar that I’d insisted we should use on this trip rather than buying new ones. It was expired but as edible as those bars ever were.
The next trail junction we reached was signed, pointing the way to Ramey Ridge. I couldn’t get a good idea of where that was because we didn’t have that map. Since we were only going to be on that map for a short stint, we hadn’t bought it. I had a printout of where we were going to be on the trail, and we would soon be back on the maps that we had brought, which were carefully folded in a gallon plastic bag which was in turn stowed in my map case for easy access.
|We might have to check out Ramey Ridge some time.|
|When the trail went near the river, it got very brushy.|
I’ll admit, I hadn’t spent much time reviewing the maps for this trip. I packed them, and I knew our general route, but I hadn’t gone in depth to see where we would have intersections and what our elevation profiles would look like. I’d read the guidebook entry that inspired Ambrose to plan this trip, and I also had the guidebook in my Kindle for reference, but we left for this trip only a little over week after the end of my solo trip. I didn’t take the time to look into this trip, so although I’d reviewed the maps we needed for the day the night before, I wasn’t really prepared.
We saw bear scat on the trail, filled with berry seeds, and so when the trail dipped close to the water and lead us through head high fireweed both Ambrose and I called out to the bears.
I started with “Hey, Bear!” but that got boring so I inserted a bear into the song “Hey, Jude” including references to the bear not eating us, naturally.
Because of this, or because there were no bears in the area, we saw no bears as we continued to wind around and up the creek canyon towards our night’s campsite. According to the guidebook, where Beaver Creek neared Hand Creek there was a nice site with room for ten to twelve tents. I was looking forward to that.
|The higher trail was clearer.|
|Clear signs of trail maintenance.|
|Very tall fireweed – could be hiding bears.|
|More berries that I didn’t eat.|
We stopped for a snack break where a side stream crossed the trail. According to the map, there should have been a trail following that side stream up towards Ramey Ridge, but we couldn’t see it. Upstream simply looked overgrown and impassable. I figured that the trail must have been discontinued. After a break for gorp, we hiked on to find another campsite nicely situated above Beaver Creek. It was probably still too close to the water for our tent, but it might work out. There was no way to reach Beaver Creek for water, but the sidestream was in easy range for that.
|The sidestream crossing.|
|A passable campsite.|
I felt more awake and alert and began to walk ahead of Ambrose. He would stop every now and then to get a bearing from the GPS and I would pull out my map to see if I could figure out where we were and how far to the next landmark that I could be certain of our position by. The easiest things to determine that by were the places where the trail crossed the creek.
|This small landslide was evidence that the trail wasn’t entirely maintained.|
Since the trail wasn’t one that Ambrose and I had hiked before, I stayed relatively close even as I walked ahead of him. The next bridge that we came across was no surprise to me because I had actually been able to keep relatively good position tracking on the map. It was a little bit difficult to adjust back to the larger map scale after using different maps for my solo (40 foot elevation lines vs 100 ft and a different distance scale, too), but once I got back into that mindset it was fairly easy.
After crossing the bridge, the trail climbed and the sound of water grew loud. I didn’t see a sidestream on the map, but there was one. The loudness of the sound was from the sidestream waterfalling down to the creek. It was a wide crossing, but we were able to do it with boots on and a good amount of care with our footing.
|Quite a large sidestream.|
We passed another wide sidestream and a lot more thimbleberries. I decided to ask Ambrose what he thought of me eating them. I was nearly sure they were what I thought they were, and he agreed that I didn’t need to be concerned about washing the fruit before eating it. Thimbleberries are delightfully tart, seeded like raspberries and relatively small. If they’re ripe, they fall off into my fingers. If they’re not, they cling to the bush and I let them stay there. I grazed on them whenever I found them for the rest of the trip.
|Nice and shady on this side of the creek.|
Another bridge brought us back to the east side of the creek. The trail moved above the creek but stayed close enough that I could see movement in the water. More fish! They blend in quite well with the stones in the creek, but I spotted them, much better than I thought would be in such a small body of water.
|Another bridge – I was so glad not to have to ford the creek at every crossing.|
|No end in sight yet.|
|Well, I was eating the thimbleberries, but these were not thimbleberries.|
|A little hard to discern in the rippling water, but I assure you there’s a fish in this picture.|
The trail moved back down to the level of the water and just as it was time for lunch, the next bridge came into sight. There was a perfect little place to eat just before the bridge. A plank was on the ground next to two rocks and we lifted it into place for a bench. I removed my boots and socks and set them to dry out in the sun while Ambrose got the water for our dessert lunch.
|I kept glancing down to try and see more fish as the trail climbed.|
|Another bridge, just in time for lunch.|
|Ambrose next to the convenient bench where we ate lunch.|
It turned out that the perfect little place was not entirely perfect. The water access was difficult and brushy. Ambrose lost one of the water bag caps when he filled the water bags. But we were able to sit in the shade of a nice tree on a bench that mostly stayed balanced. And we had mocha mousse pie to eat! All in all, it was a good lunch break.
We crossed the bridge and navigated another sidestream crossing that was nearly boots off. Not quite though, thank goodness. Soon after, there was a clear spot on the map that I could identify, a small ridge splitting away from the canyon.
|Pretty deep and wide for a sidestream.|
|A very clear geological feature.|
I was feeling confident in my map reading skills. Thus began the false hope phase of the day. I started seeing our destination in the distance. Surely that ridge ahead was the place where the trail split. But, of course, it wasn’t. The canyon wriggled a lot more than I anticipated; both my initial and second declaration turned out to be wrong.
|Bear scat with practically undigested berries.|
|We saw a good amount of small wildlife.|
|More berries that I did not eat.|
|Those two hills were surely our destination (except they were not).|
We hiked along for a 50 minute segment, keeping an eye out for a place to take a break in the shade. The sun was out and shining and hot. The trail offered very little in the way of shade. Most of the standing trees were just trunks, dead from an old fire. Plenty of bushes and little trees had started to reclaim the land, but they weren’t tall enough to shade us. I hoped that a place where the trail contoured into a gully would offer shade, but the only shade was up the gully and didn’t offer good seating. So we sat on the side of the trail, barely shaded by short trees and snacked.
And, eventually, my false hope became real hope. The terrain flattened out; the trail moved away from the creek. Instead of going uphill, our elevation was rolling. We shouldn’t be too far from Hand Camp.
|Okay, for real, the next trail junction should be soon.|
|Burned sign that I’m almost sure used to read “Beaver Creek.”|
But first, we needed to cross Beaver Creek. No bridge provided. This was clearly a boots off crossing, but I just wasn’t in the mood to take my boots off. Lucky for me, there was a handy fallen tree. All I had to do was whack my way through some bushes, mount the tree on the slippery leaves of said bushes, and then balance my way across the suddenly quite narrow log.
|A totally crossable log.|
I breathed and balanced and trembled. Then I made my way across. One shaky step at a time. Pausing to make sure my footing was secure, to readjust my pack a little. Swallowing the yell I wanted to release when I felt Ambrose get up on the log. I would have preferred that he not make the thing shake so much until I was safely off.
I made it, got down onto some rocks and made my way to the trail. Ambrose was on the log, testing it and himself. I think he took about half a step before retreating. It was not to be for him. He made his way back to the crossing and took off his boots while I took some pictures of a frog and also took the time to sit and rest my tired feet.
|Ambrose gave it a try and decided safety was the better part of valor.|
|I scared this frog off the muddy trail.|
|Ambrose crossing the creek.|
Then I noticed he was crossing barefoot, so I had to get some pictures of that. He didn’t want to get his camp shoes wet and figured that of all places, this crossing would be unlikely to have broken glass to slice his feet. He made it across safely, so I guess he was right.
Once he was across, we continued on. It shouldn’t have been far to the next trail junction and Hand Camp.
It wasn’t far to the trail junction, but there was something wrong. On the map, it was a four way junction. In reality, three way. In the guidebook, the place was described as having room for more tents than we had with us. In reality, there were so many downed trees, the only place clear enough to pitch a tent was on the trail.
In only the ten years since the book was published, Hand Camp had been reclaimed by nature.
|There wasn’t room to pitch one tent, let alone ten to twelve, anywhere near this (three way) trail junction.|
Maybe if it hadn’t been just about dinner time, we would have handled it better. Maybe if Ambrose hadn’t been nearly out of water, we would done things differently. But it was almost 5 pm and Ambrose and I were both low on water. So we took the junction up towards Hand Creek and kept an eye out for accessible water and places to camp.
After passing a few ‘desperation’ sites that were really too tilted to be used, we stopped and dropped packs. I dropped mine by a burned log and a bush, Ambrose took a different log, no bush. I took our water bags down to the water, descending maybe 30 feet to get to the water. The flat spot near the water was squishy wet, no good for camping. But the water was accessible and I brought the bags up to be filtered into our hydration bladders. I lost my way a bit coming back up, but found Ambrose after he called out to me.
Then I sat down on my log, next to my bush and leaped up again yelling. Because the bush was full of ants, and now, so was I.
Ambrose helped me get them off, but I still felt things crawling on me while we filtered.
Watered up, we decided to keep going until we reached the next sidestream and hope for a site nearby. I hiked ahead, examining the ground around me for suitability. There were a few places down by the water that looked flat enough, but they were below the trail and could be too close to the water to be dry.
When I reached the side stream, I felt despair. There was nowhere to camp. The water was surrounded by bushes and brush, the land was steep. I dropped my pack and walked on, hoping to find some place that I might make do, but not wanting Ambrose to keep walking unless I found it.
|No campsites here either.|
|I dropped my pack so Ambrose would stop.|
I could see the trail hit a little plateau after a rise and I decided to go there and see what I could see. When I got there, I saw potential.
There was a flat spot. It wasn’t ideal, but it was flat and I was pretty sure I could move the fallen trees enough to clear a space for the tent. Other than that, I’d just need to scour the ground for pinecones and rocks. I moved some sticks and the larger log that crossed the area; then I went back to my pack to wait for Ambrose.
I told him the bad news – no camping here – and the good news – maybe camping nearby. I was confident enough to fill a water bag for dinner and carry it up with us. And my confidence was warranted. My spot was declared good enough.
I took a break to snack before getting down to the business of setting up the tent. In pitching the tent, I did well. It was a nice pitch. However, I also made an error. It was rough ground, and I really should have insisted that we put our birdseed bags down as a ground cloth over some of the pokey plants. But I didn’t do that.
|I let Ambrose have the camera. He got a pretty good shot of my nicely pitched tent.|
|He got a pretty good shot of me, too. It was hot out.|
We ate dinner. I reviewed our maps for the next day and made sure they were folded to best viewing advantage. I also read the guidebook section for the next day and did my fiction writing. The day had been long, but we found a good spot and could still hear the water of the creek far below us.
Ambrose dropped to sleep in the tent after we ate while I did a little reading. We were both lying down face up. Over the quiet sounds of his early evening snores, I heard a branch break behind my head. I thought it must be an animal, because it seemed so deliberate, like a step. I thought about getting up and checking outside to see if there was a deer, or, though I hoped not, a bear.
Nature gave me no time to finish my considerations.
A chipmunk abruptly appeared on the tent wall above my head. I could make out its shape through the wall for just a moment as I screamed and it scrabbled off and ran for its life. Ambrose woke to hear me screaming and yelled in solidarity before asking me what was going on. He then looked out his side of the tent to see the poor creature scrambling well up the ridge to its presumed home far away from us. All that effort it took to explore us was for naught, though I bet it found a few crumbs of food the next day to scavenge after we left.
The Chamberlain Basin trail was throwing us a few curve balls, but we were handling them.