Breakfast was a breakfast sandwich using King’s Hawaiian bread. I can’t tell you how many times I’d walked by those buns in the grocery store since I stopped eating bread, thinking of their delicious, buttery flavor. I can tell you that when I ate those sandwiches, the first taste was good, all egg and cheese and soft bread. I know the breakfast was objectively good. 

But it made me feel awful. I could hardly finish the sammie. I shoved it down because I knew I needed the fuel, but it completely cured me of ever longing for that bread again. Then it was a scramble to get my pack. I’d forgotten to put the plastic bag in as a pack liner, and I just kind of hoped it wouldn’t rain. 

Before we headed out for the day, we all got together for a photo, and during that photo it began to rain. The rain was just a drizzle, but we were definitely getting wet this morning. I didn’t mind too much. While it was chilly, I knew that the work would warm me up. Ambrose was well equipped to handle the rain as well – thanks to me.

Ambrose and I are in the middle in the matching coats.

See, we went for our big spring REI trip, getting new gear and clothes that fit. I picked up a new rain jacket, because my old ones were no longer keeping any rain out. A couple weeks before this trip, I mentioned to Ambrose that I’d bought the jacket specifically because of the trip. That was a revelation to him, and he promptly got one on order. He got the same style and color as mine, because it was on clearance, but we weren’t totally matchy-matchy because this brand actually had major differences between the men’s and the women’s. 

The brand is Outdoor Afro X REI Co-op, and I think the differences between the men’s and women’s are brilliant. The men’s hood is contained by default, the coat itself is waist length, while the women’s hood is out by default and the coat has a longer skirt. They share a color palette, but the placement of the colors is different. I also like the elastic at the cuffs that keeps the sleeves from falling over my hands unless I want to tuck them in. Not to mention, they provided excellent protection from the rain! 

One small group headed north to check out the state of trail near Bernard Creek, while the bulk of us went south toward Granite Creek. Ambrose and I were with the big group. I had a small pair of loppers to work with, while he had a large pair of loppers, which he dubbed Cindi Lopper. 

We headed out as a group, first just hiking along and lopping here and there. After we got about half a mile away from the camp, the real work began. The leaders would point to some overhanging branches and get the next person in line with the right tool to stop and take care of it. Ambrose and I were near the back to start, but we cycled closer to the front as others stopped. We both got to do plenty of lopping. 

The trail also held a goodly amount of poison ivy. We were told not to lop it too much, because then the oil would get on our tools and more easily make it to us. Apparently, there’s less of the urushiol oil in this new growth poison ivy, except if it’s making new leaves at the top. Then there’s the highest concentration available. I was very chary about stepping on or near any of the poison ivy. 

Ambrose and I took a snack break about ten minutes before a general snack break was called. That was when we had reached a stream. Since I’d already snacked, I moved up to check out the water and get some footage of what it was before we’d done any work. Then a few of us tried tossing rocks in to get a bit of a path through. Unfortunately, we were putting them in the wrong place! 

See, we were thinking about a pedestrian stream crossing, but this trail was rated for stock. That meant that the needs of stock took priority. The central path through the stream should be clear of the kind of rocks a person would love to step on so that stock can travel through without catching (or breaking!) a leg. I found a big stick and managed to lever the rocks I’d tossed out of their position, clearing the center of the path. 

We placed a few rocks on the upstream side, but the crossing was going to be a big step with a small overhead branch assist. Like, there was a tree branch that you could reach up and use to steady yourself, but you couldn’t put any real weight on it. I had decided against bringing a trekking pole, but someone else had brought one, and she graciously allowed others its use while we all made the crossing. 

On the other side, more lopping and chopping! And more rain. The rain hadn’t ever stopped since it started, just varied in intensity. 

We continued on, leapfrogging past each other, always finding more work to do. Sometimes, I’d leave something as good enough and someone behind would work it more, and sometimes I’d do the same to what someone else had left. I tell you, that trail got thoroughly brushed that day, though there were some spots that ended up needing additional work that we didn’t get to right away. For example, there were some spots that needed treadwork, where the trail itself gets redefined more clearly. 

Before we stopped for lunch, I needed to dig a hole. But I was super paranoid about finding a spot along the trail. See, to follow Leave No Trace (LNT) principles, I would need to find a spot that was at least 40 feet from the trail, and 100 feet from water. This trail is in a canyon, and there just aren’t a lot of ideal hole digging places along it. Especially when you’re hiking in a group of more than a dozen people. 

This section was especially perilous for a hole digging project, because there was poison ivy everywhere. We came upon a veritable forest of the stuff growing right along the trail. There was no way to get around it, so a few brave souls went forward and hacked a path through for the rest of us. It took a while, but I was fine with waiting. I’ve never had a case of poison ivy, and I’d like to avoid that experience for as long as possible. 

Even when that section was “opened” for travel, it was still nerve wracking to walk through, because they only cut back enough for us to get through. Not long after that adventure, we all stopped for lunch, having given up on getting to the large overhangs closer to Granite Creek before it was time to eat. 

I’m not proud, but I held my poop in. I held it all through lunch, which we spent under a slight overhang, crowded in together to try and avoid the rain. Lunch was a sandwich we had had the opportunity to make before leaving for the day, as well as fruit and any snacks you cared to grab, like goldfish crackers and granola bars. I wasn’t happy with my sandwich, because it was bread. Bread is great and all, but I’ve learned that I shouldn’t be eating it if I want a happy tummy. 

After lunch, I tried to get ahead sufficiently to find a place to dig a hole, but the terrain continued to deny me any opportunity to dig. I caught up with the crew leader, who, with a small group, was going ahead to scout up Granite Creek. They were all stopped at an overlook of one of the rapids on the Snake River. The water was making a lot of noise, so I kind of snuck up on them. I explained my situation, and they said to go on with them to Granite Creek, where I would be able to find a spot to dig a hole. 

I made all haste to continue on, following them at first, but we very quickly came upon some petroglyphs. They stayed to take a gander, asking me to let the other folks behind us to know where they were after I came back from my hole digging. I agreed and kept on going as fast as I could while clenching. 

It wasn’t too much farther to Granite Creek, but it felt like a long time to me. When I got there, I saw why we hadn’t used it as a campsite. It was much more rocky than our current site, and I didn’t see a space big enough for the warming tent anywhere. 

While there was room to dig a hole here, I had to be very careful when I chose my spot. On the trail, there wasn’t any poison ivy, but off the trail… another matter entirely. I don’t want to get poison ivy at all if I can help it, but if I were to get it… I would not want it anywhere near my underpants zone. Thank you, NO. 

I accomplished my task before the other group walked up. They let me know that we should be headed back to camp by 3:30, which made good sense to me. I headed back to gawk at the petroglyphs and wait for others to show up. 

Ambrose showed up first, and then a few others. After we’d all had our fill of petroglyphs, we kept lopping and chopping. I ate my afternoon snack, and then Ambrose and a couple other folks ate theirs and we all decided to head back. We’d let any stragglers know it was time on the way. 

While it wasn’t a long hike, I was pretty tired at that point. It was my first hike of the year, pretty much, since we’d been very occupied with finding and buying a house for the first few months of the year. Plus, trail work is actually pretty tough work. It builds the appetite and makes for excellent sleep at night (or mid-afternoon). 

We trudged back, stepping with great care through the poison ivy field, and taking advantage of another person’s trekking pole to cross the creek. It was harder to cross in this direction because there were no helpful tree limbs on the far side with which to balance. The trekking pole worked great though. I was too cold to wait for the next person coming in, but the person with the trekking pole decided to wait, which I thought was very nice. 

We got back to camp. I was ready to eat or sleep. Maybe both. I was cranky, that’s for sure. On this day, two additional people had arrived on their own people-powered boat. I was very interested in talking with them, because they both lived in Cambridge, ID, where I was about to close on a house. 

I didn’t end up chatting with them very much that day though, because I had my chair in the big warming tent. They ended up in the teepee, which is also where Ambrose ended up hanging out, trying to dry his gear. We were ALL trying to dry gear by that point. The warming tent was full of gear, hung on a center rope, draped over chairs, shoved near-ish the stove. I had just about gotten everyone’s name by that point, except for one person who was sitting next to me in the big tent. I just asked him, and he was kind in his reply. I mean, they all understood that us lottery winners didn’t know anyone, while they all knew each other. 

When it was dinner time, I discovered that my body didn’t want to eat the food it so desperately needed after all the work and hiking and getting soaked. I got myself a big serving of chicken and rice, but it took me a long time to finish what I’d taken. It’s like my eyes knew what my body needed, but my body really didn’t want it. For me, that’s a warning sign that I’ve eaten food that doesn’t agree with me. From that point on, I avoided bread, but the damage was already done. I did manage to eat the dessert though, a cherry cheesecake tartlet that was quite a delight.

The evening passed with more conversation in the drying tents. It wasn’t super cold outside, but there was still a lot of wind. Inside was more comfortable than out. I was mostly in the big tent, but I went to see Ambrose in the teepee a few times, chatting a bit with the Cambridge folks. 

We went to bed as the sun was setting. I don’t know about Ambrose, but my muscles were nice and sore by that point, and I didn’t have much trouble falling asleep. 

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