Sunday, September 1, 2013

Drama on Dry Creek

Hypnum covered log at the ridge top campsite

After three weeks of resting my ankle I decided to give it a good test.   What a disaster this hike turned out to be, but not due to my ankle.   I was much delayed getting to the trail head because I had to cook breakfast for my ill husband first. 

Then my ride to the trail head wasted a bunch of time and miles geocaching.   My ride was acting strange this morning too, he was quiet, too quiet, something was wrong. Perhaps he was only there to geocache.  He was on some crazy challenge to find a cache everyday in the month of August.  He completed his challenge this morning, so he should have been in a better mood.

  As soon as we started hiking we had an argument.    Then with no warning, he blew his top and threw a wobbler and declared that he did not want to hike with me today and he was going back.  He turned on his heels and marched back without a glace back at me.

Wow!  Such drama, I was shocked.   Still I was there to hike, so I kept hiking.  The last thing I wanted to do was ride back in his truck as akward as that would have been.  Oh how I wished I had drove myself out there.  What a pickle I was in.

My "friend" passed me on the trail twice as I made my way to the creek.  Maybe it was my PTSD, but I was frightened and my gut instinct told me to hide, so I hid from him both times.  His loud trekking poles and his lack of good observation skills allowed me time to hide from him.  Keeping Patches from whining and giving away our location was the only real challenge.
When I reached the creek I stopped and ate my sandwich and soaked my ankle and pondered what to do.  I was not ready to stop hiking yet, the drama at the start of the hike was doing my head in and I knew that a good long hike would be the cure. 
Amazingly I managed to make a dry crossing of the creek.  That is, I crossed the creek without taking my shoes off or getting them wet.   That was a first, but I don't normally hike this trail this time of year.   Up and up I went, the mushrooms were amazing, also I had forgotten  how long this trail was.  This is not a good trail for mushroom hunting but this is such an exceptional year that even this barren trail had mushrooms.
I did not have my watch or my GPS or my water bottle because I was supposed to be hiking with my friend.  I also did not have any extra clothes because it was supposed to be such a nice day.  Well, I’ll never make that mistake again, even if I’m hiking with someone else I’m going to carry my full kit on every day hike from now on.   I had to use my point and shoot camera to tell what time it was.  I had left my big camera at home.
As I made my way up to the little campsite on the ridge I decided that I would brew a cup of tea there and  then decide how to finish my hike.   On my way to the ridge I found the most luscious blueberries and huckleberries ever.  I fed some of them to Patches since I had forgotten to pack dog food for her.  The trail was obscured by all the blueberry bushes dripping with yummy fruit. My progress through this section was slow as I kept stopping to eat.

Once I made it to the ridge campsite I had to decide what to do.  Would I camp on the ridge and send a SPOT message?  No, then I would be risking my “friend” tracking me down in the  middle night and my family needed me.  Would I hike all the way to the other trail head and hitch a ride home from there?  No, the other side is pretty desolate.  I decided it would be best to have lunch at the ridge top campsite and then turn back.  With it being Labor Day weekend I figured it would be relatively easy to hitch a ride back home from staircase.
There was no telling what my “friend” was up to, I  hoped that he would not still be waiting for me at the trail head. He was acting so out of character that I decided it best not to even try to guess where he might be.
At the ridge campsite I got out my thermarest and propped up my ankle for a bit and then I decided to have my tea and make up my mind.  But it turns out I had no lighter, even the lighter from my first aid kit was missing due to me taking it out the last time I had hiked with no lighter.  (It turns out that I did have waterproof matches with me but I did not see them)  So my decision was made for sure, I would hike back out, I was not going to spend the night with no fire source.  I had my tent and my cook pot and my thermarest but I had no extra food.  There were enough mushrooms up there to feed me, but mushrooms need to be cooked.  There were also enough blueberries up there to feed me but I did not want  to have GI distress the next day!
I decided to that at the latest I should leave the ridge at 4pm, that would give me 4 hours to hike out, but I was ready to leave by three so I started my hike down at 3.  It’s a good thing I left an hour earlier than I needed to, since my camera was on standard time instead of daylight savings time.  

All day long my camera was telling me that  the time was one hour earlier than it really was. I made it back down to the river at 4:45 according to my camera.  I made another dry crossing but well above the trail.  Patches had to make a wet crossing, but she did not mind much.
On the way back down I got very tired and had to stop and rest a few times.  This was a tough hike and I had not hiked for a month.  Patches was getting weary too.  It had been even longer since she had hiked.  
  I made it back down to the shore line just in time to hear gunshots.  HOLY SHIT!  Were people firing guns across the lake and at the trail I was on?   I could see that the shooters were in the vicinity of party rock.  For a moment I was really afraid that I was going to be shot.

  The shooters could not see me on the far shore of the lake, but a rifle could have reached me, I doubt that the shooters knew there was a trail on the far shore. Maybe they were shooting into a dirt bank and across the road, but it seems more likely to me that they were shooting across the lake. 

 They fired about ten shots and then they started shouting either at each other or a passing car.  I heard one of them yell "fuck off" right before they peeled out and left.  Whew, they were gone! 
I made it back to the trail head at 6:15 according to my camera.  I approached the trail head with caution.  Was my “friend” still there or had he left?  I saw a car parked right where he had been parked.  I decided to go ahead and let him see me if it was him.  Surly he would have cooled off and  by now.  To my relief I saw bicycle racks on the car so I knew it was not my “friend”.
I crossed the causeway and started trying to hitch a ride home.  Since it was getting dark I sent a SPOT to let my husband know I was okay.  I always send him a SPOT at sunset.  I had not sent any other SPOTS that day because my "friend" is on my SPOT list and I was frightened of him.  I did not want him to know where I was and try to track me down.

  I did not yet know that my camera clock was wrong and I was surprised that the sun was setting so fast.  (I swear every time I hike on the Dry Creek Trail I lose my sense of time)
Ranger Davis (the mushroom stomper) saw me hitch hiking and he behaved in his usual passive aggressive manner, pretending to be helping me while  probably bad mouthing me over the radio to an unknown Forest Service Ranger.  Davis tried to call my husband for me, or at least pretended to try to.  Then the forest service Ranger arrived and he was a total jackass. 
 Oh well, at least he was honest instead of passive aggressive. The Forest service ranger demanded to know why he should help me.  Huh?  I never asked them for help.  I explained to the asshole that if I had wanted their help I would have hiked the one mile into staircase rather than attempt to hike the five miles out to the pavement. 

 Well it turns out that the ranger was being such a dick because unbeknownst  to me,  my friend  had called 911 and reported me as missing.  
 I left the rangers when it was clear that their only intention was to be dickheads.  I got just out of the glare of their headlights and started trying to hitchhike again. 
 I knew that as a last resort if no one picked me up I could hike into staircase and use the public pay phone there to call my husband to come get me.  But as ill as my husband is I had opted to try to hitchhike home first.  Also off leash dogs are not welcome at Staircase and I had no dog leash.  But I do have a way to attache Patches to my trekking pole if need be.
About ten minutes I left the Forest Service and Park Service Rangers a Mason County Sheriff pulled up to me.   I was close enough to the Federal Rangers location that I could still see a bit of their headlights.  When I saw the Sheriff I though oh no,  Is this guy going to be a jack ass too? I had already had my fill of LEO’s for the day!  

 I was holding out my thumb to two passing cars who just kept on going.  The Sheriff was coming from the opposite direction but at first it was too dark for me tell it was a sheriff.  After the cars passed me he pulled up to me and to my pleasant surprise, he rolled down his window, gave me a big grin and asked me if I wanted a ride.  I said “I sure do”.  He then asked where I wanted to go and he seemed quite pleased with my answer.   I think where I wanted to go was exactly where he would be going after this call anyway.

 It turned out the Mason county sheriff was there looking for me and Ranger Davis had not even bothered to tell Mason County that I was never actually missing.  Mason County was about to launch SAR, but then when they got my SPOT message SAR was not deployed.   Whew, that was too close for comfort!
The mason county sheriff was very friendly and he gave me a ride all the way to my parked car.  He was there to help me and did not have any weirdo agendas.  He said that they operate under different rules in the national forest and the national park, I think that was his diplomatic way to try to explain the asshattery of the Federal LEO’s.  

He was surprised that the Federal LEO’s had not let Mason County know that I was not missing.   He also said that it would be a waste of resources to have my husband come get me when he was already there and it make perfect sense for him to drive me back rather than to call my husband.
So the Mason county sheriff saved the day.  All in all I had a nice hike in spite of all the drama at the start and at the end. 
On the plus side my ankle did well on this hike and now the next day it still feels good and this is going to be an amazing mushroom year.  Yay!  I’m ready to start hiking again and the mushrooms are popping.  I need to go on another hike to help me to de-stress from this hike.  I don’t think I’ll ever think of the Dry Creek Trail in the same way again.
It is the day after my hike and the moment Mason County SAR is on its way to staircase to rescue an injured swimmer.   They have divers out, but have not found the swimmer. 
12 RT with 2,400 feet elevation gain

Track and elevation log from the last time I did this hike

Lots of blow downs on the trail slowed my progress

Strange tree house.. how is this tree going to grow now?

I wonder what this sign said

Lake Cushman at what I thought was 6:15 but was really 7:15

Pigs ears were everywhere!  Pig sear mushroom

The poison Paxil mushroom

Patches is one pooped puppy trying to hitch a ride home

Patches crossing the creek on the way back

A sea of blueberries near the top

Lunch time at the top, if only I had enough food I could have camped here!

Kristin Delaney, how did she die here?


Hemlock said...

Wow what a crazy adventure. At least the sheriff finally proved helpful. I do wonder about this type of thing when I go hiking with people I don't know very well. Thanks for sharing your report and telling about your decision making processes. And glad to hear your ankle is finally better.

Mossy Mom said...

I think from now on I will drive and ask for gas money. If I had driven this never would have happened.

I've hiked with this person so many times, this was a real shock. Sad too as it marked the end a long friendship.

But now I remember why I hike solo.