Monday, September 19, 2011

The half of it


Early Saturday morning found me in the passenger side of the Durango heading up American Fork Canyon towards the Timpanooke trail head. It was dark and cold and the weatherman had said that rain was in the forecast.

In discussing the weather with the other couple we were going to be hiking with (Scott and Jen Fugal) and whether we should go forward with the hike a question, "How adventurous are you feeling?" was posed. Tyran and Scott decided that they were feeling on the high side of adventurous.

Me? I was thinking about the hike and how it related to a discussion that we had in our ward, about being able to do "hard things." I wanted to prove to myself that I could do hard things.

So my adventurous and hard doing self prepared by packing ponchos, warm hats, hand warmers, extra socks and even gloves. We made sure we dressed in layers. We had plenty of water and a back pack full of snacks for the trail and of course TP in case nature called.

The drive up was full of laughter and excitement. We were looking forward to this night hike even if it might be a little cool and wet. Hey that makes hiking easier right? We arrived at the parking lot for the trail head, hopped out of the vehicle and immediately I noticed the moisture that was lightly falling from the sky. It was very light, almost a mist so I wasn't too concerned.

Another group of hikers arrived just after us and began unloading as well, that made me feel a little bit more confident in our decision to head up the mountain. I snagged one of their group and asked her to take a before picture for us.

He we all are in the only photographic evidence from the hike.
McKenna, Ty, Me, Lynzie, Jen and Scott

Look at us all dry and smiling.
And blissfully unaware of what lies ahead.

The other group took off like a shot .We took a few minutes to take care of bathroom needs before we started the hike. There is a list at the head of the trail where you sign your group name, how many people are with you, where you are from and how many nights you plan to stay. Tyran signed for us and on the number of nights he put 0 (we hope). He told me that his goal for the night wasn't necessarily the summit. His goal, he informed me, was to not make it on the news.

I am glad to say that goal was met.

We started up the trail at about 12:30 a.m. and the light moisture that was falling in the parking lot quickly got heavier. I didn't have my rain poncho on because I knew that hiking in the poncho can get hot and sweaty really fast. I had on a sweatshirt, a long sleeve shirt and an short sleeve shirt. My gloves were on my hands almost as soon as we got out of the car. Even with the heavier moisture I was getting hot and sweaty so I stopped and pulled off my sweatshirt and tied it around my waist. And we went off again.

Then the rain started coming down in earnest and I wished I had put on my rain poncho. I kept going for a while thinking that the rain was sure to let up but it didn't. Another stop was made to pull out the ponchos and put them on. They were only .99 cent ponchos so the sleeves were only quarter length but it kept most of the rain off. I can't say it kept me dry because I was pretty wet before I put it on but it was a wind break and it kept me from getting wetter.

We passed the first group of hikers who were huddled under a tree and against the mountain. I wondered if they were going to turn around or continue on. Passing that first meadow we heard Elk calling to one another which was pretty cool. And the rain continued to fall.

If you know that specific trail you know that there are several small streams that flow over it and we carefully tried crossing those so our feet would stay dry. I'm not sure why. As we continued on wards and upwards the trail became littered with puddles. We tried to avoid those as best we could as well trying as much as we could to stay as dry. Going on the part of the trial with bushes close in on either side was more soaking than actually walking out in the open. The branches whose leaves were made to hang on to moisture would slap up against our legs and arms and leave us soaking.

The girls, McKenna and her friend Lynzie were having a difficult time. They were freezing. We stopped a couple more times but found that when we quit moving we just got cold so we soldiered on. We came to the snow field crossing and were able to see the slight trail that went across it so we slipped and slid our way over to the other side. The clouds had been rolling through and what had been a few patches of "fog" now proceeded to grow thicker. As we continued to move higher the wind picked up, the rain began to have a mixture of snow in it and even some hail.

Then we came to a part of the trail where weren't sure which way to go and we were up into the cloud bank in earnest. Ahead of us there was a fairly large drop into a waterfall/stream bed with the only crossing a large tree trunk that was actually in the water, to the left was the sheer drop off of the mountain (I think...it was dark and cloudy so that side was hard to tell) and to the right a very steep hill and a snow field. We couldn't see if the trail actually continued again on the other side of the waterfall. Ty and Scott saw some trails on the steep side and they were checking to see if that was the way we should go.

I said that maybe the clouds and not being sure of where to go forward was God's way of telling us that we needed to turn around. Because yes we can "do hard things" but we need to be cognizant of what is "hard" and what would be considered "stupid". As we stood there discussing our options we noticed lights coming down on the other side of the stream bed. Another group of hikers was coming down. In seeing them we knew that we would have to cross those falls on that large log to continue on and we knew that the conditions up ahead could not be good if this group was coming back down. That sealed the deal.

It was 4:00 a.m. We were tired and cold and very wet. We knew we weren't going to be able to summit. We knew we had come as far as we were able and that we needed to turn around and start making our way back down the trail. And we were okay with that. (The girls were REALLY okay with that. They had wanted to turn around much earlier on.) I pulled out the hand warmers and tried to get them heating up. I don't know if they just were old or a bad batch, if it was just too wet for them to work properly or if our hands really were just that cold but we hardly got any warmth from those at all.

A little ways down the trail I pulled off my poncho to give to Lynzie and put my sweat shirt on. It was then that the group that had been coming down off the mountain passed us. They told us that they had made it to the latrine area and that it was really wild. Hail and snow and wind. They clarified our decision to turn back.

Coming back across the snowfield was a bit more nerve wracking than the first time. McKenna slid on her first few steps and that spooked her good. I gave her the walking stick (that she had asked me to carry) and we slowly made our way across. After the snow field the trail had basically turned into a small stream and all thoughts and chances of keeping our feet dry went down the mountain with the rest of the water. We did try to stay out of the deeper puddles but much of the time we just splashed our way down.

There wasn't much laughter or joking or even talking. We were each lost in our own thoughts, silently making our way down in the rain. Each trying to stay as warm as we could. I think we only stopped maybe twice on the way down. Once for a potty break and once because we heard what, at first, sounded like a large animal moving through the area. But that sound built and grew until it sounded like thunder but it kept going never rolling out. We had just heard a large rock slide. I think that occurred at the top of the first meadow. We stayed still until we couldn't hear any more rocks moving, then we kept moving. We also started hearing the Elk calling to one another again so it must have been that first meadow. That might be where I noticed that the rain had finally tapered off.

The lower we got the more the IT band on my right knee was gave me some serious twinges as we moved slowly back down the mountain. Ty's right hip flexor was giving him issues and the girls were saying that they were falling asleep as they were walking. We started seeing lights below us. Other groups that had decided to start the climb early in the morning, hoping to avoid the rain and weather that we had just hiked through.

Each time a group passed I would think "I should have asked them how far away the parking lot was" and then I was always grateful that I didn't. I decided didn't want to know. Just after the fourth group heading up the mountain passed us we finally arrived at the parking lot. We were all soaked to the skin and freezing.

It was 6:30 a.m. I had been awake for 24 hours.

As I opened up the car door and tried to raise my leg to give myself a boost up in I realized that this was going to be more difficult that I had imagined. My leg was so tired and cold and sore that I had to basically grab on to the handle on the ceiling, lay as far back as I could and lift my leg up into the car with my free hand. As I was trying to get my butt into that seat I just started laughing. What else could I do? Eventually we all got in the Durango and started it up and headed home. Of course the first thing we did was crank up the heater, unfortunately that vehicle does not warm up very quickly.

It was on the ride down that Scott said "Hey, remember about 6 hours ago when we were still friends?" and Ty said "Next time you ask me how adventurous I'm feeling I'll tell you to ask me next week."

We made it home about 7 a.m. and we all piled out of the car. As McKenna rushed into the upstairs shower I stumbled down the stairs thinking "I'm not making the trip back up those stairs again today." I stripped out of my wet clothes and wrapped up, in my warm bathrobe and went and sat on the heating pad waiting for McKenna to finish up her shower.

As I heard her getting out I tried to get Ty to go before me but he wouldn't hear it. So I filled up the tub and soaked the cold out. I realized that I couldn't stay in there much longer or I would be falling asleep. Groggily I climbed out, dried off and quickly made my way into bed where I passed out as soon as my head hit the pillow and there I stayed until about Noon.

I've tried to figure out how far it actually was that we made it along the trail. We are thinking that it was just over half way. Would I do it again? Probably not in those conditions...unless I was wearing a heated wet suit. But I really do want to summit that mountain.

So next Saturday (which is supposed to be FABULOUS weather) will find me at the Timpanooke trail head once more. Not for a night hike though. We're going to start at about Noon. Too bad it's not like the video games where we could just "save" and start the hike where we left off.

But guess what?

I had a great time. Honestly. As cold as I was. As wet as I got. And as much as my muscles were screaming it was still fun. I loved hiking with Ty and the girls and the Fugal's. They were all amazing. McKenna and Lynzie did great for those conditions. They didn't complain or whine. Scott and Jen were still able to laugh and joke and hopefully we'll be back to being friends in a couple of weeks. (I have invited them to the re-hike but I haven't heard back from them yet)

I learned that I CAN do hard things and I can have a positive attitude while doing them. Even if I only do them half way.

And the mountain still calls.

8 comments:

Funky Kim said...

I think you'll make it this time!

Barbaloot said...

Oh my gosh-I swear the coming down was just as bad, if not worse, than going up! It took forever---doesn't it just kill you that you keep walking and walking and WALKING and where the heck is the dang parking lot?!

I'm anxious to hear about attempt 2:)

Kristina P. said...

Even thought I hate nature and exercise, that actually sounds sort of fun!

Brooke said...

Loved reading this! :) Good luck on the re-do. I'm still hoping to summit that mountain sometime!

i'm erin. said...

No worries! You guys are going to do so awesome this time around.

wendy said...

wow, a midnight hike to Timpanogas.
ya know...all that time I lived in Utah, I NEVER went there. How stupid is that.
too bad the weather foiled your plans, but yes, you can and will tackle it again....and this time, I bet make it all the way.
I love hearing the Elk call...that must have sounded eerie in the middle of the night.
and the rock falling.........sheeesh, that could be scary.
I think DAYLIGHT hiking is more my bag baby

Tammy said...

You'll have to ask my dad someday to tell you his story of his hike up Timp as a kid. He went with his uncle, and they didn't end up turning back. They kept going up through the storm until they were following footsteps hacked out of the ice by a group in front of them. They figured if the group in front of them were ok, then they would be too. Turns out that group had mountain climbing equipment, and had to rescue my dad's group off the mountain. They ended up rappelling down the face, without proper equipment, and felt lucky to have survived the experience. I think you made the right choice.

M-Cat said...

I've hiked that trail so many times I knew right where you were referring to! The summit is a sight to behold and I am excited to read next week when you get there. We always hiked in August when the wildflowers are in bloom in the meadow and warm enough to slide the glacier down.

One time we attempted in the evening in late September and got to the ice fields where equipment was required and we had to turn back.

It's on my bucket list to do once more while my knees hold out : )

Good luck next week!