I saw a break in the rainy weather we have had in June, according to the weather forecast, and so decided to do an overnight backpack trip, even though I had just got back from Montana on Friday. Summer is wonderful in the high country, and in my view it is fine to put aside anything at all to get up there and enjoy it.
I got up at 4am on Monday, and since everything was all packed, had breakfast and was in the truck with the dogs before 5am.
On the way to the trailhead within a quarter mile section I saw a mountain lion, an elk, and a moose. This was only the second time in my life that I have seen a wild cougar. It might have been a male, because it seemed big, and moved with the smoothness of an extreme athlete.
Not long after I started hiking I encountered five people, which bothered me a little. I am used to going up and not seeing another person, but I obviously was starting up a popular trail.
Less than an hour into my hike I left the trail and headed up towards a ridge I had spied a year ago in this same area, and then had checked out with Google Earth. I kept climbing for almost a half a mile, until at near 9000 feet the ridge narrowed and the going got tougher because of a lot of blown down trees. I backtracked and thinking I would camp near there, started checked rock outcroppings for water pockets in rock. That was a priority since you need water to camp, and I had brought some, but not enough for a couple of days for me and the dogs. If I couldn’t find any, my plan was to drop my heavy pack and hike back down to the valley bottom and get it from a stream, which I have had to do on other trips. It is hard, but at least I am not carrying the heavy backpack on the way back up.
While searching I found a level area behind an outcropping that I had passed on the way up, but not seen through the trees. It was the perfect place to camp, with scattered spruce and limber pine, and some ancient standing dead limber with a lot of character. I found some water pockets in the rock right away, and enough for maybe a week of camping. I got all my water out of a single pocket, that had in it about 10 gallons of water.
So I set up my tent in the shade of some pines, but didn’t stake it down. After taking some naps in the cool tent throughout the day, I moved it in the evening to a more exposed area where it would catch the morning sun.
This was one of the better off trail backpack camps I can remember having. Watching the light change on the forested valley below, and the peaks over to the west was truly breathtaking. More than once I went over to the ancient limber pine skeletons and placed my hand on the bark, acknowledging the unknown and spiritual significance of these old trees.
I stayed up half the night looking at the stars and constellations and milky way on this dark new moon night, which was the reason for the naps the day before. All three of the dogs gave up on me and retreated in the tent while I looked at the night sky and took long exposure photos of the Milky Way. The Starwalk 2 app on my phone would show me the names of all the constellations and where the Milky Way was when I held it up and moved it around the sky. This was useful when setting my tripod in relation to the Milky Way, which I could not see until a minute or so of my eyes adjusting after I turned off my headlamp. The Milky Way was visible in the south early in the night, around 10pm, and then slowly moved over to the west as the night progressed into the early hours of the next morning.
I was up gazing at the stars so much of the night I set an alarm so as not to sleep past the sunrise at 5:30am, on this day before the summer solstice. I was awaken to color in the sky, then as the sun rose watched it light up the forest below and the peaks to the west.
Little Jess has camped and backpacked with me and Beau and Hayley six or seven times in her young life, and is picking up the smarts of a good mountain dog. This was a wonderful trip, and the freedom and beauty I experienced during it added to the happiness and satisfaction I enjoy in my retirement life. I don't take for granted having the health&strength to backpack up to a place like this, and thank the Lord for all of it.
On the way back down through the valley I found many calypso orchids, and stopped to photograph them. It is a tradition for me every June to travel up through a place they grow, which is moist spruce and fir forests with many decaying logs.
(Videos from our backpack trip can be seen at this link: https://journeywest.com/20230622videos.html
(click on photos below for larger image . . . - Esc or clicking outside of image will close it)
More Journal Notes:
June 23rd, 2023
I have started going to the Rose around 10pm on Saturdays now, and not expecting to dance much until 11pm, when the floor starts to thin out a little. It was just too much effort to go at 8pm when the band starts like I used to, then wait until everybody shows up and feels like dancing, when the floor would get too crowded to circulate counter clockwise or do swing moves. When I go later I get to dance a lot from 11pm until 1am, with ladies that are in the mood to have a good time. It is working out for me.
I love to dance to country blues and waltzes, but it is always the fast dances with a good beat that give me the biggest rush. Once I get one or two dances like that, it is a good night. (like I said circulating counter clockwise and then stopping to face your partner with swing moves when there is room, all to the beat the band is playing). What I have been reading is it might be a combination of adrenaline, dopamine, and endorphins released by your brain that make a good dance feel so right: “ Dance has been scientifically proven to reduce levels of cortisol caused by chronic stress. It also causes the brain to release dopamine – a natural mood booster, and endorphins – a natural painkiller.” from: British Science Association (link here).
And credit is due to the Grizzly Rose that has such a large dance floor that you can do those fast triple steps mixed with swing. A dance floor that large is not common, especially for country bars.
So at 71 I am hanging around dance halls and dancing past midnight until my legs are weary. That is what makes me happy and there is no one I have to answer to for my behavior, which is life affirming. I get plenty of dance partners possibly because I know how - thirty years of experience teaches you something. When it gets to the point that I can no longer dance to the fast songs, I will probably quit. But I am not there yet, hopefully by a long shot.
“Wherever you go, go with all your heart"