Monday, March 28, 2011

The Lamest Champions

A month or so ago Trevor and I received a mass e-mail from a former master's program classmate of Trevor's who was looking for friends to go on a camping trip with him.  Now I love a good ol' camping trip (see This Weekend was In-Tents!)  but like I've said I'm much more of a pull up and park your tent next to your car full of comfort and beer kind of camper.

 This friend of ours was planning a trip that:
 A) requires snow tires just to get to the campsite (deal breaker #1)
 B) requires planning in advance to apply for a wilderness pass to go back country hiking (deal breaker #2)
 C) requires snow shoes to hike (deal breaker #3)
 D) may or may not require a bear cannister (deal breaker #4)

I was hoping enough people would reply with suggestions to go camping somewhere else, maybe not in the middle of no where and maybe not in the freezing cold snow.  We do live in California for goodness sake.  But alas a few people committed to the trip, including yours truly, Mr. Trevor -"I-already-lost -my-tent-poles" OG.  Looks like we're going snow camping.....?!

There are some snow-capped mountains in those clouds!

So we committed to this winter wonderland adventure with no functional tent, no pads, no camping gear, no hiking backpacks, no warm coats, and no experience.  A few trips to the thrift store solved our warm comfy clothes dilemma.  A mention of being under-prepared for the camping trip to my boss solved our hiking and camping gear deficiencies.  And a friend who put our names on her wilderness application and drove out butts down there, while another friend rented us snow shoes, solved our lack of planning ahead problems.

The night before we leave I am growing increasingly schizo worrying about all the things we need to bring and pack and wondering if we've gotten ourselves in over our heads.  Trevor's taking it easy catching up on the NCAA basketball games and assures me I can relax tonight. If I make a list of things he needs to pack then he agrees to pack up the rest of the stuff while I'm at work.  That sounds nice.  So I write out a list of things for him to pack and do...

Things To Do:
clean the cooler
buy ice
find the sleeping bags in the attic
make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
fill water bottles
pack up the items on the kitchen table (soap/matches/bowls/utensils/emergency blanket/first aid kit/toilet paper)
buy snow chains
buy beer
adjust the straps on the packs

Things to Pack:
thermal pants
thermal shirt
fleece jacket
t-shirts (1-2)
underwear (1-2)
wool socks
hooded sweatshirt
rain coat
water proof pants
fleece pants
wool sweater
sun block

Luckily I was able to get out of work around 4:15pm.  I give Trev a call on the way home to let him know I'll be early.  His reply "Ok good.  Um so I was supposed to pack stuff right?  Didn't you make a list for me or something?  Cause I haven't gotten around to that yet, but I can start that now...."   Oh dear....  Luckily our ride wasn't ready or in any sort of rush either.

We get down to the campsite in Idyllwild around 11:30pm and, surprise!, we are the only occupied campsite in the lot.  Our firiends Max and Jen from LA and Breanna and Steve from San Diego have been at the site for awhile and have a nice fire going.  We set up our tent on the 4-6 inches of icy snow and have a few beers by the fire.  Ahh camping in the cold isn't so bad?  Beers and campfires...  A lovely cozy combination, but it can also make you fool yourself that bad ideas are good ideas.  Like standing too close to the fire pit.  Sounds like a good idea to stay warm, but it's a bad idea for your plastic snow pants that are melting while you chat.  Or going to bed with your boots on.....might keep your feet insulated but you won't be able to move your toes all night and will still be stiff and frozen in the morning.   We learned a lot from that first we should put on every single layer and article of clothing before going to sleep....

..because the next morning some of us were borderline frost bitten.  And I can honestly say it was one of the most miserable nights of sleep I've ever had.  So it made me a little worried that the next night we would be a few thousand feet higher in elevation and it was sure to be at least 10 degrees colder at night.

Campsite #1 in Idyllwild

We ate chili, grilled cheese and coffee for breakfast, packed up our gear and headed to Palm Springs

snow-capped mountain

interesting cloud formation

Mount San Jacinto State Park, campsite #2

 In Palm Springs,  we jumped aboard the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway which lifted us to 8,000+ ft elevation.  It was during the walk from the tram parking lot up to the tram station when I first tried on my backpack.  I immediately knew I was in trouble.  It was damn heavy.  But we're still smiling...

going up!

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

When we got to the top of the mountain and exited the tram car, the awaiting park ranger asked us if we were planning on camping overnight.  We said yes.  He asked if we knew about the approaching storm?  We said no..double trouble....

Max and Trevor
From the beginning I knew that the distance from the top of the tram to our final camping destination was 2.5 miles.  peanuts!  I was psychologically prepared to walk 2.5 miles.  I could walk 2.5 miles in my sleep!  So I kept telling myself, if it's too cold or if it starts snowing, we just have to walk 2.5 miles and then we could get back to the car. 

However, this is another good lesson I learned about high altitude snow camping...... 2.5 miles is a miserably long distance when you're walking in 4 feet of snow with 50lbs of gear, food, and clothes and you need to gain an additional 600ft in elevation and you can already feel a significantly less amount of oxygen in the air.  Did I mention I also slept miserably the night before?

Putting on the snow shoes

Needless to say the hike was slow and painful.

taking a break

keeping our heads down and powering through...
more rest

one step at a time

I believe it took us over 3 hours to get to our site.  During the trip, almost everyone fell down at least once out of exhaustion.  My particularly favorite moment was when Trevor was hiking in front of me.  We had a good 10-step then break for 2 minutes rhythm going.  Trevor has already sweated through all his layers of clothes and is completely soaked in his own saline solution.  Exhaustion doesn't even describe how energy depleted we were.  Big, strong 6'3" tall Trevor leans on a tree branch for some relief and SNAP rips off the branch and falls face down into 4 feet of snow.  Putting out his hands to catch himself, his arms simply punch through the snow and he is completely horizontal.  After realizing he was going to survive, I could not stop laughing at this image.

I was a little concerned about him afterwards because for the rest of the trip he was very vocal about his fear of "freezing his a$$ off."  .

cozying up

By the time we made it to the site, we were toast.  We set up our tents and snuggled up inside.  We also took turns digging out the bathroom which was this little outhouse in the middle of no where.

can you spot the potty?

It looks 2 ft tall because the bottom 4 feet of it is well under the snow.

The while day was rather quiet as people seemed to be fighting their internal survival demons (at least I was) and the site at the top wasn't much more social.  It was too cold to hang out outside and everyone was spent so we each retreated to our tents and cooked some dinner...mac and cheese and mexican rice..

Max making white chicken chili

We were in bed in the sleeping bags before the sun even set.

What were my pajamas you may ask?
   2 pairs of wool sox
   underarmor pants
   snow pants
   underarmor long sleeve shirt
   hooded sweatshirt
   fleece jacket
   fur-lined wool vest
   wool-lined coat
   turtle neck scarf
   furry hat
   and my best friend mr. sleeping bag

Prior to the trip I had randomly come across a 20-pack of hot hands hand warmers.  At the time I thought they might be useful, but I never would have thought of them if I didn't see them.  These came to be the most essential piece of equipment I had packed. We had a field day stuffing them down our sleeping bags with the stubborn satisfaction that we are not going to be cold tonight.  We slept with an emergency NASA blanket on top of us.  And to be wasn't that cold.... But it was windy as all hell.

You could hear the wind howling in the distance.  At first it sounded like a freight train..then I convinced myself it must be an avalanche...and then the wind made it to our tent and it was fierce tumultuous whipping it gave our tent.  At one point it ripped the weather cover clear off the tent.  When I opened my eyes and saw the sky I knew we were in bad shape. Too tired to get out of the tent, I reached out and grabbed one of the cover's strings and tied it to my boot and went back to bed.  Knowing that if the cover won't stay on at least it wouldn't blow away now.  Luckily it didn't rain or snow, but it was still a long night.  The wind would pick up every fifteen minutes or so and it was impossible to get any significant shut eye.

Another distraction that woke me up was my nose.  It was totally sinus-booger stuffed at one point.  I couldn't get any air in through my right nostril.  So I rolled over on my left side hoping it would drain out.  It drained out alright.  I woke up who knows how long afterwards to a viscous fluid all down my lips and chin.  Am I bleeding?  Did a slug have diarrhea on my face?  Nope, just booger spewing out my nose and all over everything.  Disgusting, I know.  Another thing I was glad I packed:  tissues.

Sounds like a great vacation so far huh?

Well, we survived the night.

good morning sunshine

Hello trees

The feeling of not dying of frost bite or exhaustion and waking up in the morning and having the sun starting to warm the air around you feels like a great accomplishment.   While we're still in our tents recovering, our camper friend encourages us with  "You are all champions in my book."   Max realistically interjects, "Is your book called 'The Lamest Champions?"

The hike back down to the tram took us about a third of the time it took us to go up.

let's go home



We changed when we got back to the car and mmm mmm mmmm that burger I had at Rubie's Diner on the way home was the most delicious meal I have ever eaten.

On the car ride home we saw Jay Leno driving down the highway in a car that looked like chitty chitty bang bang.  True story.  Random.  Weird.  But true.

On the way home I also really wanted to buy a scale.  I was convinced my backpack weighed at least 45-50 lbs.  Trevor wouldn't let me get one.  He said I would be really upset to find out that it really only weighed 20-30 lbs.   I didn't get a scale.  And now no one knows how much my pack really weighs.  In my mind it weighed 50lbs so that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

To top off the end of a mentally and physically exhausting weekend we went to the beach for some margaritas.

Then I slept like a rock in the most comfortable bed ever.

The End.


Anonymous said...

Daaaaang I want some margaritas on the beach! Also, you guys are total wimps!

Nancy said...

Glad my underarmour is coming in handy! Haha.

Breanna said...

Since you mentioned this in your email, Steve and I needed to read it. I still laugh! What a crazy trip, but there was some fun in it, right?!

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