Monday, May 13, 2013

Colockum Quilomene Traverse - Day Three, Part One

The planned route for Day Three would take us from Brushy Creek to Whiskey Dick Bay.  (I'll give you juveniles a couple of seconds to crack yourselves up.  I'm right there with you, of course.)

Here's the aerial of where we'd eventually be parking our tired, jubilant asses at day's end.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  There would be a lot of work to put in before we could rest.

Spikey, spikey, up, down, orange and purple, like the color of my puke, 23.7% upslope, 27.2% downslope, 13.7 total miles, 5-1/2 hours, 2.5 avg mph, drowning in my own blood, sweat and tears.  Blah, blah, blah.  Exact same shit, different day, then.

Before we get on with the ride details, though, I'd like to talk a bit about some ancillary, gear-type, slightly nerdy stuff.  Gear is a major part of what your day is about, actually, when you're out on the C/Q.  Or any bikepacking trip, for that matter.

If you're into Shackleton-type stuff, or that infamous plane crash in the Andes, or even The Shining, for that matter, you're acutely aware of how harsh environments and situations can bring out the worst in people.  I'm not proud of what I'm about to tell you, but in my dehydrated, delusional state of mind, I had begun contemplating a scheme by where I would murder Joe in the middle of the night so that I could inherit these goofy/rad backcountry slippers he had brought along.  I never got around to even considering if we had the same sized feet, that's how insane and desperate my state of mind was.  Holy living hell, if I could slip my dogs into those mothers for just even a second, though . . .    I'm thinking heaven on earth!

Tempering my slipper-lust, however, was the realization that if I capped Joe, I would have to either: a) do without an item that Joe had been packing and that I, along with everyone else, I think, had come to regard as an essential item on the trip, come those morning urges, or b) pack it myself.  Neither option seemed all that appealing or even remotely worth the effort and possible consequences of a wilderness homicide, after further consideration.  Joe's a smart dude, I have figured out.  I think he was way ahead of me here, and I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts that he didn't lose one minute of sleep over the course of the entire trip worrying over his personal safety or the security of those slippers.

It took a LOT of water to get through this trip.  Between what we needed just as raw drinking water, and what we needed for cooking and other stuff, it added up to gallons.  This was our Brushy Creek watering hole. The water looks pretty clear in the pic, but it was actually pretty murky, due to the fact that we were in the midst of early season runoff.

The primary benefit of all this water of allowing us to merely survive was closely rivalled  by its secondary function: The supply was as equally ample at all three campsites and the luxury that this allowed, in combination with the warm weather, was a sponge bath, of sorts, at the end of every day.  No, I did not pack a sponge.  But a bandana was a worthy substitute and it was warm enough that I could wade into the water at the end of the day in nothing but shorts and knock down the stiff-as-starch salt and road dust that had accumulated on my skin and in my hair, and sleep that much better at night.  Yes, the water was colder than balls, and yes, the discomfort was well worth it.

No one besides me had experienced the joy of a gravity filter prior to this trip.  I let everyone know beforehand that I was bringing mine and that they therefore didn't need to worry about bringing any tablets or other filters or anything - that I had them covered.  "Fine, whatever", I'm sure they said, just like I did before I saw one in action.  There were a couple of time when Ward got his pump filter out to supplement because maybe we had not quite planned our filtering to coincide with our breaking camp and heading out on the trail, but for the most part, this filter supplied all six of us with water during a pretty damned hot and demanding trip.  It's such a rad filter, to the point that is sells itself, and from the comments I heard, I'd bet pretty good money that everyone on this trip will figure out a way to add one of these to their gear caches within the next coupla years.  Joe is proving here, once again, that a watched filter filters faster.  This is not something they tell in the instruction manual, it is just something that is inherently understood by humans.

Okay.  So it's time to talk about the wonder that is Chris' trailer.  And the wonder that is Chris.

He was a last-minute entry in this suffer-fest sweepstakes.  Which meant that except for Randy, we knew almost nothing about him.  There had been nothing in the way of email exchange, and the only real thing we knew about him was that he was a friend of Randy's and that like Joe, he would be pulling a BOB trailer.

Our first actual encounter with Chris, then, was at the start of the ride, in the Dept of Fish and Wildlife parking lot.  He was the last to arrive.  The rest of us were already in the mode of not-acting-like-we-cared-about-each-others'-gear-but-secretly-totally-checking-out-each-others'-setups. Without letting on.

So somewhere during the course of pulling his gear out of the back of his Subaru hatchback, Chris mentioned that his bike might be missing some spokes.  Ha, right.  Joe was the first to actually check, though, and yep, spokes were actually missing.  Holy living hell.

Chris also mentioned that his BOB trailer didn't fit his [spoke-challenged] bike and that as a result, he had ordered a $100 Chinese knockoff of a Burley trailer, into which he could load his massive BOB duffel.  He hadn't had a chance to actually try it out yet, since it had just arrived the day before and he had been up until 2 am putting it together and working out the last of his other gear details.  Holy-holy living-living hell-hell.  At that exact point in time I would have been willing to bet you, and would have thrown tremendous odds your way, that Chris would have been forced to turn around within that first day, and head back home with his broken bike and his broken trailer, in the back of his Subaru, while we all continuned on.

I'm glad we didn't make that bet, because you would have cleaned me out.

The thing is, we just didn't know Chris yet.  We had first-impression summed him up as this crazy dude who had no idea what he was doing and in fact he turned out to be this crazy dude who knew exactly what he was doing.  Or didn't, and didn't care, because this trip wasn't that overwhelming to him in the big picture, and he had the confidence in his judgement and his abilities to know that he would get through it.

Flash forward three days and it was clear that Chris totally defied our first impressions and that he was in fact a very experienced and capable rider and mechanic, and that he simply chose not to burden himself with the same kind of over-the-top fretting and worry and downright obsession that the rest of us had adopted in order to ease our insecurities.  We all came to really dig this rad dude.

All that said, I'm not sure he would choose to pull a two-wheeled trailer over this route again, given what he knows now.  He had rolled it a number of times (somewhere between 10 and 20), due to fact that it was bouncing all the hell over the place, in situations where there was enough speed involved to make it bounce all the hell over the place, due to the fact that we were bombing some steep, rocky descent, due to the fact that gravity exists and cannot be denied.  And when the trailer rolled, it could snag a rock and bring the entire bike-trailer-train to an instantaneous stop, while Chris continued his forward motion over the bars and into the brush and rocks.  Which happened a number of times (somewhere between 3 and 6).

So Chris and his trailer had both taken quite a beating, but I think that as bad as Chris's was, the trailer's was far worse.  The whole piece of fabric on the bottom was starting to rip out at the seams and by the time we hit the road on day four, it was so far gone that he had to break up some sticks to bridge across the frame to support his cargo bag.  The whole trailer was so beat to hell and battle scarred that it looked like it had been in industrial service every day for the last 20 years and the running joke was about how Chris oughta send it back on a warranty claim when he got home and tell whoever he bought it from that he had only used it four times, and that it was totally coming apart, and that they should replace it.

And finally, although it's not exactly gear related, the story cannot be properly told without at least a bit of recountance about the insane amount of ungulate waste that littered every inch of both campsites those first two nights.  City boy that I am, I would try to avoid parking my tent in it, or cooking in it or sitting in it, but this was hopeless, because it was everywhere.  And so in the end, I became one with the dung.

Enough with the attendent details, then.  We had finally broken down our fine tent city and once again stuffed it all into/onto-bikes-and-bags-and-bags-on-bikes and we were ready to roll.  I laugh every time I look at this photo because I look like such a rag doll (far left) and I'm pretty sure that my posture exactly captures my mood at that exact moment, as I mentally prepare to endure what will surely be another climb from hell.  Chris, meanwhile (second from right), seems unphased.

It began inoccently enough, as they all do, out in the C/Q . . .

Amidst the brutality of the climb, there were more stunning rock formations, as there always are out in the C/Q . . .

Here's Ward, powering through a section of brush and grass that's fed by a spring (you can see some water in the pothole in the left track), that had all grown tall enough to provide just a bit of shade.  We stopped to take a breather and get just a little relief from the sun while there was an opportunity.

From that point on, there would be no more shade of any kind . . .

It's at moments like this that a man questions what is important to him in life, and whether he really likes bikes or really hates them, and who besides himself he might be able to blame for his poor decisions.  And what his loved ones will write in his obituary about how he died, or whether they will even mention that part of it.  There's a lot of time to think, when you're travelling at 1-1/2 mph.

It had been another murderous morning, but after another 4-ish miles in 2-ish hours, we were finally approaching the top.

This woulnd't be our last big climb of the day, but it was good to be at the top of something, if even for a short time.

The view from the top is sweet out on the C/Q.

But the day was far from over.


Meg said...

Oh man, this update was much welcomed...

But you're such a tease. Hong it gonna take? MOAR! :D

Unknown said...

Great Laughs! Keep up the good work Pat. However long it may take. Are you going to have this one Published?

Bryan B said...


Also, it looks like there was a small town across the river from where you guys were at. Is that true? I can't think of anything out there...

Stu said...

thanks for the liturgy Pat. take all the time you need, and in the interrum don't take too many shots in the gut

Rango Unchained said...

Bated breath, here.

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