It’s About the Focus

The mosquitos were relentless. The sun had baked us like a microwave from the inside out. We were coated in a think film of sweat and dirt. The climbing was endless. We had 25 pounds of gear on our backs. I could feel the start of a migraine. I was excited to strip off my clothes and walk into the cold mountain lake; our destination. The mosquitos were excited for that as well.

The lake water was cold, almost too cold. We walked in 6 inches of muck sinking with each step, struggling to keep my flip flops from being eaten by the mud beneath the water. The struggle led to me falling in which was probably the only way I was going to get all the way submersed. The cold took my breath away. I headed back to the shore and attempted to get dress as fast as possible before being eaten alive.

We were in our happy place.

What is it about the outside, nature, the physicalness, and the social bonding with humans and dog that not just trumps the uncomfortable aspects, but creates a desire for more?

It’s winter now, a time to reflect on a wonderful season of backpacking and plan for the next one. I’m sitting in my favorite writing spot, Big Creek Coffee, having a golden milk steamer with oat milk. It’s 20 degrees out, the inversion of fog frozen on the bare tree branches. I have my stocking cap on inside. People are studying, drawing, visiting and collaborating. A group of grey haired women have their seed catalogs open as they plan their gardens. The buzz of humanity enjoying itself is where I like to write. The golden milk soothes my sore throat.

The Selway River, Bear Creek to Bryan Lake, Little Rock Creek, Watchtower Creek and Boulder Creek.

It started with our annual trip of backpacking the Selway. Six days, 56 miles, five of us started at the trailhead, but only three made it to the finish. The weather was perfect, more clouds, rain and cooler weather than previous times. The days were still long, but we had added in a layover day this year. A day off between two 14 mile days. The weather and the lay over day were game changers and noted in journals for the next time.

Rattlesnakes, a black bear mom and two cubs, Osprey; just to name a few who shared the days with us.

The trail is sometimes down by the river and other times climbs high above for amazing views of the drainage, surrounding wildnerss area and the rapids. The Selway is known more for its world class white water rafting than hiking. We arrived at our camp on the evening of day two at Moose Creek Ranger Station and Moose Creek Air Field, a back country landing field.

There are camps along the airfield, but no water and camps on the river that you have to share with the rafters. I can’t tell you where we camped because we were sworn to secrecy by Ranger Ronnie, a seventy plus retired ER Nurse, who now volunteers as the Moose Creek Ranger and hosts the trail crew that stay on the property.

Serendipity. Jen arrived first and had arranged this secret spot that had drinking water, a fire pit, a stack of split wood and even a dilapidated old outhouse. Heidi and I arrived an hour later where Jen was set up to watch for us and take us to our special camp. It was late and we had not seen Amy and her daughter Mattie, since we left them that morning at camp. Amy and Mattie were well equipped with new gear that they’d never used before. They shared a tent and other supplies to make their packs lighter, but Amy still had the heaviest back of all of us. It’s a tough lesson your first time out of what to bring and what to leave. Heidi and I set up our tents. I went to relieve Jen and ran into Ranger Ronnie. She was out walking the area with a jelly jar of red wine. Amy and Mattie arrived while I talked to Ranger Ronnie. It’s two days before the summer solstice so daylight is not an issue, but arriving into camp at 6:00 pm is not ideal.

Amy walked up to us in a make shift cast and sling. She had fallen and broken her wrist. It was swollen and fifty shades of purple. We had to get her out. There were some pretty good drugs and tequila to help Amy get through the night. We used a Garmin “in reach” to text Jen’s husband, Ravi, and see if he could fly into Moose Creek the next day to get Amy. The weather was not conducive to flying due to the clouds and rain, otherwise Ravi would have already been there with fresh fruit and cold beverages. But now he had to come in or call in a rescue helicopter. Ravi sat at the Hamilton airport all morning waiting for a window, it’s a twenty minute flight up and over Lost Horse and along the East Fork of Moose Creek. At 11:00 he landed next to our camp. He brought wine, beer, big apples (you really miss the fresh fruit on a long backpack), and a bubbly water and salty chips for me. One bottle of wine and some apples went to Ranger Ronnie for her help communicating with Ravi on the satellite phone and nursing our patient and just because. We packed up Amy and Mattie into the plane which was too small to haul out their backpacks too. The next morning the three of us continued our trek, a fourteen mile day to Bear Creek.

Some may look at this as an unfortunate adventure. We did not. There were so many good omens. So many serendipitous series of events. One broken wrist was not the focus. People helping, good attitudes, raiding Amy’s backpack after she flew out, visiting with Ranger Ronnie after dinner, cool rains, and the healing energy of the forest. That was the focus of the adventure.

What are we reading? I’ve read so many good books, but right now I’m reading a great novel “The Rose Code” by Kate Quinn. An historical fiction during World War II. A team of code breakers, making the best of a difficult situation with good people. Humanity is good. It always has been. It’s our focus that needs work. Fun book to get lost in. I highly recommend it.

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