NOLS Wind River Wilderness - Part I

Part I  -  Part II  -  Part III  -  Part IV

[In July 2003 I joined a NOLS course for sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds and spent a month backpacking in Wyoming's Wind River Mountains. Following is the journal I kept, transcribed and with the Spanish bits translated to English.]

Day 1: Early wake up, breakfast, then to the Ranch.  Get gear checked, bought what’s missing, new boots, nickwax ‘em.  Then to the Gourmet Gulch to pack food.  Got rid of a bunch of equipment like neoprene socks, binoculars, TP, Wet Ones, medicine, Mountain Hardware Chill Factor, thick fleece pants, duct tape, foot stuff.  The backpack is cool, loaded weighs about 50 lbs.  The whole day feeling awful, some allergy in my mouth.  Left by bus to the first campsite.  Had a couple classes that afternoon… or night.  (it gets dark at 9:30pm).

We learned to take a dump with a couple D’s. Desire, Distance, Da TP, Dig, Deposit, Demolish, Disguise, Delight.  Our TP is stones, sticks, leaves, snow J.  I’ve already dropped a couple, everything OK.  Kind of better than TP actually.  We have our Dromedaries to fill with water.  Wash our hands after taking a dump, before cooking, etc.

To purify water we’re using AquaMira: one bottle of Cl, another of PH4, seven drops of each, and ready.  Snow we don’t have to purify.  The tents are Dana Design with a single pole in the middle like a circus.  COOL.  Enough space and everything.  Other good things are our food bag and Plausibles bag[1] to have everything handy and never have to go back to the tent.  The kitchen always 300+ feet from the tents.  Nice stoves, two pots, one frying pan and lid.  Crazy Creek chairs are amazing.  Favorite item out of everything.  Total comfort. 

Night of Day 1 chatting ‘til late with everyone. 

Day 2:  Breakfast… Cinnamon toast on muffin.  Yummy.  Among our food we have cheese, tortillas, ham, pasta, rice, beans, spices, butter, flour, yeast.  Pack up.  Tooth wash and dish wash applying the BROADCAST.  Spread it out as spray.  Had a Foot Care Lesson and Map Reading lesson.  Maps was awesome.  Very cool.  Then hiking: horrible.  Wanted to EVAC already.  I was carrying too much weight, couple of hot spots[2] within 50 minutes, didn’t eat enough, not fun.  Finally got to camp by a clearing, settle down.  Dinner Macaroni & Cheese with plenty of spices.

Day 3: Breakfast: hash browns, we saw a tree fall.  Left around 10am. (Other classes: picking camp site, bear hang.)  Hiking much better, couple of river crossings, then it got really steep, suffer.   We’re already into snow land.  Walking on snow brings good memories.  Camp in a sort of valley, had pizza bagels for dinner, did the bear hang, everything OK.  These days the sun and mosquitoes are murderous.  Big pain.  Tomorrow we have a shorter day.

Day 4: Woke up cold, I hadn’t gone to pee.  I lowered the bear hang, started breakfast.  We ate granola cereal and I tried Supreme Cocoa: cocoa, milk, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla.  Delicious.  The hike today was cool.  Went up in altitude, I like this landscape more.  Today we hiked with Kat, who is too enthusiastic.  Especially today which was Dan C’s birthday.  They gave him Twizzlers, he gave us some.  We got lost for a while, Kat does NOT know anything about maps.  Casey and I had the correct route from the start.  Didn’t make it to our Final Destination, found better campsite at 2pm.  Kind of bowl with marsh/lake in the middle.  Lots of snow, looking forward to taking a dump in the snow.  I found a mini-oasis of shade to write in.  Hiking overall good, I went setting a good pace.  Tracy is really friendly, Anna too.  Anna’s parents are from Chile, so she practices her Spanish with me.  My group is good: we work together well, fast, efficient, and they’re cool.  Right now in the afternoon we have another map class and then dinner.

We had another “Better Home & Garden” session where we checked tents and kitchens.  Then we had a good maps lesson and off to dinner.  Today we made burritos with rice, cheese, beans, and a delicious sauce.  They were so good.  Very very delicious.  Everyone hanging out and laughing.  Then had a discussion of safe environment and goals and fears.  Also got introduced to our library, a bunch of good books.  Now back in tent chatting and laughing with John and Dan G.  Tomorrow we have a long day. 

Day 5: Made brownies for breakfast, very yummy.  Then hiking to a lake, find way to a meadow, then going down a ravine to hook up with a trail.  Navigation is the best.  Then following the trail, we went up a lot, many switchbacks.  I went in front setting a good pace.  Some amazing views.  Then leveled out in an area with lots of lakes.  Took a while to find a good campsite.  Now we do debriefs after each hike looking at Pros & Cons.  Finally set up camp and got to cooking.  We made potato soup, very delicious.  We always eat deliciously here.  Then we had a Cold Injuries lesson with Kat, and later we went to lie in a meadow in our sleeping bags to hear a story.  With Dan G and the girls we stayed up chatting until around 11:30.  The whole sky full of stars, very cool. Then sleep.

Day 6: Woke up really early to make pancakes.  It took a long time, but they came out incredibly good with this syrup we made.  “Delish and yummy, all at the same time”[3].  Put peanut butter on the leftovers to eat for snacks.  Then a really long class on First Aid , and then we took apart a fire ring.  The hike that day pretty complex.  Everything offroad, lots of snow, lots of boulders, some really steep snow slopes that we even had to take off our packs.  Did like 4 miles in 6 hours.  Tiring.  Going into camp we saw a couple with four llamas.  Interesting. 

Got to camp around 6pm.  For dinner we tried making Alfredo sauce for the pasta but it didn’t really work out.  Different, but equally yummy.  We named it Roberto sauce.  With Dan G, John, Reece, and the girls we stayed up until 12:30.  Cold, starry sky, midnight snack of leftover brownies.  Then to sleep.

Day 7: Finally a layover day.  Woke up around 9, breakfast of hash browns, everything OK.  Life threats class with Tracy, talking about exposed terrain, lighting, rock fall, etc.  Then Anna taught us how to make WIGs[4] which we’ll be doing every day instead of just talking about the route.  Then fishing class with Tracy.  They always spice up the lessons with mini skits & stuff.  Funny.  Then hiked a bit with small pack about 10 minutes to a good fishing spot.  I tangled the line and couldn’t fix it, so I’m writing now instead.  This fly fishing thing is difficult.  I like it more with the spinner or whatever.  I’ll use that one in a while.  By the way, things I haven’t mentioned are the camp & kitchen sweeps we always do, and we also have a quote of the day.  With Reece I’ve been getting along really well.  He’s cool.  The day after tomorrow we have a re-ration = more weight.  Not too happy.

Day 8: Disgusting breakfast of grape nuts, took apart a fire ring.  Wiping your ass with snow leaves it all wet.  Really short hike, set up camp, Anna made us move to another spot.  Not fun.  Yesterday I didn’t end up fishing, we cooked Calzones, not too good.   But cool to be able to make bread.  Then I kind of broke my Crazy Creek.  I flipped out.  Then I went to sleep.  Right now I’m in the middle of a soft tissue injury class with Kat.  Later I might go swimming.

No longer went swimming, early dinner of Cous Cous.  No comment.  Today in the morning we saw an Elk.  Anyway, we talked about rations and my new tent group is Nate and Reese.  Nate is really cool.  He does mountain biking.  We switched tents and chatted for a while. 

Day 9: Woke up 5am, had hash browns.  I’m sick of them.  Left around 8am with empty packs down valleys seeing steep cliffs the whole way.  Reration in a clearing.  Lots of food, helmets, ice axe, rope, harness.  SUCKS.  Too much weight.  Then back up again.  Tiring.  Small Groups, no teachers.  Swam when we got to camp.  My tent group and Casey.  Felt good.  Not too cold.  I feel not clean but a little less dirty.  Stomach and intestines have been gurgling & acting up all day.  Just like in Mexico.[5]  SUCKS.  Tracy told me just to wait it out.  Have Pepto just in case.  Right thigh cramping again.  Now in the tent doing WIGs.  BORING.  Bad day.  Going to sleep soon.

Day 10: Yummy pancakes for breakfast, we already started to hike by ourselves.  Hike was very tiring, lots of weight.  Power nap siestas during breaks, didn’t sleep much because of WIGs.  Hiked with Jess, Reese & Kendall.  Kendall is always in a hurry.  Exhausting day, got to camp around 4pm.  Hung out, snacks, setup tent, swim.  Delicious.  Then we cooked calzones.  The whole time I was feeling exhausted and wiped out.  Not enough food or sleep.  Anyway my calzone was a disaster, falling apart, and it didn’t cook well.  Had nausea later.  Then almost no tent was Bomb Proof [6], so we had another class back to basics and a relay where we had to take down the whole tent and pack our bags with kitchen stuff and everything and then set up camp again.  MEGA SUCKS.  I was feeling awful too.  That night we also saw smoke coming from some forest fire.

Day 11: Left camp with Zach, Casey, and Kendall.  In the beginning I was feeling better, Nate and Reese removed some of my weight without me noticing.  Later I was feeling tired again.  We were going at a good pace, but then Casey got tired of hiking and started going fast.  I was dying.  Bastard.  Finally get to camp in this marshy lake area.  That afternoon had Shock Class and then more Maps with Triangulation using a compass and everything.  That night great pasta with lots of cheese.  Then WIGs again at night.  Boring.  I’m sick of WIGs.  We saw the smoke again.

Day 12: Today hiked with slow guys. Zach, Scott, Jess & Me.  Good breakfast of gingerbread pancakes with cinnamon, chocolate, and apple.  Delicious.  Feeling better on the hikes: stronger/less weight.  We saw a NOLS group 25 days into trip.  The instructor was from that Global Xtreme 4Runner thing.[7]  Cool.  Later tired again, too much sun, little water, this hike was 7 miles.  So long.  Final part really steep off trail.  Very very tiring.  Set up camp & went to have dinner since we got there pretty late.  Delicious pasta again.  Feeling better.  Then we did WIGs right away earlier this time.  Group Dan C, Zach, Kendall.  Sleep around 10pm.

Day 13.  Today early start.  Granola and grapenuts for breakfast.  Finished eating and packing early, time for power nap.  Then Tracy gave us Pep talk on how soon we’ll be over the ‘hump’ (continental divide, and halfway through course).  Effective.  Last ones to leave, before the hike went to take a dump.  Came out solid and normal and nice and brown and not yellowish.  Sign that it was going to be a good day.  Felt good hiking.  Passed 1st group, 2nd group way ahead.  Hiking beside beautiful lakes surrounded by steep cliffs.  There was no trail and later we were hiking on these cliffs with a sharp drop.  Didn’t feel comfortable and turned back.  Good call.  Kept on on trail we found.  Full power sun, disgusting heat.  Again went off trail to take shortcut.  Again found ourselves with sharp drops.  Good teamwork getting everyone down.  Also good map reading: found way to camp well.  A lot of skeeters[8] in final part.  Arms FULL of bumps.

Set up tent quickly with Reese and went fishin’!!  Caught two each.  Kill with stone, but find neck break better later.  Then class with Tracy on head/spinal injury.  Practice lifting and rolling patients.  Then discussion with Kat about everything we’ve been through and talk good stuff about others.  Then went fishin’ again.  Pretty cool.  Haven’t fished in so long.  Missed it.  Total catch – 10. 

Then start up dinner pretty late.  Around 8:30pm.  Reese had already cleaned the fish, Nate prepared cornmeal/wheat/garlic thing to roll them in, then on to the frying pan and take meat off, into bowl.  Then we did steamed rice with lots of spices and threw trout in there.  It came out delicious.  Mega delicious.  Then Hot Cocoa with butter and peanut butter.  Yummy.  Then Maltballs with PB.  Great Meal.  The butter in the hot drink gives it a butterscotch flavor.  This whole time everyone asleep, dark, whole sky full of stars.  Beautiful.  Got to bed around 11:30PM.  In sum: GREAT DAY.


Part I  -  Part II  -  Part III  -  Part IV

[1] Plausibles bag?  Possibles bag?  I still don’t know what the actual name was, or why it was called that.
[2] Hot spots on one’s feet, which eventually become blisters.
[3] Quote accredited to Dan G.
[4] Where I’m Going (WIG): Detailed written plan of the route we’d take the next day.
[5] I climbed Iztaccihuatl in Mexico in 2001.  Had stomach issues the night before the summit attempt and ended up taking an inordinate amount of Immodium.  Needless to say I was good to go the next morning, but didn’t have a bowel movement for days.
[6] Bomb Proof – The tent has to be set up properly, no loose things lying around (e.g. clothes lying out to dry), boots have to be in the vestibule, etc.
[7] I think this was some kind of adventure race / reality TV show.
[8] Skeeters = mosquitoes.  Can’t remember who was responsible for this term.

No comments:

Post a Comment