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Topic: Unpleasant evening in the backcountry story< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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Dave Senesac Search for posts by this member.

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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 12 2012, 2:15 am  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE



Last Saturday evening on October 6, 2012, I backpacked into a non-wilderness area of Toiyabe National forest for an overnighter.   This was in the East Walker River drainage where I was hoping to work some aspen landscapes Sunday morning.   I started up a trail at about 4pm with just 1.5 miles and about 1k feet to climb so rather trivial and in fact I skimped on most gear I would normally toss in.   Well I had a lot of diversions to survey on the way up so did not reach the destination until just before sunset.   Because there was a nice layer of cirrostratus clouds above, instead of taking care of finding and making camp, I tossed down my gear, grabbed my view camera, and ran off to try and snag at least one nice aspen and stream image before dusk dimmed things too much.   What I ended up exposing a sheet of Provia on was actually likely to be rather mediocre.  Oh well.

By time I got back, indeed dusk was starting to lower the skylight.  Not much time and a lot to do before things became too dark.  Was thinking about something out of my Ursack to eat too.  Took the above image just after quickly laying out my gear.  The trail was maybe 200 feet away above and across a modest stream at the right frame edge.  So my first issue was I was too close to the stream, maybe just 25 feet away, something I almost never do.   In this case there were no level areas except right beside the stream.  Had I more time I would have found good spots just 200 yards upstream by the trail but I'd climbed off the trail where I had ideas for a photo below and was out of time.

Well the little stream side chewed short grass meadow my OR Basic Bivy is atop a blue plastic tarp was also covered by lots of cow pies as a large herd had utterly trampled streamside areas just a few weeks before.   In fact several pieces were within arm reach of where I'd be laying.   So I was quick to rationalize, my being there was far less an issue than the cows.  Still that gnawed on my idealistic notions.   Temperatures during my 5-day road trip had been at or below freezing each night and I expected something in the high 20s by morning.  Also the stream was very loud.  As a light sleeper, I do not like being close to noisy streams, especially when solo.  Bears in particular like to travel up and down beside streams at night.   I thought about moving to the one small level spot I passed by just before coming back to camp.  Maybe 70 feet vertically above where I was and 200 feet upstream.  Nope, too late, too much a hassle through the dense woods.

After pumping some water with my filter and washing my face I got into my Marmot Pinnacle and grabbed a Del Monte fruit cup and yogurt cup.   Very carefully removed the plastic cover as it had been bought at a store at sea level and I was now at about 8k.  Anyone that has opened a sealed yogurt container while driving over a mountain pass knows how such contents can explode out as soon as the air pressure escapes.   The fruit container of course was up to its lid with syrupy liquid and DANG! I spilled some onto my hand that dripped onto both the bivy and sleeping bag.  YUCK a sugary sticky mess so put down the container, grabbed a Klenix tissue and wiped it up.  Nicely nothing soaked in.  Tossed it to the side and thought, yes I'd need to put that into my Ursack too.  

So by now dusk light was even dimmer so I grab my Fenix HP10 headlamp, an expensive voltage regulated multi-brightness level model using 4 AA NiMH batteries, all of which I'd just replaced before leaving my Forester from a container I had put several freshly charged batteries into before leaving home.   Within 10 seconds the headlamp dimmed to a weak level.   Yikes, I must have loaded a failing battery!  Now I'm an old electronic technician so quickly had a plan.  Went into a spare bag with 2 AA spares and one by one replaced each one.  But it was still dim?  Now that could only mean at least 2 batteries were bad that was hard to believe.  Thinking maybe the HP10 had failed?  My backup flashlight kept in my Levi jeans pocket is a  minimal size cylinder shaped Fenix E11 that takes a single AA, is also voltage regulated and has 2 light levels.   By now it was getting so dark I could barely see the batteries lying on my sleeping bag atop my chest.   Pulled it out of my pocket then it came on brightly so I arranged the now 6 batteries in a row for testing and one by one replaced the one inside the E11 in order to find which two were bad.  The first was fine but the second was a dead one!   Except shaking and knocking the end did not cause the battery to come back out?   I thought, not only was the voltage gone but the case had begun to swell up.  

Yikes, this was bad as now I had no light! Oohhh thoughts of a lightless creepy night, this could be BAD! After more effort to remove the battery knocking it about, I grabbed my Canon SX130 digital camera fanny pack and groped for a small long nose plier.  Got it, and after some considerable grabbing  of the + tit end, YEAH!  Put the original battery back in and I had light again.  Reorganized all the stuff again.   So continued checking the other 4 batteries and was amazed to find 2 more bad batteries meaning I had exactly 4 batteries and they all needed to go into the HP10 leaving the E11 empty.   4 batteries loaded,  the HP10 lit up in fine fashion.  Hmmm?  I opened my view camera daypack and grabbed my Polaris lightmeter which also used a single AA, so moved that into my E11.  

Finally relieved, I grabbed the fruit container and with the HP10 on lowest light downed it.   Then did likewise with the strawberry yogurt container and put it all into my Ursack.  Looked at my map a bit then decided to go to sleep even though it was just 8pm.  

Well twas noisy and increasingly creepy.  I hated now not being able to hear anything, except the loud creek even if it was only a deer that might walk by.  Oh well, decided to cover my head up ducking under the bivy lid and put it all out of mind.   After about 20 restless minutes I was not liking my situation and reconsidered that one spot I'd passed up the hill.   Thought about how difficult it would be to find in the now dark moonless night while carrying my gear half a$$? Certainly was not going to bother putting everything back into the pack.  I night hike a lot and not 10 minutes passed listening to that creek, thinking about bears, before I convinced myself to make the move.   Thus shoved all the loose stuff into my Aether 70 backpack, grabbed together my bivy, sleeping bag, and ground sheet while also grabbing my Wisner 4x5 still atop the big Gitzo tripod.  And now I needed to move through faint deer paths through aspen and pine thickest...in the dark with my headlamp.  

Well hands full I managed to go about 50 feet before the bivy decided to escape from the ground sheet. Every time I squeezed through branches the sleeping bag tried to escape. So regrabbed it all and climbed up the hill on a deer trail until I intersected a cow trail where I recalled the little bench was further along.   Not far along I came to a spot where a willow seep went across the route where several very mucky puddles spanned about 10 feet and a small decaying piece of wood was the only dry footing across.  Also I needed to scooth down below the willow branches to get through.  Pic of the mud hole the next morning.



Regathered all my stuff and stepped my right boot onto the wood.  Except sh!# happened and unbalanced, my left boot slammed into the muck...deeply as I felt some immediate wetness.  Oh did forget to add I never laced up my boots before starting the effort.  AHHHHH.  My next step left the boot stuck in the muck with my wool sock on foot hanging out in chilly night space.   Pointed the flashlight down an saw a layer of dirty water now inside that boot.  Now through all this I'm crouched down below the willow branches and cannot walk out with the bare foot without getting it totally dunked too.  Was also afraid that it wouldn't take much to squirt my hold on the sleeping bag into the mucky water.  Ohhhh that would really be BAD!   So without wasting any more thoughts, stuck my foot down into the wet boot again, wiggled it free then bounded the rest of the way out into a dry area where the stuff in my arms immediately poofed out onto the grassy leaf covered ground.  

Looked down and both of my Vasque GTX Bitterroot boots were caked in mud.   Yuck!   OK, another 50 feet and I came to the spot  I'd seen at dusk and quickly plunked it all down and got it organized.  Looking at the boots I decided I needed get the muck off so proceeded to hike all the way back down to the creek where I dunked them in the fast flowing water while loosening off all the mud with my fingers then wringed out as much muddy water from my wool sock as possible.  Done,  and hiked back up the hill, where I was soon in my sleeping bag and it was now after 9pm.

Much Much Much better.  A quiet spot no creatures were likely to be during the night and if they were everything around was rather crunchy.   I slept well though as usual woke up and rotated from right side to back to left side each time as usual between my usual 100% dreaming.  Pic of my very crude bumpy spot the next morning:



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...David

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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 12 2012, 9:12 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Cliff notes?
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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 12 2012, 9:38 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Bad night, but still better than being in the city

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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 12 2012, 12:05 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

When it rains, it pours.

There must have been a few lessons learned with the experience.


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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 12 2012, 1:26 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(desert dweller @ Oct. 12 2012, 9:05 am)
QUOTE
When it rains, it pours.

There must have been a few lessons learned with the experience.

Hi DD, indeed!

Always bother to try powering up any device one has just put batteries into if one will be leaving with the device from a source of spare batteries.  In this case I was leaving from my vehicle where I had a container full of what I expected were recently charged working AA batteries.  This is the first time I can recall finding any bad NiMH batteries in my considerable home piles of them since I began using them for both AA and AAA uses a few years back.   Yeah lesson learned.

Also if moving gear more than a few feet in the middle of the night, better consider what could go wrong  with stuff one is hand carrying outside one's pack.   Especially if that entails crossing a creek or swampy spot haha.  What I should have done at the mud hole was first cross with just my pack, then with just my camera with tripod, then with just the sleeping bag/bivy/sheet.   Of course I sometimes actually do that at awkward stream crossings where I will remove my expensive camera gear and bring it across  first, throw my sleeping bag across if it isn't too far at the narrowest point, and then carry my then lighter pack across.

And DON'T set up a camps spot next to noisy streams below timberline in creepy forests even when it may take extra effort to find something well away.  Once in awhile we sometimes need to be kicked in the buutt to remember stuff we have gradually over years forgotten the unpleasantness about.

Live and learn.


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...David

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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 12 2012, 10:36 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

So sad to say that your narrative put a small smile on my face, I am not the only one. :)

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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 16 2012, 2:07 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Wow.  Makes me think of my most recent camping trip, I forgot my headlamp, my wife forgot hers and we forgot the lantern for camp at night.  Forgot my thermals (didn't think I needed them) and a few other things.

Nice story.  Sometimes things don't go perfectly but you were still out and that is almost never a bad thing.


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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 18 2012, 6:15 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE



Got my sheet film back from processing and was surprised the image above from the next morning came out pretty nicely.   About a 7 second exposure maybe about f/45 on Provia 100F through my 150mm Nikor lens just before morning sun lowered to the level of aspen in the background.   So the trip was a bit productive.  Another 3 fall leaf images from that road trip are at the bottom rows of my Gallery_B sub-page at:

http://www.davidsenesac.com/Gallery_B/gallery_b.html


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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 19 2012, 7:33 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Sorry Dave, the quality just doesn't come through on my laptop.  I'm sure it's a beautiful image.  Well framed.

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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 22 2012, 10:58 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE

Beautiful picture!  And made even more special knowing what you went through to get it....  :D
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