Monday, June 20, 2005

My Daddy Didn't Raise No Quitter, but He Didn't Raise No Dumbass, Either

One of the major geological features in eastern Wyoming is Laramie Peak, 60 miles north/northeast of Laramie (or, if you're looking at a map, it's just west of Wheatland). At 10,272 feet, it seems like a reasonable day hike – just drive up to the trailhead on the west side of the range, grab the daypack and hit the trail. Take impressive pictures from the top, drink some water, and walk back down. I mean, I did Medicine Bow Peak last summer in a few hours, and that's 2000 feet higher. How hard could Laramie Peak be?

Hard. Very, very hard.

After calling my dad and stepdad, I headed out. Finding the trailhead was bad enough. Take 287 north, just past Rock River, and turn right onto a dirt road. Follow it for many miles. Turn left onto another poorly marked dirt road, and follow it for many miles. Turn onto poorly marked Bear Creek Road, which winds through ranches – complete with cattleguards, huge potholes, and cows standing in the middle of the road – and eventually into the foothills. At one point the road actually crosses Bear Creek, a stream about 10 feet wide and a foot deep at the shallowest point.

To ford or not to ford? Ford - my daddy didn't raise no quitter, and I'd come way, way too far to turn around because of a little water. I mean, the very worst thing that could happen would be getting stranded five miles from the nearest ranch. And maybe getting bitten by a snake or bear on the walk. And then knocking on their door and saying, "Sorry to interrupt your Father's Day lunch, but, uh, my truck is stuck in Bear Creek."

Of course, I made it across. From there the road gets full of nasty ruts and potholes, and finally, finally comes to the trailhead parking area. Two bucks for the privilege of parking my truck.

The trail itself was well-tended; six feet wide and dusty for the first mile. After dipping down to a bridge across Friend Creek, the trail winds uphill for switchback upon switchback upon switchback. Now, I'm in reasonable shape, but the heat and the pace killed me; yesterday broke 90 degrees for the first time this summer. After an hour on the trail I was still on switchbacks zigzagging through huge pines with other ridges in the range looming high – holy shit, look at how high those ridges still are – overhead. Nowhere close to the top.

At the mile 2 marker I ran into a dad with his two kids. They were on ATVs and he had a semi-automatic handgun holstered (either .45 or 9mm. Big sucker, and technically this is bear country, so it made sense). I asked him about the trail since I hadn't bothered researching further than my Wyoming gazetteer – that map made it look like less than a mile – and there were no signs indicating how long the trail was.

"Five miles to the top," he said. "You still have 3 miles to go." He looked me in the eye and smirked.

3 miles? I was broiling, I only had a 500ml nalgene and worse, having assumed it would be a quick dayhike, no food. I also wanted to be back in Laramie in time to catch the last part of the U.S. Open. If I kept going, I wouldn't make it to the top for at least another hour and a half. It was 2 o'clock, so I'd be climbing in the hottest part of the day and exposed once the trail broke out of the trees (if it did at all). I had only had some doughnuts for breakfast and was already feeling shaky.

I did a quick cost/benefit analysis. I was alone, short on water and food, and already gasping. As much as I wanted to summit that bastard, I didn't stand a chance on this trip. My daddy didn't raise no quitter, but he didn't raise no dumbass, either. Except, I guess, when it came to my planning and research skills for this particular hike.

About face, and a walk of shame back down the trail. Chalk this experience up to poor research and worse planning. I'll know how to find it and do it next time, and you can bet your patootie I'll be better prepared.

Nothing quite like an asskicking by the great outdoors as a lesson in humility. . .


Blogger Chad said...

I've experience my share of nature ass-kickings as well, and am all the better for it now. Hit it again. I'm sure it will be worth it.

1:39 PM  

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