Monday, August 26, 2013

Cross 2 Ross {Day 3: Whatcom Camp to Beaver Pass}

Morning exercise before hiking about 11 miles with 4000 (+/-) vertical gain/loss

At daybreak on day 3 of our 50 mile trek through the North Cascades, I rolled out of the tent, slurped down a serving of runny oatmeal delicately seasoned with almonds, olive oil, raisins and brown sugar and licked the bowl clean.  I washed down my morning Ibuprofen dose with instant coffee, and quickly changed behind a cluster of trees from my warm, dry morning layers into the still damp hiking clothes from yesterdays' sweat and sprinkles.  Tim reminded me that it wouldn't be long before I might be wishing for the relief of cool, wet clothes, and he was right.

As miserable as this may sound, and with full disclosure that indeed, myriad discomforts followed our every mile, please understand that the spectacular environment, wonderful crew, solid prayer routine, and Ibuprofen all made this experience in the wilderness much more than bearable.  Rather tremendous, really.  Admittedly the weakest link in our crew, my repeat participation in this high adventure trek primarily hinged on the fact that the other Scouts' dads couldn't come due to work conflicts.  I joined the crew to fill the required second adult spot, knowing that my physical strength could not match that of the guys.  The guys regularly offered to carry some of my weight, and I humbly accepted their kind and chivalrous offers of assistance. 
11 push ups preceding an 11 mile day
In the pre-departure gathering after breaking camp at Whatcom Pass, someone suggested a loaded push-up competition as a warm up to the day's adventure.  Those who participated put up impressive double digit numbers, but to the untrained eye, these calisthenics resembled pure and simple insanity.
Challenger Glacier from the top of Whatcom Pass
Although anticipating many hours on the trail to Beaver Pass, the 360 degree views of Little Beaver Valley, Whatcom Peak, Mount Challenger and a close up view of Challenger Glacier were reason enough to pause and enjoy the scenery before setting out with full force.
Extreme descent down Whatcom Pass
Descending Whatcom Pass, we dropped some 2000 feet (+/-) in 3/8 mile.  The tight switchbacks were rocky and very steep, and the boisterous waterfalls cascading from the Pickets above to the valley below grew louder and louder as we dropped.  The crew hiked intentionally well spaced, to avoid kicked or loosened rocks from above colliding with heads below.  On high alert, Tim heard a dislodged rock bounding down, yelled "rock!" to warn the guys below and watched as it shot past him at eye level.
On alert for flying rocks
Switchbacks on Whatcom Pass
Grinding downhill course

Miles of bushwhacking along uncleared trails
From the phenomenal vistas atop Whatcom Pass and along the steep descent down to Little Beaver trail, we crossed a giant rock bowl and entered a very bushy series of trails.  The heavy dew sprinkled us thoroughly on this refreshingly moist morning jungle hike, as the roar of countless waterfalls serenaded our steps.
Crew break following Whatcom Pass descent
An avalanche area along Little Beaver Trail resembled a war zone when Zac and I trekked through on Zac's second "X2R" (Cross 2 Ross) in 2008.  Downed trees and debris nearly completely obscured the trail in '08, but pink tape marked the general direction of travel to aid hikers.  Evidence of that massive slide still remains along the sides of the trails today, but the route is clear save the occasional downed tree awaiting removal by forest crews.
Caleb, at rest
Stream crossing with care on a slightly broken bridge
Water filtration and sock laundering stop along Little Beaver Creek, near Stillwell Camp
Bros on a bridge (over Little Beaver Creek)
The final section of day 3's journey to Beaver Camp included climbing 1500 feet (+/-) in about a mile, with swarming flies for company.  Warned by friendly hikers coming down from Beaver Pass about the extreme flies and wasps above didn't exactly elevate our hopes for a nice evening at camp.  Sure enough, the place was literally humming with all the insect infestation.  Head nets on, the guys set right to work building a fire in hopes that a smoke screen might deter some of the flying predators from feasting on us.  Not much measurable success in bug repellant efforts could be found with natural or chemical strategies, but there was an entertainment value in the desperation and hyper reaction to the ever present, aggressive flying force.
Enoch and Peter on fire duty at Beaver Pass Camp
Memorable quotes from Beaver Camp:
"I'm kinda creeped out by the wasp that's eating flies off Peter's back!"
"If the swarm comes, we're in trouble!"
"We should interconnect our tents and play cards."

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