"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Resurrection Pass Journals, Chapter Four

Ever wonder where you'd end up if you took your dog for a walk and never once pulled back on the leash?  ~Robert Brault

Day One, Part Two

I walked on in temperatures in the low 70s.  My mini-breaks became more frequent.  My feet hurt, but the rest of me was fine.

Where the trailside vegetation was higher than my head, I grabbed my little bear bell and rang it for extended periods.  My friend JJ says bears don’t pay attention to bells because they think they’re birds. 

My bell definitely didn’t sound like a bird.  It sounded like a frantic dinner bell.  That’s a joke.  Dinner bell for bears?  And the bear spray, which is really hot pepper spray?  Flavoring.

Dinner bell and flavor spray.

To make sure everything out there knew I was in the neighborhood, I sang:  “Take a load off, Gully.  Take a load off now…  Take a load off, Gully,”  And in my deepest basso profundo,  "Sit your butt down now." 

I really empathized with that song and I sat frequently.

I truly was alone now.  I  met no others on the trail.  The vegetation turned from tall spruce, birch, and cottonwood to shorter spruce and more open spaces, indicative of a higher elevation.  

I had no map of this trail.  I'd gone into the Forest Service office in Seward the day before I started and picked up a map for Resurrection Pass North trail, not realizing that I also needed South if I wanted the entire trail.  Then, when I changed my starting point, I tried to download the South map, but the website was down.

All I had with me was a topographical map and a printout of someone's mile-by-mile blog to guide me.  The blog noted all the side trails and tent sites along the trail.  I had to rely on the blog to know there was a tent site with a bear box at mile 6.9.  The blog noted the site was just beyond a small wooden bridge, but also pointed out there were a number of small wooden bridges in the area.

I also had a sheet from the Forest Service that noted the mile points of tent sites and bear boxes on various trails in the greater area, but no map showing where they were.  This trail is minimalist in its markings.  Only where the trail intersected other trails were there mileage marks.  The more my feet hurt, the more I wished for mile markers, but I totally understood the lack thereof.

A lovely light lavender lupine.

By referring to the topo map, I was able to pinpoint where I was but had no way of knowing what trail mile that was as I'd not copied the map's legend. 

More walking.  More breaks.  Feet hurting.

Over-grazing on an Arctic rose.

“Hello, Dolly!   Well, hello Dolly!....”  I made noise.  I talked to myself out loud.  Not gonna git et by a bear when I’m so close to 70 years old. 

I crossed a wooden bridge over a small creek.  A hundred feet farther a 4x4 post in the ground noted the tent site.  I almost wept with relief.  The last two miles had been painful.  What a dope—seven miles on the first day with a heavy pack.  Only the promise of that bear box had kept me going.

Oh, yeah.  This massive pile of bear scat is exactly what I needed to see a short distance from where I would camp this night.

In a grove of spruce trees, the brown bear box waited for my supplies.  Another post indicated tent sites farther back in the woods. Not a good idea to camp near the bear box.

The bear-proof steel box for storing food.

Finally.  It was now 8 p.m.  I was averaging a mile and a quarter an hour, even with all my breaks and picture-taking.

I selected a spot in a mossy clearing and got rid of that pack as quickly as I could.  The boots were the next to go and with great relief I slipped my feet into those surf shoes.

Blessed relief from the boots.

The bugs had already found me.  Mosquitoes, moose flies, white sox gnats, and no-see-ums swarmed around me.  I dug the mosquito headnet out of the pack and put it on.  Next I donned a long sleeved shirt that was for protecting skin from the sun, but worked just as well for ravenous biting insects.

All netted up.  This was the only time I wore a long-sleeved shirt on the entire trip, quite unusual for Alaska.

I walked back to the bear box and stored my food bag.  Back at the campsite, I erected the tent and situated everything, discovering that my pack fit in my tent perfectly and I could lean against it to read. I stretched out for a rest.

Sleeping bag draped against the backpack for a lounging pillow.

By this time, I’d exhausted my water and lemonade supply and had only the bottle I’d filled at four-mile, so I walked down to the creek, refilled and treated two bottles.  This wasn’t working at all.  I needed more water than this and waiting four hours for the treatment to work wasn’t cutting it.

I also wasn't hungry.  I lay in the tent thinking that if I didn't eat anything, I'd still have the same amount of weight to carry the next day.  I'd been looking forward to diminishing the weight by diminishing the food supply.  Sigh.  I made myself get up.

Back at the bear box, I boiled water for re-hydrating Chili-Mac.  I polished off the last of the treated water from four mile.   This really was a lovely spot.  I could tell it had been used often.

I ate all I could of the Chili-Mac.  Even realizing that I had to carry the weight of reconstituted freeze-dried food couldn’t make me finish it.  I left it and all the cooking gear in the bear box.  Returning to my tent, I crawled in, turned on the Kindle, and stretched out for a rest. 

It was 9 p.m. and the sun was shining in the tent.

My one-person tent, just wide enough for one sleeping bag.

All those nasty insects were crawling around between the mosquito netting top of the tent and rain fly.  I started to snicker at their hopeless searching, then thought better of it. Best not to tick off the biting insect gods. I already had a mosquito bite on my right wrist that was itching but which I knew would go away within a half hour.

I found a BB-sized red spot of unknown origin on my right arm.  White sox bites on my neck and the palm of my left hand wouldn’t start to itch until the next day, but would continue itching for more than a week.  Those were the only bites I would suffer for the entire trip.

This huge pile of shredded spruce cones caught my eye.  The squirrel held perfectly still, apparently thinking I couldn't see it.

I stuffed foam earplugs in my ears so every noise during the night wouldn’t be a bear.

The temperature was too warm (high 60s) and the sun kept me awake.  Sleep was long in arriving on this first day of my late-in-life experiment.

 Follow my progress from the start, lower left, about four and a half section squares until  the trail heads somewhat straight up.   Note Trout Lake on the left.  I camped the first night in the area where the creek from Trout lake crosses the trail.  I think.


  1. I have wanted to do that trail since Travis was born! But I would be too afraid of your bears to go by myself. I mean I would leave my food out and sleep in the bear box myself.

  2. 'Cene, that's a terrific idea!!!!

  3. Yogacene is a genius and a hoot besides!!

    I wish I'd been along to hear your singing!! Your sense of humor hasn't failed you, that's for sure.

    That shitload of bear scat would have driven me into the bear box for sure!!

    It's looks nice a cozy in the little nest you made for yourself in your one-man tent.

    Three cheers for Gully!!

  4. I've been re-reading your Resurrection Pass Journals. Heck of a saga. Even though I know you made it in, out and back just fine, my stomach churns every time I see a bear scat picture! I've even itching from the bug bites! Still, makes me eager to get back on a mountain hike.

  5. I've been re-reading your Resurrection Pass Journals. Heck of a saga. Even though I know you made it in, out and back just fine, my stomach churns every time I see a bear scat picture! I've even itching from the bug bites! Still, makes me eager to get back on a mountain hike.