Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Dante's Peak

For this beautiful Fourth of July weekend, Andy and I decided to take advantage of the sunshine (which has been shockingly few and far between this year) and go on a hike. We chose to take the Lake Blanche hike, mostly because we’ve done the hike across the street from it and were curious. Andy did some research about this hike, just to know what we should be prepared for, and found that it was a moderate hike. I did my own research and read an article stating that this was a very strenuous hike. It advised potential hikers to take plenty of water and stop often. Automatically, I was a little hesitant about this hike. I am not what you might call an ‘advanced’ hiker, so this description was somewhat unsettling. When I brought this to Andy’s attention, he told me that he had also seen the scary website but that he had found several other websites that called the hike ‘moderate’ and he thought we would have no problem.

Come the day of the hike, we ate a hearty breakfast, packed a backpack with lunch, 4 nalgenes, sweatshirts, sun block, etc…which altogether weighed about 25-30 lbs. But that shouldn’t be too hard with a moderate hike, right?

We drove to the trailhead, parked, and began our 6.2 mile trek. It began on a nice paved incline then took a sharp fork to the right. We looked up the steep path which was peppered with large boulders. We took a deep breath and started climbing with the full realization that this was the next three miles and 3.5 hours of our lives.

We climbed and climbed, clambering over boulders and swimming through the overgrown path. I started out strong, quickly taking the lead. I danced between Andy and going farther and farther ahead. I couldn’t figure out why Andy was going so slowly. There was no way that I was in better shape than him. After an hour or so Andy suggested that we trade the load of the backpack. All of the sudden I understood why Andy was so slow. It was difficult to walk under the weight of the pack, let alone climb over things at a steep incline. Now he was the one dancing up the trail then back to me over and over. He patiently waited at the top of a particularly hellish hill as I baby-stepped up the slope, strategically planning my four stops along the way. He assisted me over the very large boulders and kept telling me how much easier the hike was without the back pack. Part of me wanted to slap him. Part of me wanted to ditch the backpack down the cliff directly to my right.

No, I told myself. This hike is nothing. So what if a have the weight of a medium sized child attached to my back? It would be easier to carry it to the top than to deal with a tired, hungry Andy after I told him that I just sent our lunch into the forest. I continued on, as Atlas, carrying the weight of our lunch, drinks, sweatshirts, sun block, camera, what have you, toward our destination.

30 minutes later, I begged Andy to take the backpack back. Being the upstanding fellow he is, he chivalrously shouldered the burden and continued on without so much as making fun of my failure.

We continued our climb and I noticed that, while the hike was more manageable without the backpack, my legs were beginning to give out. My breaks were occurring at, what seemed like, every switchback. I groaned with tormented ferocity as Andy remarked for the 52nd time that the lake must be ‘just over the next ridge’! I began counting my steps in sets of 8, trying to make it match whatever song was in my head. And the climb continued. By and by, we came across a switchback that emptied onto a side of the mountain with boulders instead of a trail. Andy and I were confused. The path didn’t continue. Surely, we weren’t supposed to venture out onto this seemingly dangerous mountain. Andy expertly stepped off the path and began climbing the mountain. “Oh, here’s the rest of the path,” said Andy with grin. As we moved from the loose, boulderous mountain to the friendly hard earth, we happened upon the ever-present German hiker who told us that the end was in sight. He guessed about 30 more minutes.

We huffed and puffed and 45 minutes later, we reached Lake Blanche. We found a nice place near the lake where we gratefully devoured our delicious lunch and rested for 30 minutes. After our rest, we decided that it was time to head back. I was practically falling asleep from exhaustion and wanted to make it back to the car before I passed out. The descent seemed twice as steep as the climb. Every time, I stepped off the ledge of a boulder, I felt the shock burn from my ankles, to my knees, and eventually settling in my hips. Each step made my hips scream out in pain. This was the longest three miles of my life.

I was very grateful to a few hippies we passed on our way down. As we approached them one pointed to a field and said ‘Moose’. I looked out into the field, and there was a male moose eating a tree. It was magnificent! This was my first moose sighting! What a treat. He was adorably ugly and huge! I thanked the nice hippies and we continued on our way. We passed a guy who laughed at ‘how tired’ we looked. No way. We passed a guy who was gracious enough to stop peeing mid-stream to let us pass. We passed a few tired and cranky kids who asked how close they were. I smiled and told them that they still had quite a way to go. We passed two women who were carrying infants strapped to their chest. Most astonishing to me: we passed several (at least 10) men without shirts RUNNING the trail. I didn’t know if I wanted to laugh at them, cry for them, or roll my eyes at their apparent masculinity.

We made it back to the car two hours after we began our descent. We drove home and I promptly fell asleep. When I woke up, I drove directly to Café Rio where I finished an entire Café Rio salad by myself.

I decided that in Utah ‘moderate’ means that you don’t have to use climbing gear. If that’s the case, then yes, this demon of a hike was moderate.

Through it all, it was a great hike. I look forward to trying it again.


Jeff said...

Sounds moderately fun!

Jenn said...

Woo! You're so hard core!

Mormon Bachelor Pad said...

This is why I try to avoid any activity that forces me to exert myself at all.

Phi said...

Candace, I well remember my first hike to Lake Blanche. A friend insisted it was a nice hike and okay for us inexperienced hikers in the group. I was so happy for my camel back, which was completely empty by the time we got to the top. We were so exhausted (those of us who had never been up there) that we couldn't even enjoy the lake. And it was freezing up there. There was still snow and we were in shorts. I remember it with fondness now, about 7 years later, but at the time my friend received every curse my tired body could level at him. Congratulations on finishing it though. I know more than one person who turned back halfway up.

Candace said...

Thanks, Phi! That makes me feel better.