Thursday, September 5, 2013

Day 80 - Playing chicken with a moose

I wear glasses, and have worn glasses since I was eight. My vision without my glasses is in that terrible Catch-22 region, where without my glasses, I can't see my glasses. I take them off only to sleep and bathe, and take pains to remember exactly where they are. I mention this because Gangles had to save me today, because of my terrible vision. I wear prescription sunglasses during the day, but as sunset approaches, my world becomes increasingly dim.

Near the end of the day, we were trying to push out as many miles as we could, racing towards Bowen Pass. I delayed switching to my regular glasses, but it was bright enough to still see with sunglasses. We had been hiking along a remote trail, with fresh animal scat. Gangles and I had been both remarking on what great hunting territory this would be. Then the following happened.


Gangles: Look, a moose!
Steiner: Where?
Gangles; Over there! [pointing] Really big one, with big antlers...And another one, smaller. Maybe it's a mom and baby.
Steiner: Oooh, a moose! Neat. But that one had antlers. They were probably mating. Come on, we're burning daylight. We gotta go.

[Steiner blunders forward into the woods]
Gangles: Stein! [loud whisper]
Steiner: What?
Gangles: You're walking right toward the moose!
Steiner: [squinting] What moose? I thought it ran away [continues walking forward]
Gangles: The one *right* in front of you. Like 15'. RIGHT in FRONT of you. Stop!

[Stage notes: Steiner squints theatrically, and startles once she sees movement. The moose bolts a few feet away, but doesn't flee]

Steiner: [to self] Okay, so I'll walk in this direction instead...

[reprise of ACT I]

Gangles: You just keep walking right towards the moose! [sigh] Hold on. Let me get out the bear spray. [sigh]


I finally did see the moose. It really was right in front of me. And it was huge. Huge. Gangles was right behind me, with bear spray in one hand, and a camera in the other. The moose finally fled, and we finally continued up the trail. I really did blindly bumble right at the unflustered moose several times while thinking I was walking off in the safe direction. Gangles, thank you for saving my bacon from an unfortunate moose encounter. People keep telling me moose are mean, but it is so hard to believe. As Bill Bryson put it, they really do look like cows drawn in crayon by small children. And they are the only things ganglier than Gangles out here.

Otherwise, we are not crushing it on the trail. The altitude is really slowing us down, and the climb up to Parkview Mtn took about five hours to go six miles. No bueno. We budgeted for three days for this section, but due to several small (and large) emotional breakdowns and altitude-related delays, it looks like it may be more like four days. Which doesn't seem like a big deal, except we are now low on food.

We did a food inventory tonight, and it is looking grim. We have started to eat our food additives as main courses, e.g., a meal of chia seeds. If we don't make it in to Grand Lake tomorrow to resupply, we will be running on bile. I am grimly imagining myself, hat in hand, trying to buy food from an elk hunter astride an ATV.

On the plus side, though it took five hours to get up to Parkview Mtn, the views were spectacular. Parkview is our first time about 12,000', and the air was thin up there. We took a short break in the lookout hut up there. It is quite small and shabby inside, with deteriorating plywood floors liberally sprinkled with mouse poop. Otherwise, there's not much inside the 10' x 10' space, save two metal boxes with big voltage warning stickers, and some junior high quality graffiti. Gangles and I left notes for Mike Sydlaske (aka Rainbow) and the Sobohobos. Then we got the heck out of there--it's cold at 12,000'.

We hustled as fast as we could the rest of the day, but stopped 2mi short of our goal, and 7mi short of our stretch goal. Tough day. And it is about to rain. We dove into the tent, and we're now listening to thunder and rain. Fingers crossed for a better day tomorrow. No rain and no potentially lethal moose encounters would make Steiner a happy hiker.

Mileage: 18mi from beginning of Parkview Mtn to near Bowen Pass

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