"Fly fishing is my passion, hunting is my weakness, and mules are a perplexing addiction."

Monday, August 14, 2017


                      WHAT GOES UP… 

I couldn’t have been more lathered had I just ran the mile-and-an-eighth at Pimlico with a ninety-pound jockey on my back, as I stood there with nothing but a small, backpacker’s towel that was only slightly larger than a Del Taco napkin, covering what essentially needed covering.  Feeling like a penny waiting on change, I scoured the area looking for someone, anyone, to rescue me.  But I’m ahead of myself…

Someone once said, “What goes up, must come down.”  To that individual I say, “Bull butter!”  Over the years I have been known to come up with some marvelous ideas that can only be described as pure genius.  A gift, one could say, so when the idea to hike the John Muir Trail in California’s High Sierra Nevada Mountains popped into my head some years ago, it seemed like a good idea.  After all, I’ve been all over the Sierra, and even many of the places along the JMT.  Yes, I was perched atop a mule at the time, but it wasn’t that big of a deal. 

About the time I got serious and began making plans, I blew out a knee with a meniscus tear while hiking during deer season, and my JMT plans were put on hold.  I then spent the next 15 months building a beer belly while dutifully going through all the pointless steps, waste, and nonsensical hoops that insurance companies make you jump through while trying to get the tear repaired.  After therapy (which only aggravated the tear), cortisone shots, gel shots, a tonsillectomy, appendectomy, hysterectomy, x-rays, and MRIs, the tear was finally repaired and plans began once again for the hike.

Somewhere early on in my planning, my niece, Nichole Higgins Susi-Blair decided she was going to go along on this hike of a lifetime.  This created a new wrinkle in my plans.  While I was happy to have someone goofy enough to go along with me, this now meant that my training regimen would have to change from my two bottles of Sierra-Nevada Torpedo beers every afternoon out under the oak tree in the yard, to actual hiking.  I know, stupid, huh?  But it was her idea.

At any rate, Pickle and I began practice hiking on the weekends, and I even did some hikes on my own during the week.  The valley I live in is at 4000’ elevation, and we are surrounded by the San Jacinto Mountains with peaks raging from six to ten thousand feet, so I wasn’t terribly worried for me about the elevations we would be traveling on the JMT, but I was concerned about Pickle since she comes from Huntington Beach, which as the name suggests, is located at sea level.  The original plan was to hike from Tuolumne Meadow in Yosemite National Park, to Mt Whitney, a distance of about 211 miles, but since Nichole is cursed with having to pay bills and work for a living, and the fact we failed to draw that coveted permit, we decided upon entering just south of the Park boundary at Rush Creek out of June Lake, and hike to the Mt. Whitney Portal, thereby cutting the mileage to about 179 miles.

I carefully calculated that even with chronic arthritis in every joint of my body, 3 disintegrated discs in my lower back, neuromas in both feet, and a host of other entertaining ailments, and  even without beer, I could manage ten miles a day.  Even though I slept through most of math class during my incarceration in the public school system, with the help of my dog, as well as mine and Cathy’s fingers and toes, I carefully calculated the trip would take us 18 days and we’d add in one extra for a zero day to rest and fish.

My goal was to tote a 38 pound pack.  In that pack would have to be all of my gear plus a bear canister to contain our food.  The canister is required, and if caught without one it is about a $1500.00 fine.  Hauling one around is about as enjoyable as bucking moldy hay.  Pure, plain and simple, it’s as awkward as a twelve-year-old with new braces, and a pain in the butt.

There was menu planning, preparing, and sending the goods off to the various resupply points along the trail where we could replenish our food stock.  There were endless hours of figuring out the Rubik’s Cube-like puzzle of fitting everything in our packs, then eliminating items deemed useless, then repacking and repeating the process over and over, trying for the proper balance.  Finally the day arrived and we headed for Lone Pine in the eastern Sierra where we would pick up our entry permit and head up to Horseshoe Meadow which is located at 10,000’. There we could camp and acclimate for a couple of days before we headed north to hike. 

Day One (Star log 2137): Our entry permit was for August 1st, so on July 31st we parked the truck in Lone Pine, jumped on a shuttle bus, and headed for June Lake where the plan was to camp one night at the trailhead, and then hit the trail on the morning of the 1st.  I should mention that while at Horseshoe Meadow, we redid our packs one, last time, and carefully weighed them using an old packers scale, a handy little item for getting the approximate weights of panniers when stock packing.  My pack consistently weighed in at 50 pounds; heavier than I wanted, but manageable, I felt because, well, I’m an idiot. 

Following a bit of pavement hiking, hitch-hiking, and more hiking from highway 395 to our jump-off point, we arrived at a little café and campground where we discovered there was a shortcut to hop on the Rush Creek Trail, and thereby would bypass any pesky rangers checking for permits.  We had researched this trail and were warned it was not only steep, but completely sun exposed, and best traveled early in the morning while it was still cool.  Even though we were a day early, we redid our bags one, last time, and at 11:30 am, we risked the wrath of a really, riled-up ranger, writing writs to rowdy rebellious hikers, a substantial fine, twenty-years in a federal penitentiary, and started up the trail.  Why, you ask?  Because I’m a rebel and that’s just the way I roll.

Nichole began skipping up the trail, whistling and singing like a Girl Scout on a cookie drive, an annoying habit that would continue for the entire trip.  Trailing behind, I ably managed to march about fifty yards where I commenced with the first of my thirteen-hundred and sixty-four thousand and twelve, signature “rests”, where I would strategically place my posterior on a rock, take the weight off of my back, and charmingly hack up the remnants of a chest cold from the week prior.  These “rests” are a trademark of mine, a wilderness survival move I have perfected over the years, and have, in fact, freely and unselfishly shared with others wishing to expand their skill sets in the great outdoors.  But I digress.

I should take this opportunity to point out that rumored abundance of snow and the record runoff in the Sierras is in fact, a myth, at least on the first nine miles of the Rush Creek Trail.  By mile 3, the remaining water in both of my Nalgene bottles was hot enough to hard-boil eggs, and by mile 4 I had consumed it all.  I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank the Edison Company employee at Waugh Lake who tossed me two bottles of water to keep me going until mile 9.1, where we crawled into what would be our campsite for the first night.  We had begun the hike at 7600’, and were now at 9100’ where the trail appeared to level off for the foreseeable fifteen feet.  I was drier than a popcorn fart, and wore out as a neck-wrung rooster.

If there is one thing that annoys me like corduroy pants on a hemorrhoid, it is the song “Happy.”  If there is one thing that I detest even more than the annoying song, it is being awakened by the sound of my hiking partner whistling “Happy” while performing yogurt poses outside of my tent at butt-thirty in the morning.  I must admit, however, after I crawled out of my tent and got a cup of coffee down, I actually felt remarkably good considering the previous day’s near death experience.

Day Two: Our hike began much the same as day one; up, up and away.  I would do fine on level and downhill stretches, but those stretches were fewer than fish feathers.  It was the up-hill climbs that were kicking my fanny.  My upper legs were as wobbly as a new-born foal’s, and I couldn’t seem to recover after stopping to rest. 

Our goal this day was the Thousand Island Lakes area where we would join up with the JMT, and I must confess that at this point I had some serious doubts about my legs giving out as we continued to climb.  We entered into a short downhill area where we began to encounter an abundance of black flies.  Pulling out the paint roller, we began applying enough Deet repellent to keep bears away.  Still, the flies were relentless as we approached yet another uphill climb. 

By now we were at 10,000’ and still climbing.  My upper legs were as unsteady as well-done spaghetti.  I’ve spent most of my day trying to avoid stepping on my tongue, but by mid-morning I was already as ragged as a sheepherder’s socks, while little Miss Skippy Higgins up there was flitting about the trail like a bee working a honey-suckle bush.

There is an old country song from the 70’s called, “She Got the Gold Mine; I got the Shaft,” by Jerry Reed.  In that song there is a line where Jerry says, “Why didn’t ya just learn how to cook?”  I swear to you that for the remainder of the trip, every time I hit an uphill stretch I could hear Jerry Reed's voice say to me, “Why didn’t ya just bring yer mule?”  From this point on, every uphill climb began with me stopping, glancing up at Skippy’s annoyingly, smiling face looking down on me some three switchbacks above, shaking my head and saying, “ You’ve got to be sh^##*& me?”  This became the routine. 

At long last we topped out at a pass, and decided to sit down and eat some lunch.  Actually, I needed the break to start jotting down in my journal my last will and testicle, but I figured I might just as well eat something before I expired.  It was at this juncture the plot thickened, as a couple of packers with a group of customers they were bringing out, come riding by and asked us where we were headed.

“Thousand Island Lakes,” Pickle chirped.

“Oughtta push a little farther to Garnett Lake,” he replies.  “No people there, and it’s prettier.”

Before I can ask the critical question, “How far is a little farther,” Nichole answers,
“Sounds great; thanks for the info,” and the packers disappeared over the pass and headed down in the direction we had just come up.

Now I should have known right then and there.  I know packers, and packers are like fly fishermen; Untrustworthy, they have the soul of a shark, the morals and conscience of a rutting bull elk, and the credibility of CNN.  As Pippy Speedstockings tossed her pack on her shoulders and shot off down the trail like a Brussel sprout out of a five-year-old’s mouth, I wondered what my old Drill Instructor, SSgt Bridston would have done in this situation to help motivate me to keep hiking.  I shuttered with cold chills, and my mind turned to happier thoughts like fighting lions in the Coliseum, a colonoscopy with a Go-Pro on the end of a plumber’s snake, or having my ear removed with a cheese grater.  Even though I was as tired as a rented pony at kid’s birthday party, I resigned myself to my fate, and off I went.  By the time we finally reached Thousand Island Lakes I was as pooped as the bottom of a parakeet cage. 

Now, a couple of vital nuggets of knowledge you should be aware of should you ever go on a forced march hike in the Sierras with an over-zealous, range fed, gluten free, fitness-nut, yogurt instructor, are these: You should know the term, “Just over this pass a little ways,” or “Just a little bit farther,”   These quaint, little phrases actually mean you should prepare yourself for an uphill climb where there is the real possibility of a daylight sighting of the International Space Station, followed by an equally long drop and steep downhill hike to a beautiful lake. 

This brings up the other interesting, little tidbit you should know, and that is the Rule of Sierra Lakes.  Lakes in the Sierra Nevada are always, (it’s a rule, you can look it up) always positioned in the bottom of a deep canyon that is steeper than a cow’s face, and more often than not, requires decompression equipment to descend.  And the most important thing to know is that once one reaches the lake, on the other side of it will be a trail leading up that if you are lucky, will have less switchbacks than a porcupine has quills, and will be longer than a supper of boiled liver because the person who designed it was no doubt heavily medicated.  And last, you’re ascent up this trail from hell will always begin with the phrase, (say it with me now) “You’ve got to be sh^##*% me!”

By the time we arrived at Garnett Lake, (that lake the packer said no one was at) it was nearly dusk.  One might have guessed it was the opening day of Comic Con in Las Vegas by the number of colorful tents that were scattered around the lake like lawn chairs in a trailer park after a hurricane.  Physically exhausted, I had more aches and pains than a five-story retirement home,  and fortunately the first camp area we arrived at, a group of kindly hikers offered us a couple of spots we could pitch our tents for the night.  Pitch is exactly what I did, as my pack fell off my shoulders and hit the ground like a fat kid on a teeter-totter.  If it hadn’t have been for the mosquitos, I wouldn’t have even pitched my tent.  I managed, however, and tired as a woman’s watch, I crawled into my tent, and collapsed atop my sleeping bag, dead to the world.

Up to this point on our trip, I hadn’t pee’d for two days except during the middle of the night.  I knew I had become severely dehydrated on day one, but thought I had made up for it by making a real effort to drink more water on the second day.  I also knew this wasn’t a good sign, and apparently I needed to drink even more water.

Day Three: Pickle and I set off heading for the ominous trail of switchbacks we could observe on the other side of the lake.  As Nichole began trotting up the steep switchbacks like a barn sour horse heading for home at feeding time, I paused momentarily, looked up at the mountain, shook my head, and grunted, (all together now) “You’ve got to be sh^##*% me!”

“Why didn’t ya just bring yer mule,” whispered the now familiar voice.

“Shut up, Jerry,” I grumbled, as I dug in and began the laborious trek up the mountain.  What began as a fifty-pound backpack now felt heavier than a milk can full of horseshoes, and I swear I’ve bucked hay bales that were lighter. 

Eventually, and after a great deal of language that in my youth would have been followed up with a bar of soap, I managed to crest the pass at the top of the switchbacks.  My upper legs were as weak as watered down whiskey, and a rest and a snack was in order.  I don’t know what the name of the pass was that we were atop.  Probably something with the name Satin in it would be a safe guess, but the views were indeed incredible, and more importantly, heart soothing.  Comforting because the direction we were traveling would now be downhill for as far as I could see.                 

Our goal this day was to hike to a small body of water with the quaint sounding name, Rosalie Lake.  Although it was still about nine miles away, at least it was downhill, and I could do down.  Following a brief rest and a snack, I backed up to the rock my pack was perched atop, slipped into the shoulder straps, and just before we started down the switchbacks we met a smiling Frenchman who happened along.           

Nichole introduced herself and he then extended his hand and said, “And you muss be de great-grandfartheir, eh?”  Before I could correct him, he then went on to explain how he had left Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite just the morning before; that’s nearly forty miles!  This is exactly why the French are nuttier than squirrel turds, and just can’t be trusted.

The Frenchman zipped off down the trail ahead of us and disappeared on the switchbacks below where he quickly became a tiny speck.  As we neared the bottom of the switchbacks I began hearing an odd sound coming from behind me.  The sound kept getting closer and closer, louder and louder.  Never one to pass up a good sitting spot, I pulled off the tail at the bottom, and rested my pack and my fanny on a conveniently placed sittin’ rock.

Just then, making more noise than a cat in a fan blade, appeared a troop of seven or eight teenage girls marching around the last switchback.  The lead hiker had some sort of speaker box hanging off of her pack that was blaring what I suppose was music, but sounded more like a polar bear passing salmon.  They were followed by a couple of skinny boys who looked like they couldn’t ride a fence rail in a stiff breeze, let alone carry a heavy pack, but carry them they did.  Trailing behind the troop was an older male, wearing ear plugs and a thousand-yard stare; and I thought I had it bad?

Soon we were making good time.  I was actually feeling somewhat human once again, and our hike was now downhill, for the most part.  According to my navigator, we were on schedule to arrive at Rosalie Lake in plenty of time for me to actually get a line in the water.  I was beginning to regret toting along the three-pounds of fly rod, reel, etc. that I’d been too exhausted to rig up each day.  It looked now like I’d be able to cast a line at some of these high country trout I’d been seeing at every lake we would pass.

Our downhill abruptly ended and leveled out at a pretty, little lake I can’t recall the name of.  I can’t recall the name because it was here we encountered a chubby, little fellow, who by all outward appearances had the hiking range of a Daisy air rifle and was as organized as the five-dollar bin at Wal Mart.  By all outward appearances he should be sitting behind a desk somewhere in Des Moines, selling life insurance, instead of hiking at 10,000 feet in the Sierra.  One of those annoying, cheerful types, his backpack was loose at the hip buckle, and wobbled down around his lower fanny like a Hoola-Hoop, while the pack itself hung off his shoulders sort of kattywompus, like John Wayne’s canteen belt did in the movie, Sands of Iwo Jima.  His name was Carl.

Carl had hiked from a little lake whose distance away from where we stood, (I would later learn) was something just shy of that of the Chisolm Trail.  He then told us that our destination was, “Just over that pass,” as he pointed straight up at the mountain to our immediate right.  He then casually mentioned that we were, “Going to earn it,” as we were about to encounter approximately fifty switchbacks on our climb to the pass.  To say my heart dropped faster than Bill Clinton’s pants in a trailer park would be an understatement.

“Make it a game,” he said in parting.  “Count the switchbacks as you climb.”

Great, I thought, as we resumed walking.  Count the switchbacks? Now I’d have to take my shoes and socks off.

As I rounded the first switchback, Nichole was already two turns above me.

“Oh, these aren’t bad,” she chirped.  Another of her pithy expressions I had come to trust about as much as a Chinese condom.

As the arduous climb continued, like a bad song you can’t get out of your head, I found myself counting switchbacks while searching for the next available sitting rock, stump, or downed treefall.  My legs were already weak as reeds, and somewhere around switchback twenty, I’d lost count, as my attention had focused on the dwindling supply of water remaining in my two Nalgene bottles.  Not even half way up the trail, I was down to one bottle of water, and could have honestly drank it in two gulps.  Since day one, when I shorted myself on water and became as dehydrated as a tug of jerky, I hadn’t really recovered.  Instead of getting stronger, my legs were becoming more and more wobbly, and it had become a situation above critical.

By now my rests were becoming more frequent.  I found myself stopping more than a big rig on the 405 freeway during rush hour.  Continuing with all the enthusiasm of a tree sloth in the number four gate at the Kentucky Derby, I was down to sipping my water instead of drinking it; I had half-a-bottle remaining, and I was becoming concerned that my pre-trip joking about another life flight might actually be in my near future.  I even began sizing up the area for possible landing sites for a helicopter; there were none.  I was limp as a cut string, and the situation had now become as serious as engine failure on a 747.

I was now, by conservative estimates, on switchback six-hundred-thirty-seven when I heard a faint voice from above me cry out, “I’m at the top; you’re almost here!”  Words that were about as comforting as a dentist consulting a training manual; I’d heard these words before.  Still, I shuffled on.  By the time I reached the pass you could have put a fork in me, I was done.

“The lake is right down there,” said Pickle.

“Good,” I mumbled. “I can roll that far.”

The sun had already slipped behind the surrounding peaks as I hobbled into Rosalie Lake; I folded like an origami swan.  Weaker than pond ice, I was so tired I couldn’t have whipped shit off a shirt tail, and I was as dehydrated as a salamander in Death Valley.  Having consumed all of my water, I couldn’t even muster the energy to swat at the hordes of mosquitos that had come out to greet us.

I began to cuss the three pounds of fly rod, reel, and flies I had brought along, as I sat in camp watching the trout rise on the idyllic, little lake.  While we were making our ten miles a day, it was taking us the entire day to do so, and I was confused as to what was wrong with me.  My slow pace was leaving us no time whatsoever to relax and do anything else.  We were barely having enough time to set up camp.  Before I retired to my tent to collapse, we had a long talk.  Pickle convinced me that after tomorrow, the trip only got steeper, and our packs would be heavier due to the fact we’d be carrying more food, and it would be longer intervals between resupplies.  While I hate to quit anything.  I especially hate to explain to my goofy friends, family, and especially my wife why I wasn’t smart enough to quit something when I had the chance to do so.  That evening I relinquished myself to common sense, and we made the decision to end our trip at Red’s Meadow the next day.  But first, we had to get there.

We had one last uphill to tackle, as we filled our water containers and bid Rosalie Lake ado.  We left the lake and again started up, and once again, I shook my head, and grumbled, “You’ve got to be sh^##*% me!” 

While this climb was nothing compared to the switchbacks of death I nearly died on the day before, my upper legs were still weaker than O.J.’s alibi, and I struggled with this uphill as well, but at least I took comfort in knowing it would be my last of the trip, and the remainder of our thirteen-mile day would be downhill.

Day Four: The day’s hike into Red’s Meadow took longer than the last day of school.  Every time I looked at my GPS, what seemed like great distance gains were actually measured in half-miles, or less.  Still, I could see light at the end of the tunnel, and following our daily, afternoon rain and hail storm, the gonad shrinking, river crossing, and the encounter with a gender confused, trail runner, we dragged into Red’s Meadow more dead than alive.  Well, me anyway; Skippy, up there, was happier than a naked body-builder directing traffic, and after four days and forty-plus miles of hiking, still had more energy than a Queensland in a cow pen.

From the inspirational, rotund, little lady battling cancer and coming off chemo to hike with her daughter, to my face plant in the Carl’s Jr parking lot while wearing my pack that very nearly ended it all, it was a memorable trip, but at the risk of this little tale turning into a novel, I should probably wrap it up.
Oh yeah, I nearly forgot…

To get from where we were camped at Red’s Meadow there is a trail that leads from the campground over to the resort.  This trail is designed much like a horseshoe.  By that, I mean it has a long uphill to its crest, then a long downhill regardless of which way you are going.  The evening we arrived at the campground we were desperate to eat a real supper over at the resort.  As we left the campground we started on the resort trail.  Say it with me, “You’ve got to be sh^##*% me!” 

Once we arrived at the café, we had what was arguably the best hamburger and chocolate malt ever inhaled.  During supper, Nichole casually mentioned how after we hiked back to the campground she was going to get a change of clothes, come back, and get some tokens for the shower, and get cleaned up.  Keep in mind that at this point in time I was keenly aware that I was unnervingly fragrant and no doubt smelled worse than a packing plant before the pure food law, but there was no way in hell I was going to hike that damn trail three more times tonight.  I would hike it once, and that would be to my sleeping bag.  Besides, I was too tired to smell myself anyway.

The following morning, Nichole had given me five tokens and explained the shower took all five to start it; you then got a five-minute shower.  If you wanted to shower longer, you could add more tokens which equated to one token per minute.  I felt five minutes was plenty of time to shower, and I headed off up the trail.  I mumbled the obligatory, “You’ve got to be sh^##*% me!” as I looked back and motioned to Pickle that I’d meet her over at the café, and we’d have breakfast.

Since it was very early, I was the first customer, and also because this wasn’t my first rodeo, and not wanting to waste precious shower time, I got all nakeded up, laid my clothes out, and put my wash cloth, soap, and shampoo in the stall.  I deposited my tokens, the water shot out, and as expected, the water was colder than a bucket of free beer.  With my hand at the showerhead, I waited for it to warm.

Glacial melts have occurred in less time than it took for the water coming out of the showerhead to turn hot.  Running out of precious time, at the lukewarm stage, I said, “Heck with it,” and jumped in.  I lathered up, and began scrubbing faster than a Jackrabbit on date night.  I then rinsed off, and if one scouring is good, two is better, and quickly lathered up again.  Just as I was about to stick my head under the showerhead to rinse, the water shut off quicker than you can inhale a gnat.

“You’ve got to be sh^##*% me!” 

Now feeling dumber than lug nuts on a birthday cake, I remembered I had brought along my wallet, so I stepped out of the shower, rifled a five-dollar bill from my billfold, and started for the door.  Thankfully, it was at this point I stepped back into the dressing room, grabbed my backpacker’s towel, and put it around me.  While it almost made the trip around my waist, the towel at least covered the important equipment in front, and I calculated I had a perfectly good cedar wall outside I could position myself against to keep from mooning any chance passersby.  I was pretty certain that Nichole would no doubt be waiting outside at one of the picnic tables for me to emerge so we could then go to breakfast.

Feeling dumber than a hunnert’ chickens, and the polestar of human stupidity, I opened the door to the shower room, stepped out onto the deck, and surveyed the area; no Nichole.  In fact, there was only one person outside.  I looked at the gentleman, who fortunately was facing in my direction.  He was seated at the end of a picnic table out in front of the café.  Not wishing to draw attention to myself by hollering, I raised the five dollar bill and waved it.

“Excuse me,” I said sheepishly, “Any chance…” 

At which point he immediately lifted both legs, spun his butt on the seat, and faced away from me, choosing now to stare at a tree as if he’d never seen me.

“You’ve got to be sh^##*% me!,” I mumbled, standing out on the deck about as subtle as a clown’s nose.

I looked over through the café window, but no one was inside yet.  I then looked over to the trail, and no Nichole there, either.  In fact, there wasn’t a soul around except Mister Friendly over at the picnic table.  So there I stood, I couldn’t have be more lathered if I’d just ran the mile-and-an-eighth at Pimlico with a ninety-pound jockey on my back, as I stood there on the deck with nothing but a small backpacker’s towel only slightly larger than Del Taco napkin, covering what essentially needed covering.  Feeling like a penny waiting on change, I scoured the area looking for someone, anyone, to rescue me, and waited.

After several minutes, an older gentleman wearing a boonie hat came out from around the corner of the store that is situated not quite between the shower building where I stood, and the café.  He was walking toward me.

“Thank you, God,” I said under my breath, as I waved my five dollar bill, explained my situation, and asked if he’d be kind enough to get me some shower tokens from the store?

“Yeah, lemme check my laundry first,” he said?

Now, of course, it’s at this point that cars begin pulling up and parking.  People are now milling about either going to the café, or to the store, and I’m still standing on the deck sheepishly grinning like a jackass eating cactus, and nodding hello to those making eye contact.  I can’t go check on the guy in the laundromat because to do so would require either exposing myself, or side stepping along the wall like a cat burglar, and even if I could go next door to see what the hold-up was, what would I say?  “Hello, remember me?”

It was five minutes at least, and my only salvation finally exited the laundry room and approached.  Reaching into his pockets, he pulled out five, golden tokens.
“I just remembered I had five of these left over that I hadn’t used,” he said, as we exchanged tokens for currency.

I thanked the guy and raced back in, deposited my tokens, and unwilling to take a chance and wait for the hot water to show up, I jumped into the cold shower and finished my wash.

I learned a lot on this trip, and gained a great deal of knowledge about ways to lighten my pack, and that was the big mistake here, and ultimately what brought this trip to an end.  My pack was simply too heavy.

After arriving home, I pulled my pack from the backseat of the truck, and hung it on the meat scale at home.  It was just as it was when we finished the trip.  I had added nothing, I had taken nothing out.  It weighed 56 pounds.  Now, I had used a packer’s scale to weigh this pack prior to setting off on the trail.  The packer’s scale said I was right at fifty pounds; a weight I knew was too heavy, but felt I could manage.  The 56 pounds it weighed on the meat scale at home was without the food I had packed in and eaten throughout the trip.  My food weight prior to stuffing it into my bear canister was twelve pounds.  That means I began the trip with a 68 pound pack.  I told you one can never trust a packer. 

I’ve already determined to fix what needs fixing, and pick up next year where I left off, or possibly complete the trail going northbound.

At any rate, I suppose it’s true that the Lord looks out for drunks and fools.
So, that’s my story, and it’s gotta be true because, well, it’s on the innernets. 
Happy Trails!