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So How Was The Camping Trip?

October 15, 2018

I attended an Eagle Scout Court of Honor Saturday night. The new Eagle is a great kid. I’ve been one of his scout leaders. Many of current boys in our patrol were also at the Court of Honor. One of them asked about the campout on Friday. My “I’m going to the mountains” moment.

I don’t want to talk about it.

Why, was it cold?

No, it was cancelled!

It’s just a camping trip, right? In fact, it was a one night trip. And it was the hardest, most difficult hike we do every year. It’s 12 miles and about 4,000 feet in elevation change.

I hate hiking. Well, that’s not totally true. I enjoy many aspects of hiking; the fresh air, the beatiful scenery, the waterfalls. The part I have trouble with is the walking up and down the mountains.

I used to be good at it. I used to be able to run for miles without tiring. I never even thought about the issues with hiking up a mountain.

Those days are long past.

Now, I take ibuprofen before the hike. I take ibuprofen during the hike and I take ibuprofen after the hike. And even then, I’m a slow hiker. I hike slowly up the mountain and I hike even slower down the mountain. Actually, I stumble down the mountain, one painful hobbled step at a time.

Why then would I look forward to, even be disappointed to not be able to make such a climb?

Partly it’s that this is the third time we’ve tried to make this hike. First was in May. I cleared my schedule. But, none of the other leaders were available to go in May. I didn’t bother to pack.

The high mountain ridges and saddles are beautiful in May. Spring comes late to the meadows above 6000 feet. When we make the ascent on “Baldy,” at 8800 feet, there’s still snow on the North slopes. We typically glissade down the snow fields.

We rescheduled our trip for August. But, just as Spring comes late to the high meadows, fall comes early. The changing leaves start at the highest peaks and march down the slopes through the early summer and into fall.

The meadow is full of aspen. It’s not visible from the valley floor. We assumed it would be vibrate. It can be brutally hot in the valley in August. Hot and dry. Perfect fire conditions. August had a big one in the South part of the valley. In fact, there were two fires, the Bald Mountain fire and the Pole Creek fire. Together they burned over 100,000 acres. That makes a lot of smoke. Most of the time that smoke blows East. Occasionally, it blows North.

The day before our campout the winds shifted. Unlike smog, which limits itself to the valleys, smoke clings to the mountains and goes where the wind blows. There is no escaping the smoke by climbing above it.

A 12 mile hike is challenging enough, but trying to do that hike in the smoke is insane. And we couldn’t risk the boys. I had packed for this one.

My backpack sat in the garage fully packed.

We rescheduled for November. Winter also comes early. It snowed last week in the higher elevations. Mt Timpanogos has a wonderful blanket of snow. We are hoping it’s the beginning of a good snow year.

The sun warmed the high meadows and much of the snow at the lower elevations had melted. We assumed it would be cold, but the forecast was for clear skies.

Our number of boys able to commit to the campout had dwindled the later we got into the year. We had two boys able to attend on Friday. I repacked my gear, switching out the warm weather gear for colder weather. My pack weight increased as I added thicker sleeping pads, and a heavier coat.

I drove myself to the trailhead for our 4:00 departure. The weather was gorgeous. The sun was warm without being too hot. A gentle breeze stirred the yellowing leaves. I was officially off duty. I’d arranged someone to cover my phone in case of any outages. I was looking forward to 24 hours of diversion.

Unfortunately, I’d missed a text from an hour earlier. The hike was cancelled. The boys, and leaders couldn’t make it.

We’ve are planning to do the hike in May. I’m not sure if we have rescheduled or cancelled.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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