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Monday, September 30, 2013

Adventure Honeymoon 2013 - Epic Journey Day 4

Start: Goat Haunt Shelters
Camp: Stoney Indian Lake Campsite
Mileage: ~7.5 miles with ~1 mile spur to Kootenai Lake
Elevation Up: ~2125 feet
Elevation Down: ~0 feet

Our morning began, as the other mornings had, with an early wake up (~6:30am courtesy of the built-in Benjamin alarm clock) and tear down of camp. After bidding Terry and Christy an uneventful day and a more successful boat ride to Canada and eating a quick breakfast bar, we were back on the trail. Today was going to be our short day and Kari was a little cranky about not being allowed to sleep in or soak in the beauty of the lake more, but Ben wanted to get to the lake at our next camp early so he could wash his clothes and take a bath/swim in the lake.

The first 5 miles of our hike were flat and went by quickly. We discovered some meadow clearings that Ben was enamored with and hiked under the shade of fully grown trees. Although it was still early, the air was heating up fast and it looked to be a beautiful, sunny day.

On the recommendation of a friendly Swede we met on-trail, hoping surely (in vain) to find cell service to message his mother, we took a .5 mile spur to see Kootenai Lake. As promised, it was well worth the extra walk. The water was serene and glass-like, perfectly reflecting the mountains around it. We made a mental note of the campsite for future visits.

With about 2.5 miles to go, we began going up the rapid ascent in elevation we had known was coming. Kari had enjoyed the hike and elevation changes on Day 2 so much that she was looking forward to crushing this climb too and reaching the beautiful vistas above.

The sun beat down on us and we continued our climb, soon finding ourselves on a mountainside, completely surrounded by berry bushes that crowded the path, trapping the humid heat of the day against our bodies and blocking our view of the rest of the mountainside and what lay around the next corner. Though in the endless series of steep/sharp switchbacks, the answer was pretty easy - another overgrown switchback. In the midst of trudge through the bushes, Kari could not see much of the scenery around and began to look at her feet and the path directly in front of them. While the bushes around her did not seem to change, at least she knew her feet were moving.

"Bear!" Ben yelled after we turned a quick corner and grabbed Kari's pack to stop her. Meanwhile, Kari only heard the crash and saw leaves moving in the bushes ahead.

We were about halfway up the mountain, completely surrounded by berry bushes and we could not see anything but the path on our current switchback. As soon as Ben had yelled "Bear", the small black bear dove into the bushes.

"Should we go backward?" Kari asked as Ben took the bear pepper spray out of Kari's bag and she took the can of bear pepper spray out of his.
"We do not know where it is. We cannot see. It could be behind us by now." he responded.

He had a point.

We each removed the safety from our bear pepper spray. In the process, some discharged onto Ben's hands and face. Imagine rubbing oil from several habaneros all over your hands and face. At first, there is only a slight tingling followed by extremely intense burning. Burning so intense that it feels like your skin is peeling off. Typically, you would flush the oil from your skin for 15-20 minutes with cold water; however, we were on the side of the mountain without water. Despite the burning, we decided to continue forward along the trail slowly and loudly. Kari's adrenaline was pumping. We had perfected the lyrics to "Call Me Maybe" (courtesy of Canadian Alex who had hummed it repeatedly at Hole-in-the-Wall) earlier the previous morning. Ben requested that Kari sing it and clack her trekking poles together as we wound our way through the never-ending bush-encased switchbacks.

Kari worried.
What if the capsaicin from the bear pepper spray got in Ben's eyes?
Would it blind him?

It was already on his forehead and lips, spreading as sweat carried it dripping down the flushed splotches of his skin. We tried wet wipes to no avail. Ben grunted as his face grew redder and told Kari to hurry and that he needed water soon to flush it. Kari hurried on, pushing through berry bushes that scratched her exposed legs and arms and tugged at her pack, clacking her poles and singing that darn song over and over again, as loudly as she could while Ben tried to stifle his pained grunts. Gasping for breath, Kari eventually had to stop a moment in the shade of two solitary pines. Kari was hot, she realized. Kari was terrified that she'd turn the next corner and be nose-to-nose with a bear. She hated that she could not do anything to help Ben or to stop the burning that had begun on her septum. While we stopped, Ben had Kari spit water from her bladder onto his face to stop the burning. Kari was terrified that she would get it in his eyes and blind him. Kari realized, with the water in her mouth, that she had not drunk any water since encountering the bear. Ben could not take the pain any longer. After about 30-45 minutes of burning, we finally found a creek - he laid down on the rocks and stuck his face in the rushing water over and over again. The cold water on his skin, cooling it and flushing the chemicals off provided the relief he needed. We sat there for a brief lunch so Ben could stick his face in the water intermittently.

After a lot of flushing, Ben seemed to be feeling better. His arm now burned too, but his face felt a lot better. We had finally made our way out of the giant mountainside of berry bushes, but wound up on another exposed mountainside, surrounded by overgrown foliage and, later, more #@$!#$& berry bushes. As we continued up the steep switchbacks, Kari's body began to fail her and her skin grew cold. Of course, this only made her more frustrated and her will power plummeted. Kari was mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted. Ben got behind me and cheered me on, then led the way through the brush as she trudge up the mountain.

By the time Kari stumbled into camp (around 1:45pm), it was apparent that Kari had been suffering from heat exhaustion. We went to food prep, sat in the shade, and made sure we drank water and ate a little food to recover. That may have been the shortest hike, but it sure kicked our butts!

After some recovery, we put our smellies in the bear box (way more convenient than hanging) and split up to do the camp chores. Kari assembled the tent and set up camp while Ben filtered water. But first, Ben set about doing his laundry - soon he was in his boxers, sitting on a rock, rubbing his clothes in the sand and letting them dry in the grass. The pair who had left camp soon after we got there was gone and no one was there to see until a couple came passing through. When we were alone, Kari joined Ben in washing her clothes and even got in the freezing cold water with him and dunked up to her shoulders. Ben swam around a bit to "bath" himself.

While the clothes dried, we did our respective chores. Kari squatted down, still wearing her Frogg Toggs to keep warm while she was wet, and busted open the seam along the whole crotch of the pants. Note to self: avoid doing camp set-up tasks and squatting in Frogg Toggs. Thank goodness for duct tape. We also discovered the pit toilet, which was no more than a mostly-full hole w/ a box seat placed on top of it - no walls whatsoever. It had a great view, as Ben pointed out. He thought it was hilarious but Kari was freaked and, thinking that ANYTHING could crawl or fly in and then come out when she sat down. Kari was also not a fan that the only privacy source was the toilet's distance from camp. Kari made Ben go with her whenever she needed to "use the facility" there. Kari would later be vindicated when another woman admitted similar fears with the toilet and, with no hubby to accompany her, she ran the whole way back, terrified.

After setting up the tent in the freezing shade of the mountain (our site was in a basin), Kari joined Ben by the clothes over on the sunny side of the camp.

Still trying to alleviate the burning on his arm, Ben tried applying neosporin, thinking it might numb the skin. Kari used some on her nose, but found that instead of numbing her skin, it caused the burning sensation to intensify. She ran to the lake and flushed her nose and lips with lake water for 15-20 minutes. Ben, being the wonderful man he is, put the smellies back in the bear box and sat by her side, scratching her back as she flushed her face. We rinsed off the outside of the bear spray can as a precaution to avoid further incidents. The oils from the can formed a swirly pattern that coated the surface in the corner of the lake.

Crisis averted, we sat by our clothes drying in the sun and journaled until it was time for dinner. It was an experimental, trial 1 recipe: Chili Mac (bland with a weird texture from the blended up beef). It was hard to get through. Only the promise of a tasty dessert spurned Ben on. After teeth brushing and a quick meet-and-greet with the late-arriving man and woman in camp, we were off to bed for an early night. Also, Ben used up the last of the TP. He thought it was funny. Not "haha" funny, but "uhoh" funny. Kari was not amused.

Click here for photos from Glacier National Park

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