Imagine you’re fast asleep, warm in your shelter. You wake up to an occasional pitter patter of raindrops knocked loose by the wind from the tree above you. You fall right back to sleep. Then you wake up to what sounds like a twig falling on your shelter, but it sounds a little odd. You can’t figure it out so you go right back to sleep. Then you are awoken to the sound of your shelter being shaken back and forth violently and you can see just the shadow of a large furry animal moving around just 2 feet from you and it is pushing into your shelter towards you! Welcome to my morning! With my senses all foggy from just being awakened by an animal thrashing the side of my little tarp tent my first reaction was to smack the side of the tarp to try and scare the attacker away while simultaneously uttering, “UHHH! Yaaaaa! Wuaaaahh! Ahhhh!” There wasn’t time to think of words, just primal fear sounds. After smacking the side of the tent I could see the animal, either a big fox or coyote, from the 6 inch gap under my tarp where the insect netting is. Because I had no time to find my flashlight I could only see this large animal’s outline. It was undeterred by my smacking towards it at first, then it grabbed my tent and something in the tent and tried to run away with it, the insect netting prevented it, I saw the creature run away about 20 feet, then change its mind and run right back at me and grabbed onto the item again and try to pull it away but by now I had the flashlight and I was screaming at it as it pulled away. Finally it ran off and my fellow campmates Gordon and Christian were awake and hopped out of their tents. I got out too and looked around for the suspect but it was gone. I found that it had pushed its face into the netting far enough to reach my food bag, then try to pull it through. During the shaking it ripped a hole in the netting. It almost pulled the bag out through this hole. Gordon noted that the animal also apparently managed to sneak into his vestibule and chew up some of his trash without waking any of us up. Sneaky bastard! At this point we decided it was probably a good idea to hang our food tonight. I’ve backpacked thousands of miles and kept my food in the tent with me and never had a problem or heard of anyone having a problem. The point of doing this of course is to prevent animals from getting into your food. Mice, squirrels, chipmunks, and bears can all figure out a bear hang pretty easily. Most animals are deterred by the human presence near the food. But last night was that night that we fear. I thought a bear was coming in.
We tried going back to sleep but were too shaken up. After about an hour of messing around on our phones the animal wandered right past Gordon’s shelter. We all said fuck this were not going to be able to sleep and decided to make a fire. Since it had rained for hours finding dry wood was a little difficult but we managed to find some under a bunch of thick canopied limber pine and other conifers. After many tries we got the fire going by using a backpacking stove to light up some small sticks. We got the fire raging and warmed ourselves up. It was very cold out at 11,200 feet where we were camping. We hung out and talked for a few hours until we half cowboy camped near the fire, dozing a few minutes at a time until we had to get more firewood. At 4 a.m. we decided to pack up and start hiking. We hit the trail around 5.
Christian hikes with this tortured cat strapped to his pack. He was forced to buy it after accidentally breaking a ring in a store.
The hike up Georgia Pass was windy, cold and foggy. There were some snow patches left and I saw a snowshoe hare! Near the top of the pass alpine plants were blooming everywhere! Just a few inches tall and blooming in bright blue, yellow and white. As we descended the pass it began to clear, giving way to picturesque misty mountain views. My right knee also started to really hurt when going downhill. I tried downing a bunch of ibuprofen to dull the pain and it helped a little.
Most of the hike today was beautiful mixtures of coniferous forests and meadows. Unfortunately some of these meadows exist only because of the devastating mountain pine beetle which have killed off most off the pine trees in some areas. It is an unusual forest pathology issue because all the players in this destruction are native to the areas the damage is occurring. This beetle usually only attacks weak or dying trees. What caused this outbreak of the beetle to occur is that several years of hot and dry summers and mild winters stressed out the trees to a point where they’re all suitable hosts. I study bark and ambrosia beetles for my graduate degree so this hits close to home.
Area devastated by mountain pine beetle
We finally made it to the highway where we could hitch into Breckenridge just as my knee felt like it was going to give way. Then it started to downpour. We took the free bus to town and got some gourmet pizza and then unsuccessfully looked for a place to stay the night. It’s the 4th of July weekend and the town is insanely crowded. After much frustration we find a hotel for a reasonable price in The nearby town of Frisco. Christian, Gordon and I make it to the hotel on the free bus. The clerk there says, “Ifa you wanna to smoka da ganja, just go take a walk, don’t do it in da room.” We try to watch some tv but it’s stuck on the History Channel which is running a marathon of American Pickers. Oh well it’s something on the magic picture box. I fall asleep early and it’s one of the best nights sleep I’ve had in a very long time.