Sunday, October 18, 2015

What Makes Me Remember These Things??

I woke up this morning remembering a mountain hiking expedition with friends many, many years ago...several decades ago now.  In those days the problems that seemed to plague every trip were more cause for coming up with creative solutions than for discouragement.  Aaaah, youth...

The trip I am remembering is one out to the west of Calgary in the North Ghost River area.  When we all started out that day I believe the goal was for a short weekend adventure: fording the river to set up camp at the base of the mountain on Friday evening, a short climb (a high hike really) up the Devil's Head on Saturday, a second night's campout, and a return home early Sunday morning.

The party of 6 went out in two separate vehicles: Friend Gordon's old, but reliable half ton truck and Friend Ken's not always so reliable old Mazda car.  There were people and gear stashed in every available corner of these two old autos.  

The first problem arose between the town of Cochrane and the North Ghost.  A sudden rain squall blew up and within seconds the windshield wipers on the old truck stopped working.  We couldn't see anything at all about the time we were getting to the Forestry Trunk Road and some of the prime wilderness.  What to do?  It wasn't the wiper blades themselves, it was the motion mechanism that was completely broken.  My husband found some relatively decent old parachute cord in the truck box, so he tied a good long piece on the end of each wiper blade, then threaded the other end of each cord in through the truck windows.  While Gord continued to drive through the rain storm, my husband sat in the passenger seat and pulled on the inside ends of the parachute cords. He was able to get a good wiping motion going with the blades.  The cords actually pulled the blades closer to the glass than they had been previously so they wiped the windshield even dryer than before!  It was a good trick to pull so we could keep going on our trek.

Since we hadn't gotten out of the city until after work on the Friday evening we were unable to ford the North Ghost River before the water got running too high, plus it was all ready getting dark, so we were unable to get camp set up at the foot of the Devil's Head.  Trying to car camp on a dirt covered river bank with that many people and too small vehicles is not an experience I would recommend!!  There was no appropriate place to set up any tents even if it hadn't been dark all ready by the time we arrived. The cooking gear was stashed underneath most of the rest of the load of gear, so we didn' even eat dinner other than a shared bag of gorp and some water.  We would make up for it when we set up camp across the river early the next morning.

Extremely early the next morning we heard the Mazda start up before those of us in the truck were even awake after our short and fitful night's sleep.  Ken, ever the impatient one, decided to take his Mazda full of climbers and gear across the river and get a head start.  The best place to ford was just around the bend from where we were sitting with the truck.  An hour later we got going as well, drove around the corner of the high bank to where we planned to ford the truck across and there was the Mazda, stranded in high water, right in the middle of the river!  The level hadn't had a chance to drop yet, as it would have an hour or so later, if Ken could have just been patient enough to wait. As it was, the water had been too deep to take such a low slung vehicle across.  It took us all awhile to winch the thing onto a high sand bar, closer to the opposite bank.  Of course the water had shorted out the engine and it needed significant time to dry out before it could be driven across the rest of the ford and through the bush to where we were planning to set up camp.  Fortunately the truck was JUST enough higher than the car to prevent it from suffering a similar fate.

By the time we rescued the car it was getting to be mid morning and we could see our hiking time slipping away rapidly.  Ken had not eaten any breakfast to this point, assuming he would have lots of time to eat after setting up camp, seeing he had taken his party of climbers out to the river just before 5am. By this time it was after 9am and he was starving.  So, he built a little fire with some twigs and prepared to make some toast...only one was he going to cook it when all the gear was still stashed in the trunk of the car and it would take too long a time to dig out his cooking gear?  Ken was SO hungry he couldn't wait any longer, so my most hilarious memory of the trip is of him, stripping off his hiking boots, socks and pants for the second time that morning after having to strip down the first time in order to make it to shore from his stranded car, wading out to the still stranded Mazda, wrenching the roof rack off the roof, hauling it back to shore and settling it over the camp fire so he could put slices of bread on it and make toast.  hahahaha  There he was, butt naked,  gorging his hungry, frustrated self on toast he made on his car's roof rack over a teensy camp fire on the bank of the river, while his car remained stranded on a sand bar.  

It took hours for the car to dry out enough to start revving again.  By then it wasn't even worth trying to drive in the other 4 or 5 km to the base of the mountain.  It wasn't worth setting up an overnight camp there, as by this time it was far too late to hike up even a teeny mountain like the Devil's Head.  We all had to be home sufficiently early the next day that we decided to haul the Mazda back across the river and head for home.  By the time we got it winched back across with the truck it was late afternoon.  About the time we wondered if we would regret our decision to not even bother going to the camp area and setting up for at least an overnight in the tents, the sky suddenly clouded over and huge torrents of rain began to fall.  Well, at the very least it guaranteed we had no regrets about our decision to simply abandon the place early.

It poured rain all the way back to Calgary and my husband's arms were hurting severely from having to pull on those parachute cords all the way back!  The Mazda coughed and sputtered an awful lot on the way back, but it made it back to Ken's without breaking down.

So many trips, so many vehicle problems, so many creative solutions and other ideas.  It seems that almost all of my husband's climbing and hiking trips have ended up being even more interesting than expected due to vehicle issues.  

Aaaahhh for the good old days..........hah!

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