Sunday, October 11, 2009

Unforgiving Nature

It's time to tell a tale of woe...of Juliet and her Romeo.

Okay fine...not of Juliet and Romeo, but of our attempt to go on a hike to Avalanche Lake.

The ranger the night before had told us to "Run with the sun to have fun in Glacier National Park". So, when we woke up that pleasantly warm Friday morning with the sun sort of peeking through the clouds we fueled up on a quick breakfast and dashed to the trail. We parked our car at the trailhead, stuck bear bells on the kids, grabbed our backpack full of first aid supplies and grizzly spray and headed up the trail. We chattered along happily enjoying the sounds of the roaring creek and the views of the dense forest around us. (For my Twilight friends...Tamila and I kept waiting for a Cullen to pop out from behind a tree...alas, it never happened!)

Our two mile hike started out uneventfully. I admit that our crew got winded and had to take a couple of stops on the way. Nobody was in pain though and everything was smooth until the first little patter of rain drops started to fall on on the trees above us. Since the rain had been pretty light for previous two days, we thought nothing of it and pressed on.

The rain began to fall harder and the little tiny streams we had to cross were getting deeper and angrier. We threw our only two ponchos on the youngest boys and determined to go on. Never minding the droves of hikers coming down the trail past us. Billy and I started to develop stiff backs yet, we and our crew pressed on--Faster! Higher! (Stronger? nah)

Rain came sheeting down on us and our thin clothing--our non-weather proof clothing was getting soaked. Poor Tamila was just wearing shorts, t-shirt and a sweatshirt. We all started to shiver a bit but moved on, we were so close to our goal. As we rounded the last bend of the trail a gaggle of hikers slogged towards us through the mud: They hastily informed us that a momma grizzly and her cubs had been spotted not to far up the trail ahead. "You'll be fine--we're sure!" were their reassurances. Instantly we got into paranoid mode. 6 Baker's vs a momma grizzly=no contest. Grizzly would win hands down!

Spying the lake we took tentative steps towards it wary of any moving objects. All we saw was this:

Our beautiful lake should've looked like this:

Get the picture? It was soggy, wet and a whopping 45 degrees and grizzlies were on the loose. We snapped two pics and headed back down the hill.

As we were walking poor Travis decided that his legs were tired, so Billy had Austin double up on backpacks and walking sticks. We stumbled down the trail in our loose pack when I noticed that Tamila wasn't saying anything. I asked her what was wrong and she informed me that she couldn't see out of her right eye and was developing a migraine. Worry spread through my heart as I held her arm and guided her along the trail. The poor girl was shivering, blind and in pain.

Ahead on the trail Austin shed his sticks because his hands were starting to go numb and white from the cold and he could no longer hold them. Billy lugged Travis along with his back spasming the whole way. Aaron chippered happily down the trail without a scratch or a hint of hypothermia. He was in good shape.--unlike the rest of us. Our normally happy crew turned silent and the jingle of bear bells and Aaron's voice were our only protection against the grizzlies.

Our hearts filled with relief once we saw our waiting car. We stripped Travis out of his wet clothes into some dry ones we had left in the car just in case. We threw a dry sweatshirt on Tamila, cranked up the heat on the car and headed back to camp. The drive home took forever--I nervously kept checking on Tamila to keep tabs on her status and hoping to prevent her from barfing in the car.

Our camp had been flooded in our absence. Our EZ Up had been crushed by the weight of the rain. Literally the legs and rivets were snapped due to the downpour that came down. A river had rushed through our campsite, around and under our tent. Thankfully, the design of our tent had kept everything dry and warm. As Billy and Austin tore down our smashed EZ Up, I took care of poor slightly hypothermic Tamila in the tent. (her temp was actually down a couple of degrees.)

Thankfully, she recovered quickly. Austin and Billy rigged up a new tarp system to keep our eating area dry. Aaron and Travis snarfed down food like no other.

We learned a hard lesson that day: Never go hiking unprepared. What looks like a nice day for hiking can swiftly turn into your nightmare. I've heard it said that nature doesn't punish you for existing--it's just very unforgiving of mistakes. Our mistake that day was not being prepared. A backpack containing a couple of ponchos, bear spray, a first aid kid and some granola bars doesn't cut it! Next time we will be better prepared.