Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Lost and Found: Nine.

The cumulative effects of riding, hiking, paddling, schwacking and not sleeping caught up with me on this morning. Instead of bolting up and out of the bag to take pictures at way-too-early-AM, I just laid in the bag and vegged. I was in and out of consciousness for several hours before finally rolling out to meet the day.

Another gorgeous bluebird morning on tap. On the outer coast we'd always had a breeze if not wind, but up in this protected cove it was still--and would soon become stifling.

Tottering around camp on stiff legs and sore ankles was a good way to loosen up while surveying the wreckage. Mine and Eric's bikes seemed to be the worst off--but Eric's easily took the prize.

We ate a leisurely breakfast, fed the fire, soaked up the sun, dozed a bit, then slowly started to motivate. At the heart of our sloth was the knowledge that we had a big bushwhack ahead of us--and we'd had enough of those to know that there was no reason to hurry in.


Although he could see and hear us going about our chores, he couldn't get our scent. He was both curious and patient, making no hurried motions while everything he did brought him nearer to our spot.

He was also a respectful sort: At roughly 30 meters he hit the edge of his comfort zone and then proceeded to circle at that distance.

Still trying to scent us.

And then when he finally did catch scent his demeanor changed immediately.

We all smiled and laughed a little bit of relief at that. It hadn't been close--had been anything but--yet the realization that it could have gone many different ways was still cause for minor celebration.

Our route for the day followed the bear up the creek.

What appeared to be a rideable bed of cobbles underneath a few inches of water turned out to be a slick and slimy mess, and we were off and walking within 90 seconds. And it only devolved from there.

Roman seemed to be in his element--flitting about trying to find the cleanest line. He'd be down in the creek then over on the bank then up on a low ridge, always moving, seeing, sensing. But the only conclusion he could draw, no matter how hard he tried, was that a slow, direct slog was probably the best choice.

Bike leads rider: A rare and appreciated stretch of open meadow.

The day was hot, the travel was slow, tedious, laborious. There never seemed to be any reason to hope for better. Writing that now makes me realize how I'd taken the good weather for granted--this day in a typical southeast cold drizzle would have been truly miserable.

My MO when things aren't looking up is to look down--always something to appreciate, to keep perspective.

We moved through a low pass and briefly had the sense that we'd risen into the alpine.

Then we were back into the depths. Stumbling through thick brush, staggering in unseen holes, catching up with missed footfalls, cranking your shin into your crank dozens of times--per hour. Bike catching on vegetation and needing to be extracted, or climbed over to pull on it from a different angle. There were several ponds that were small enough to lob a stone across--and blowing up the boats to float them was faster then bashing around or wading the edges. There was one spot so thick, so interlaced with veg, that rather than expend the time and energy to bust through it, Eric hung his bike (by the front wheel) in the crotch of a tree then climbed up the bike to reach a small ledge. Booyah--another lesson learned!

When finally we emerged into the open, could feel and see the Brady Glacier looming, it had taken almost 7 hours to cover 3 linear miles. We were all ready for something different.

Almost as if to reward us for the previous half-day of struggle, Ma Nature presented us with some top shelf gravel bars to ride. Terminal moraine of the Brady looms above Eric's head.

The silty runoff of the glacier kept us guessing on how deep the braided channels were. Dylan's not sure about this one, while Roman searches for his toe clip--clearly intending to give'r.

Watching Roman attack braid after braid, then fall in with Doom and race across the cleanest line on the next gravel bar, it was easy to see how he'd become the legendary wilderness traveler that he is: He's both driven and wired to enjoy every aspect.

Eventually the braids came together into channels too big to ride or even wade. We blew up the boats and enjoyed a fast, cold, exciting exit into Taylor Bay. Once the current slowed we paddled ESE across the bay, marveling that the harbor seals all around us could see to move (much less eat) in the mix of glacial/tidal mank. At dusk, under thickening clouds, we found a grassy spot near Fern Harbor to call home for the night.