Monday, June 23, 2014

Cold night, but worth it. Oh, yeah.

I scored a camping permit for Cape Final last weekend. All backcountry camping, on the rim and in the canyon, requires a permit and they're limited. The great thing about Cape Final is it's exclusive - only one permit is given each night, which meant I had the place to myself.

The weekend before, my neighbor's husband Glen and I went out to Cape Final to see what we could see. We got there about 8:30 am, just in time to greet the previous nights' campers as they were leaving, and we were the only ones there. On our way out, a couple of hours later, there was a river of people heading in. The hike is only a couple of miles each way and pretty easy, so that makes it popular with folks who don't want or can't do a challenge. It was good knowledge to have because it told me I needed to be up and out early after my night to camp.

There are so many wildflowers in bloom, and day by day the butterfly population is increasing.

Lupines are now on the decline but last week there were sweeps of their unmistakable color.


Not just butterflies, either; as I've been trying to get close-up shots of flowers like the one above, I've seen insects everywhere. This spider did its best to hide from me no matter which direction I took to get a good view.

Until I gave up because it could move in more directions than I could.

Locusts are also in bloom. They're large bushes covered with delicate flowers and protected by huge thorns.

 Their buds. Amazing, isn't it?

I waited until late afternoon to head in. I'm pretty sure this isn't a hotbed of crime, but I still didn't want an audience to see that I was a single person out there that night. I planned well because when I pulled into the parking lot at the trailhead, mine was the only vehicle there.

Glen and I had found the campsite easily enough, but when I was toting my backpack in, it had disappeared. I hiked up and I hiked down. I followed the trail, I went cross country. I dropped my pack and wandered to places previously unseen, and the campsite was nowhere to be found. I finally said to heck with it and put my tent up on an overlook point, grateful that I'm not a sleepwalker because there are no fences and the canyon is deep.

The view from my front porch.
And in another direction.

 Now I'm running out of directions.
OK, one more. 

I have a new tent, different from last year. I really liked my old one but it weighed six pounds and my new one is half that. Thankfully, REI takes back items even if they've been used so I got all my money back on the other tent. The old one was free standing and the new one requires a couple of stakes. Generally that's a good idea anyway if the wind is blowing, but just to give it what little interior room it's supposed to have, it has to be staked. So I snapped all the poles in place, attached them to the tent, and when I went to pound in the stakes I found I was on solid rock with just enough dirt covering it to get into everything I owned but not enough to sink a stake into. I had to move back on the trail about twenty feet before I found enough dirt to nail the tent down.

This is what I looked like when I finally set up. The big rock at the top of the tent isn't doing anything. I was just too lazy to move it. I hung my pack on a tree, not deceiving myself for one minute that it would keep critters out. When I got my permit, the backcountry ranger asked me to let them know if I had a rodent problem when I was out there. Immediately I was suspicious: what kind of rodents, exactly? Mice. Oh, all right. I thought maybe she meant skunks or raccoons, but I saw nothing at all.

I got everything set up in time to watch the sun fade over the canyon. Even with some cloud cover there wasn't a fiery sunset but a gradual leaving of light that softened the edges of the chiseled terraces and the pinnacles and valleys in front of me. I found a large rock at the edge of the rim to watch from, and drank it all in.

For the longest time since I got there, all I heard was the wind among the Ponderosa pines. Then an intrusion far above me and heading away: the distant, diminishing drone of a plane. I watched its contrail scrape straight as an arrow across the sky until the winds aloft blew it to cotton wisps and the plane disappeared into the clouds. Then another, but traveling in a different direction, and I didn't see it or hear it for long. 

The evening began to chill. A bird chittered close to me and I heard the far-off drill of a woodpecker and the hum of a fly. It was me and nature; what a life.

The rock I sat on offered views that held my attention as much as the ones in the canyon.

And then the light got wonderful, highlighting tips and edges, giving this part of the canyon the look of the Great Wall.

It wasn't a perfect trip. The tent seemed so small, my sleeping bag confining and cold, and I couldn't seem to get comfortable all night long. When the sky lit with pink the next morning I was up and packing to leave. But everything's a trade off. I could have stayed home and not seen any of this.

Thought of the day:

'Just living is not enough,' said the butterfly, 'one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower.'  - Hans Christian Anderson