The trail climbs until I-70 looks like a shoe lace and the semi trucks are ants, hustling about pressing business (1600 ft). The trail switchbacks through the trees until. Abruptly. A wide corridor of meadow exposes views of peaked ridges fading eternally into blue sky. It was beautiful and I was tired, according to my trail journal:
“I suspect this is Wheeler Lakes, although I see no lakes.” I ate a snack and consulted maps.
Next entry: “20 more minutes of climbing and I come to Wheeler Lakes. Uphill miles ought to count long.”
Tucked into patches of pine and spruce, camping sites abound along the periphery of these lush lake meadows. Wildflowers are almost as abundant as mosquitoes.
The trail now climbs lackadaisically, in contour with the bowls of the mountains. Then up onto a rim at Uneva Pass (11803 ft). From above tree line the neighbors to the east, the Ten Mile Range, cut a striking profile.
The trail then all but entirely relinquishes its elevation gain on the way down to Ten Mile Creek.
The only way I have found to Space and Time Travel is to get on the trail, plug in ear buds, and go. Evening was coming on but this section of trail was fresh in my mind (from last week’s adventure). Besides, the moon was waxing in strong, it would be fun to experience the trail by her light.
Dusk settled as I hit Eccles Pass and Moon Shadow Fidgit stretched out long beside me. We skipped down off the lip and began to weave between alpine lakes. Atop a moon bathed knoll just beside one such speculum, I caught a view of the lights of Silverthorne. Mesmerized, I could naught but set up camp and gaze. My soul was full of prayer and praise.
I awoke, strangling in the cocoon of my sleeping bag. Thrashing about frantically, I finally emerged from the face hole I had drawn tight against the cold of the night. I was gasping for air, hair a static storm. My sleeping bag liner was splattered with blood and my top lip tasted crusty. Great. A bloody nose geyser.
I broke camp and took off through the sometimes marshy high meadows until I came upon a creeklet where I could wash gear and eat breakfast. And that is why everyone down stream had better filter and treat their water.
Refreshed, I rampaged down around Buffalo. Unlike last time on this stretch, the South Willow Trail was empty. I was thrilled and generally cavorting.
At this point, readers with a genteel sense of propriety may infer that I went on to have a great day on the trail [That means you, (most) family members]. The End.
As for the rest of you. Well, all this cavorting caused chafe, so I dug out my First Aid Kit (aka- a ziploc bag with an assortment of duct tape, various pills, bandages, sharp objects, and a tube of Vagisil).
Vagisil has benzocaine, a numbing agent in it. This, combined with its lubricative nature, makes it great for chaffing (when applied BEFORE the skin breaks). I learned about this while preparing to hike the PCT. Medical Man Rif Raf affirmed it when he borrowed my tube a few hundred miles in to the trail (he replaced it with the tube I carry today).
Please recall, at this point I have been alone in wilderness all day and my mind was seeking to entertain herself. With the falls in the background, my imagination manifested a film crew to shoot an advertisement for the many dynamic applications of Vagisil. The lighting and angles wer spectacular and the shoot went perfectly.
Then, in the 3 seconds it took the imaginary cameras to pan in for the clincher shot of smiling face, product, and cascading falls… Well, I am sure you’ve already guessed. An older gentleman comes around the bend.
My mind works fast. This does not mean the resulting actions are well thought out. First idea? Excuses:
“I know plenty of guys who use this stuff.”
“I’m just soothing a chaffe.”
“My friend, Rif Raf, gave me this tube a year ago. Better use it before it expires, eh?”
Even as I considered these options my reactive self cast them aside. Instead, she caught the fella’s eye, squealed and pointed at something behind him. As he spun around she tugged her hair bandana down, Bandito style, and crashed into the trees.
The agility and speed with which she maneuvered the trees impressed me. Once there was a safe distance between the poor guy and myself, I confidently grabbed the trunk of an aspen to swing back up onto the trail. Forgetting, of course, that my hand was covered in Vagisil. Face Plant.
Reeking of vaginal anti-itch cream and shame I hustled up the rocky, viewless climb toward Salmon and Willow Lakes, the biggest smellable this trail has hosted in a while.