2/17 Across the Tawny Waves

Crooked Spur Hut to Upper Bush Stream Flats

15 k

It was a cold one last night, which wouldn’t have been so bad if I could have slept through the cold. But after the sun went down, the wind started, and it shook, rattled, and rolled all night long. Pair that with the sporadic frantic staccato of the rain hammering down in waves then vanishing, hammering then vanishing, and it was a noisy night.

The rain is still going strong at normal wake up time, so we sleep in, or, to be more accurate, we lay in our sleeping bags in, and read and write while the rain keeps falling. Around 10:30 we finally dart into the hut to socialize with the others. They have no mouse shenanigans to report from last night, but apparently the hut was no quieter than our tent, so all are a bit bleary eyed this morning. We all chat some more, kicking around the ideas of personal responsibility and PLBs, seeing if we come up with anything new. We don’t, of course, but I have to say that my opinion has been incrementally drifting to favor the merits of carrying one.

The rain finally clears at noon, the sun popping out and the shift happening dramatically and abruptly. We hustle to make and eat lunch, and then follow the trail up towards the saddle. The air is fresh, the sun is hot, the fast moving clouds cast fast moving shadows that stripe the mountain and fluctuate the temperature as they speed by. The track itself is gorgeous, alternating patches of tussock and swaths of shaly scree.

At the top of the saddle there are great views in both directions, and a cold biting wind. We head down the back side, losing elevation so much more easily than we gained it, skidding down the mud and long grasses. I am gratified to see that one of the places we chose on the map last night, when we were considering carrying on, is campable. The area as a whole is marshy, but there are tent size spots here and there on flat dry ground.

From here the way is a rolling up and down over a series of ridges.

The tussock is visually stunning, but walking in it is filled with all of its typical games- mimicking standing on your own shoelace, concealing the path, hiding holes. Resigning to uncertainty is one of the lessons of the tussock. The tops of the mountains are equally beautiful, rocky peaks poking up out of smooth gravel piles that, at a distance, look like sand dunes, stripes of pink and white and gray blending into each other. We go up, along, and over; up, along, and over; ridge after ridge after ridge, through the tawny kaleidoscope of dancing ribbons.

Stone hut finally appears in the distance, on the far end of a broad shallow valley bisected by an inexplicable short gorge, only 60 feet long, and at least 3 times that in depth, gaping within the otherwise mellow and undramatic basin. Equally inexplicable is the large industrial road bridge over it, connecting the grass draped trails on each side.

Stone hut is surprisingly lovely inside, with only the chimney wall made of stone. The bunks are clean and light floods in the windows.

There is another stack of Wilderness magazines to peruse, as well as several of a series of zines, titles Antics, published by a local tramping club. Prana and I consider staying, at the very least assuming the positions for a long break, but Mouse and Laura are antsy to hike, and head on to the next hut. Prana and I cook dinner, and, reviewing the upcoming terrain splits, decide to go on as well.

The sun is flooding the world with long golden beams when we depart, and it should be no surprise, though it is, that the trail crosses, recrosses, and crosses again the hefty stream outside the cabin. Then the trail crew must have settled down, because it gains a high contour on one bank and stays there, offering dry views down into the granitic and monkeyflower-lined waters.

Leaving the stream to cross a sweeping meadow, we are close to the cabin, but I am struck with the urge to camp out, to feel a bit more wild than the last few nights of communal sleeping at prescribed places. When I propose this to Prana, he deems where we are standing is the perfect spot to camp; especially since I am headlampless for the time being. We pitch the tent and look out over the surrounding swales and and crests appreciatively, until the descending chill prompts us to close everything up in anticipation of a cold night out on the prairie.

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