This entry is not only a trip report like my other entries, but a detailed explanation of what happened on Wednesday the 16th of August, 2006. For those on the trip, those that came to my aid, and those who are just downright curious, I write this.
The trip consisted of Ken Larsen, Sean (last name?), Steph Larsen, Slade Knightly, Jason Larsen, Lars Sundwall, Myself, Kevin Larsen, Jeremy Larsen, and Zach Larsen.
We left on the 15th of August from Sandy Utah and headed to the Elkhart Park trailhead just out of Pinedale Wyoming. We got there and began the arduous trek into the back country. After about 9 miles of hiking around 10,000 feet, we reached our first camp at Seneca Lake. We were all tired and ready to sleep. After cooking up some food during a small storm, we noticed that the storm had caused a forest fire somewhere. We considered it, but went to sleep anyway.
I stop here to point out something. I was sleeping on a 1 inch think air mattress in a sleeping bag in close quarters with Jason. This is the usual setup, and I don't say this by way of complaining. I slept for 12 hours straight that night. I didn't wake up in the middle of the night, I didn't hardly stir, I'm sure. This has never happened before. Anyone who has backpacked before knows the true meaning of this paragraph.
In the morning, I felt like I hadn't slept. I got up, ate some oatmeal, got some water and packed up. I was moving slowly, as were Jason and Lars, so the entire group minus the three of us moved off down the trail to the next camp. They figured we would just catch up, as usually we are monsters on the trail. We left about an hour after them. I made it as far as Upper Seneca Lake, and couldn't bring myself to go farther. I was in pain, I didn't feel well, and with each step, I was moving farther from the trailhad. I knew it wasn't smart. I like to play things smart. I could make another day of hiking, but not 4. On top of my logical thinking, I prayed for divine guidance. Nothing in me said to go on. Nothing even said to stay where I was. I had the strong, clear impression of two words: Get out.
I knew I was causing a logistical nightmare and that I would ruin the trip for at least two others, but I could not deny the impression which I received. Jason and Lars went on with haste to find and tell the others and devise a plan of action. I started back down the trail. I wouldn't see them again for 12 hours. I went for a mile and stopped just under the pass to get to Seneca Lake at around noon. I waited there for three hours, figuring that Jason and Lars could get to Island Lake and back by then. We figured Island lake because Ken had stated that we would stop to fish there. When 3:00 rolled around, I knew that I had to get moving if I wanted to get out by dark. At first I moved slowly, hoping they would catch up still, but sped up as the journey went on. Had I known what they were up to, I would have gone full speed ahead from the start. I stopped a few times, but the largest was at Hobbes Lake to filter water. It was the last big chance to get water before the railhead 5 miles later. After Hobbes, I stopped on an outcropping on top of a hill to make a phone call. I called my mom, and explained that I would be hiking out today. I also said that I was alone and didn't know exactly where anyone was, or what they were doing. I also expressed the desire for someone at home to drive up for me, as I wasn't sure I could depend on anything at this point. I also left a voice mail on Jason's phone updating him on my status. As it turned out, he didn't receive the voice mail until he was at Photographers Point, which was my next big stop, where I ate some tuna and tortillas.
I had set my GPS to 'trackback', that is, to follow the trail I had made back to the beginning. It said I had 5 miles left from there to the cars. This was a bit discouraging, as it seemed too long. I started off once again, and didn't stop for more than a minute until I reached the bottom a few hours later. I called this the death march pace. I would either make it where I was going, or march to death. It felt like I was going at least 1 MPH faster than my GPS was saying. The sun was slowly setting in the west, and I made it to the parking lot about a half hour before sundown. I dropped my pack, and I tried to figure out "what now?"
I wandered around the parking lot searching for cell service. I got some patchy service and attempted to call home. I could hear my mom, but I couldn't transmit, so she couldn't hear me. I decided that I had to get through to her, as my call probably just made her more worried. I walked down to the road and talked to someone who was walking around. His name was Adam. He had spent about the last month traveling around the western US alone seeing the sites. We walked to his truck and he drove me down to where I could get cellular service. I called home. My mom said that my dad and brother, Matthew, had started driving an hour ago. I called them, told them how to get to the trailhead from Pinedale, and drove back up to the cars. I rolled out my sleeping bag in the back of Sean's truck, and tried to rest. The night grew darker. More stars and the Milky Way appeared. I never got any sleep, but it wasn't all bad. After all, I didn't have to walk any more. About two hours later, I heard footsteps. I ignored them at first as my cranial artery had been pulsating on my sleeping bag, making the sound of distant footsteps (at a very fast pace, might I add) for hours now. When it wasn't my heartbeat, my breathing had emulated footsteps as well. Nothing could have emulated Jason desperately yelling my name. Desperate, because if I wasn't there, it was all for not.
Jason and lars had been 5 hours behind me (2 at the trailhead, 3 below Seneca). No way had they just gone to island. Sure enough, they had gone all the way to upper Titcomb lake. The next camp for all but those planning to go to the peak. They had hiked 21 miles that day, and it showed, as they were beat. I had been lying down for 2 hours, so I was rejuvenated enough to drive the van. I explained to them that I had people coming and that we should just leave the van and stash the key somewhere, but there was no convincing them. I drove down to service, and called my dad. I told them to turn around, but they had more sense than that. They said to meet us in Pinedale. So, we drive to a gas station, got some fruit loops, milk, and foam bowls, and ate as we waited for them. By chance, they pulled up next to us in the gas station around midnight. We started driving out, and maybe 10 minutes down the road we pulled over to do some relieving. Both for bladders, and my driving. I was just too tired, so I rode with Matthew in his Jeep and my dad drove the van back. It was a good thing they came after all, because all three of us that hiked could not have driven safely.
At a lower elevation, I do feel better. My body is still broken, and I still doubt I could have done the trip to it's apex (Gannett). I don't know why I felt a strong impression to "get out", and I may never know. But I felt it, and I cannot deny it. I do not excuse myself of anything I have caused through my following those promptings.
For Jason and Lars, I apologize for the trouble I heaped on you, and apologize for ruining the trip for you. Though you expressed that you still enjoyed the trip and aren't too angry, I still feel as though I owe more apology.
For Dad and Matthew, I again thank you for coming to my aid. Though, I MIGHT have made it without you, I had no idea what to expect and felt that I should cover my bases. In the end, It was definitely a VERY good thing you were there to relieve me from driving.
For everyone else on the trip, I hope I didn't ruin your time. I didn't want to ruin it, and it seems I didn't. Thanks for your understanding.