Sunday, August 24, 2008

Berkeley Park Backpack, August 23 & 24

aka, The Seven Wives of Todd
Eight Mountaineer backpackers assembled at the Sunrise parking lot on Saturday morning: 7 women  and Todd. I could see that he was going to be battling some serious estrogen power on this trip but he seemed oblivious as we set off on the trail toward Frozen Lake.
When we got to camp in the flowerland of Berkeley Park (before the bugs arrived), Todd laid down for a nap atop his bivy bag, saying he was tired from work that week, but we could all see that he was overcome by the estrogen fumes we seven were producing. Later, as we lunched, Todd suggested we invite the solo camper to join us for dinner. He was a guy backpacking the Northern Loop and could probably use some company, but it may have just been a ploy to strengthen the testosterone balance in camp.

After lunch, we strolled down to Grand Park 4 miles away through increasingly colorful fields of flowers. We walked across the Park, site of an ancient lake, and took a break in the shade (with bugs!). We noticed a guy wearing a loud shade of blue meandering in the meadows and at once felt defensive toward him, since many delicate flowers were in the area. We approached him and I could see he had maps and a GPS and seemed to have a purpose so I asked him what he was in search of. It turns out that he was volunteering for the Park as a botanist and there was a rare species of flower only found in that area called the Rainier Paintbrush. He described it as being yellow and fuzzy, only 3 inches high and no sooner did he say the words than we suddenly saw them everywhere around us.

We trekked back to camp to set up for dinner and soon Todd made an appearance in
 full rain gear, a hat and bandana. I guess he was serious about defending himself against the E-word! Soon, though, we realized the mosquitos had returned for the evening and we all got dressed in our best mosquito-proof clothing, making it look like we had our own winter storm right there in our group campsite. To accentuate that concept, our solo camper came by wearing short sleeves and seemed unconcerned with getting bitten. He asked us what our group relationship was and I blurted out that we were the Seven Wives of Todd, to which he answered "lucky guy", until he saw Todd's bivy bag laying in the outer fringes of camp. Hmm...
Sunday morning found various forms of sleepy-eyed campers in full rain gear, standing around swatting each other. We ate breakfast and then departed as the bugs began to swarm us each, in turn. It was a lovely morning once the bugs were left behind, with time to linger in the flowers and to seek out photogenic marmots. We met up at Frozen Lake and sidetripped to the Mt Fremont Lookout, a fire-spotting station at 7,100'. It gave a panoramic view of the Berkeley Park and Grand Park area, plus views out to Glacier Peak and the Teanaway. On the hike back, I heard a loud rumble and saw a cloud of snow and rock rising from the flanks of Mt Rainier. I think that was the first time I'd ever seen an avalanche on the mountain.

As the first few drops of rain fell, I wondered if all the raingear we had donned over the weekend had done more than just serve as protection from hormones. Perhaps we had been unknowing participants in a group rainmaking ritual. Apparently, we were damn good at it, judging from the intensity of the downpour which at least waited until after we descended from the mountain.

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