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Why the camel has a hump

July 25. Late yesterday I visited an outfitter and purchased a 3.0 liter Camelbak hydration backpack. These packs have a removable internal plastic bladder with a thin hose leading up to a bite valve that makes it easy to take a sip of water anytime without fumbling around for a canteen or water bottle. The fill opening of the bladder is large enough that you can add a bunch of ice cubes, allowing for a continuous supply of cold water.

This morning, armed with my new Camelbak, I drive to the Cub Lake trail head and begin my hike through a lush flowered meadow with a fast-flowing stream, about 20 feet wide, meandering through it. After about half a mile, the trail begins a relentless two mile rise toward Cub Lake, enough to get my core temperature up and my muscles loosened. The trail isn’t difficult, but it is rocky and uneven in places, requiring some concentration.

The thing about hiking, either cross-country or on trails, is that it forces you to focus on the immediate problem in front of you: your next footfall. A misstep can mean a twisted angle, a broken leg—or worse. The choice of where to place your next step, especially on rugged surfaces, needs to be instantaneous and sure.

Cub Lake is small, about 20 acres, half covered with yellow blooming lilli pads. There are several ducks, which spend their time skimming along and…well, ducking for morsels of food beneath the lake’s calm surface. From time to time there’s a quick flash of light and a splash as a trout breaches to snatch a hapless bug of some kind. I linger for a while, enjoying the pristine surroundings.

The next leg takes me to The Pool. I’m surprised that the trail trends slightly downward from Cub Lake for most of the next 1.2 miles. I’m surprised, too, that The Pool is no pool at all, but a roaring cascade crossed by a wooden bridge at a point where several trails converge. I find about a dozen hikers and backpackers lounging in the area, resting before their next great exertions. I enquire among them about the next leg of my hike, to Fern Lake Falls. I’m informed that the trail is a strenuous one-mile uphill slog, a real workout as one of them says.

After about 20 minutes rest, I set out. I soon find that the descriptions are apt. The trail is studded with embedded cinderblock-sized rocks (watch that next footfall!) and many “steps” that are one and a half to two feet high. My old knees complain and my lungs, used to breathing in air at a mere 1500 feet, are rebelling at the meager oxygen at 8500 feet above sea level. But I’m here, and likely never to be again, so I push on.

Finally, near my last gasp, I hear the thunder of the falls ahead and I quicken my pace. Then, around a curve in the trail, I’m confronted with a massive torrent perhaps 200 feet high. The amount of water surging over the crest, the mist and spray, the noise—are astounding. Again, other hikers have stopped to rest here. One must shout to be understood.

Here I decide to double back to the Cub Lake trail head rather than push on to Fern Lake, another 1.7 mile uphill battle. After descending the Fern Lake Falls trail to The Pond, where several trails intersect, I pick a different path back around the north side of Cub Lake. It’s a three mile lope back to my truck, easy because I can “smell the barn.”

The hike turns out to be 8.2 miles, exhausting yet exhilarating. I think it’s the Camelbak that basically saved my ass, as I suffered no symptoms of dehydration as I had on earlier hikes. Best investment I’ve made in a long time.

I took over 40 pictures with my iPhone on this hike. When I got back to camp I connected the iPhone to my PC, opened the iPhone as a portable drive, selected all the pictures and dragged them to my PC, an operation I’ve done a thousand times. Then I deleted the pics from the iPhone, only to find out too late  that just the first picture of the series had transferred. So if anybody knows how to undelete files from a (jailbroken) iPhone, please share.

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