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Beware the code of the mountains!

By on March 31, 2019 in Columnist with 0 Comments

By G. Wayne Hawks

I’m sorry it’s been so long since we last talked. 

I’ve been in the hospital, and not just because I work there. I had to recuperate from… well, let’s start at the beginning…

A couple years ago, a very good friend of mine, Dan Gaab, and I had been talking about going backpacking together. Dan is a very experienced backpacker and I had gone, well, once before. 

So, one day I got a text from Dan that said, “The Mountains are Calling.” And, that’s all it said. 

So, I texted back with “Umm, what?” 

He called me and explained that was part of the code — the backpacker’s code — and when he texted that to me, it was the signal it was time to plan our backpacking trip but that I should first respond with, “We must go.”

Over the next couple of years, I got that text six times and for five times we had wonderful trips, he and I, backpacking to Ingalls Creek, Lake Janus, Chatter Creek, Lake Valhalla, French Creek, and then… Myrtle Lake….

By this time, the experienced backpacker, Dan, had been able to teach me the backpacker’s code, at least his definition of it. It is fairly simple, just five things:

 n Those going up-hill have the right of way.

n Leave nothing behind, aka, pack it in, pack it out. If you can’t pack it out, or you really REALLY don’t want to, bury it.

n If you’re in the lead, as I always was, it’s your responsibility to look for where you left your camp, so you don’t overshoot. I learned that one by about a five-mile retracing of steps…

n Always, ALWAYS stay together a.k.a. the buddy-system.

n Help everyone who needs it.

That last one is the one that allowed me to experience the hospital as a patient. It was the day we went to Myrtle Lake.

To get to Myrtle Lake, you go left at Entiat, to the very end of the road, where I was surprised to find a parking lot. I was also surprised to see several horse trailers with horses, and horse riders who had large rifles, etc… when it wasn’t hunting season. 

Per my blood-oath with them, I’m not naming names. 

Anyway, after they all left and Dan had told me I could come out from under his pickup, we were getting ready to go when this other guy, let’s call him “Fred,” asked us for help. 

The good news was he was also a backpacker going to Myrtle Lake. But, it seemed he had over-packed and needed a little help carrying his stuff. So had I, so I looked at Dan and he quietly said, “Remember number 5.” 

So, we agreed to help Fred.

Dan carried Fred’s boat. It’s a good thing it was an inflatable. I wish Fred had brought oars though. 

After about four miles of carrying that outboard motor strapped to the back of my pack, the propeller had worked its way all the way through the soft tissue and part way through the bones in my ankles. 

I thought it a little odd Fred would bring a 150 horsepower outboard for a two-man inflatable boat.

That night I used all of the bandages Dan and I had both brought trying to stop the bleeding from my ankles and knees. We actually bring them to prevent our sharp-edged hiking boot soles from scratching our ankles. 

Hence, we didn’t bring antibiotics. But then, I didn’t need any since some of the gasoline ran out of the outboard’s tank and into my wounds when I dropped to my knees. I only had to crawl the last couple of miles. 

It was the first time Dan and I had gone backpacking that I wasn’t in the lead, since Dan and Fred had gone past me and made camp quite a while before I got there.

I do wish I had stayed a little farther from the camp stove that night, but hey there’s nothing more refreshing than a quick dip in the lake, and I did get to keep 55 percent or so of my skin after all.

Anyway, all through that night after everyone had quieted down, I know that I either heard some sasquatch doing that “wood-knocking” I’ve seen on that show Almost Finding Bigfoot or else I heard bigfoot hunters trying to get Bigfoot to answer their wood-knocking. 

Maybe it was those guys on horses? 

Although there is a chance my loss of blood and extreme agony might have been causing hallucinations.

In the morning, I got to take my first helicopter ride. Good thing Fred had brought his cell phone and that Dan could get a signal after he climbed high enough up that nearby mountain…

Fred thoughtfully said Dan could carry the boat back out for me. And, he even tied the outboard to the helicopter for me, perhaps too close to the exhaust of the helicopter’s engine? There was enough gasoline left in the outboard that caused the helicopter to explode, but fortunately, near the end of the trip and we only had to drop about 100 feet to the roof of CWH. 

It probably would have been better if we were over the helipad though.

Just the other day I got a text from Dan that said, “The Mountains are Calling.” 

I almost answered back, “Wrong Number,” but then I remember the first five trips we went on and changed it to “We must go… but number 5 is history!”

Wayne and Linda have lived in and around the Wenatchee area for the last two decades.  He works for Confluence Health as a financial analyst.

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