Thursday, August 26, 2010

Fun With Bear Spray and My Pet Whitetail

After a very restful night Thursday night, I headed out on a gorgeous day to hke to Mt. Carthew at Waterton National Park. The trail began at Cameron Lake in the shadow of Mt. Custer. It had snow melting off its slopes. The beginning of the trail was a group of steep switchbacks. After the close encounter with the grizzly the night prior, my first stop in the morning had been to get a can of bear spray. When they sell it to you they tell you to try it out in the woods so you are familiar with its use.

Well, I got in about 100 yards on the trail, made sure that I was upwind of the spray and gave it a short squirt. Well, the side of my middle finger got covered with the pepper spray. No harm, no foul, it worked great and I just poured a bit of water out of my water bottle onto my finger, trying to rinse it off. Well about ten minutes later, I took a drink from my water bottle. Apparently some of the residue rubbed off onto the bottle lip because about 30 seconds later, my lips are burning a bit. Nothing serious, just a bit annoying. I use some more water to rinse off the outlet.

Well about 45 minutes later, nature calls. Not even giving it any thought (who does?), I use my right hand to relieve myself. Let's just say that the skin down there is quite a bit more sensitive and it gave a whole new meaning to throbbing! In desperation, I sucked some water out of my Camelback into my mouth and used the waterfall method to try and bring some relief! After about 30 minutes or so, the burning sensation was gone! At this point, I'm thinking this bear spray is more of a danger to myself than to the bears!

Halfway up the trail, I got to Summit Lake for a short break, then continued up the slope of Mt. Carthew towards the summit. It was a sustained moderate grade through the evergreens until it broke into alpine meadow with lots of flowers. But what was most beautiful was beargrass. It is a baseball sized bunch of white flowers on a long stem that blooms only every 7 years!

Following the meadow, the trail crossed a 45 degree scree slope. You had to be careful as the trail was only a foot or two wide and if you fell, you would go a great distance on sharp gravelly scree. Approaching the ridge, the wind picked up to about 40 mph. At this point you got a view of the twin Crandell Lakes, one with a small glacier on its edge!

The ridge reminded me a bit of the Knife Edge on Katahdin, but more like a butter knife with steep scree on either side with 60 degree slopes on either sides of a 4-5 foot wide trail. The top was very craggy. On the way down, I did a short detour to make a snowball with some September or October snow from last year.

Descending the same route that I came, I was quite hot when I reached Summit Lake. I thought about taking a dip even though I knew it would be bracing. But in these situations, I frequently ask myself "What would Maury do?". Yes, since I had seen only one family on the hike, I decided to strip down and take a plunge. It was no warmer than 50 degrees, possibly as cold as 45. It was extremely refreshing.

On the trail down from Summit Lake, when I reached the switchbacks, I encountered a rather large doe whitetail deer. Since the side of the mountain was very steep, neither I nor her could get off the trail and since she was in front of me feeding as she went down the mountain, I would only be able to go at her pace at a distance of about 30 feet. It was a memorable moment. We shared the trail together for about 3/4 of a mile or about a half hour.

When I reached the bottom near 5:00 PM, I noticed that kayaks were rented at the lake. I decided to take one out for a paddle and circumnavigated the lake beneath huge mountain cliffs and a bridal veil waterfall at the far end of the lake, which interestingly enough was back in the U.S.

Brilliant starry skies and warm temperatures blessed me in the evening. Quite simply it was my best outdoor day in my life!

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