Monday, September 19, 2005

Polaris Pass, Eagle Cap

The trail over Polaris Pass receives irregular maintenance, if any, but I don't mind.
It crosses the pass and switches back and forth down a high canyon wall of scree.
Or talus.
Boots often slide there, tipping your attention toward possible skin-scrapping tumbles, or worse, and clogging your breath abruptly in your throat. Jaws tense and teeth grind.
Near the end of the scree, the trail fades away except for a rock pile at a switchback.
But it feels good to finish the touchy talus. It's a sense of accomplishment that you wouldn't feel on better footing. Besides, well-maintained trails draw crowds.
On one trip, I met another hiker near Anaroid Lake on a Sunday and a group of horsemen near Frazier Lake on a Monday afternoon. So, it's all right to leave some trails in a rough and uncrowded condition.
Anyway, I enjoyed that trip across the scree.
Then, alas, I reached a narrow, bushy section of trail.
``Bushy'' meant oceans of alpine fleeceflowers that submerged the path. I've read that elk graze on the flowering tops of these plants, with their thick stems and lance-point-shaped leaves, and that Nez Perce people roasted or boiled the roots and ground the seeds into flower. Supposedly the plants also serve as a ``soil binder'' at high, tilted elevations.
Well, after a rain, they certainly soak a walker's clothes. Now, I don't mind wet nylon pants, which dry quickly. These fleeceflower seas, however, sopped my pants. They seethed down my legs, across my ankles and into my boots.
Drat. My Vasque Sundowner MX2s never leaked and seldom caused blisters. Yet, as I squished along, more and more water seeped into the boots, and I expected chafed spots at every step.
I was lucky, though, and didn't pause until my watch showed 12:13 p.m. Then I munched a bagel and poured 2.3 pints of water from each boot. I stuffed a small chamois-like polyester PackTowl into each one while I changed socks, finished lunch and slipped into rain pants.
Then, with belated insight, I tugged the pant cuffs to the outside of the gaiters. Then another light clicked: I could have left the nylon pants out of the gaiters, too, a

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