Sunday, August 9, 2015

Don't ants ever sleep?

Think I overpacked?

I was an half hour late leaving the house for a S24O outing, that being a Sub 24 hour Overnighter.  That time deficit had me concerned as my goal was the peak of a local mountain that used to have a fire lookout tower on it, now just a steel scaffold and a block building for some electronics and the associated antennas.

It was the type of experience that I think about a lot, but seldom act on; loading up a bike and heading for the hills just to get away and sleep under the stars, then being back home by breakfast.  I have all the gear for it...soft bikepacking bags, shelters of many colors and shapes, home made stoves, etc.  I love the idea of it; getting out and pedaling all loaded up, knowing that it will be the next morning before you get back home.  It actually strikes me as odd each time I do it.  the problem is I don't do it at all, hardly at all anyway.  It is inconvenient.  It is a bit uncomfortable.  It is more than a bit odd.  I need more of that in my all too convenient, comfy and 'normal' life, methinks.

Back on the bike, and as I pedaled out of town and up and up and up, it occurred to me that I should have caught a ride from the wife and gotten a head start to make up for the lost time.

I am not that smart or at least I AM THAT stubborn, so I pedaled on, watching the clock and the setting sun.  It was going to be close and I had a LOT of climbing before I hit camp.  I also did not estimate how slow I would be on a lightly loaded 29er hardtail as compared to my typical times up this paved canyon road on my road bike.  One hour turned into 1.25 hours and that trend continued.  Each section took just a bit longer than I expected.  I turned off the pavement and onto a forest service road marked with all kinds of dire warnings.  Interesting how public roads can be so private all of a sudden.  With no budget to do any repairs or at least no interest in doing so, we have less campgrounds and open roads and trails in my area So Cal then when I was a kid.  It's a shame, really.

And So Cal has recently seen some semi-apocalyptic weather and some big rainstorms.  Brief but big.  The next few miles of steep dirt climbing, a section of dirt that I recently climbed on my gravel bike, was now nearly not a road at all.  The water deluge had been hard and fast and the sand and rock that came pouring out of the gullies had changed the landscape in a big way.  Lots of walking in sand too deep to ride, at least when going uphill.  Fat Bike country.

The power of a bit of water.

SO it was a slow grind to the next sandy pour-out from the hillside above, and a shaky dismount to push over the nasties, then back in the saddle for another 100', rinse repeat.

Tick tock, tick tock.  I hit the saddle that marked half of the dirt climb and time was not on my side.  The next few miles of climbing were better...less washouts, but the water had washed all the topsoil off the road and left miles of hen's egg size rocks and small ruts to negotiate in the fading light.  My legs were fading too and I was sweat soaked, thinking I might stop short of the summit and salvage some light in which to set up camp.

But I really wanted to bag the peak and be there for the night, so I pushed on, hitting the summit in near darkness.  I could not find my Petzl head lamp before I left home, so setting up the bivvy and such with one hand holding a flashlight was less than great.  Down went the groundcloth, then the pad gets inflated, bivy then bag, etc.  About then I noticed the ants.  Lots of them.  Small ones.  Medium ones.  Hmmm.  Shouldn't they be bedding down for the night soon?  Surely so.

A quick search of the surrounding area showed more of the same, so I guess where I was is a good as any.  My bivy sack has a mesh screen head section, so although that was a bit 'enclosed' feeling, it would be bug free.  It occurred to me that I was still in my bike clothes and now as the body heat faded away form the climb, I was getting cold.  Ok...dancing in the dark as I stripped and got into the camping jammies, etc.  The moon rose twice that night.

Morning light reveals the drying rack.

Dinner was hardly the casual affair I had envisioned, snacking on chicken and biscuits as the sun went down and the stars came out.  Rather it was a ravenous moment of gnawing on a hunk of bird in the dark, famished by the 3 hour climb, and spitting out the gristle parts.  Sigh.

How romantic.

I also could not find the bug repellant before I left so I hoped that I would be far enough away from water to be decently mosquito free.  Almost.  I did have 4G phone reception though, so I texted those that cared and laid back, watching the night sky move in as the quickly fading sunset glow moved out.

Stars.  I had forgotten how many there are.  And shooting stars too.  Nice.  You can't see those from in front of the TV in the house.  The only sounds were from aircraft and crickets.  I zipped in and settled down, all snug in my cap for a quick summer's night.  Then the buzzing began.

I know what mosquitos sound like...high pitched and faint.  This was bigger.  And louder.  And it wanted me very badly.  I never tried to see what it was, but it apparently was partying with the ants that also did not need to sleep.  I would hear it land on the mesh screen but I kept my skin a proboscis length away as I never felt a bite.

I drifted off, warm and reasonably secure in my cocoon.

Looking east at sunrise.

Morning happened and the sun was creeping up fast, fog laying in the canyons below.  Awesome.  All packed up...trail mix pointed downhill into a long, rough descent to a remote canyon, wet and green even in summer.  Then a 45 minute climb out of the canyon to the last 8 miles, all downhill, of pavement home.

Ritchey P29...great bike for such adventures.  The seat pack is a Blackburn product I was trying out.

A cycling buddy dropped me a strategic water bottle before the long climb out.

Foggy morning in August as I dropped into home.

Rolling in home I was tired and a bit dehydrated, but throughly satisfied with myself.  I could have planned better and I think the romance with bivy sacks is about over, but the important thing is I put down the remote, turned off the laptop, and denied the tyranny of the urgent and the comfy.

And I learned that ants don't sleep much.


Unknown said...

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. - Theodore Roosevelt

If we all wait for the perfect time to attempt such things, they would rarely get done. Thanks for sharing the writeup.

Michael_S said...

It's always hard to get out for a night. Friends are either busy or not interested. But sometimes solo is the only way that works. I've always thought WS lookout would be a cool place to wake up at too.

Lisa said...

Being up there, with no pollution (air and light) can really just be the best! Nothing to impede you from seeing the full glory of the night sky.

And no, I don't thinks ants sleep; not when they think you're for dinner!