Thursday, January 13, 2011

Down and Around

The planned loop had me drive to one tailhead and then walk back to the Gooseberry trailhead about 2.5-3 miles along the paved road.  Then a drop down Gooseberry itself and out onto the shelf.  From there the trail flowed around the tip of the Island and back to the trail leading up to my car.  The total distance was about 26 miles, and in the winter timing can be everything.  I left before sun-up, but twilight had already come.  Under no condition did I want to do Gooseberry before the sun came up (even though it would be in the shade all day due to the positioning of the cliff).  When I arrived at the drop the sun was coming up and there were some great views.

After taking pictures and a deep breath, there was nothing for it.  I have no pictures to show how truly terrifying it was, so you'll have to take my word for it.  The shot below was simply me right above the trail (you can see the first carrin on the bottom left) pointing my camera straight down.  The trail drops faster than you can really see in this picture.

Besides the pain in my left knee and foot, it was terrifying.  I never lost the trail and I honestly believe it was a gift from God, as there were many points where I simply had to plunge ahead and hope I was on the right track.  There was steep drops, cover in several feet of snow.  Small ledges you were to walk across that had so much snow you didn't know they were there and just had to hope.  Slipping and watching mini avalanches charging out in front of me and then dropping off the side of the cliff into the aether, I was frightened.  I went very, very slowly, foot by foot.  The 1+ miles of actual descent took me about an hour and a half, but I made it.

Once down it was spectacular.  Mountains and deep canyons, and the Island always above me.  And no one there at all, nor had there been.  It was just me and the scenery and miles and miles of trail.  I did begin to get nervous.  The next landmark after the drop that had a distance associated with it was 8 miles.  With the injuries I had I thought I was going fast but I knew I could easily be deceived by the pain.  I kept pushing myself to faster and faster.  As it turns out I was going plenty fast, in fact my resting average for the day was just under 3 mph (and just over if you took out the slow drop down Gooseberry).

I made it back to my car with plenty of day left for dinner and settling down.  I discovered that not only was I the only one on the trail that day, but there was only one or two other car tracks down on the south end of the Island where I was!  Now that's solitude.  I spent the night in the car again, and I was cold and slept poorly but this time I wasn't nervous.  It was a great day!

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