Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Full Moon - Waiting for the Night - and Spirit Lake

Tonight I started my run a bit later than usual. It was almost dark by the time I started. Because I have been running on a nice smooth trail that I know well lately I didn't have to worry about a light so I just used the light of the moon to guide me. I really like running by moonlight. The moon casts everything in shades of blue, gray and lavender. The first 4K was a bit rough but I really pushed again and came up with a time comparable to last nights splits. Lap 2 went down the tube and I wasn't able to keep up my pace. It is OK though it is important not to run hard every single run and so I will take a real easy run tomorrow.

I have been in the lab a lot since the 20th and it has been quite nice. The entire campus is devoid of life and I feel like I can really focus on my experiments. I am starting to see some results and I am happy with the direction I am heading even though I have had to alter my goals a bit.

Tonight as I was running one of my favorite songs came on and it fit perfect with the atmosphere I found myself running in. "Waiting for the Night" by Depeche Mode has always been in my top 5 from the group ever since I first heard the song. I can't actually recall when I first fell in love with this song nor can I even recall hearing it for the first time, but it just seems to always be one of my favs. It is actually a really dark song, perhaps moody is a better term, but it is also a very beautiful song.

The remix of 'Waiting for the Night" by Dominatrix that popped up as I was running through the Douglas Firs in the moonlight was awesome. Instantly a flood of memories from past explorations with my brother and friends came to me. Perhaps the trips that match the mood of this song the most were a series of expeditions we lead into the North Slope of the Uintas in the late 90's. The goal of these expeditions was varied. We had multiple leads on several treasures in this corner of the fantastic alpine backbone of the Uinta Mountains. We were following a lead from my Dad's old partner near Tamarack lake and also several from books we had read that placed various mines and treasures within a few miles of the same spot.

These trips were marathons, and involved us loading the truck the night before so we could start our drive at midnight. The four hour drive through Wyoming and Utah would sometimes be downright painful due to lack of sleep, but we kept our music blaring and snacked on all types of sugar laden treats (that could kill you in large doses) that we would pick up along the way. Once we turned south into the Uinta's in the early morning the mood would always change. The excitement of the expedition that waited ahead was only sharpened by the long drive on the dirt road that was bordered by lodgepole pines only glimpsed in the glow of the moon. After arriving at the Spirit Lake lodge we would park at the trail head and begin our journey under the stars.

Particular memories of these expeditions include a huge bull moose laying in front of the bridge that wouldn't move. We almost climbed on it like it was a boulder because it was so black and we couldn't see it. We ended up having to try and circumnavigate the 2000 lb mass of black furry. We couldn't find a way around and had to wait for him to leave.

On a particularly dry year the cougars were crawling all over the place, and Ben was with us, and as he lead the way an adult cat darted across the trail within 6 feet of his path, he never even saw it, but my brother and I did, and screamed like little girls for a couple of minutes. A while later we spotted another cougar crouched down on a ledge above the trail waiting to pounce. We yelled and screamed and it finally took off.

On another occasion Rich Ben and I were exploring the back side of the giant spur that comes down from the backbone of the Uintas and Rich went on ahead around the corner while I munched on some food in a boulder field next to Ben. Ten minutes later we saw a small bull moose running like mad around the corner. Then to our amazement we saw Rich running 10 yards behind it. Rich's eyes were the size of golf balls and he looked scared. Ben and I couldn't figure why Rich was chasing a moose. We then saw the biggest bull moose I have ever observed come around the corner, and he was mad! He was chasing Rich who was chasing the little moose. Rich finally made it to the boulder field which the Bull moose couldn't navigate.

Perhaps the most memorable trip was made a few days before Ben's wedding and Rich, Matt, me, Tim, Ben, Jason, and James decided that we were going to finally nail this thing and find it. We pulled the usual all nighter and stopped in the Fort Bridger gas station and bought some of the nastiest food ever concocted by man, including Tim's infamous "red hot sausage". We began our long hike in and Jason and Matt showed early signs of fatigue and were complaining before we even got a mile or two into the hike. We split up their gear, and I think Tim took an extra pack. Soon we reached the boulder field and began to scour the many cliffs and ledges tucked away in this 2000 foot scree slope. We paused for a break at one spot where Tim and I fell asleep on the side of a 400 foot cliff with one arm hanging over the edge! We continued to scramble towards the top, and Rich took off to scout ahead. Tim and I soon found ourselves in quite a predicament. We were trapped on a slippery scree shoot that had a 400 foot cliff underneath the shoot. We were clinging to the loose gravel with our nails and then I saw Tim begin to slip. I can only remember how darn scared he was as he slowly slid down to his demise. I think I have never heard him say so many prayers in such a short period of time in my life. Slowly we clawed and slipped and fought our way up the shoot. We all made it on top of the 11,000 footer in one piece but found ourselves in intense sun and insane wind. It was so windy and so constant that I remember standing on the edge of a huge cliff and leaning over the edge with the wind blowing straight at me and fully supporting me as I was literally hanging in empty space (man I was stupid!!!). The wind began to take it's toll and the sun and wind began to burn our unprotected faces and lips. Come to find out while Rich was scouting he was chased by 4 dark figures on horse back with guns (old west style) and had to bale off the side of the mountain for protection. After a long and eventful day of tempting fate we all made our way back home. Ben's knee wasn't having it though, and Jason and Matt were completely toast. I still remember Ben crawling down the trail completely knackered saying "just leave me guys, tell Amy I love her". It was so hilarious and sad at the same time. About that time Matt caught a wiff of the pancakes cooking over at the Spirit lake lodge and he transformed into some sort of endurance trail runner and was gone. When next we saw Matt he was finishing his second tall stack of pancakes at the lodge. We dragged our tired burned and beaten bodies into the lodge where we ate every kind of breakfast food on the menu. We then piled into Matt's truck, exhausted and stinky and made our way back home. I think Matt drove over 100 miles an hour most of the way. I can't believe we all lived to tell the tale. The story doesn't end here because a few day's later Ben was to get married. Little did we know that the second degree wind burns on all our faces and lips would start peeling the morning of the wedding. Whenever I look at Ben's wedding pictures I crack a huge grin as I see 6 lepers smiling at the camera and one poor Amy wondering what those Fellows boys did to her husband. I wouldn't trade the treasures I gained from that trip for all the gold in the world.

The song "Waiting for the Night" always conjures up images of long road trips, navigating eerie dirt roads in the moonlight, dodgy night hikes under a blanket of stars, sprawled out on a 40 foot boulder in the middle of a boulder field at four in the morning with my brother as we stared up at the starry skies with our smashed Fort Bridger sub sandwich, clinging to cliffs and scaling scree, marauding packs of bull moose, two beams of light in the darkness made from cougar's eyes staring back at us, and amazing adventures set to the mood of this dark but beautiful song. I hope you like it. I am including several versions including a live and two by my favorite DM remixer dominatrix!


Tim said...

That was a GREAT post!!!! I shall never forget my lone gold hunt and the absolute POUNDING we took on that trip. I still remember VIVIDLY the enormous winds, giant cliffs and the ultra tasty red hot sausage. If I recall I believe I actually packed out three backpacks that trip. Those are days never to be forgotten. One thing I remember about that trip that you might (maybe?) was while we were making our climb to the top of the mountain, the mighty bull moose we came across. It was probably the biggest bull moose I have ever seen still to this day. Those were great times

Steve said...

I totally forgot about that monster! I think there is more moose in this small area than anywhere in the lower 48 states. I remember you helped me pack my black duffel bag that was loaded with ropes and repelling gear that we never used but really should have. You were a machine back then. That was a sweet trip. I think we should reunite the group and try it again now over a decade later.

Tim said...

That would be really fun, though I wonder IF I could still do it. I am definately not what I used to be. You and James would probably be carrying everything out as you are the only two are the only two in shape.

SVKOFellows said...

Ahhhh! I can not believe the CRAZY things you did back then!! Good thing the wind didn't all of a sudden STOP! You would have for sure died a gruesome death! I am glad that you had some fun adventures back then, I am glad that you were never eaten, or trampled on. But it is scary reading/hearing your stories Ü