I can’t believe it’s been two and a half weeks since I’ve written anything. In my defense, we’re being kept pretty busy during our “vacation” back in the States.
The main reason we went to Idaho during the first part of August was to take part in a memorial celebration-of-life for Lulu’s Mom who passed away last November (on El Dia De Los Muertos as a matter of fact). Audrey died in Iowa where two of her sons were living but all of her lifelong friends were in Idaho so her kids decided that having a memorial in Lewiston in the summer would be a good way to go.
Following the memorial they had planned a backpacking trip up into the wilderness above the Selway River. The destination was a place called Cove Lakes and was a place that Lulu’s Dad used to lead Boy Scout Troops including his own boys. Lulu and I went on a hike there with him back in 1978 when we were both young, spry, limber, and in good shape. It was the hardest hike ever back then and I had no illusions that it had gotten any easier in the intervening years. This was about 4 times worse than the Wyeth Trail up out of the Columbia Gorge (remember that one, Ned?) which had been my previous benchmark for “hikes I will never willingly do again”. What causes Lulu’s brothers to keep going back to Cove Lakes is beyond me.
Anyway, I don’t often enjoy the fact that my knees aren’t what they used to be but whenever a Cove Lakes hike rears its ugly head, I’m more than happy to be able to say, “Gee, you know I’d love to go but these darn knees of mine just aren’t going to cooperate.” Lulu went along on a Cove Lakes hike with her sibs and some of their kids and wives about 8 or 9 years ago (I think) and I remember her saying at the time that it was every bit as hard as she remembered from 1978. So why was she going again this time? Well, the memory of the pain had faded somewhat over the years, she remembered that they had a good time once they got to the lakes, it seemed like a good opportunity to visit with her family, and they were supposed to scatter the last of her Dad’s ashes up there. Good enough reasons I suppose.
The day after the memorial, we all headed up highway 12 to start the trip. The drive up the river was beautiful. And I tell ya, these Idahoans really know how to use their rivers for cooling down on hot summer days. All along the Clearwater River and the Selway we saw group after group of folks just floating along in everything from inner tubes to kayaks. Just cooling off.
The first night we ended up camping alongside the narrow road next to the river. This was a stupid and inconvenient place to camp as these tiny pullouts are usually used to allow traffic to pass each other (that’s how narrow the road is). Plus, there was a perfectly good, perfectly empty campground a couple miles further on. But, remember, these are the same people who are choosing to hike to Cove Lakes so reason and logic are not necessarily their long suits once they get stuck on an idea. So camp in the pullout we did.
The next morning, while everyone else was assembling their packs, I fired up Flipper and drove up to the campground where I would be staying during their hike. There was one other RV there (another Toyota-based mini but not a Dolphin) when I arrived but they left soon afterwards. There are only 6 campsites but the only other one that had anyone in it was a tent site up behind the outhouse. I found a nice level spot overlooking the Selway and set up camp, which consists of applying the parking brake and turning the motor off. Now that’s camping!
After the hikers left a couple of their cars at my campsite and were headed out on their way, I decided to have a late breakfast in their honor. So, while they breakfasted on instant oatmeal and trail mix, I decided bacon, eggs, potatoes, and an English muffin would be more in keeping with the style of camping I planned to do for the next 3 days.
It was hot while I was camped. I can only imagine how bad it was for the hikers. The worst part of my campsite was the bugs. If I was outside walking around or something it was OK. But if I tried to sit still and read or play my ukulele, before long the yellow jackets were harassing me and something was biting the crap out of my legs. Fortunately, I could retreat inside behind my screened windows. Unfortunately, the rig was parked in the sun and it got kind of hot inside during the early afternoon. Poor me.
I’ll admit, it was a little lonely and a little boring but it sure beat hiking to Cove Lakes. Or did it? Was I being a wuss? Maybe it wasn’t as bad as I remembered. I certainly hope that’s not the case as I’d hate to have been complaining about some easy walk in the park. Guess I’d find out when Lulu, Cody, and Scott got back.
In the meantime, I read, cooked, ate, played my uke, did a few camper projects, and even went for a little walk.
Finally, Wednesday arrived. I had a nice big breakfast, cleaned up the dishes and waited for the hikers to return. Wasn’t sure how early they’d get going but I knew Scott had to be back at work on Thursday so I figured they’d get going pretty early. Finally, about 11-ish, they rolled in. I wish I had had my camera ready to go because I missed a classic shot of three of the most miserable looking faces I’ve ever seen. They did NOT look happy at all!
As they gimped their way out of the car, they told me about how it was the WORST HIKE EVER! Scott said it was the hardest physical experience he had ever subjected himself to. Cody, being pregnant, couldn’t cinch up the waist belt on her pack very well and so, bore most of the weight on her shoulders, adding to the general pain. And Lulu! Poor Lulu! She was not smiling as she limped around moaning and groaning. Apparently the hike was everything I thought it would be but much, much worse. It goes on and on, ever upward. Just when you think you’re almost there, you round a bend and see more switchbacks. And then, once you get to the spot where you can see the lakes right down below you, it still takes almost another hour of scrambling over loose rocks to get there.
And the hike out, which seems like it should be much easier, being downhill and all, was almost as bad as going in as their toes were crammed against the inside of their hiking shoes. Took them nearly as long to get out as it took to get in. They were not amused!
OK, but while they were there they had fun, right? Welllll…. Yeah, they sort of had fun. They enjoyed visiting (which could have been done nicely at the campground). They enjoyed swimming (which could have been done in the river next to the campground). They enjoyed fishing (which, I grant you, is much easier and more productive at Cove Lakes than at the river). But the lack of anything soft-ish to sit on, minimal padding for sleeping, and incessant mosquitoes and biting horseflies tended to temper what little pleasure they were getting. And then baby brother, who’s idea this whole thing was, forgot to bring Dad’s ashes from the car parked way down at the trailhead.
The drive back to Kayler’s Bend was nice although it was hard to hear the radio over Lulu’s groaning. She said that if she ever, and she means EVER, says she’s going on another Cove Lakes hike that I have permission to shoot her in the head as, at that point, she’ll obviously be a danger to herself and others.