Monday, September 15, 2008

What goes up: Decending Dog Mtn. by headlamp.

I figured that the trail down would be easier than the climb, because I was planning to use my headlight. This was not the case. The 3.7 miles is longer than the ascent, so it's slightly less steep. I covered the longer distance in about the same time as I had spent hiking up. I was fairly well hydrated and calorified starting down the trail, but shaky and weak in all my major muscle groups. Adrenaline is a bitch like that. No slackpacker speedball this trip, just big ups and downs in series. Harsh!

Shortly after the split below the summit, I encountered an unknown number of deer, bouncing down all over the f'ing hill. The were crashing down the incredibly steep incline above and below my narrow little trail because I had startled them. I briefly considered reconfiguring my giant hiking stick as a spear (nice modular design), but I would not have been able to recover the pole had it somehow ended up downhill. It's too nice a pole for that. Plus I'd have died trying to carry a deer carcass by moonlight. I was already predigested muscle mush by this time anyway.

I didn't hit the switch on my lights until I hit the trees beyond the second exposed stretch, and I could have made it further if I hadn't been so anxious to be down. Once the lights were on, I really started to move, almost to a jog in a few places. It's too steep to break into a run, so jogging is more of a jarring quick-step that rattles your bones.


I found a cute little patch of puffball mushrooms on the trail about a third of the way down. My camera takes pretty good pictures close-up at night, seems to me.

My headlamp hustle started out good, making excellent time going down the trail. I could galumph like the ogre that I am rather than picking my stealthy way through the inky forest. Well, that's all great until your body gets all worked up again. Once I'd hoofed myself into a good lather, the area of gloom and murk around my headlight and flashlight was somewhat more interesting to my spastic little dark-fearing brain. So, if what is in front of you is good (light) what is behind must be bad (dark). Rather than run away from whatever evil wood-demons that were creeping up on me, I used my flashlight to scan the shrubbery for a while. Never saw a single damn critter the whole time! Grrr. You'd think there were armies of rodents fighting in the shrubbery for all the noise they made!

Unfortunately, there are some drawbacks to headlights. Namely, my neck is sore, from swiveling my head back and forth for the whole stupid downhill. Once you turn on that damn light, you can't turn it off unless you want to stumble blindly in the dark for 30 minutes. I did supplement with an additional light source, but it wasn't really useful. I also did just fine with a flashlight without the light on my noggin. I will absolutely be purchasing a better flashlight in the VERY near future. I want a 9 LED tactical lights, powered by a stack of potent yet lightweight batteries. Also, I'm going to get some filters so I can switch back to night vision without the long wait.

I have this fantasy of putting a car battery in a backpack and wiring up a suit of LEDs all over my body, lighting up the forest as if I were god manifest. Maybe a big xenon bulb on my chest, Iron-man style. I'd be confident nothing would mess with me when I'm so bright I have to wear a welding helmet just to see the trail. The forest service planes would have to bomb me with water because of nearby greenery curling up and catching fire.

Even into today, I have sore feet, ankles, abs and ribs. I guess I could have gone slower on the descent and I'd never have felt a single ache, but I just flat wanted OFF that hill. Now I really can't understand how people run this mountain. Are they made of jerky or something? What do you do for knees after you come back down? I want to know, because mine are SERIOUSLY unhappy!

My opinion of Dog Mountain is that it's a nice walk by day. However, I recommend you do not bother with this hill at night. The cookie you get from this hike is small and dry and crumbly. Not much flavor. I always hate and suffer during my hikes, but almost always remember them very fondly the next day. This hike is not like that at all. My memory of this hike has a bitter taste and is rough to my brain like sandpaper. I've decided that there will be no more night hikes for a good long while until I can erase all the badness. I'll eventually polish this memory into a gleaming jewel of excitement. Hence this post: to remind myself why we do not do stupid things like hike hard hills in the dark.

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