PRNL Day 2 (July 7): Benchmark to Coves

Beaches and Bears

Miles hiked = 11.5 ish

Direction = West

Weather = Hazy clouds, turned clear and sunny

Around 1:00 am-ish I awoke to rain pelting my tent pretty heavily and also some rather loud talking from our neighbors. From what I gathered, it seemed they had set up their rain fly incorrectly and were outside in the dark and adverse weather attempting to fix it. Yikes! I felt for them…I’ve been there myself and it’s not pleasant. I think they got things figured out though!

At 8:05 am, I was awoken once again, but this time by some squawking crows. They were so loud that I stuck my head out and watched as smaller tweety birds were dive bombing them. I’m not sure what was going on, but my groggy self thought such ruckus was rather obnoxious.

We took our time getting going in the morning as is customary when things are wet and nasty out. Fortunately, it was just a bit hazy and foggy and not continuing rain though. After some coffee and breakfasting, we opted for the 9:57am start time and enjoyed striding through some beautiful forest.

We spotted this rusty old car too. I’m baffled as to how it got there, but assume that back in the day this area had a road to it or the forest had been cleared. That, or maybe this is the old Ford Anglia that Harold Potter and Ronald Weasley abandoned in the forbidden forest?…

After a while, the trail made its way towards open sky and ran parallel to the shore along the top of a small dune. The bright beach scene offered a pleasant juxtapostion to the more shadowy and damp forest we’d been hiking through.

Around 2:00pm we stopped for lunch, choosing to take a short trek down to the beach. I was feeling so much better today, thankfully, and could actually enjoy my tortilla wrap! We got to lay out our tents and other things that had gotten wet from the rain, which was super nice. Then, to top it off, we took a wonderful swim! For those not too familiar with the Great Lakes, Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake (by surface area) in the world! It’s big and deep, and pretty far north, and thus the water temperatures are typically rather chilly. That wasn’t the situation this time though. In fact, this was the warmest I’d ever felt it!

Today was planned to be a shorter day, with only 9.2 miles to our intended camp, Beaver Creek. We had pounded out the miles and thus had only a little still to go after our late lunch. We made it to the Beaver Creek Campsites around 4:00 pm and set up in a nice flat spot. It was fairly open and empty with a few folks around already set up. We opted to distance ourselves a bit and chose the site most inland.

When visiting the park in 2007, my friends and I had done pretty well catching smallmouth bass and northern pike in Beaver Lake. We had canoes then, but I had a memory of pulling them to shore at one point along the lakes northern shore and casting off a sandy, shallow shelf towards a steep drop-off. It so happened that, Calzone and I’s camping spot allowed access to this same shallow shelf via a half-mile or so trek, which is why I felt compelled to hike in my fishing rod, reel, and a few choice lures. So, after a brief packing and prepping session, we took off together to go find Beaver Lake.

(https://www.nps.gov/piro/planyourvisit/backcountry.htm)

We chose the direct path first, but after finding out that it led to a very steep bank down to Beaver Lake, we pulled an audible retracing our steps back to camp, crossing over Beaver Creek on a neat bridge, and then taking a different path to the lake. We found a perfect access spot and so after removing my shoes and socks, I waded out to find some fish. Calzone decided she’d hang around shore and ended up spending some time trying different settings on her new camera!

Despite putting forth a determined effort and skilled approach, ultimately, I failed as a fisherman. That is, if the measure of success/failure depends on whether I caught a fish or not, or had any fish-related action whatsoever. However, if one measures success upon whether we had an enjoyable experience in a beautiful setting, well then, we flourished. And so, it was with joyous hearts and hungry bellies that we made our return to camp.

It was around 7:00pm when we starting walking up the hill towards the tent sites. Before making it to our spots though a fellow camper came right up to us and asked…

“Do you guys have the gray tents?”

“Uh maybe, in the back? Why?” I responded

“Yeah, a bear tore down one of your tents!”

That got our attention. Still not knowing for sure if is was our tents that he was talking about, we continued the walk to our tents in a bit of a daze. Sure enough, we discovered that Calzone’s tent, which had survived 2,300 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail, lay in a sad, wounded-looking heap with the poles sticking out at odd angles.

After a quick investigation it seemed that the bear must have only swiped at the tent and so there was a small rip and two damaged tent poles. You can imagine that the team morale had plummeted. We questioned whether we’d even have to bail out from the trail, but fortunately Calzone came prepared with a tent pole repair kit! And so, we decided to put our frustrations into repairing the tent with the understanding that the fix would need to make it two more nights out here. When sitting down on the log to start, however, we heard some commotion from the other side of camp…our adversary, the black bear, had returned!

Mr. or Mrs. bear circled around the camp for a while longer and didn’t seem too phased by us human beings. In fact, we learned from our fellow campers that they’d been trying to scare it off for most of the time that we’d been gone. It seemed that since our tents were unattended and unfortunately on the outer ring of the sites, the bear had gotten to it just before one of them spotted it. Since this was a designated backcountry camp, a metal “bear box” container is provided for food and smelly items to be put inside. We’d been on top of our game too and before leaving to go fishing had double checked that all our items were put inside the bear box. Alas, the damage was done and the bear, at least for the time being, had wandered off.

Back to our project of repairing the tent…

We had to use a tent stake as a splint for the other break and put Tenacious Tape over the rip in the fly. We felt pretty good about our repair job and felt semi-confident that it would last the remainder of the trip. What to do afterwards for the upcoming PCT trek, we’d have to wait until we had cell service to see what options there were.

After things had somewhat settled down, we got to questioning whether we wanted to sleep in an area we knew had an overly friendly bear visiting frequently. It was getting late, we still hadn’t eaten dinner, and the idea of packing up and continuing to hike wasn’t pleasant, but without too much hesitation, we decided we’d feel more comfortable trekking further to the next campsite. So, at 8:45pm, once all re-packed, we commenced our hike onward hoping to make it to camp while still light. We moved quickly, making a good pace. Personally, I like to be in camp all set up at a decent time, but there is a case to be made for hiking in the evening while the sun is going down…it was truly an amazing scene we got to witness.

It was about 1.3 miles to the next designated campsite, “Coves.” It was required to pick specific campsites for our permit, so we were keeping our fingers crossed that there would be space for us. A little before 9:30pm we arrived and were happy to see several open spots. There looked to only be two other groups. After setting up our tents in world record speed (Calzone’s tent stood strong, despite copping a slight lean), we gathered all our dinner stuff, made sure to put all other food in the bear box, and then found a nice bluff to have dinner on with a view of the sunset. We just made it in time before it sank below the horizon. Things were looking up for team Calzone and Stevie Wonder!

This is usually where I’d end my post. A couple sunset pictures and then it’s off to bed after a full day of adventuring. Not this time…

All seemed to be going as per usual. We walked back to our tent in the dark using our headlights, added our dinner supplies in to the bear box, and then made to retreat to the tents. Calzone got inside hers first. Then, as I was finishing brushing my teeth, I turned my head towards the left, and spotted two red eyes looking back at me! I had my headlight set on red-light mode, but it was clearly another black bear, this time closer than before, moving at a quick pace going between us and our neighbors tent.

I reacted instantly, banging my two plastic water bottles together loudly and yelling…

“Hey bear! Get out of here! Go!”

I don’t think Calzone believed me at first. I didn’t believe it at first. The whole PCT I saw only a few bears and never observed any that were so bold and unafraid, and here we were seemingly surrounded by them. This time, the bear did run away from me when I yelled, which gave me some comfort. Even so, I don’t think I fell asleep until about 1:00am. Just staring up at the top of my tent, listening, every noise sounding like an animal coming to get me. Yowzers!

One thought on “PRNL Day 2 (July 7): Benchmark to Coves

  1. Brian Beach

    Holy crap! That was intense! I donโ€™t know if Iโ€™d be able to sleep, ugh! Glad it worked out for the best. Such beautiful country up that way, and apparently more wild than I had given it credit for ๐Ÿ˜….

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s