September 3, 2012

Amped on joe: a lesson learned in coffee consumption in the wild

Oldenburg Lake in the summer
Calvin the Wonder Dog, my feisty Cocker Spaniel, and I set out years ago in late May for Eddeeleo Lakes, named after three dudes named Ed, Dee and Leo and located in the Waldo Lake Wilderness. A mild winter had dumped modest volumes of snow on the Cascade Mountains that year, opening trails at higher elevations much earlier than usual. The plan was to skirt Waldo Lake along its loop trail and then hang a left on the trail leading to the lakes. I had the weekend to get it done.

I knew the trail to Eddeeleo Lakes might have some snow, but not enough to keep us from our destination. There was a slight problem - we couldn't get to the trailhead. A shaded snowdrift over the access road to Waldo Lake had yet to melt, leaving a roadblock not even the hardiest of four wheel drives could plow through.

Knowing earlier in the week that I would spend three hours on the road just getting to the Waldo Lake, I had come up with a plan B in case something like this happened. Having studied a map a few days earlier, I noticed that Crescent Lake, a 4,547 acre, 265' deep beauty and relatively short drive from the Eddeeleo Lakes trailhead, was about 600' lower in elevation than Waldo Lake.

So Calvin and I turned the pickup around at the icy roadblock and drove to the Oldenburg Lake trailhead near the shores of Crescent Lake. Although a loop hike including Oldenburg Lake and Windy Lakes was probably out of the question because of Windy Lakes 6,200 foot elevation, I decided that Calvin and I would at least hike to Oldenburg Lake. There, we would see how deep the snow was before trudging to higher elevations.

Brook trout from lake in Wyoming's Wind River ...
Brook trout
We passed Pinewan and Bingham Lakes before arriving at Oldenburg Lake around noon. After walking through a fair amount of snow near the lake, I decided not to continue further. Oldenburg Lake's welcoming clear waters and snow trimmed shoreline had a lot to do with my decision.

That afternoon, I tossed some sticks into the lake and watched Calvin swim out, snatch each stick between his teeth and swim back. While doing so he startled a Brook trout from its shoreline hideaway beneath a log, sending it jetting into the lake's darker depths.

            Oldenburg Lake in the summer

Later in the afternoon, I took advantage of the area's serenity and read a book while resting against a fallen tree. Meanwhile, Calvin explored the area with his nose. Later, I napped for about an hour and woke up feeling refreshed.

As the sun lowered, an evening chill entered the mountains. Two things that go well together are a mountain chill and a cup of coffee, so I proceeded to make a pot. The first cup tasted so good, like most everything does while in the outdoors, I went ahead and drank another cup, and another, and another, until the pot was gone.

Soon, I was pacing the camp, looking for something else to do- anything to occupy my time. The book I began reading earlier wasn't worth a second look, and I had written in my journal for the day. So, without anything else to occupy my time, what did I do? I made more coffee. It went down as easy as the first pot. A coffee drinker for many years, I had never drank much beyond noon, and I had never drank this much, even in the morning.

Later, just before dark, I climbed into my sleeping bag, mistakenly thinking I would simply drift off and sleep the night away.

The problem was the caffeine now flowing through my system gave me no opportunity to sleep, let alone even keep my eyes shut. The pots of coffee left me wide awake, tossing and turning and staring at the tent ceiling for two hours. The harder I tried to get to sleep the more frustrating the situation became.

Simply put, I was amped on joe.

Finally, unable to manage the caffeine induced anxiety and sleeplessness, I crawled from my sleeping bag and stood outside the tent, desperately searching for something to fill time while the night crept along. Sitting around camp was out of the question. Even if I did, I knew the next day would be a difficult one after not getting any sleep.

I finally made a decision based on both needing something to do and knowing the following day would be spent in a zombie-like state after the coffee induced insomnia wore off. A short time after exiting the tent, I began to break down camp. Soon, Calvin and I were headed back down the trail, hiking by moonlight and my headlamp. After stumbling down the 5.2 mile trail, we arrived at my pickup a couple of hours after breaking down camp.  

Even after the hike out, I was stilled wide awake. Should I stick around and try to a day hike the next day or should I just drive home and file this trip as a lesson in java consumption.

Around 4:00 a.m., Calvin and I pulled into our driveway.

It had been a long day and one that did not go according to plan, but it was still a good day in the mountains.


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