Molly’s First Tiffany Trek
This is a big event! Not only is it Molly’s first trip up Freezeout Ridge on Tiffany Mountain, it is much than that. Molly is going on her very first backpacking trip, her very first sleepover in a tent, and — best of all — her first encounter with the Gnome (that’s me)!
Pasayten and I are about a month behind schedule this year. Admittedly, we both are slowing down some, me more than he, but I don’t think either of us has been a month late — so far.
Pasayten’s found much more snow than usual at the Pass on the his solo scouting trip to Freezeout Pass in mid-May. That is both good and bad. More snow meant we would have an adequate supply to melt for water; More snow also meant that any hike starting very soon would probably involve mushing and probably postholing our way through patches, banks, and fields of snow. Both of us can attest to the fact that we have been there and done that more often than we maybe should have, but since we could, we did, and got the tee-shirt. Molly hasn’t and two old timers don’t want to make the first trek too much of an epic, so we rescheduled our 3rd Annual Tiffany Mountain shakedown cruise.
For one reason or another, it is the third week of June before we three arrive at Freezeout Pass. Our first glimpse of Tiffany Mountain showed us that there are still adequate patches of snow for water. The road to the Pass is probably rougher than it has ever been, but Pasayten drove much slower and eased his truck through and over the rough spots with more finesse than usual. I knew he was not doing this for me, but for the sweet young female who was either riding on my lap or snuggled up against Pasayten’s thigh.
Before anyone begins to really wonder about our intentions this trip, be advised that Molly is Mr. & Mrs, Pasayten’s 9-month-old sweet and cuddly Corgi. I am told she has passed her basic training as far as following trails and behaving herself when out and about. I also learn that Mr. Pasayten is under strict orders from Mrs. Pasayten to keep her on a leash. Yep, you are right — I wondered from the get-go how long that mandate would be followed.
The plan for this annual outing on Tiffany Mountain is to walk for a couple of hours or a couple of miles. Although we both agreed to take it easy on ourselves, I know the real reason that Pasayten doesn’t want to camp any higher or farther than the site we camped at last year. Actually there are two reasons he set the bar so low. He knows and I know, but he doesn’t know that I know. So I can have some fun rattling his cage about hiking a wimpy distance and/or time. And since he has constantly pointed out that I am in charge of entertainment of these trips, I intend to entertain myself fully at his expense.
The trail up Freezeout Ridge has been cleared of most of the downed tree though there are still a couple or three to climb over or walk around, so in addition to the pace Pasayten maintains, there are no real obstacles that require extraordinary effort hiking. So we strolled or sauntered up the trail for a couple of hours which worked out real good as it took us just about exactly a couple of miles from the trailhead. I make note of the fact that each time I stop to check on Pasaytens progress, it appears that Molly is pulling him up the trail. Considering the difference in height and weight, this is no mean feat. Molly definitely has muscles!
We camped within sight of our last year’s spot, but this time at a site that has a campfire ring all ready to use. A bonus here is that besides readily available firewood in the forested outcropping, there is already a supply laid right next to the ring of stones. So if we decide to have a campfire, neither of us will even have to venture far from our ultralight chairs.
We each choose a tent spot and after Molly is securely attached by a fifty-foot-long leash to a nearby tree, Pasayten and I proceed to pitch our tents, inflate our mattresses, and set up housekeeping while maintaining proper OGHC mandates, protocols, and rules. Basically that means do as much as possible while sitting in one’s chair and minimizing all effort and strain whatever one is doing. Not quite sure, but I think someone snuck in a short nap between tasks.
Molly is a treat to have along. As she is very entertaining, I get some relief this trip from having to constanty keeping Pasayten amused. Molly responds to “Magpies!” with a gruff growl, perked up ears and bounces around looking for the intruders. Pasayten enjoys watching her. That means every few minutes (it seems), Molly gets that command. Then we actually have magpies show up and her work is validated because they do not hang around.
We have other visitors on this shoulder of Tiffany Mountain – besides magpies, we see crows, camp robbers, a grouse or two, a couple of substantially-antlereed mule deer, and a Dale Sekijima. That’s right! On our second morning in camp, Mr Dale showed up with the second annual delivery of treats. A Cinnamon Twisp Twist for each of us – well, each human anyway – and a cuppa Cowboy Mud coffee. That’s my name for it as I’m not sure exactly which roast Blue Star tagged it with. Potent brew went well with the sweetness of a great sticky bun. And, yes, Molly got a bite – or two. Always good to see Mr. Dale – I am hoping to one day buy him a pastry and a mugga java.
This is our third annual shakedown cruise on Tiffany so we’ve got it pretty well wired. Going for a dayhike or two this year is easier because there are fewer fields and banks of snow to deal with – we do make it to the the saddle above Little Tiffany Lake which is still iced over with just a hint of open water around the perimeter. We also go for a ramble along the contours from our camp toward Whistler Pass. This easy ramble is voluntarily terminated when we reach the spot where the trail skirts a high band of rocky cliffs. It seems a good time to just ramble on back to camp and maybe snooze some either in our chairs or maybe a real lie-down nap in the tent. Molly seems OK with our retreat, but I can tell she would like to justa-keep-ona-going.
I do make note of the fact that Molly is eating better than we humans are – her meals are fresh frozen stored in a snowbank till served and sound delicious. Freeze-dried meals have catchy titles – like Spicy Southwest Style Skillet, Memphis Grits, Santa Fe Corn Pudding, even good old Chili Mac – and do the job. Some of them are worthy of their names. Some of them are pretty doggone good and end up on a list of repeats. Others, well, let’s just say they filled the empty corners and kept us from wasting away.
We knew that we would not have the mountain to ourselves sauntering up the trail on a Sunday the third week of June, but we also knew that during most of our stay we would see few if any dayhikers. We did not expect to see any other campers either, and there weren’t. After we established camp, we were treated to an almost constant parade of summit seekers. I would call it a great assortment. We saw serious marchers, lighthearted-seeming day-trippers, a few actually noticed us but many are so intent on the trail they hardly seem to look around. I was like that for a while – so intent on getting the job done, so destination-bound, I missed the journey. And we also saw several trail runners – mostly younger lightly-clad folks with little, if any, equipment. That always sparks the old SAR mandates in me – I do not like to see anyone out and about without some emergency gear. We watched singles, couples and small groups make their way up the trail and sooner or later back down that same trail. Except for one fellow that neither Pasayten nor I noticed heading down. He could have dropped over one of the ridges and made a circle journey back to the Freezeout Pass trailhead, or he could still be up there somewhere. That Sunday I quit counting passers-by at 29, or was it 31? Anyway, Monday we saw fewer and Tuesday I only remember the deliverer of treats coming up the hill.
Our pile of firewood grew as we casually collected fuel while doing errands, taking care of “business,” and just generally policing the area around us. We talked of having a campfire last night on the mountain, but somehow it never came to pass. In fact, it doesn’t seem like we did much at all – didn’t even get out the cribbage board. Actually, I refused to get it out when Pasayten showed me the “windproof” playing cards he’d brought. I don’t like discussing politics when out and away from the traumas and busyness of our society, so why would I want to play with cards depicting a certain political figure? Time flies by even when one is not doing. Or not consciously doing other than breathing, looking, experiencing, and absorbing.
Molly helped make the time fly by just by being her sweet puppy self. Nice to have a companion that isn’t always napping in his chair. Well, almost always or so it seems. Nice to have a playmate, but then again puppies don’t always know when one is doing his own napping in his chair. I must remember that once a pup is encouraged to jump up into one’s lap, they assume it is OK to do so as they wish and snores do not deter them.
Too soon it is exit morning. Time to break camp, pack up, and head down the trail. Once again we surprise ourselves by being ready to go – packed-wise and mentally ready, too – earlier than whatever time Pasayten suggested. Perhaps that is because of his morning routine?
I have to figure some way to break Pasayten of cock-a-doodle-doing at 4 AM. I mean, just because he can’t sleep any longer doesn’t mean I have to get up or even wake. If he had breakfast ready it might ease the pain of being jolted out of that sweet extra hour of slumber. Four AM is just simply too early. Add to that discomfort the fact that gnomes are seldom able to get back to sleep once waked and one would think the rooster-doodler would make nice, but nope, he doesn’t even have coffee ready.
By the way and for the record, Molly did just fine unleashed.