Solar Sacrifice

Executive Summary: Rather than boring you with yet another trip report, I will attempt to describe some issues regarding leading beginner friendly trips with random people of unknown competence. However, we did achieve most of our objectives, the solar eclipse was seen and photographed, and most of us enjoyed the trip. If anybody needs to know anything more about the trip I would be more than pleased to answer their questions in an interactive fashion, but I don’t intend to fill in a generic questionnaire with a lot of generic questions.

The solar eclipse of August 21 was apparently pretty important for a great many people, some driving as far as Oregon to get a better view or a more intense eclipse experience. Gas prices spiked in the Vancouver area. Artem anticipated this and some six months prior to the eclipse he posted a trip to “appease the sun god” at the Harrison Hut. There was some ritual described, wearing grass clothes, and suggesting that maybe nudity would be involved. Many people signed up for this; at one time we had about thirty people on the “interested” list and I would be happy to share an eclipse experience with most of them. As the time for the trip approached, most, even including Artem, realized that they did not have time for this trip, so they dropped out. I offered to make the trip happen, despite access issues (long drive, 4WD, possible road closure).

Organizing trips take a lot of emails.  for this trip I sent or received a total of 97 emails, for an average email per participant ratio of about 20.  I guess this shows that I am incompetent and shouldn’t be leading trips.

Personnel: At the pre-trip meeting we get to find out who still wants the trip, whether the miracle of cars will happen, and so on. I explained the bewildering array of options for the trip because I believe that making decisions is an important part of the trip experience, and I don’t like to take this away. Nobody was prepared to leave at noon Friday, so the trip was shortened somewhat so we could leave at noon Saturday. A semi-affiliated group decided that Phelix was a more ambitious option, more suited to their vehicle. Hopefully they will do a trip report.

One of our keeners showed up for a few minutes before the meeting, expressed enthusiasm and competence, then left before the meeting started. Two emailed to say they couldn’t make the meeting but were keen. We were left with one member who needed a sleeping bag, and didn’t have time to buy food. I offered to supply these things. I left the meeting feeling that I had a carload, but mostly male, which isn’t optimum. Later I got an email which said something like “Sorry I can’t take Monday off”, so I was down to three passengers. Now, as a driver, losing a passenger costs me $20. I don’t expect to make money driving VOC’ers around, but dropping $20 on the trip is annoying. Then I was offered a random passenger, not a VOC Member, and of the female variety, which is good. I expect some minimal competence from VOC’ers, even Beginner Friendly ones, but with random people, you never know what to expect. And of course if you want to take non-members on VOC trips, you must get a liability release for them, signed, in color. How many of us carry blank liability releases in their cars? To avoid embarrassment, the people on the trip shall be referred to as “the crew”.

The trip, Saturday went smoothly, more or less. Find the passengers. Try to be on time for pick-up. Drive to Pemberton. Gently. At Pemberton a quick survey revealed that I was the only one who had brought toilet paper but we picked up some Macpaper napkins at Macdonalds so we were OK. Trip to the pharmacy for Gravol. Trip to the supermarket for potato chips and possibly other food. Signs noted “road closed tomorrow for bike race”, typical Pemberton, but shouldn’t bother us. I explained in detail how the Meager Hot Springs were off limits to us, being in a very geologically active, therefore dangerous, area, though I had been going there for about forty years and had not died yet. We found to our great satisfaction that the Authorities had not blocked the road, so we were good to go. We arrived at our new trail head with plenty of time to put up the tents and eat our apple pie.

One of our crew announced that she had not brought a sleeping bag, and hoped I had another spare. Fortunately I had brought three, otherwise I would have had to share mine, and it is really small. Next she asked if I had any more sleeping bags as the one I provided was “smelly”. I replied with something that was probably impolite.

Sunday: we hit the trail somewhat early. I was keen to see if the crew could carry their stuff, walk in runners, etc. All went well. The berries (blueberries, rasberries, thimble berries and a salmonberry) were abundant and very tasty, so we did some “berry faffing”. We were in no hurry. The trail is becoming hard to follow in places due to the intense shrubbery, and three windfalls need to be chain sawed. Half way in, we encountered the first people coming back from the hot spring. They seemed happy and one recognized me from VOC trip reports. Each time another group passed, we asked how many were left at the hot spring, and we soon realized that there would be nobody there. When we got to the fork, where you have to choose between going up to the Harrison Hut, or down to the Meager Hot Spring, I announced that I was too tired to go all the way to the Hut so we had better go to the hot spring. They pleaded with me but to no avail; we went down. At the pools I found that I was the only one who had remembered to bring a birthday suit, so the others had to wear swim suits in the pool. You have to excuse them for their ignorance because none of them had taken the hot spring course.

Eclipse1

The grass skirts which we ordered did not arrive in time for the ceremonies.

So we splashed around in the warm water for a while, had naps, etc. We were afraid that we were in a valley and might not even be able to see the eclipse from the pools, so we went on a walk across the “bridge that goes nowhere”, searching for a clearer view of where we expected the sun to be. One of the crew was barefoot by then because she had Club boots which were a bit small. She told me to watch for dangerous scary things on the trail, and just a minute later she let out a very loud anguished yell. “Oh god why didn’t you tell me Roland, will I die?”. We reassured her that she had just stepped on a slug and she wouldn’t die but the slug probably would die. “Very slippery” she replied.

Monday, Eclipse, and Home: No hurry to get up. I drank my coffee in the pool. Others had tea. There was no problem with seeing the sun from the pool. One person had brought eclipse glasses, which was a good thing. Eclipses don’t happen very fast so we had lots of time to pass the glasses around. Take pictures through the eclipse glasses? Why not?

Eclipse2

Waiting for the sun to do its thing.

Some of us get bored easily and soon I had had enough; I had already guessed what the ending would be. We waited for about an hour until the others had enough, then we started up the long trail back to the car. We still had five hours of driving and another Macmeal to deal with. On the way back we had several instances of sleeping bags tied to the outside of packs falling off and getting re-attached, sometimes several times.  For the long drive home we mostly discussed octopus sex, which shows it’s worth while to have biologists on the trip.

Medical issues: Even before leaving Vancouver we were presented with our first medical dilemma. “Can you drive more gently, because I get carsick really easily?”. Well, you can’t drive gently when merging with traffic on the second narrows bridge, but I recommended that Gravol be purchased in Pemberton, and this was done. So carsickness on the rough road past Pemberton was averted.

Next we found that one of us was apparently so allergic to mosquito bites that she had dosed herself with antihistamines. This made her somewhat subdued, but it didn’t make her fall off the trail or anything.

One person, wearing running shoes, did fall off the trail on the way in, which I suspect was due to wearing running shoes. I had explained that runners were only suitable if you had very strong ankles, and a sprained ankle will be with you for life. A small hand injury received a small band-aid and all was well.

A more serious injury, almost back at the car, was a result of walking into a tree, or a piece of a tree that stuck out. A (scalp) head wound resulted, with the expected copious bleeding typical of head wounds. Head wounds are particularly difficult to treat; sometimes you can stop the bleeding with pressure; don’t try a tourniquet. In this case the bleeding stopped almost immediately, though there was a lot of blood around for a while.

I don’t seem to be getting any younger, so when an opportunity to carry less presents itself “you want to use my stove? Would you like to carry it?” I am onto it. My new pack is pretty light weight and everything I need fits into it. But I walk slowly.

The most dangerous part of the trip is the ride home. When you have to drive for five hours and you are pretty tired from walking a long way, this isn’t good. I researched the Internet and found what the military does to keep the troops awake on long missions and I came up with modafinil. I got my doctor to prescribe some for me, though he wasn’t enthusiastic about it. I have now used it seven times and it works for me. Way better than coffee.

That pretty well describes our medical issues. Oh, did I mention that one of the crew was diabetic? This did not have any consequences, but it’s good to know.

Animals seen: chipmunk, two grouse, marten, bunny, mouse, squirrel, slug, dragon flies, horse flies, deer flies, mosquitoes. Sorry, no bears. We sang our bear songs.

Conclusions: Many people in VOC just go on trips with their friends; they know what to expect from them. But the Club does sometimes claim that it creates “Beginner Friendly” trips, which are more of a challenge to organize. For me, the challenge of bringing people to places which they couldn’t otherwise visit, makes it all worth while.

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