What we didn't count on was that it was in the 90's in the mountains (though it was a dry heat, and it bothered Ken more than it bothered me), and that it hasn't rained there in ages. It's dry and dusty and campfires are prohibited, probably for the rest of the summer. We'd brought wood and hot dogs and other eating-at-camp equipment, all of which was suddenly rendered useless. That was disappointing. We were also informed at our arrival that the camp showers were going to be turned off at 7am the following morning.
And the place was mobbed. I don't know why everybody was taking Monday off, but we had a hard time finding a good campsite, and there simply weren't any isolated ones. There was a large group of people spread over multiple sites not far from us, and they made a lot of noise and played loud music. We set up our tent and decided to go and search for a new geocache that had been placed in the park just a few days before. We knew we wouldn't be the first finders, since someone had already logged it on the website, but we thought we might be second.
I don't know if it was the heat or the thin air, but hiking seemed a lot more difficult than it was back home. My legs felt heavy. We picked the wrong trail, and had to climb up to our old cloud/mountain/star-gazing spot before turning back downhill to meet the road the cache was actually closer to. By the time we reached the general area of the cache, we'd abandoned even the idea of possibly trying the Stonewall Mountain caches the next day. There was no way we could've dealt with a 900 foot elevation change.
The cache was one of the most difficult we've ever tried to find. We'd been warned that it was hidden well, and given a hint that it was in a stump. There are a lot of stumps in the woods, and the cache area was steep and full of poison oak. I tried both above and below the trail, with no luck. Ken persisted, and while I was back on the trail bandaiding my skinned knees he finally found it.
I left some polished rocks and our signature item, a mini-frog, and took something that neither of us could identify:
I thought it was a whale. Ken suggested that it looked a bit like a disembodied leg. I later found out that it's some sort of fishing lure that's supposed to look like a minnow. You pick up strange things geocaching.
Back at camp, we showered off the poison oak and dust before dinner. We've had amazing luck with avoiding poison oak; after at least three instances of wading through the stuff, we've always managed to successfully remove it without getting any nasty rashes. A few days after exposure, one or the other of us gets one or two itchy little bumps, which only last a day or so. I don't know if the showers are the key, or if we're just invulnerable -- I suspect the former. Still, if one could just shower off poison oak like it was nothing, people wouldn't issue such dire warnings about it, would they? Maybe we're just very lucky, as well as very clean.
This is the ubiquitous Steller's Jay. Ironically, despite the fact that they're everywhere, I couldn't get a picture of one when I wanted to -- this shot is from after we checked out of the campground, and had to return an hour later because we couldn't figure out anywhere else nearby with restrooms.
Pygmy nuthatches are also common around the campground. So are woodpeckers (see picture in the last entry). And crows, but I'm not taking pictures of crows.
More to follow...