Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Buffalo Mountain? Again? *whine*

Nah, it wasn't really all that bad. I hit the Buffalo trail again because it was close by and, on a Monday, timing is important. I usually have many packages to ship (all my eBay auctions end on Sunday nights), so being home in time to make it to the post office before it closes will likely often keep me close to home. Since I had already covered most of this park, and didn't mind a little extra workout since I had so little travel time, I took a bit longer path this time. Before I go into details, you might want to have another peek at the trail map; here's the link.

In truth, my intent had been to do an out-and-back to Tip Top, via the Fork Knob Trail. I got cocky, though, and did not carry my handy printout of the abovementioned map, so instead I missed my turn and wound up taking the longer way around via the Cascade Trail. Once I realized this, I laughed at myself. So many times before on trails I had found myself stressing out over the possibility of missing a turn. Often so much so that it actually ate into my enjoyment of my hike. Now that I finally had missed a turn, although I knew it meant I was in for a longer time out than I had planned, I realized just how silly it had been to stress. Put simply, no matter whether or not I miss a turn, I'm going to get a nice hike either way. And it's not as if I could get lost in this place. Truly, you'd be hard pressed to lose me anywhere, because I do so much pre-work before heading out, and also because I always carry some sort of map or guide the first time (or two) over a given trail. So I laughed at myself both for my previous stress experiences, and for being so silly as to miss a turn on a trail I knew.

The extra steps were by no means wasted, either. As I approached the cascade, I saw many pretty little yellow-breasted birds. There were probably close to a dozen of them sitting drinking from the cascade itself as I approached, but my footfalls frightened them all off into the surrounding bushes, and it seemed no matter how long I stood stock-still waiting for them to return, they would not be fooled into coming back to pose for my photos. So instead I settled for photos of a pretty plant I noticed at several places along the trail. The name of this plant, I would later learn, was Rattlesnake Plantain. How I learned that is a story unto itself, however, so I shall save it for another entry.

After taking the long way around and reaching the side trail up to Tip Top, I still wanted to follow through with my plan to make it up there; after all, what fun would the hike be if I didn't at least cover some new ground? Besides, it would only add another four tenths of a mile to my hike; certainly not enough to prevent me from making it home in a timely manner. So I headed up the side trail, and began to feel the familiar pains of hunger as I did. When I reached the top, appropriately enough, there was this picnic area.

There were also some pretty nice views, although they were somewhat obscured by foliage, especially from the point of view of my camera lens, so I won't bore you with my photos. What I will bore you with is the story of how I think I poisoned myself with salt. You see, I have a tendency, when on the trail, to obey my hunger and thirst. Just seems like a bright idea, really, when working out, to do so. So as I began my descent from Tip Top, I pulled out my bag of trail mix. Now, this was a big bag of el-cheapo Wal-Mart grade trail mix, and while tasty, is very heavy on the salt content to begin with. And this particular bag was very nearly empty when I pulled it out of my pack; I really should have re-loaded or added something more. But, woulda, coulda, shoulda, right? So I eat through all the peanut-sized and larger pieces, and am left with the dregs of the bag, which are really salty. Having been raised by depression-era parents, I am decidedly loath to waste food of any sort, even the unhealthy kind (sometimes especially the unhealthy kind). So I munch on the dregs for quite some time. Thirst of course sets in, and I drink, figuring that, if anything, the salt will help me retain water, thus aiding me in avoiding a trailside pee on the way back to the car (yes, I can, yes, I do, and yes, I pack it all out. So there). Eventually I realize that this salt load is too much for even me to finish (and I'm actually a pretty big fan of the ol' NaCl), and put the trail mix bag away, still with an ounce or two of dregs in the bottom. No worry, though, the damage had already been done.

I should mention that, along the way I ran across the above shelf fungi. They were beautiful and flower-like from a distance, though a bit gritty and sandy in appearance when you got too close. I didn't recall having seen them on my previous trip past (this was back on the Fork Ridge Trail segment between the side trail to Tip Top and Fork Knob), yet couldn't believe that they might have grown so quickly (it had only been a couple of weeks since I'd last been by). Whatever the case, though, I stopped to photograph them, so here they are.

I returned to my car, and proceeded happily home to pack up and mail all of my shipments. As the day wore on I felt less and less like myself, and at first attributed it to the slightly longer-than-usual hike. Eventually I developed a pounding headache, and had to lay down for a very long nap. The nap didn't cure the headache (even though I took two Tylenol before laying down), so I followed the nap with a couple of ibuprofen for good measure. Even the next morning I felt crummy, and the headache followed me well into Tuesday. Looking it up online, I learned that apparently it is possible to kill yourself with salt, although you'd have to consume far more than I did. Much more common (because of the lower dosage necessary) is the pounding headache to which I'd treated myself. I threw away the remaining trail mix dregs. Sometimes food really is trash. Lesson learned.