Day Two: Mud Lake to Brockway Summit

29 June 2015: Mud Lake to Brockway Summit (plus a bit). ~12.5 miles.

Need to catch up? Start at the beginning: Day One.

After a night of pitter-pattering rain (and some Papa vomit), we got a late start. The sun was high in the sky by the time we hit the trail. PPL felt really crappy all day. Between the sun, the altitude, the immensely heavy pack, and the fact that he hadn’t really eaten any food in the past 24 hours, we were moving pretty slowly. Only the second day, and already we were discussing bail-out plans!

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Drink up! Water cache at Brockway Summit.

We encountered two other TRT thru-hikers today, which helped put PPL in better spirits. He loves chatting with other hikers, and meeting thru-hikers helped shift us into the right frame of mind to keep hiking. Even if we did decide to bail, we needed to make it the next 11 miles to the road. One of the hikers, Nicole, was headed in the same direction as us, and almost finished with her trip–her end (and start) point was Tahoe City. We played leapfrog with each other all day, running into each other at vistas and once more at Brockway Summit (the road crossing where we’d stashed our water the day before).

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“You guys, this isn’t going to work.” (It didn’t. We took the jugs off.)

The weather today was cooperative and the views almost as spectacular as the day before. But the most exciting part of the day was catching sight of a bobcat just ahead of us on the trail. It scurried down the slope and into the brush as soon as it caught wind of us, but we got a pretty good look at it; alas, no photos. Klein must be pretty tired already, because he wasn’t nearly as interested as he is with the stray cats back home.

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an army of mosquitoes

Our four gallons of water were, thankfully, right where we’d left them, tucked away in some bushes a few hundred feet from the Brockway Summit parking area. We made good time and had lots of daylight left to cook a big meal (PPL’s first since we set out), wash diapers, and relax. Sitting in the shade, eating hot ramen noodles with lots of salty broth was exactly what PPL needed. (Being back down at 7000 feet helped, too!) After eating and drinking, he was raring to go, and we pushed on for another mile or so, far enough that we couldn’t hear the traffic anymore, to a flat area of open forest that looked like it had been part of a controlled burn recently. The rain last night must have kept the mosquitoes at bay; tonight was more than a little bit buggier thanks in no small part, I’m sure, to all the dead and burned wood around us. It’s a good thing we did all of our chores earlier; as soon as we got the tent up all we wanted to do was take refuge from the mosquitoes.

***

A Note on Diapers

Diapering is perhaps the biggest challenge to taking a young ‘un on a long hike. Dry diapers take up a lot of volume, and wet diapers are both high-volume and heavy. And on top of that, there’s, you know, the sanitation aspect. At home, I use cotton prefolds with wool covers. Cotton is easy to care for, highly absorbent, and lets the child know when s/he is wet.

We have practiced a laid-back version of Elimination Communication with SB since he was about 6 weeks old. At this point he is pretty good about asking to go potty when he needs to–and sometimes even when he doesn’t need to. Classic boy-who-cried-wolf. On the trail, “Pah!” (his word for potty) became his favorite trick for getting down off my back when he was bored. Clever monster.

I knew I didn’t want to deal with wool covers on the trail; as much as I love how breathable and temperature-regulating they are, they are also extremely bulky, as are the cotton prefolds we put underneath them. And most of the time, this combination is more absorbency and leak-protection than we really need with a halfway potty-learned toddler.

In the months leading up to our trip, I experimented with a variety of waterproof covers and disposable/biodegradable diaper inserts (in the world of cloth diapers these are referred to as “hybrid” systems–a mix of disposable and reusable components). I also experimented with hand-washing methods that I’d be able to take on the trail. In the end here’s what I ended up bringing:

  • 3 waterproof covers (I used GroVia because I like the way they fit)
  • 3 cotton birdseye flats (the original cloth diaper–extremely simple, packs down small, easy to wash by hand)
  • 12 Flips disposable inserts per 4-day section (According to folks who home-compost, these liners actually degrade faster than toilet paper as long as you break them up first. While hiking, we buried them just as we would our own waste and TP, in a cathole at least 6 inches deep, and at least 200 feet from the trail and any water sources.)
  • 2 large OPSAKs for washing (one for pee-only, one for poo)
  • 3 oz bottle of Sea To Summit Wilderness Wash (stronger and more concentrated than other biodegradable options such as Dr. Bronner’s or Campsuds)

Our diaper routine looked something like this:

In the evening I put on a Flip insert. Since SB has remarkable bladder control and rarely pees at night, I was usually able to continue using this insert the next morning. SB usually has his bowel movement before noon, so during the first half of the day I used the Flips to minimize the amount of poopy laundry I had to do. Once he’d pooped, I’d switch over to the cotton diapers for the rest of the day, and then back into a disposable at night (on chilly nights I also preferred using the disposable inserts to move the moisture away from his skin). The 15+ changes I packed for each stretch ended up being way more than we needed, so by the end of the trip, I was able to packing fewer diapers–2 flats and 8 or 9 Flips. I did laundry whenever it was convenient–usually whenever we hit our main water source for the day, which was also when we cooked a hot meal, swam, relaxed, etc. Sort of a siesta-plus-chores.

Washing the diapers and covers was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. OPSAKs have a strong, fairly trustworthy seal, so I’d just fill the dirty bags with water, add one drop of soap, and shake shake shake. I found it took about 3-4 rinses to get all the soap out, dumping each batch of water in a gray-water pit in between.

When it comes to diapers, the one thing I definitely don’t recommend is using conventional disposables from the supermarket. For one thing, you’ll be packing out a lot of heavy, wet trash. For another, sposies are heavily perfumed–which, in the woods, is a good way to attract unwanted animals to your campsite. If you bring scented diapers camping, they need to be stored with all food and toiletries, either in a bear-proof container or hung correctly in a tree. We hang our food (we haven’t yet hiked anywhere that requires a bear can) and prefer to store it in OPSAKs as well, so that it attracts less attention. Of course, even if you put your sposie diapers in a bear can, you still have to put one on your baby’s butt…

Oh! And wipes? At home, we use cloth wipes. On the trail, we used unscented disposable wipes and TP, depending on the level of mess. Ever ultralight, PPL wanted to try using just TP. But he’s not the one doing the majority of the wiping. 😉 Sometimes TP just doesn’t have what it takes. Plus, having a few wet wipes is really nice for cleaning hands and faces, too. Heck, we even met a PCT thru-hiker who’d abandoned TP in favor of wet wipes!

 

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