Note: portions of this post were written earlier. Those sections were pasted in as written (with the exception of editing for clarity or glaring typographical errors), and they appear as blue.
Things I have said to myself today:
• It uses the sunscreen or it gets the hose.
• God, give me enough sense to know when it’s time to turn around.
I put on the sunscreen, and I had enough sense to know when it was time to turn around.
It’s 7:40 p.m., and I’m cooking dinner at my favorite camp spot at Pete Lake. I thought the wind and the height above for lake would have kept the mosquitos away. They’re pretty pesky up here — at least as bad as they were at Cooper Lake. The sun is dipping behind the mountains and it’ll start cooling off fast. That may drive the blood suckers away.
I’m camped here because I had enough sense to turn around. I left the Owhi campground at ten this morning. I made it to Pete Lake at 1:00. That’s a little slower than I’m used to, but I felt pretty good. I took an hour for lunch, and then headed to Waptus Lake. (Spoiler Alert: I didn’t make it to Waptus.)
The trail is steeper than I recall. It took me an hour to cover the first mile. I spent 5-10 minutes chatting with some folks who rode to Pete Lake on their horses. More importantly, the Garmin says I gained 1,000′ in that hour. 1000’/hour is what I used to cover a dozen years ago when I was in better hiking condition. That climbing pace made me feel a little better about being so slow.
While the trail is steep, and exposed to the sun in many places, the hiker is treated to numerous views of a steep waterfall. It’s hard to believe that this raging creek has no name; the USGS 7.5 map doesn’t even list a name. Video here: https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fkim.kremer.9%2Fvideos%2F10155601394874009%2F&show_text=0&width=225
At about 4000′, I started encountering snow fields on the trail. Some were fine and easy to cross. Others made it difficult to figure where the trail was and some of the snow created dams which flooded the trail.
The picture on the right is of three trees blocking the trail. This trail is very popular with horseback riders, and I don’t see how a horse would get around this block. I had to crawl under it. There’s no clear path around it to either side. Because it’s in a Wilderness Area, trail crews cannot use power tools: this will have to be cut out with hand tools.
A Green Trails map is too small scale to be much of a navigation tool, but they’re great for picking out the trail you want. I’ve only been up to Escondido Lake once, and that a dozen years ago. When I got to the junction with the Escondido Lake spur trail, I needed the map to give me an idea of the direction of the trail to Waptus Lake. And that’s the last time I saw the map.
I brought one of Jim’s maps. I should have dug out my own map of this area, but his was right there with the rest of the gear. The problem is that Jim laminates his trail maps. They last a long time, but you can’t fold them. Because I’m not familiar with the trail to Waptus, I knew I’d want to consult it at each trail junction, and there were several along the way. I didn’t want to have to take the pack off every time, so I wedged it between the small of my back and the pack frame.
Having the map there mostly worked. My elbows would brush against it when it worked its way too far to one side. It fell out once, and it made such a distinctive sound when it landed, so I figured I’d hear it.
And then it wasn’t there. 😦 With the snow fields, I was unwilling to go at farther without it. I was about a half-mile past the turn off for Escondido Lake. While retracing my trail in hope of finding the map, I decided that if I found the map, I’d head to Escondido Lake for the evening; if not, I’d go back to Pete Lake. I’ve been to Escondido Lake, but only once, and it was too long ago for me to have any recollection of the trail. Mine were the only tracks on the trail from Pete Lake, and I didn’t to risk not be able to find my tracks in the morning.
I didn’t find the map, and I was smart enough to know it was time to head back down. My guess is that it fell out during one of the stream fords. The water is noisy, and it wouldn’t have made any noise landing in water. I could have dropped it near one of the streams, and the noise from the rushing water would have prevented me from hearing it land. But if that was the case, I should have seen it along the trail.
On the trip back down to Pete Lake, I found this lovely flower.
Once I made it back to Pete Lake, my first task was to get my wet boots and socks off. My feet were immediately snuggled into my camp shoes and a pair of Mom’s feet sweaters.
Happy feet! I then headed to the lake to filter water for tonight and tomorrow’s breakfast. As I approached the lake, a mother duck alerted her eight or nine ducklings to huddle around her. In a flash, they went from a single-file line behind her to a tight little cluster alongside her. It would have been a cute video, but I was too slow in getting out my cell phone; instead, I savored the moment.
Once back at camp it was time to put up the tent and get my down sleeping bag out of its compressed prison. I can cook in the dark, but setting up a tent in the dark is less than ideal.
Once I got the tent out of its bag, I realized I had no tent stakes. This is not a free-standing tent. Without stakes, it’s a really big bivvy sack. I improvised and the tent will remain upright so long it’s not too windy tonight. I sure could have used that ice ax, though…
Here’s my improvised secure-tent-to-ground system.
While setting up the tent, a deer approached me. I remained as still as I could while getting out my cell phone to take pictures and some video: https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fkim.kremer.9%2Fvideos%2F10155586189529009%2F&show_text=0&width=225“> I was torn: I didn’t want to spook her, as I didn’t want her to waste the energy of bolting away, but I also don’t like the idea of wildlife being too comfortable around humans. As it turned out, this deer does not have the survival instincts those ducklings did: she’s been back several times. There isn’t a lot of grazing here, but clearly she considers this spot hers.
Dinner took a while, as I put too much water in it and I tried to simmer it long enough for thicken the sauce. I gave up after about twenty minutes. Once it cooled, I drank it. We’ll pretend it cheesy potato soup with hamburger. 😀
It was fairly breezy while I was cooking dinner. I put the stove behind one of the rocks, and used a water bottle to help block the wind. Note to self: next time, don’t put your water bottle quite so close to the stove when you’re going to be simmering something for a while.
The mosquitos drove me in to the tent before nine. It won’t get dark until ten-ish. I was up until after eleven last night, reading, and I got out of bed a little after six. That may well happen again tonight. Sleeping on an ensolite foam pad is not the most comfortable thing, and I wake up every ninety minutes or so to roll over. (I’m a side sleeper.) What I love about this pad – besides its ridiculously light weight – is that while my back is very stiff when I first crawl out of the tent, I feel good really quickly. I guess the hard earth is a sufficiently firm mattress. Now if I could just get used to sleeping on my back.
This is why I love this campsite so much: While it’s very close to the main trail, it’s secluded from the main trail. There’s a perfect big flat rock on which one may cook, and the rock is the perfect height for sitting and taking in all of the beauty. Another rock has numerous little ledges that serve as shelves, and the biggest of these is at the right height to place one’s pack for loading & unloading, and then getting the pack onto one’s back. The view of the lake isn’t great, and one must walk about 300 yards to the lake to get water. These are minor defects, given the privacy and the physical comforts of the site.