Friday, August 30, 2013

Alpine Lakes Wilderness Day 8

30 August 1986.  We move out quickly on Saturday morning--it's too cold to dawdle.  Besides, we have a bus to catch.  Our tents are wet but we don't need them again on this trip.  We make a beeline for Stevens Pass, the first road we will encounter since Snoqualmie Pass.  Powerlines over the trail crackle in the mist.  We meet a surprising number of hikers along the way.  But for the rain I envy them.  We make Stevens Pass in about 2 hours.  Stevens Pass is even more deserted than our starting point.  Nothing is open so we wait in the cold and damp for the bus which is about a half hour late.  A couple other hikers join us.  I am wearing every piece of warm clothing by the time the bus arrives.  We toss our packs into the baggage compartment and pile in.  The bus is warm and crowded.  It stops in Skykomish for a five minute break.  We bolt across the road to a deli for a hot dog and coke before settling in for the ride to Seattle.

Showers and food at my cousin's house officially end the trip.  Greg, Colleen and Gary head in their various directions.  That night I tour Seattle's bars and restaurants with two cousins, Amy’s (remember Amy?) mom Pat and her sister Kathy visiting from Spokane.  We make a valiant effort to sample many of the 33 brands of draft beer at one bar.  An amazing end for a day that began in the cold and wet of Lake Susan Jane. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Alpine Lakes Wilderness Day 7

29 August 1986Friday is cold, misty and wet.  Typical northwest weather has arrived.  The sky was clear when we crashed last night so I was surprised to see the morning fog.  We break camp in the rain and head out, hoping that the fog will lift.  It does not.  We move out pretty briskly since it's too cold to stop for very long.  The fog eliminates any views we might otherwise have.  We did see some adjacent ridges swathed in fog but our views are of the misty forest with its towering trees, ethereal in the the mist.  The cold and wet spur us to move briskly and we reach Lake Susan Jane in less than six hours.  We put our ingenuity to work and rig another shelter for dinner.  Today is colder so we are in the tents much earlier tonight. 

Facing the end of the trip is a time of reflection.  I am amazed at the past week, at the places that I have walked to and through.  The Alpine Lakes Wilderness is wonderfully beautiful and largely unspoiled.  I find it satisfying that I have the skill and willingness to visit this place and experience it so intimately for an extended time.  Comprehending a place like this is impossible in a day or weekend trip.  Even a week is insufficient but it does allow the opportunity to experience the wilderness' profound grandeur.  This place is life itself--water, rock and soil nurture and support life.  No human hand could ever create this although human hands could easily destroy it.  Tonight's the night for Long Trip Philosophy.

Hard rain falls.  I listen to it pound the tent while comfortably wrapped in my sleeping bag. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Alpine Lakes Wilderness Day 6

28 August 1986.  Rain finally catches us on Thursday.  Not much rain by NW standards but enough to pull out parkas and pack covers.  The rain was intermittent throughout the day--never very hard or a real problem.  Hiking was nice and easy.  We covered four miles into Glacier Lake.  We could still see Mt Daniels and Cathedral Rock from our route--they really dominate this area.  We also got a nice glimpse of Lake Clarice perched high on the west face of Deception Valley.  Our campsite tonight is alongside the Glacier Lake and we have rigged up a novel shelter using two ponchos and just about every piece of rope and cord we have.  Greg even put in a counterweight using his fuel bottle to ensure proper drainage.  With the shelter we can sit outside the tents and comfortably tell stories, take group photos and swat bugs.

Glacier Lake is profoundly beautiful.  I am entranced by the play of light on water:  shimmering waves marching across the surface, reflections of the surrounding peaks and ridges undulating in the waves.  The lake is quiet, a wonderful stillness.  This is the finest day of the hike for me.  Watching the lake this evening gives me a profound sense of peace and contentment; no place on earth could be finer than right here right now.  I've reached Long Trip Nirvana.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Alpine Lakes Wilderness Day 5

27 August 1986  Wednesday's hike turned out longer than we planned.  We had only planned to hike to 17 mile camp today but when we arrived at 2:00 it was no place where we wanted to spend a lazy afternoon.  So we pushed on to Deception Lakes--almost 12 miles for the day.  The extra effort was well worth it.  Deception Lakes are a series of  lakes nestled in a high alpine cirque.  It was a welcome respite after a hot  day of hiking--the hottest yet.  We had a couple long uphill grades in the sun that really drained us.  Diving into an ice cold lake was a real treat even if we did not stay in very long.  Despite the heat, today's hike was great for me.  The climb out of Deep Lake to Cathedral Pass was easy--I'm used to being a beast of burden.  We follow the high PCT route above Cle Elum Valley, crossing several glacial streams running off the glaciers flanking Mt Daniel.  Despite several signs warning us not to attempt the crossings, we found makeshift bridges on two streams and flows were low enough to pick our way across.  We overlooked the Hyas Lakes as we skirted around Cathedral Rock and work our way toward Deception Pass.  Behind us Cathedral Rock's sharp spire thrusts toward the sky.  Above us, the white mass of Lynch Glacier moves imperceptibly.  From the pass we follow the trail along the west face of Mac Peak until we came to the Deception Lakes.  The day has become overcast but still no rain.  Hard to believe this is the Pacific Northwest.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Alpine Lakes Wilderness Day 4

26 August 1986.  Four days out now, we spend a leisurely rest day at Deep Lake, a welcome break after averaging 10 miles a day.  We left Waptus Lake under a sunny, cloudless sky.  The day's hike was short--just under six miles.  We climbed 1400 feet along the Spinola Trail.  Deep Lake is not as large as Waptus but it's quite pretty.  Our campsite has a large rock outcropping that serves as our front porch and has nice views of the lake.  We are right across the water from Cathedral Rock and can see the trail we'll be taking tomorrow.  Above and behind our camp are the saddles containing Circle Lake and Peggy's Pond.  Water from these bodies tumble down steep drainages and some dramatic falls into Deep Lake.  We spend the day lounging on the rock, swimming in the lake, exploring a bit and shooting the breeze.  After dinner we are even more laid back.  Deep Lake is almost all shadow now, just a bit of sun ont Cathedral Rock.  The water is very still now--only the occasional fish breaks the surface.  We solved the mystery of the uncooked pancakes when we fixed dessert tonight.  I had mixed a package of pancake mix with our cheesecake mix.  Instead of cheesecake our dessert tonight was Snickers bars.