Thursday August 13, 2015
After our burgers Lisa helped shuttle cars around for the next leg of my trip. First we had to go to North Lake and take Nancy and Rich’s car to Pine creek, where they will be hiking out in four days. Then we had iced coffee, played cribbage and I worked on posting my blog. I also sat in my car talking with a client with the AC on, but not the engine .. later when I came back my battery was dead…I don’t know what I was thinking, oh wait, that’s right, I wasn’t thinking! I called Triple A because my jumper cables were buried. Then while I was waiting I lost my triple A card….but I found it again. I continued to have a series of mishaps and misplacing things…my long underwear, my camera, my eyes drops….all the things I needed to keep in order for the next leg of my trip. I don’t usually loose or misplace things and it kept happening one thing after another…..all day! Finally we were able to get my car to Pine Creek which I will exit from on August 23. Lots of logistics!
Lisa and I had ribs and tri-tip for dinner….mmmmm mmmm!
It was hot where we camped and we were finally able to sleep with our “caps” off our tents and we watched the shooting stars. Way cool!
Friday August 14, 2015
While drinking coffee I packed my bear canister with 9 days of food.
My pack for this leg, including 1,5 liters of water weighs 30.5 pounds. Before hitting the trail I decided I wanted a breakfast burrito and a double dry cappuccino. After coffee, Lisa dropped me off at Piute Pass Trailhead and she drove home while I hiked up to the top of the pass to meet Rich and Nancy.
There was a group of 6 young guys with very heavy looking packs at the trailhead that I figured I would eventually pass. Sure enough, about a mile up the trail while they were trying to figure out how to get across the creek I blew past them on a log crossing. They looked at me in surprise and I smiled and shrugged.
I was amazed at the lack of water in Piute Canyon…all the creeks were dry and the lakes were down a few feet. The canyon was both hazy and smokey from a lightening fire near Hume Lake. Close to the top of the pass I looked down and saw my name scratched in the mud, Rich’s handiwork….and that made me smile. Closer still to the top a guy asked me if I was with Rich and Nancy and he told me they were at the top. I crested the last switchback, an hour early, and sure enough there they were napping it on down in the sun. We were so happy to see each other and sat in the dirt catching up.
Off we went down the other side of the pass eventually cutting off on a use trail leading to Desolation Lake. This area seemed especially desolate today with the wind whipping around and the hazy smokey sky. And yet, it is also beautiful…..a lake filled basin with Mt Humphreys as a backdrop. We saw both sides of a deer jaw bone, white washed from the elements and spent some time investigating it.
Humphreys Basin. Desolation Lkae
Alpine glow on Mt Humphreys.
We climbed the ridge above Desolation Lake to Mesa Lake where we are camped. While we were looking for a site we saw rabbits, huge rabbits with big floppy ears scurrying about. (Yes, Lisa they really were rabbits and not marmots!) Our campsite is on a bench above the lake with an incredible view of Mt Humphreys, Mt Emerson and the Glacier Divide.
Saturday August 15, 2015
Mesa Lake to Puppet Lake
I left my rainfly door open so I could glimpse the brilliant stars whenever I woke up in the night. So many stars lighting up the sky like tea lights. From my cozy sleeping bag, at 5:30 I watched the light creep across Mt Humphreys and the basin below. Mt Goethe and the Glacier Divide were reflected in the still waters of Mesa lake. I imagined jumping on my paddle board and gliding across the placid waters….oh, right, this is a backpacking trip not a water sports trip.
The view from my tent
Rich and Mesa Lake
Today’s objective is Puppet Pass ( I love that name and it makes me smile….big) and the lakes beyond! Off we go!!
We climbed high above Mesa Lake across wide alpine meadows dotted with minuscule yellow flowers, near dry tarns and talus until we crested the ridge overlooking Puppet Pass. We had to navigate down a chute ( no ladders! 😉 ) and found ourselves precisely where we weren’t supposed to be….in the boulders! Everything I had read said, “stay out of the boulders!” And yet, here we were, and I’d like to say that to call what we were on boulders is not accurate…..it was more like jumping across huge terraced slanted, steepled pokey rooftops that shifted with every step. Finally we were able to work our way to the “obvious wall” and hugged it the rest of the way down. Nancy had a great attitude even though she was scared almost out of her boots! Rich of course was calm, mellow and encouraging.
The OBVIOUS wall
Rich & Nancy “hugging” the wall.
We spent the rest of the day circumnavigating all the lakes in this moonscape basin. We are camped at Moon Lake and true to its name, it was hard to find a flat spot. I went “swimming” which consisted of jumping in the water and jumping out. Freezing cold, but cooled me off and washed off the dust and sweat.
looking back at Puppet Pass
We studied the maps and played cards as the day turned to night.
I’ve been noticing that the light is changing and it is getting darker a bit earlier everyday.
Sunday August 16, 2015
I slept until almost 7 and it felt great! It is quite smokey this morning from all the fires in the surrounding areas and it gives this desolate basin an eerie feeling. We have changed our route so many times I’m not exactly sure what is in store for today and I imagine we will change it again several more times before day’s end!
We headed down a use trail that connected to the Pine Creek Pass trail and hiked up to the pass where we left the trail for Royce Lake. We followed the contour slowly gaining elevation and crossing one ridge after another. It was easy walking on slabs and we all picked out gigantic rocks we would like to have in our gardens! The views were great, albeit a bit hazy from the fires. We could see all the lakes on the bench above French Canyon as well as Mt Humphreys, Pilot Knob and Puppet Pass. Spectacular!
Heading to Royce Lakes
Royce Lake and Merriam Peak
We arrived at the deep blue waters of Royce Lakes with Merriam Peak as a backdrop in time for lunch. We found a sliver of shade behind a huge boulder and had fizzy drinks, I also had my coffee milkshake which was delicious. We kept hearing voices that we decided were climbers on Merriam Peak but we could not locate them. After lunch we decided to continue hiking up over the next pass ( not sure if it has a name) and into the lower reaches of Granite Park.
Nancy groaned, not quite as loud as the rocks, when we found ourselves once again on huge talus blocks alongside the lake. As we were carefully navigating our way through the maze the two young climbers we heard breezed past us as if they were walking down a sidewalk. We chatted for a bit and I could see the passion for their adventure reflected in their eyes and this made me happy!
We descended the “pass” on long granite slabs and benches sometimes alongside and sometimes in a dry creek bed. It was a mixture of tedious route finding, fun and scary negotiating and stunning scenery. A good mantra during our talus walk and slab decent was: TRUST YOUT FEET!
We all kept wishing there was water in the creek because we passed several prime campsites with expansive views. As Honeymoon lake, our destination, became closer we got cliffed out and had to backtrack. Backtracking isn’t too bad, but backtracking at 5 pm when you are hot and tired and ready to stop is a pain….. And also full of surprises. We worked our way around a contoured bench with sweeping views and stepped down into a sandy flat area with a small brook a few hundred feet away. The three of us, at the same time said, ” let’s camp here!” And none of us waited for the other to respond before dropping our packs!
Descending the slabs
Down, Down Down
The Pass to Royce Lakes
All day, more accurately, everyday I kept saying, ” it’s so beautiful! The colors are amazing, especially with my sunglasses.”
( I have polarized sunglasses) I would then compare and contrast the view with and without my sunglasses. I’m pretty sure that’s one of my annoying quarks. Later in the day Nancy turned to me and said, ” That’s a great color blue shirt especially with my sunglasses!” I laughed so hard I almost lost my balance!
We ate dinner sitting on the big smooth granite slabs overlooking Honeymoon Lake and the gateway meadow to Granite Park. As the alpine glow colored the surrounding peaks we marveled at our adventurous day!
This was my favorite day of this trip. I love the mixture of easy trail walking, off trail exploration, and the combination of thrill and scary climbing down the slabs. I feel so alive!
I am now inside my tent with the rainfly off watching the stars. A great way to end a perfect day!
Monday August 17, 2015
I saw lots of shooting stars last night which was such a treat. I loved waking up to the pre-dawn light snuggled inside my sleeping bag all toasty warm. Hunger drove me out of my tent early. I have been incredibly hungry on this leg of the trip and I’m looking forward to raiding Nancy & Rich’s bear canister before they hike out tomorrow. Part of me wants to dive into my bear can and eat all the treats…..but I know in a few days I will really want them. This is a great exercise in self control….it’s kinda mandatory to participate!
This morning we relaxed and drank coffee on the granite slabs overlooking Honeymoon lake. Nancy and Rich’s gear is strewn all over the rocks and they keep saying, “wait where is my stuff sack, where is the lunch, how much water do we have, Oh wait I forgot to put my boots on!” It’s quite entertaining watching them!
We hiked up into Granite Park another exquisite basin dotted with meadows, white bark pine, sandy benches, waterfalls, small lakes and, you guessed it, granite. Lots and lots of wonderful granite. We didn’t hike far before finding a great campsite on a sandy bench nestled between two lakes connected by a stream and surrounded by stands of white bark pine. Nancy and Rich are hiking out tomorrow and I wanted to help them out by not hiking up too far and they wanted to help me out on my way over Italy Pass tomorrow by hiking up a bit higher….so we settled on this halfway point! We spent a relaxing day walking up stream, swelling down our feet, lounging and reviewing gear. I went swimming and this time I actually stayed in the water a bit and it was quite refreshing. We even all washed out hair and decided to “dress” for dinner….which means wearing our sun shirts with collars.
Granite Park Camp
Just the Three of us!
Tuesday August 18, 2015
We were all up early enjoying coffee and breakfast before I began my 1,000 foot ascent to Italy Pass and Nancy and Rich began their 3,875 foot descent to the Pine Creek Trail Head.
These last 4 days were a lot of fun and we explored some new places and had some great laughs. The time together is easy and we are compatible both on and off the trail!
I enjoyed having slower paced days and it was good for me to rest. I’m looking forward now to both my solo time and to putting some miles underneath my boots!
This blog was typed trail-side with my index finger, one letter at a time!