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Bailey Range 1996

Appleton Pass to Cat Lake

We were underway by 9:30 or so, under a warm sun. To say the route is "off-trail" is really inaccurate. There is certainly no developed, maintained trail in the ususal sense. But finding your way along the way path is nearly a no brainer at this point. Thousands of pairs of feet have worn through the delicate vegetation, and the route finding is simple. We climbed through lovely but waterless meadows ESE of Appleton Pass, to our first descent of the day. A warmup for things to come. A few hundred feet down, followed by the same amount of up to Spread Eagle Pass. The route contours around a cirque at the headwaters of the Sol Duck river. So far, so good. A little stream provides the only water between Oyster Lake and Cat Lake, so we drank heavily, and loaded our water bottles. Then down and around another few cirques. The hiking was not hard, but the heat was taking it's toll: we would later measure the temperature at Cat Lake (ca 5000') at 4:30 at 83 degrees. I was so hot that when we found a pocket of shade in a clump of trees, I just dropped my pack and sipped GatorAde , too tired to even think of enjoying the home-made pepperoni jerky and cheese in my lunch sack. After lunch we crossed a couple of rock bands with a little exposure and some big steps with no problem, but it kept your attention. A steep descent through some woods and then out across a long talus slope: the going was tedious, and my feet felt like I was walking barefoot in the dessert. Susie and I made it to Cat Lake by 2:30 pm, and spent the next couple of hours just drinking pumped water (that is lake water run through our Pur water filter system) and doing laundry. Will got in perhaps 20 minutes behind us, and Dolph and Regina took their time on a "more creative" crossing of the talus field.

To say that there were blueberries out around the lake is like saying that a few folks gather every New Years Eve in Times Square. It was sorta like: How many quarts do you want to eat? This botanical phenomenon had not been lost on the indigenous bear population. While sitting eating dinner on a knoll overlooking Cat Basin, we could count 6 bears within a few hundred yards of our camp. Some party members expressed concerns, mistakenly equating these truly wild creatures with some of their panhandling cousins in the Smokies. My observations were that these critters had much better things to eat that what was in our food sacks. This turned out to be one of those rare times when I was correct. Dinner tonight was Penne pasta with prosciuto and peas and Alfredo sauce: once of our finest dinners (and heaviest).

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Roger A. Jenkins, 1996