Beartooths Backpack 2002
The Best Laid Plans...
Layover and day hiking
Monday, September 2 I awoke to a full blown cold. Stuffy head, scratchy throat, and no energy. At all. And the hell of it was that it was such a gorgeous morning. Not a cloud in the sky. It being a layover day, we got up a few minutes before 7 am, and had some nice hot oatmeal. Of course, we had to deal with lowering food bags and drawing them back up again. The books always make such look simple. It ain't. The plan for the day was to do a day hike up the valley at the head of which sits Flat Rock Lake. I had been up it in ‘85 and it is certainly worth a day. I told Susie I would hike with her as far as I thought was prudent, but I knew in my heart that there would be no way I could - or should - do the entire hike. I needed to spend a good chunk of the day just resting, because tomorrow would be a full day. Or so I thought. Susie and I left camp about 9:15. Sue, Andy and Lance were right behind us. Diane and Tim. thought that they would hang out in Martin Lakes Basin, a lovely place to be on a lovely day, and spend some time fishing. Not a bad idea. I probably should have stayed with them. So five of us walked to the northwest corner of Martin, and went up the draw to the west (toward Green Lake). The walk up is very easy. It flattens out quickly, and begins a descent of maybe 400 feet or so, through talus blocks, grass, and eventually deep woods. The route is sort of pick your own way. Susie and I got separated from the other three, following a bench to the left and then descended steeply to the floor of the "valley" as we got closer to Green Lake. It all works, for sure.
As we began to cross a small meadow, we could look up and see the drainage coming down from Crystal Lake. I could see a plan quickly evolving in the groups eyes: why not hike up Sierra Creek to Flat Rock Lake, come back down to the side drainage leading up to Crystal Lake, and then come back down to the NE corner of Green via the nice easy drainage. No problem, if you have some energy. I could see that my day would ultimately include a nice nap in camp. Anyway, we crossed the meadow, and began a short climb around a knoll on the north side of the lake. (I had been a little foggy as to the exact route, it having been 17 years ago that I had done this.) There is a path that eventually splits. We correctly took the right fork, and climbed another 250 feet, and then began a descent toward Sierra Creek. It was about 11:15, and I decided that this would be as far as I would go. I had a nice view of a cascade from where I sat, but I did not want to lose any more elevation than I had to. I figured it would take me a couple of hours to get back to camp, given the way I was feeling. So Susie and the crew bid me farewell, and I sat there and munched on crackers. I was really disappointed, but I knew I just did not have it in me. This is only the second time I could remember having a debilitating cold on a big backpacking trip, but it sure was frustrating.
I stumbled back down to Green Lake, rested some more, and then headed back up the drainage to Martin Lake and camp. I got back to camp a bit after 1 pm, dropped on the ground, and spent the next 15 minutes making up some Crystal Lite Peach Tea, eating crackers, and watching a lovely blue butterfly probe my day pack, looking for some sort of nutrition from my dried sweat. I decided that was enough activity for one afternoon, so I crawled in the overly warm tent, covered my eyes, and tried to sleep. That worked about 30 minutes, and then I woke up to a bursting bladder. I crawled out to relieve myself, but 10 minutes later, I had to do it again. (I now recall that a similar occurrence took place in the middle of the Pasayten Wilderness trip. So if you need to get cleaned out quickly, and you don't have a six-pack, try Peach Tea.) The second time was the charm, and I dozed the rest of the afternoon.
Meantime, A&S and Lance and Susie were having a great time. They reported getting all the way up to an overlook of Flat Rock Lake, and then ascending to Crystal from near Alp Lake. Judging from the photos Susie took, it is a pretty spectacular place, and the loop really added something.
Just a couple minutes before 4 pm, Tim and Diane's voices awoke me, and I felt a bit, just a bit refreshed. I emerged to get their fishing report: they had gone down the chain as far as Winthrop Lake, and reported it was really beautiful. The falls going into Spogen Lake were something else, and in the process of all this touring, they had managed to catch 25 fish. Unfortunately, they were all too small for eating, so we were headed toward another fishless evening. But I think Tim was enjoying the chase, even though there was not much extra meat on the table. I decided to clean up before the rest of the crew got back, so I went over and found our warm pool of water, and it still had sun on in. Warm here being relative. Let's say that, more accurately, it was not frosty. I always use as the official gauge: if it really really hurts your head, the water is cold. If not, it is ok. This qualified as OK.
While I was finishing up my laundry, I heard new voices, and could see that the ramblers were headed into camp. I was glad to see them, as I am always afraid that someone could hurt themselves, and being late might have been an indicator of such. Anyway, they were pretty tuckered out by the time they got into camp. It had been a full day for them. Dinner was great: our homemade version of Santa Fe chicken and rice with black beans. But I think this was our last pack of the mix from Knorr. I am going to have to make it from scratch in the future. After dinner, a couple of guys showed up at our cooking knoll. They were camped at the north end of the lake, and basically wanted to know if we had any extra fuel. They had been in for a couple of days and had used up all the fuel that they had. They first said it was pretty windy (they had camped at Albino Lake the previous nite, which is definitely above timberline) and then admitted that they had been baking cookies and making omelets. It seemed to me that they must not have been used to metering out fuel. We were not about to give up any fuel at this point, because we were only on the third of seven nights. They were talking about day hiking out the highway and coming back in with fuel. They were ham radio operators, and had a portable set with them. They would call back each night to Payola, KS, where one of them was from, and report on their progress. I guess that is what you do if you are a ham radio backpacker, but I say, just get a satellite phone if you need that degree of connectedness. Better yet, stay home. Being in the wilderness is not about being connected to home. I know, sounding like a purest here. After they left, presumably hoping to find someone else heading out with too much fuel in their packs, the ladies of our group all chimed in that one of the guys looked really weird, like a serial killer or something. I did not get that. He just looked like he'd had two too many beers, or something. Maybe this is just a sixth sense that women have.
After we hauled up all our food, and stowed gear, we built a tiny trash fire at dusk, right down on the edge of the water, so the next time it rains, the evidence will all be gone. We were treated to a drop dead display of alpenglow. There were a lot of clouds in the sky, but it just made the photos nicer. I took a Nyquil caplet, courtesy of Tim and Diane, to help clear my stuffed nose and help me sleep. Despite my having napped in the afternoon, I was dead to the world in a few minutes. Susie's excuse for not staying up and reading was that she did not want to disturb me. I think she was as least as beat as I was.
© Roger A. Jenkins, Suzanne A. McDonald, 2002