September 16th, Tuesday
2445 to 2464
We got a sound night’s sleep and awoke to the sound of grouse peeping softly outside our tent. We opened our rain fly to see that the morning, while comparatively warm, was covered in gray clouds. Zach went to gather water while I packed up quickly.
We walked along the meadow, then started climbing a mountain near Cathedral Rock. The weather was now humid and fairly warm, making our bodies damp with sweat. We saw the wide countryside all around, and noted the coming of autumn: the huckleberry bushes were fiery red, and some of the trees, while appearing coniferous, were blushing bright yellow. (We later learned these were called larches— they are deciduous pine trees.) As always, whenever we crossed a moraine we saw pikas hopping about.
Near midday we had to cross a river— it was narrow, but cut a swift slope in the cleft of the mountains, crashing onto the rocks on a path toward the valley. Two shaky logs formed a path over, and Zach hopped up and walked straight across. For whatever reason, I began freaking out. I began shaking and almost cried. Zach, confused, held out his hand to help me and soon I was across as well. We sat in the sun and ate a snack to level out my blood sugar, but the stream roaring in the cleft made conversation impossible.
We were alone today for the most part, winding in and out of the steep, huckleberry- and pine-clad hills. The mountains fell away from us, marked with cobalt-blue lakes at ever lower levels of elevation.
Late afternoon, we saw a massive tree fallen across the trail up ahead, and saw two Forest Service guys working on it with a cross-cut saw. They had driven wedges into the cut to keep it from pinching the saw.
We stopped and talked to them— they were clearly having the time of their lives, having hiked in many miles to come to this point. They told us about the trail up ahead. We’d be passing several lakes, and they told us which ones we were allowed to camp beside.
Waving goodbye, we continued on, and here, at the end of the day, we tackled one last thousand-foot climb that took us into alpine regions. Far below we saw several lakes with designated camping, but the detour just didn’t seem worth it.
Zach also noted that whoever named all the geographical features in this area was easily alarmed. We had come across Deception Creek, Surprise Lake, and Trap Lake. We giggled at the idea of a bunch of early explorers yelling in surprise every time they came across a body of water.
At last we decided to camp next to a meandering stream, surrounded by huckleberry bushes. This stream, like many alpine ones, cut a squiggly path through the thick alpine turf, with graceful rounded edges of dirt but a pebbly bottom. I gathered the icy water and we curled up in the tent, braced against a cold and rainy night.