Losing the Trail

Today, according to the hiking book, we should be away from people. Boy, is that the truth! There is no sign of anyone, except for the remains of a mylar birthday balloon blown in from who knows where, a metallic Starbuck’s bag, and a large piece of tin. We packed the trash into Barbara’s pack.

IMG_7675Leaving Wheeler Lake, we found a beautiful cold stream, and spent awhile there  filtering and filling our water bottles in the cool shade.

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There was a large flock of Canada geese at Wheeler Lake. When we first arrived, we mistook their vocalizations for dogs barking, and assumed there were humans nearby. Not so.

We started up over to Frog Lake, and missed the trail turnoff, so we hiked a couple of miles down Jefferson Canyon toward the Mokelumne River. We figured out that we had missed the trail, but thought maybe we would just keep going, and spend some time at the river. The mosquitos got thicker the lower we went, and the slow and vicious deer flies started biting, so we turned around and headed for higher ground. It’s nice to wander without a real agenda.

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Purple monkeyflower grew in profusion.

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Alpine Lilies hugged the bank of the creek in Jefferson Canyon

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I don’t know what this little fern-like plant is, but it was so sweet and tender-looking that I had to snap a picture. What is it?

We found the trail, and had to be constantly vigilant to stay on it. We lost it a few times under fallen trees and in lush meadows where the vegetation grew much faster than lonesome travelers could beat it down. Barbara and I are good travel companions. She has more stamina than she did two years ago, and I have less, which evens us out somewhat. I love that she is so wiling to be in the moment and go wherever. And I’m so glad to be away from the cows!

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Termites were hard at work clearing the forest of fallen trees.

Today, I practiced my map reading and compass skills, and luckily found the right path every time, though there were some stretches of cross-country while we looked for the very faint trail. I felt so relieved every time it reappeared, even though I was pretty certain of our direction and the map. Some of the streams shown on the map were already dried up, which made things feel iffier. I find that my eye is sharper, and more able to catch the faint deer prints, broken twigs and bent blades of grass that sometimes are the only trail markers.

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The view northwards from the saddle. The high point didn’t have a name, so we called it      Mount Lewigbie. May as well..

The trail led up and over a saddle at 8550 ft, in a funny area of mixed volcanic rock and glacial granite. It was wonderful resting under the windswept lodgepole pines at the top of the World.

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Finally, after more losing of the trail, we arrived at Frog Lake. I don’t know what I was expecting—probably something more alpine-looking than it turned out to be. It is a lovely lake surrounded by forest and meadow. The stream feeding it was dried up, and we had to get our water from the lake itself. It’s full of lily pads and very pretty, but after yesterday’s run-in with leeches I didn’t want to risk immersing myself. We settled for rinsing the day’s salt and grime at the water’s sandy edge.

 

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The volcanic rock and lichens were so colorful, compared to the smooth granite nearby.

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A little stunted and gnarled ponderosa pine curved itself into a very comfy seat.

 

 

 

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Mariposa Lilies shared the shade of the lodgepole pine with us.

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The volcanic rock and lichens were so colorful, compared to the smooth granite nearby.

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A little stunted and gnarled ponderosa pine curved itself into a very comfy seat.

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Volcanoes and glaciers formed this place. And probably earthquakes, too.

Finally, after more losing of the trail, we arrived at Frog Lake. I don’t know what I was expecting—probably something more alpine-looking than it turned out to be. It is a lovely lake surrounded by forest and meadow. The stream feeding it was dried up, and we had to get our water from the lake itself. It’s full of lily pads and very pretty, but after yesterday’s run-in with leeches we didn’t want to risk immersing ourselves. We settled for rinsing off the day’s salt and grime at the water’s sandy edge.

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IMG_7725I decided to explore a bit to find us a campsite, and I’m really glad I did. On the far side of the lake, there was a long granite ridge, and nestled among the boulders was a real gem of a site, with views down the valley and up to the volcanic spires which we had seen on our left as we crossed the saddle, at about 8000 ft. We set up camp at about 3:30 and had a mid afternoon dinner.IMG_7730

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The well-dressed backpacker, ready for dinner with titanium spork in hand

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Volcanic spires and granite slabs, the view from our campsite.

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The glacier-polished granite shone brightly in the magic light of late afternoon.

I was really tired, and thinking of bed by 6:00. But it was way too sunny and beautiful out to retreat to my tent. Smoke started to blow in from the Yosemite fire, but it appeared to be high up, and we couldn’t smell it. The wildflower fields continue to amaze us, with lupine and aster joined by vetch, mariposa lilies, shooting stars, columbines, penstemon, and a myriad of flowers whose names I don’t know.

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A natural jigsaw puzzle near or camp.

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still life

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The only other humanoid for miles around kept watch over our camp.

IMG_7764I am feeling much more comfortable with the map and compass now. For some reason, though we get no phone signal, Barbara’s iPhone is still able to find us on Google Maps. That seems rather sinister to me, but it does really help to have another point of reference to corroborate my semi-educated guesses. We walk in Beauty.

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Our camp, nestled among the boulders.

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Every tree was worthy of a portrait.

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It’s a hard life for plants in this environment.

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A perfect bonsai and cushion buckwheat

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Barbara glowing in the magic light.

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Barbara brought a small book by Thich Nhat Hanh on being present and practicing the Buddhist principle of “aimlessness.” She ripped it in half, so that we could both read it. Today, we managed to do that a lot Every day up here, without an agenda other than to keep to a very loose itinerary, keeps me very much in the moment.

We made ourselves stay up long enough to watch the sun’s fiery orange ball sink out of sight into the smoky Central Valley. Then it was off to sleep by about 8:30. I woke several times in the night to star-gaze from the comfort of my bag, watching the slow drift of the Milky Way snake across the sky. So beautiful and clear!

 

Today was 9.1 miles.

7 thoughts on “Losing the Trail

    • Well, we were in the trees, so dawn was nothing to shout about. Sunset happened early because of the big volcanic ridge to the west of the lake, so that wasn’t much to remember, either. But the air was sweet and I slept well…

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