Saturday, August 17, 2013

Bald is Beautiful!

Sunrise over Lake Watson--or at least what
passed for sunrise on this gray, overcast day.
During the night, I saw flashes of light in the sky. Lightening. It was a little eerie since I could still see some stars out and never heard any thunder. Just the distant flash of lightening. Somewhere.

By morning, I woke up at Watson Lake with grey, ugly clouds. My first morning without sunshine. On the other hand, it was also a lot cooler outside! The heat wave had passed!

When I left Watson Lake, I filled up with all the water I could because I had absolutely no idea where my next water source was located. Each trailhead had a nice little map of the next section, including where to find water, but as I neared the end of section 1 and approached section 2, I didn't have the section 2 map. I had no idea where the next water would be, so I filled up with all the water I could. Better safe than sorry!

The trail crossed Highway 267 at the Brockway Summit trailhead, a busy but otherwise uninteresting road. I sipped sparingly from my water, not knowing how far it would be to the next source, but I found a small water cache at the trailhead left by previous TRT thru-hikers. A note on it said we could help ourselves, so I drank up a lot of water then refilled my supplies. I also picked up the section 2 map which described the following water sources: "Limited supplies. Water sources include Gray Lake, Mud Lake (seasonal), and Frog Lake."

I looked at the map to find where they were all located. Gray Lake and Frog Lake weren't even on the TRT so I didn't want to use either of them, but Mud Lake was seasonal and it had been a very dry year. Not an ideal situation, but I'd have to get water from at least one of those sources no matter what. That much was required.

Mud Lake, even on the map, didn't look like it would be good water. The topo map looked like it was in a small dip in the ground and even if there was water in it, it would likely be a stale, stagnant pond. Which left Gray Lake and Frog Pond. Gray Lake would be a nice, moderate 17-mile hike for the day, though. I could do that. Frog Lake would have required over 20 miles of hiking. I set Gray Lake as a goal.

The trail steadily climbed upwards from Brockway Summit--not surprising since I was now headed towards the highest point on the entire Tahoe Rim Trail. I wouldn't reach it today, but I'd be getting close.

I know what you're thinking. "I don't see any clouds in that last photo." That's
because the sky was overexposed so the lake showed up well. So for
this photo, I underexposed the foreground and let the sky get
the right exposure--and pop! There are all the clouds! =) That last
photo and this one were taken just a couple of minutes apart.
Most of the trail was in the trees and not particularly interesting, until Mount Baldy. At Mount Baldy, the trees melted away and the views of Lake Tahoe exploded onto the scene. Incredible views, as far as the eye could see. I stood there, amazed and immediately stopped for a very long lunch break.

I set up near a tree off the side of the trail. It still looked like it could rain at any moment. In fact, I felt a couple of spits of water hit me and could see a major rainstorm going on just to the north. There was rain out there all right, although it hadn't caught up with me just yet. So I set up my snack break under the tree. If it started raining, I wanted protection from the tree.

Of course, if lightening started--and a chance of thunderstorms was in the forecast!--I'd have packed up in an even bigger rush and got the hell out of there! =)

The rain stayed away, however, and I just admired the view. Incredible, stunning views that spanned the entire length of Lake Tahoe.

While snacking, another backpacker with his dog came by who introduced himself as Recline, a former PCT thru-hiker like myself who was now thru-hiking the TRT. He looked a bit heavy for a thru-hiker, and explained that he picked up his trailname because he didn't move very fast. On the Tahoe Rim Trail, for instance, he wasn't even making 10 miles per day.

I must have passed him at some point because I'd been doing a lot more than 10 miles per day, but I had no idea where. I didn't remember seeing him at all before this moment, but it was still exciting for me. This was the first TRT thru-hiker I'd seen on the trail! And he's going my direction! Although, apparently, he's doing about half the miles I was each day.

You sometimes see strange things on the trail, but this
was a first for me. A sawhorse, just sitting there right off
the side of the trail. What the heck did someone bring
a sawhorse out here for?!
Eventually I got up and continued walking. The trail followed a long, exposed ridge, every inch of it with spectacular views. The dark clouds added to the dramatic views.

When I hit the junction for Gray Lake, I was torn. I liked it up here on the ridge. I wanted to camp up here on the ridge. But the water down there, down at Gray Lake. It was probably an ugly lake too, I thought. And filled with mosquitoes.

So I decided that I'd hike down to Gray Lake, fill up with all the water I could carry, then bring it back up to the ridge where I'd camp with the best view ever!

And that's exactly what I did. Gray Lake was an adorable little lake, surrounded with lush meadows and overflowing with nice, clean water. It wouldn't have been a bad place to camp at all (although it was still too early in the day to know how bad the mosquitoes might become). Except I saw the views from the top of the ridge. They were even better. Yes, I would definitely camp on the ridge.

I retraced my route back to the top and set up camp. I worried a bit that the rain might start up, but there were still trees around to set up my tarp with. I also worried that a lightening storm might still strike, but I'd be very well screwed if it did. Under a tree at the top of a ridge isn't a good place to be, and out in the open on the top of a ridge isn't a big improvement. I might have to hike back down the Gray Lake trail a bit unexpectedly.

But the weather didn't seem to be getting worse, so I risked it and camped right there on the ridge, and it was totally awesome.... =)

In completely unrelated news.... August is once again here, which means it's time for the annual Hike-a-Thon drive! Amanda and I are trying to raise money for the Washington Trails Association which does some great work building and maintaining trails in Washington state, and please, if you can help us out, even if it's just $5 or something, please do so! Sponsor us now!

This year, I've decided that anyone who sponsors me will be in the running to win an autographed copy of my book, A Tale of Two Trails about my exciting adventures on the West Coast Trail and Juan de Fuca Trail. For anyone that donates at least $40 to the cause, I'll send you a free autographed copy! The catch is.... you have to sponsor my page. Yeah, Amanda and I are a team, and everyone likes her more, but we also have separate accounts and I'll only be looking at those who donate under my account. So if you donate $40+, I'll mail you a free copy of my book. If you donate less than $40, I'll put all of your names into the proverbial hat and choose one at random who will get a free book. =)

That $40 also can give you a membership to the WTA which includes a subscription to the Washington Trails magazine. A book, a magazine subscription and all for a good cause--just $40! =)

A panoramic view of Lake Tahoe. This photo really sucks, though. Lake Tahoe
looks so small in the photo but it looked so huge when I stood here!
Water cache at Brockway Summit.

Brockway Summit

This self portrait of me at Mount Baldy might be my favorite self portrait
of the entire hike. =) Even in the photo, Lake Tahoe looks huge! I do
wish that the structure of the clouds showed up better, though.

Miles and miles of these spectacular views....

Gray Lake
And back on the ridge to set up camp! The dark clouds even seem
to be fading.... There sunlight out there!

My view from camp! Terrific!

And I took this one last photo shortly after sunset.

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