|One of many small falls along Pole Creek.
You would think that after driving 21 hours, getting
7 hours of sleep, then hiking 7 miles uphill in the heat and all the fresh
air a guy could get more than an hour of uninterrupted sleep, right? No
freakin' way. I can say without reservation the night spent at Mary's
lake was THE worst night of sleep I've never had in the back country.
No night even comes close. I don't know what it was, but I couldn't fall
asleep in the first place, and when I did , it would be for 45 minutes,
30 minutes, 50 minutes... Dammit.
No matter. The three of us woke around 6:45, fairly
late as it turned out, and began our morning ritual of stretching out
sore muscles and cracking our middle-aged joints. How fun it is to grow
First things first: I had to eat my GORP and powdered
milk for breakfast resulting in an instant 1/2 pound loss of pack weight!
I already had the feeling I'd packed too much food for the trip despite
almost always becoming ravenous on or around day 4. This would be an 8-day
trip so I wasn't going to take any chances. Still...
"Now where did I put my spoon?"
First a hat, now a spoon. What else could possibly
happen? Had it last night for dinner. Maybe Ward has it by mistake---he's
got one just like it. Nope. What the fuck?
We pretty much scarfed down our breakfast in record
time, Ward down by the lake after he let me borrow his spoon, and were
on the trail at 8:30. I had no ideas of what we'd see today, just a vague
notion we'd be following Pole Creek. Hey, we were on the Pole Creek trail---it's
not rocket science after all.
Within a half hour Reed again had to stop to stretch
his back. Secretly, I wasn't sorry he had to stretch as he was a strong
hiker and leaving me in his dust. Extra stretching breaks? No problem,
take all you want. Memo to self: get your butt in shape the next time
you plan on hiking the Winds.
We'd actually take quite a few breaks during the
morning, time I'd spend looking for a suitable piece of wood I could carve
into a usable spoon. Where the hell did that go? Did a varmint take it?
Whatever, I'd get by. There was always duct tape.
|Ward and Reed trying to figure out where
we went wrong.
By 10:20 we reached Monument Creek and a short
time later came to our first water crossing. I was ready to take a little
break and found the perfect spot near a beautiful waterfall 200-300 yards
away. After a quick bushwhack I was perched amongst the foamy whitewater
enjoying the view, waiting for Reed and Ward to arrive.
Another hour of up and down hiking brought us
to a nice wet meadow along the shores of "Lilly Pad Pond". Since
it was almost noon we decided to eat our lunch here, beneath the shade
of a few spruce.
As I was sitting indian style, enjoying my granola
bars I noticed 1.5 inches of stitching coming undone on my left boot.
Of course, why not? I had serious doubts whether the boot would make it
through the next 5 or 6 days since there was no indication of stitching
failure before the trip started. Climbing Knapsack Col was not something
I wanted to do in a pair of Crocs. So I did what anyone would have done
in a situation like this: stitched it together with duct tape and said
a quick prayer, hoping the boot would hold up through the rest of the
While filling my water bladder I discovered a
nice surprise: My spoon! I keep my Nalgene Canteen in a light stuffsack
for protection and forgot I had put the spoon inside. Finally, some good
The remainder of the afternoon was spent hiking
along the creek, watching the trees thin out, and my face burn. I'd been
wearing my bandana which kept my scalp and neck shaded, but my face was
getting roasted despite a healthy coat of sunscreen (which usually ran
off my face like glacial melt due to my profuse sweating).
|Lake 10175 was a sub alpine gem near the
end of a long day.
At one point we hiked right past the first Pole
Creek crossing but got our bearings and caught the second one. I thought
I could rock hop across and nearly succeeded but for one bad step resulting
in a wet boot. At least it was the good boot. Reed and Ward changed into
their water shoes and got both feet wet going across. Score one for the
Once the two sissies changed back into their boots
we began our climb towards Lester Pass. We'd been eyeballing what we thought
was the pass from our lunch spot and, as it turned out, we were wrong.
With the sun beating down on our tired, sore bodies, we trudged ever upward.
Well, I trudged while Ward and Reed sprinted. Lake 10175 was a welcome
respite and something pretty to look at besides my partner's trail dust.
We'd made the decision just after lunch that we
didn't feel like hiking over Lester Pass today and would try to find a
camp site at Tommy Lake. The topo made it appear there would be plenty
of places to camp on the northwest shore. Basically, the topo lied.
We hiked to the north end of Tommy Lake, climbing
higher with each step, looking for a suitable (read: legal) camp site.
While Ward climbed down to the lake, I forged ahead (read: climbed further
up the trail) looking for Nelson Lake which also looked promising on the
map. I didn't see Nelson Lake but did hear Ward say there was enough room
for three tents down by the lake or about 200' below my current position.
Good enough for me but climbing out just to get back to the trail tomorrow
would royally suck.
|Tommy Lake proved to be a difficult camp
site to leave.
Legal or not (not), the site was level, close
to the water (read: no climbing back up to camp with a water bucket) and
in the sun. Oh, and there were horseflies and mosquitos bad enough that
my Madisonian pals donned their head nets shortly after setting up camp.
I think we were all pretty gassed from the day
and didn't spend much time lounging about camp. Instead, we all bathed,
did laundry, filtered water and waved hello to the pair from Arizona on
the trail above our camp. They had indeed aborted and took the Indian
Pass Trail over to Little Seneca then over Lester Pass to Tommy Lake.
I knew they wouldn't make Golden Lakes. Score one more for the Dorfman!
By 7:00 Reed was faking tiredness for a little
quality time with his ipod, signaling it was time for us to think about
hitting the rack as well. It had been a tough day yet it seemed we hadn't
really done anything. During the planning stages I had marked off several
possible after-dinner side trips or higher points that might make for
some good viewing...we were doing none of these, nor did we have the energy.
I vowed that wouldn't happen tomorrow.