Monday, May 24, 2010

First Backpack of the Season


While the weather system in Seattle was in a holding pattern of sun, clouds and sudden, intense downpours, two of its inhabitants journeyed to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness near Skykomish. They loaded up their newly acquired backpacks with down sleeping bags, identical sleep pads, a tent split between them, incredibly lightweight stove (3oz) and fuel, some food (though never enough) and rain gear, as always.

The trailhead was surprisingly empty, with just a few cars and a forest service truck preparing to depart. The two backpackers were not discouraged by the lack of people, nor by the clouds overhead. This was to be their first backpack of the season to prepare them for more adventure. They talked to a pair who had camped at the lake the night before and it sounded as though they would have solitude. Luckily, the scout group of 10 young (and apparently loud) backpackers was readying to break camp when they were last spotted.

Up the trail the pair hiked, noting the almost-manicured condition of the first part of the trail, as though it were the example by which all trails should ideally be built. Over boardwalks, crossing creeks on nicely placed rocks and ascending steps, the pair made their way the two miles to the lake, with little more than mist falling briefly. They continued past the lake to find a campsite and were tipped off to a good spot by an exiting couple.

Once in camp, they set up the tent, hung the food bag and set off again down toward the south end of the lake. They passed what looked to be a veritable forest of trillium, a harbinger of the spring season that was already in full bloom in the city yet in the wilderness, it looked as though it had barely just begun. Then, some snow patches were navigated, growing in frequency and duration as the time passed, until they reached the marshy area at the south end of the lake where the snow was solid. It was then that they took note of the clouds and the way they congealed at that end of the lake. Just then, it started raining in earnest, when a member of the party took out an umbrella to deflect the large drops.
Back at camp the backpackers prepared a hearty meal and prepared for a long night of (hopefully) sleep. After retiring into their bags, one of the hikers noted shadow of trees on the side of the tent. The clouds had parted to reveal a waxing moon and it was doing its best to create a light show on the tent. The other thing the parting clouds provided was for the heat of the day to sneak out, leaving a very cold night, with bags zipped up and hats on heads, with faces just barely showing.

It was no surprise that the morning dawned cloudy, yet there was no precipitation. However, during breakfast, the clouds began to move apart, revealing tops of ridges and mountains, brightening the scene and making the lake water blue. Even the hummingbirds took notice of the change in weather as they hummed and zipped around camp, landing momentarily on a branch above the campers.

Due to time constraints in the city, the pair made a plan to depart, dreaming of a particular bakery in a particular town on the way home. On the hike out, they passed 3 dayhikers coming up the trail, confirming that they had been the only campers at the lake the night before.


1 comment:

Eric Shalit said...

Great story. It's been a while since I've read WHIRLED TRAVELER. It's really terrific.