Saturday, May 30, 2015

On a mission

We don't have much of a spring here. It snows and is freezing and you are never without your puffy jacket and then boom! Seventy degrees. I often feel like I've missed a few weeks somewhere. Shouldn't there be a transition?

Unfortunately there is no good source of information to find out what's open, if you can cross the rivers yet, if the snowfields hide the trails. The Forest Service, bless their heart, just doesn't do a good job of posting information. Ask a local and a blank stare will ensue; most of them aren't avid hikers. There's a lot more lawn mowing going on here on weekends than there is backpacking. There are a few long distance trail runners, which if you saw these trails, you know it's a lot of fast walking with running intermixed. You can ask them, if you can catch them. But it's usually up to me to do my own scouting.

I knew that the hike to Ice Lake could be treacherous, buried in snow. I've had to turn back well below the last waterfall, foiled by waist deep snow. But I had a rare Friday off (from working many many hours) so I decided to try it. It's a 16 mile round trip, so I set off early, encountering a foursome of backpackers who optimistically declared they were going to Mirror Lake. Oh you poor things, I wanted to say. Mirror was surely shrouded deep in snow. But let them discover on their own--I think people have been way too reliant on being fed information these days. These trails, you cannot Google.

I climbed up the switchbacks feeling good. Birds chirped and long green grass was growing in profusion in last year's fire area. This time of year is just so full of possibility. The whole summer stretches out, seeming endless. It's easy to make grandiose plans thinking there is way more time available than there is.

Never seen this falls so big!
The moment of truth arrived as I hit the avalanche basin. Snow typically lingers in the trees above, but looking I saw none. My mind fizzed with excitement. I might really reach the lake.

In the last half mile, I trudged across several snowfields that could normally spell disaster--outsloped as they were, if the snow was icy or too soft, it could mean a painful slide or postholing hell. However, conditions were perfect. I kicked steps across and barely sunk in. And there it was, Ice Lake.


This is one of my favorite lakes, but in summer it's not a place to hang out too long. Because it's only eight miles from the trailhead, it's often crowded (to me more than one other camping party is crowded; but you can sometimes have 5 or more parties here. That's too many!). People trail run it. They climb the grey mountain (the Matterhorn). It's just too...easy. But this time of year? Yes!

As usual, day hiking leaves me with a little bit of dissatisfaction. I really want to stay, to sleep out and wake up in a pretty place. It means that both of my days off aren't wasted--because even though I know what this sounds like, just hanging around the house and doing chores on my day off? Not great. But I was on a scouting mission, so I had to go back down. I raced the storm down the switchbacks. Then it was time to eat all the food. Being a scout is a fine life. I wish I could do it full time.

12 comments:

  1. Never have hiked to ice lake Mary, the crowds have kept me away.
    I have however spent days in thorp creek basin and climbed to the top of Sac then skirted the gray mountain looking down on the lake. Did not see anyone the whole 3 days spent there. If you've never been up thorp creek I highly recommend it....

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    1. Oh Thorpe Creek is nice. Parts of it got nuked this year in a fire. But the main basin is still okay. I started up Sac and got within a half mile of the top and got scared. Too much slippery talus on the way down for me.

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  2. Waking up in the mountains is one of my favorite things. Our NFS trails are really hard to find too, but our problem is more with bushwhacking through overgrown trails than snow. I'm still waiting for the Trinity Alps to open up before I head out, hopefully later this month.

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    1. Nice. I'd like to hike the Trinities. Maybe next year as part of a pct section. I hope overgrown does not mean poison oak.

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  3. What a pretty lake! I'd hike there too. Looking forward to hitting the mountains around here - I think most of the trails are snow-free - already!

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    1. I am hearing reports that they are! I also heard of someone who went from Cascade Locks to Timberline. I'm definitely ready if I could ditch this work thing. It's hampering my hiking!

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  4. Lovely! I've only seen IceLake from the air---a sixteen mile day is a "little" too much, but I can see why it's a favorite. There's a job description, or a new consulting gig....scouting!

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    1. I wish someone would pay me for that!

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  5. Hey Mary, I like the pics, you sure pick some awesome places to hike. I did a lot of hiking in the Adirondacks, climbed Mt. Marcy twice, highest mountain in N.Y. State. I plan to go back and hike more. I may start publishing my hikes in Alaska. Keep on, keeping on

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    1. I'd like to read about Alaska hikes! I haven't done much hiking back east.

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  6. Yet again your words and photos have transported me to the magic of your mountains and seasons. Sensational. Thanks.

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    1. Nice compliment, thank you! That's why I write the blog!

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