Thursday, September 24, 2015

Misadventures at Jewett Lake

I double-timed it up the trail, scattering day hikers in my wake. I was meeting T at Jewett Lake, and I was sure she was there already. With a four day work week, she was able to get out on Friday, and was hiking through instead of out and back. I had aimed for a four day work week, but work obligations changed all that. So here I was, trying to make the most of twenty-four hours in the woods.

Jewett Lake is off trail, and can be a little tricky to find. You ascend a gully and then bank right to another one, then cross a Sound of Music type plateau before dropping in. I've been there a few times, though, so I arrived in record time, plopping down next to T and pulling out my food bag.

My heart sank. What the...? I had forgotten to pack lunch! I had packed a few snacks and dinner, but in my haste to go I had omitted an important item--calories! Wanting to go light, I had not brought a stove, opting for a dinner of tortillas, tuna, cheese, peppers and spinach. I also had: four Oreos, one granola bar, a 100 calorie pack of Goldfish crackers, and a Twix. (I know, not ideal nutrition. Typically I pack better, but in my defense I was in California all week and didn't have time to shop. Thus, the left over fire lunch raid)

I had just had a fruit and veggie smoothie for breakfast and hadn't eaten on the trail. While this wasn't a desperate situation, I knew I'd be hungry. Thoughtfully, I munched on the granola bar and crackers. At least I would be hungry in a beautiful setting.


T had her own difficulties, having run out of stove fuel the day before. I told her about the cold soak method of rehydrating food, and she went off to try it. (It actually works.) After our "dinner", we found ourselves shivering in a cold breeze. Fall was definitely here. I so wish we could have endless alpine summer, but we never do.

We wandered across the lake basin and onto a plateau where I had never been. But finally at seven we had to call it due to cold. We crawled in our respective tents, whipped by wind. The intermittent howl made it hard to sleep. Should we have dropped lower than 8,000 feet? Probably.

Looking down at Aneroid Lake
 The next morning, breakfastless, we stumbled across the plateau. As we descended the gully, I realized that something just did not seem right. This gully was steeper and rockier and was taking way too long. We were in the wrong gully!

Luckily, T has the admirable quality of not getting mad or flustered when things aren't going well. "Here's a game trail," she said. We abandoned the gully and began walking sideslope. "Should we just go downhill?" she asked. I paused. "I just don't know where we are right now," I said, eyeing the slopes around us. Would we have to go back up? I knew it wasn't a desperate situation, but I really didn't want to go back up.

"Look!" T said, She pointed. There was the main trail! How could it be? Then I realized: we had come down a forbidding gully I had often seen on my way to the right turn-off. I had often wondered if it was passable. Now I knew: it was. Sort of.

Hangry, cold, misplaced and sleep-deprived: was it worth it? Of course it was. How could I have passed up this view?


It's the perfect times we remember, but it's the not so perfect ones we laugh about years later. I'll never pack a food bag or pass the gully again without thinking, remember that time....

13 comments:

  1. Beautiful serendipity! I remember Jewett Lake fondly and glad to see it again through your photos and words.

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    1. The lowest I've ever seen it.

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    2. I remember circling Jewett lake and seeing dozens of wildflowers in bloom.

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  2. Lovely scenery! Worth going hungry for I'd say. Sometimes the best stories are the ones where you forgot things and had to make do.

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    1. Exactly. I still remember backpacking 12 miles in sandals because I forgot my boots.

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  3. So true! We definitely remember the perfect ones but it's the "oops, dammit" moments that really make backpacking memorable. And challenging.

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    1. True! The poison ivy forests, the "who forgot the stove", the torrential downpour where I realized I had no rain fly...Ha!

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  4. Heading out this weekend for a birthday fall picnic hike on a new trail. I expect it may be memorable as reports indicate the trail is hard to find and full of alders. It is always worth it! Love your blog,
    Naomi in Kimberley BC

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    1. Haha! The hard to find trail adventure! Been there! I hope it's great!

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  5. As always, every inch of the Wallowas is beautiful.
    Never been to Jewett but I have looked down on Aneroid from the pass by Dollor lake.

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    1. Jewett is definitely worth the trip. I've only once seen other people there--two other groups on the same night. That was shocking!

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  6. At least you had the Oreos! :)

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    1. I know! Imagine the horror if I had been Oreo less!

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