Sunday, October 7, 2012

Crazy. Beautiful.

Beautiful Sky Lake

I've never been one to have fitness goals to stay motivated (I guess unless you count running marathons: To Not Die. To Finish. To Break Four Hours). I don't keep a spreadsheet of miles hiked or run or biked. I don't need those things; after typing at a computer for ten hours it's just natural to want to get outside and do something. But earlier this year I realized that I was close to a milestone: thirty nights spent backpacking for the year. That's not car camping. It doesn't count the days you pack up and hike out. No, it's the actual night, in a tent, that you backpacked to get to. (I'm not counting the suffocating two mile walk down the blacktop to the Yosemite Backpackers Campground, dodging unsteady bicyclists either. Though we did walk with our packs to get there. Hmm).

So anyway, thirty nights doesn't sound like a lot, but when you have a job and the season is basically three months, that's kind of a lot. I liked the round number of it. A month of my life in the wilderness.

On the pass

I have to stop here to address something. I feel as though lately this blog has become a mono blog. Backpack, backpack, backpack. I was thinking about this as I hiked upward through the alpine valley of Copper Creek. Because walking with a heavy pack isn't really what it's about. Because going out to camp when the low, in town, four thousand feet below Sky Lake, is only supposed to be 24 degrees, wouldn't be most people's cup of tea. Because a lot of it is exhausting, sweaty and hard.

Last year and the year before, we had to cross a snow slide. This is what is left this year, in a really dry summer. This snow never melts.

I realized as I finally reached Sky Lake, a place that does indeed look like a small fabric of the sky, that backpacking evens me out. In my real life, I'm kind of a worrier (I know, shocking). It's hard not to worry about things like owing more on my house than I can sell it for, that as a federal worker I have a big target on my back if the Republicans get elected, sequestration (look it up), and a host of other stupid things that I really can't do anything about anyway. When I'm out in the wilderness, a lot of that melts away. It doesn't seem important anymore. Maybe that's why I do it.

My  husband laughs at these sunglasses. I call them my "movie star sunglasses". They're big.

This Copper Creek country is wild and remote and crazy beautiful. There are lakes that are nameless and untouched. Valleys and ridges and passes that just beg to be explored. As usual, I didn't give myself enough days and found myself trying to cram it all in in twenty-four hours. I slogged up a trail that is no longer on the map when I should have just stayed in camp after the arduous hike in. The creeks were iced over, some solid. The lake was rimmed with ice. I had to retreat after a chilly night.

Two nameless lakes. Not even sure if you can safely get there.

I took a side trail to this miner's cabin. What an ideal spot.

The floor is the granite slab. It's the perfect size for me! The bed is the perfect length. Maybe I should move in.

Love this alpine valley. Note the ice.

I am standing on solid ice.

At first as I hiked downward I was disappointed. Why hadn't I budgeted one more day? But then I knew: the best thing of all is the knowing that there is still more to discover. I'll be back to the lake torn from the sky.


  1. Thirty days is a lot!! You're pretty much an expert at maximizing those summertime weekends.

    I've been keeping records of my running stuff for about 10 years now and I've noticed I change my "rules" for what is recorded every so often.

    I hear ya on the target thing. Darn republicans. We need more moderates in our government, all this polarization isn't getting anything accomplished.

  2. Hi, Mary!
    I LOVE that feeling of wanting to stay longer/wishing I had more time. I even love the regret that I wasn't able to stay longer. It's very bittersweet, and it keeps me yearning for the mountains, and for that solitary beauty.
    And 30 days!! I am SO jealous. I feel slothful and homebound--I need to get out overnight more.
    Nice post! And as always, beautiful photos.

  3. Woohoo...30...Great Job! You amaze me with every trip you take.

  4. I saw that you mentioned on Jill Outside that no one comments on your blog, so I thought I'd help fix that.

    Did you go with the PB and raisin wraps for breakfast on the JMT? How did that go? I was backpacking this past weekend and when packing found out that we were out of soft tortillas, so I made a PB and craisin sandwich with regular bread instead. I managed to package it so it didn't get squished, but in the cold the bread got hard.

  5. Thanks Cumulus! Yes! The PB/raisin/tortilla was awesome! I experimented with almond butter too. I never got sick of it unlike my oatmeal eating friends.


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