Saturday, January 5, 2008

Blue Lake, submitted by Jazz

Blue Lake in Mt. Massive Wilderness Area submitted by Jazz

What started as a routine sunny summer day hike turned into the “Bhutan Death March” for one person whose quest was for the unknown territory of Blue Lake.

Liz and I were doing our favorite summer activity; hiking and exploring new territory. The hike was to be a lazy wildflower trek along the North Fork of Lake Creek Trail. There was nothing remarkable about the beginning of the hike. The usual willows partially blocked the rock littered trail. Along the way were various species of wildflowers nodding in the breeze. As the trail continued, it became mundane, one foot in front of the other in the wet creek valley. Upon crossing the creek, a fellow hiker, who was also crossing, mentioned that there was another trail back in the direction from which we came. This trail, he said, leads up a path to a lake. “It’s not far”. “You’re almost there”. These and other saying like it are familiar hiking phrases one hears when you have no idea where you are going and no idea how far it might be.

Oh good then, a new adventure. That is something both of us are always up for. The trail ascended at a very steep climb. The creek was tumbling with such great force that it can make you dizzy with vertigo. There were a lot of fallen timbers and odorous Parry Primroses scattered close to the edge of the churning waters. This trail is nothing but vertical for these two casual hikers. The trail became exciting though, like a treasure map, just trying to read the clues as to where exactly what direction to take. We began hunting for axe blazes, crushed fauna and disturbed rock and dirt for the clues which should lead us on the correct path. Did I mention that one of us forgot to bring the standard hiking equipment; the hiking stick?? Never mind, there were plenty of fallen limbs at the ready for anyone’s use.

The trail really was beautiful. There were massive spruce and pine trees keeping us shaded from the sun. The mist from the creek was cooling the air and the blue skies above were dotted with wispy, white clouds. It’s a walk into heaven.

As the trail approached the crest of the Continental Divide, I, Jazz, become determined to find this elusive lake. Liz is the more reluctant one and does not feel comfortable leaving the path which has actually disappeared into the scrubby low willows. In the distance there appeared to be a plateau. Perhaps this is where the lake is? I continued and Liz lingered behind. Now this solo hand over hand climbing breaks one of the basic hiking rules. Never leave your hiking party; stay together is the standard credo. Determination though is the driving force for me. How could I hike for hours and never reach the goal of the unknown lake? Onward, I march, side stepping glacial pot holes, dodging the boulders, and swatting errant willows that cling to my ankles as I continue. At last I think that I have arrived only to be disappointed that it is a false plateau, one more mine field of boulders to conquer and I am there.

The view ahead appeared to be a lake, not blue in color, but a hazy green. There were a few other hikers who had made it as well, lanquishing on the large boulders surrounding Blue Lake and just enjoying the fabulous views. One look at the sky reminded me that time was passing as the clouds came together to begin their afternoon showers. A quick snack of a power bar, a few swallows of water and the descent began. On the way I had noticed a field to the east that appeared to be easier going, so I choose that path. This way seemed quicker, but it was a butt-sliding adventure, through an avalanche rock field just to maneuver myself down. I had no sighting of Liz yet. Geez, where is she, wasn’t she to stay put, have I been gone that long?? I finally spot her in the distance and a sigh of relief floods my mind. I fumble for my hiking whistle to alert her to my presence, but the blowing wind carries the sound in the opposite direction. Finally she turns and sees me; a quick wave confirms that we both acknowledge each other. After several minutes we reunite. Words flowing like the water beside us…where were you? How far was it? I had to see the lake, I had to make it!! We shared short, breathless questions and statements that tumbled from our mouths. Fatigue now punctuates our return hike. The steepness of the trail is very noticeable because of this. Our legs are tired and our feet hurt. A few rest stops along the way down and now what seemed like unending miles going up, became a familiar path of twists and turns. However the clock at the car showed that we had been gone longer than usual. We each made a few reassuring phone calls and enjoyed a refreshing ice cream cone and this day is another lasting memory of challenges, beauty and friendship.

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