Sun 20 Sep 09

Note: this continues yesterday’s post…

Last Saturday night was the first time I’d tried camping with both dogs, in the middle of nowhere, no less (Mary and I camped with Trammell at Hoffmaster State Park in Michigan when Trammell was a puppy – he yipped intermittently through the night at anything that moved). At home, the dogs usually sleep in the bed, insistently nosing their way under the covers. So, I was curious to see how they’d do outside of their comfortable home base. After a full day of hiking I was hoping they’d cash out pretty quickly even in unfamiliar terrain.

With a clear forecast, to save pack weight, I didn’t bring my rain fly, and this may have been a mistake. As I lay on my back watching the massive display of stars sparkle through the tent mesh, Trammell sat up growling and unleashing warning yips at moving tree branches and scurrying pikas. Trammell, lay down boy. Rrrrr. Taylor on the other hand curled up to sleep almost immediately, maybe content to let Trammell handle the first line of defense.

Eventually fatigue took over though and with temps in the 40s both dogs tried to nuzzle underneath my sleeping bag. You guys wouldn’t last a week in wild with your ancient ancestors. Sleep was somewhat sporadic with the cold air, shifting dogs, and bright moonlight. I woke the next morning as the first hint of sunrise. I think there are few things in the world more beautiful then watching mountains light up with a morphing sunrise. I roused the dogs, who unfurled languidly, then looked around and seemed puzzled by the scenery. Come on guys, it’s a new day, let’s go snap some pictures of the morning.

Unfortunately, overnight my camera stopped working. It had been dying a slow death over the past year (after many drops over rocky ledges and much sand inhalation from days on the coast). This morning it turned on, but produced only black images. The only thing that had changed since the night before when it worked though was the temperature, so I thought maybe as the day heated up, some camera life would rekindle.

I watched Cathedral Rock above me light up and Mt Daniel in the distance shift from pink to yellow to white. The dogs sniffed and explored while I scrambled around on the huge boulders and kept fiddling with the camera. Finally, hey, it’s working. I had missed capturing the morning flare, but was glad to at least be able to get some pictures of camp before we cleared out.

I filtered some more water from the creek and boiled some water for oatmeal. The dogs ate their dog food breakfast from a Frisbee, then stared at me while I enjoyed my oatmeal, apparently incredulous that I wasn’t sharing. I broke down camp and we were off.

The day was already rapidly heating up as we set off down the trail and I shed my long sleeves after about ten minutes of hiking. The further we hiked the more I was glad to have chosen the campsite I did the night before, as the trail traversed steep slopes and cut through dense underbrush and offered no flat clearings.

We reached a turbulent stream crossing below a notch in the mountain side. Trammell dutifully trotted across, but Taylor would have none of it as I called her. I picked her up and hopped somewhat awkwardly from rock to rock.

After a couple more miles of moving north the trail finally wrapped around and began to point back toward the trailhead where my car was parked. I was pleased with this development as I was starting to feel the miles and elevation of the previous day. From there we quickly reached a sign pointing to the side trail up to Tuck and Robin Lakes. Choice: long tough hike up to potentially gorgeous lakes or all downhill four mile stroll back to the car. Hey, we’ve already come this far, right?

The climb up to Tuck Lake was not fun at all, 1,000 foot elevation gain shooting pretty much straight uphill. Usually on something this steep, the switchbacks help. In this case the switchbacks were composed of repeatedly two-foot steps up boulders and tree roots. I can’t remember my quadriceps feeling that fried in a long time. The dogs too were looking a bit haggard. I paused a couple times on the trail to refuel and steady my legs and each time the dogs lay down on the ground and immediately went to sleep. Little troopers though, they hopped up as soon as I started hiking again.

And Tuck Lake was gorgeous. Kind of a smaller, slightly less enchanting version of the Enchantment Lakes. This is a popular camp destination and there were a few tents lining the shore. I refilled my water bottles and the dogs guzzled from the lake. While I was refilling my bottles, a woman wandered over and asked if I minded filling a couple for her. She pointed back toward her husband and son fiddling with a filter near shore and explained that their filter wasn’t working correctly.

I had been considering calling it a day, but while I pumped water into the woman’s Nalgene bottles, she described Robin Lake, 1.7 miles away and 1,000 feet up, as “much prettier”, “a deep blue bird blue, that’s why they call it Robin”. “And really you already did the hardest part.” Okay, I’m convinced. The dogs bumped up against her knees and tried to lick from her water bottles while I pumped.

The climb up to Robin Lake was essentially a boulder scramble, a thousand foot boulder scramble mind you. Usually I love boulder scrambling, but this day I was mostly feeling tired and warm and worried about the dogs. They were doing great, had plenty of water, but were obviously tired too. Still if you’re dog, even if you’re tired, how often to you get to play unleashed in this kind of playground? I’m sure they were in their element. There were a couple spots where they needed boosts up tall boulders, but for the most part they just scampered up behind me.

Robin Lake was spectacularly blue. It actually was composed of two lakes. We stopped first at the smaller of the two lakes where the dogs drank and cooled their feet in the shallows.

Then continued on to the larger lake, which was much deeper right at the shore and had six inch fish flitting about. The water was absurdly blue and absurdly clear. Almost tropical looking.

The dogs napped while I rinsed out my socks and laid them on a boulder to dry. I read a book while my socks dried and fiddled more with my camera. It again was only working sporadically; by turning it off and on I could occasionally get it to take pictures, but mostly it refused (as I’m writing this now, I think it’s officially dead). The dogs ate the last of their dog food and I polished off a tuna steak I’d been saving. Energy for the home stretch.

The return trip from Robin Lake to the car dragged on forever, but we reached the car by dusk and drove home via headlight. I suspect this will be the dogs’ last big Washington adventure.