Usually, in April and May, Ambrose and I like to get out for a few training hikes. This year, we did hike out in Hells Canyon in April, but all of May was spent moving into our new house. The time we’d normally have spent training was spent on a different kind of exercise, involving a lot of picking stuff up and putting it down, a lot of driving, and a whole lot of cleaning.

And yet, despite the move, we were NOT going to be rescheduling our planned hike on the Washington Coast in July. That hike had been put off since 2020, and we weren’t going to miss it again. That meant we needed to be in shape to actually do that trip, and that meant that Ambrose has had us running Tuesdays and Thursdays in June, and that we needed to use my previously scheduled June vacation time to get in a shake-down backpacking trip.

I proposed Blackmare Lake, because we haven’t been there in many years, and the hike, while short, is challenging (a good chunk is unofficial trail). I’d almost been up there in 2020, but changed that trip to Stump Lake due to conditions. Ambrose agreed to my proposal, and I hoped to do some exploring around the lake. I knew that the Idaho Trails Association had been working on the trail to Blackmare, but not the “no trail” that I take. I hoped that I could go find the trail they’ve been working on.

The plan was for a four day, three night trip. For us, that’s a good test of the gear we use, especially since rain was in the forecast. I was looking forward to the rain, because I had just purchased some waterproof socks that needed to be tested. I was very much hoping to wear my Softstar Switchback boots on the Washington Coast, but their one big downfall is that they are not waterproof, not even water resistant. I knew from last year’s Idaho Centennial Trail hike that I needed to keep my feet relatively dry to prevent blisters and general foot unhappiness. My solution was a pair of waterproof socks, but I needed to see how they felt and if the boots worked with them.

We drove out to the Kennally Creek Campground on Sunday morning. I convinced Ambrose to try driving through the West Mountains instead of taking the fastest route up 95 to 55. He was happy to explore, and we did make it through without too much trouble. The Google Map tried to get us to drive on a closed road and it may have directed us to a private road as well… but we got out to 55, found us some coffee in Donnelly (the gas station there has super fancy coffee machines). And then we made our way over to the Campground along familiar dirt roads.

The campsite was not crowded. Occupied, yes, but no one was up and about near the trailhead where we parked. We didn’t dawdle, but set out from the car once we were both clothed, booted and geared up. Ambrose had strained one of his calves running earlier in the week, and I knew that he was still having issues with it. I hoped he could walk it out, and I didn’t let myself get too far ahead in the first mile.

I had the trail all to myself, hiking ahead. It was wet! There’s usually a section of the trail where water flows, but now there were several. I stepped around the water, not wanting to test my waterproof socks just yet. Their test would come the next morning when we started off for Blackmare Lake. There would be a stream crossing first thing in the morning, and I planned to ford it with my boots on.

The weight of the backpack wasn’t fun on my shoulders, but I could feel the peace of the forest descending on me as I walked along the familiar trail. I’ve been hiking in this area for nearly ten years now, and I know the first two miles very well. I waited for Ambrose at the bridge crossing Kennally Creek, and we reached the first mile together. We took the right and began switchbacking up. Here, I increased my pace and pulled ahead of him.

I had just decided that I needed to stop and dig a hole when I realized that it was also pretty much time for our break. I set my pack down and got my potty kit. As I was walking off into the woods, Ambrose hiked into sight and declared he wasn’t going to be able to hike past tonight’s campsite because of his calf and we’d just be spending all four days there. I didn’t have time to argue with him, so I went and did my business first.

When I came back, I went over to him, seated a ways from where I’d set my pack, to tell him my plan. He interrupted me to tell me I should have a snack. I bristled. Like, duh I need a snack, it’s a break, but I wanted to tell him my idea before I forgot it. Since he was insistent, I whirled around and went to my pack to get a snack I could eat while explaining to him that while his trip may be nearly over, mine didn’t need to be.

My new plan, given these circumstances, was going to be to make a day hike up to Blackmare Lake all by myself the next day. And the day after that, I could try to make Blackmare Summit, a point on the map 4 miles from our location along the trail. Neither of us had ever been there, so I figured I could have fun exploring it. That plan would allow Ambrose to rest and me to test out my gear. Once he actually listened to me, he realized that I wasn’t asking him to do more than he could and agreed.

We made it to our campsite and got situated. I knew there would be rain coming, so I made sure to pick a good spot for our tent. Nothing that would be on a floodplain, no low ground. I ended up moving some pieces of what used to be a lean-to to get sufficient space where I wanted to pitch. Then I made sure to pitch it super tight to ensure that we wouldn’t get leaks. I used Ambrose’s trekking poles on the tent since I’d be hiking over the next few days and he wouldn’t be. I inflated our sleeping pads and we both made our bed areas up to our own satisfactions.

After that, we just hung out. It was getting on to lunch time, and Ambrose cooked us lunch after I picked it out. For this trip, we didn’t have a strict list of what we would be eating when. Sometimes the meals get planned out to specific days, but that’s usually for trips when we’re hiking certain distances or challenges each day, like on the coast.

Both of us had brought books, and we spent time in and out of the tent through the afternoon. The weather was partly cloudy, and I found myself seeking out the sun to stay warm. I got our dinners picked out, and as soon as I was finished eating, I was ready to retreat to the tent for the evening.

I kept one vestibule door open so I could see clouds developing. A consistent dark band of clouds soon spread across the sky, leading us to shut all our vestibule doors and secure them. We also discovered that the zipper on the tent door on Ambrose’s side was starting to pull apart and break. I made a note that we needed to fix zippers, and we’re going to be getting that done before we take the trip to the coast.

I stayed up to finish a book, while Ambrose fell asleep a bit before sunset. I didn’t have any plans to set an alarm for the next morning. I figured I’d play it by ear. I wasn’t entirely sure that I could make it all the way to Blackmare Lake by myself, but if I had been willing to lead a friend who had never been there, then surely I could lead myself.

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