Though we were both pretty cold overnight, it wasn’t too hard to get up the next morning. In part because we weren’t getting up all that early. We had less than 4 miles to backpack, so I wasn’t worried at all about leaving by a particular time. It was a total leisure morning, starting with my friend cooking breakfast and making coffee. 

I wasn’t drinking coffee at that time, so I just enjoyed the smell of hers, and begged a bit of hot water to somewhat reheat my mac and cheese. I figured extra watery would be fine if the water were warm. It didn’t actually heat that much, but I ate it all anyway, because hunger. 

We ended up setting out close to 9 am, which is way late for what I usually do, but was perfect for this particular trip. The sun was out and the smoke haze had been blown away overnight, leaving us with beautifully clear vistas once we got high enough. 

But first, we had to cross the creek. 

Now, I was kitted out in my crossing set up, which for this trip was my hiking Altras with neither socks nor liners in. She had her sandalshoes on and her boots laced together and hung around her neck. We went down to the water and I went first. I reached the edge of the rock hop and just grabbed that little tree and tossed it downstream. Then I started going for the jump. My friend decided she’d just use her crossing shoes as intended and crossed while I was still nerving myself up. 

I planted both trekking poles in the far bank. I reached out my right foot and tried to find a solid place from which to launch myself across the gap. Slip, slide, there. Right there. Okay! 

With a mighty barbaric yawp, I used trekking poles and my one foot to bring my body and pack across the gap. Feet remained dry, aw yeah. 

Then we sat down to get our feet all set up for hiking. From my vantage, I saw a tiny little mushroom growing under the bank and I made sure to point it out to her. And from that point on, both of us went on a bit of a mushroom finding kick. 

There were certainly a lot of mushrooms to be found on our route (though no morels). 

Ready to go!

That’s some cold water.

So we tried to avoid walking in it as much as possible.

There were a few trees down, but overall the trail was in good shape.

Some of us didn’t need to duck for all the downed trees (photo by E.K.).
Plenty of trees down, but not across the trail itself.

After the crossing, the trail climbs. A lot. It’s got a bit of variety, but mostly it’s up. There were switchbacks and ramps and a few large downed trees that required upward go arounds. I saw quite a few huckleberry bushes, but we were far too late in the season to see any berries. We stopped every 20 minutes or so for a brief break, and I made sure to give us bigger breaks every now and again as well. 

Eventually, we made our way all the way to the infamous “no trail” sign. Here, we took one of those longer breaks and had a talk about our route. The original plan had been to go to Blackmare Lake, but based on our hike so far, I didn’t think either of us was in the shape to make it. It isn’t a long hike to Blackmare along the no trail, but it isn’t really a trail either. There are route markers, and I have been there several times, but I haven’t been there in a couple years, so I didn’t know exactly how difficult it was going to be. But I did know that unless there had been some maintenance right by the lake itself, we would be facing a very difficult climb around fallen trees right at the end of the hike. And that’s after a 500 foot climb in a quarter mile and several other precarious climbs, both up and down. 

So I tried to figure out how far it was from the no trail sign to Stump Lake. Stump Lake was the site of my first real solo overnight (technically, I did a solo overnight at Skillern Hot Springs, but that doesn’t really “count” as solo to me, because there were other campers there so I wasn’t alone). That trip was the one where the whole idea of my Hike with Me books was born. And once my friend understood that Stump Lake was a) not a consolation prize but a cool destination in and of itself and b) not more than 2 miles from where we currently were, she was down to go there. 

The “no trail” sign!

My friend says, “No” to the “no trail.”

And I’m like, it’s just up this way 😉 (photo by E.K.)

We’ll be back for that trail.

I made the ‘not more than 2 miles’ determination by looking at my picture of the sign from the last trail junction, which put the Needles Summit at 4 miles. Needles Summit is just past Stump Lake, and I could see by my map that we were closer to Stump Lake than that junction, hence it must be less than 2 miles. 

Of course, we still had to climb. Quite a bit actually. I’m quite proud of my friend and the way she pushed on, even though it was tough. We were both sweating profusely and I actually walked right past the lake, because I hadn’t been there in so long. That’s one of the cool things about Stump Lake; it’s a high mountain lake that’s practically invisible from the trail, but once you step off the trail and see it, you are amazed that it can hide like that. 

It’s a little gem of a lake, complete with a namesake stump sticking out of it on one end. And there was a nice campsite ready for us, complete with logs to sit on around a fire ring. Perfect place for cooking! 

Relatively easy to get over, but that bark was rough on legs.

Crossing a boggy section of trail on a big log.

More mushrooms.

Early in the season, this stretch is usually soaking wet, but in August, totally dry.

Almost made it to the lake.

First order of business: take a break! We were both pretty tired and overheated from the hike up, so first we just collapsed around the fire ring and recovered. The sun was out and made sparkles on the lake, especially when the wind was blowing just so. There were lily pads in bloom around the edges of the lake, dragonflies chasing each other – we even saw some conjoined dragonflies mating on the wing. Stump Lake is a magical place, full of beauty, and oh-so-quiet. 

I’m taking a break, I am (photo by E.K.).

Lots of beautiful scenery around Stump Lake (photo by E.K.).

Magical photo of the stump by E.K.

Oh what a beautiful lake.

The stump is still hanging out.

And we got some sunshine.

I had to dig a hole several times that day, and while I normally wouldn’t talk too much about that at camp, my friend had yet to dig a hole in the outdoors, her trips always having been short enough for her body to hold off on such activity. So I did talk a bit about various techniques for using the trowel as well as my two tactics: Preparation and Emergency. For a Preparation, I would first dig a hole, and then position myself over it to do my business. For an Emergency, I find a place relatively clear of plants and rocks and do my business, only digging a hole for it and burying it after the fact. Each one has advantages and disadvantages; and, before you learn how to aim, Preparation often requires some moving and reburying of anything that misses the hole. 

Once we had rested sufficiently, we needed to get water. The water right by the campsite was coming up scuzzy, full of debris and gunk. So we went on a little safari to find a better place to draw from. We started by going to the lake’s inlet, but the bank there was just muddy, though the view was very pretty with lots of water lilies in bloom. 

Then we went around the other side. I knew from experience that our best bet was a boulder that jutted out into the water far enough to clear the weeds, but was low enough to the water that we could use it. While my friend tried a bankside spot, I shoved my way past some small trees and bushes to sit down on a rock. 

I used a nearby piece of wood to clear the water of surface debris and bugs, then swept my CNOC through to fill it. When she saw the quality of water I was getting and compared it to what she got, she asked me if I could fill hers as well. Since I was already perched, and rather precariously, I agreed as long as she came over to grab my bag while I filled hers. 

We headed back to camp with 6 liters of water, ready to get hydrated. Before the evening came, we actually went back to that same spot to top our water off – better to get it in the warmth of the day than have to go get some in the chill of the morning. 

I found a nice big thwacky stick for pounding in stakes. Yes, it was overkill. Yes, it was fun (photo by E.K.).

Tent all set up, close to the fire pit because we weren’t making fire.

The biggest mushrooms we found, and so many!

Lily pad flower in Stump Lake.

Another late blooming wildflower.

A woodpecker!

Ursack in place.

Cool twisted tree.

Last picture before retreating into the tent.

For this evening’s tent, we both wanted to try and be warmer than last night. My first suggestion was putting our towels down under our sleeping pads; this provides just a smidge more insulation from the ground and prevents my pad from sliding (hers is of a different material and actually slid more on the towel). I also emphasized that night that we shouldn’t be chasing the cold, but retaining what heat we had. We retreated to the tent earlier in the evening, and I made sure to get my warm night socks on as soon as I was in for the night. Sometimes, it feels like my feet heat up better without socks, but not on a backpacking trip. 

I also ate my entire dinner that night, which was a high calorie/protein chicken alfredo by Peak Refuel. It took me some time to finish it, but I knew I’d need that if I wanted to sleep more warmly that night. Plus snacks; as I advised my friend, I often find that I can’t get back to sleep after peeing unless I both eat and drink. I also gave her the advice that I had recently learned about staying warm – if you wake up cold, go pee, because your body is using energy to keep all that urine at body temperature instead of keeping your toes warm. It sucks to get out of the tent in the cold, yes, but you’ll be more efficient at heating yourself when you get back in. 

Plus, I told her if it got cold enough, I would not hesitate to cuddle with her to generate more warmth together. 

We slept much more warmly that night, which was a good thing, because I had decided in my authority as trip leader to get us up much earlier, at 6 am, with the goal of starting to hike by 8 am. 

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