We didn’t wake up super early this morning. I mean, before 7, but not before 6. The sun wasn’t “up” mostly because of our position, snugly tucked against an eastern ridge. As usual, I wanted to linger in the tent, where I was warm and cozy. Unfortunately, I was also becoming quite uncomfortable as nature was calling. I like to pack things up before leaving the tent in the morning so I don’t have to go back in; I managed to do that this morning, but just barely.
Our campsite was very gray in the morning light. The burned area has started recovering, but the ground is still mostly ash colored sand and pebbles. The air had a bite to it, but wasn’t too cold. I had my down jacket on for protection while I found a spot far from water and tent to dig my hole.
Afterwards, I sat on a log near the tent and devoured what remained of my pizza from the night before. Cold pizza makes a good dinner AND a good breakfast. I only wished I had more left to eat. Instead, I got to supplement my breakfast with our more typical backpacking food, energy bar and meat stick.
Ambrose was packed and ready to go before I was. He usually is, because I typically carry the tent. Can’t pack the tent until it’s empty, and taken down. So Ambrose keeps packing while I take down the tent, and I can’t get very far in my packing without the tent. It’s very sneaky. He does help me with folding the tent though, but he gets rewarded with kisses, so does that even count as altruism?
View from our campsite in the morning.
We started hiking back to the Little Queens River trail before the sun hit our campsite. Once we arrived, we turned right and headed towards Browns Lake. Today’s mileage was going to be a bit shorter than yesterday’s, but we would have a lot of climbing near the end.
Ambrose on the Little Queens River trail.
Looking back towards Scenic Lake (which I still haven’t visited).
Hiking in the sunshine through the meadow.
There weren’t as many downed trees on this part of the trail; we still ran across some, but not nearly as many as the day before. And the ones we did run into, well, some of them were quite different. It looked like some smaller trees had been completely uprooted and then moved somehow, and ended up on or in the trail.
This tree certainly didn’t grow on this spot in the middle of the trail!
It seems like every time I hike this trail, it takes less time to get from the Scenic Lake trail junction to the base of the last climb before the Browns Lake trail junction. Ambrose and I call that section, from where the trail takes a distinct right angle turn around a large pine tree, followed by an uphill slope into a bushy area, and another right angle turn, all the way up to the Browns Lake trail junction – well, almost all the way. Technically, in my mind, the ramp ends at the stream crossing just before the junction.
The start of the ramp.
Another wholly uprooted tree, with very clean roots.
A small idea of what hiking the ramp is like.
I had been hiking with Ambrose for most of the morning, but at the ramp I took the lead. I’m faster at hiking uphill than he is, and I get pretty frustrated going behind him uphill – unless I’m not feeling well. I like to keep a continuous pace rather than stopping and starting, and Ambrose is also more of a stopper/starter when going uphill. But that problem is easily solved by having me range ahead.
I sat and looked at the clouds while I waited for Ambrose to catch up.
There’s a particular rock near the top that I like to sit on; I stopped there to let Ambrose get a little closer before I took off again. It’s funny; I’m tired of being in the same room with him at our apartment, but out in the wilderness, I just want to stick together. Once he got close, I headed up again, content in the knowledge that the ramp was almost over.
The stream crossing had changed again when I got there. I swear this crossing changes every time we go there. But these changes were for the better, since the water was flowing more nicely and the trail didn’t have any holes in it.
The crossing this year: quite green, well built trail, flowing water, tree debris.
I waited for Ambrose just after the junction for Browns Lake – since I take care never to pass a junction without him, I made sure I could see the trail from where I sat, past the junction itself. He wasn’t long in coming, and we took a break there for a few minutes before going on.
It’s been a bit since I’ve been to Browns Lake, so I had forgotten how steep the next section was. My memory had elided a bit of the trail that continued the ramp’s upward trend, skipping straight to the really cool meadow before the next stream crossing. Well, I had to earn that cool meadow.
More climbing! Before I was mentally prepared for it 😉
I don’t think this would be a good place to camp, but I love how it’s a little meadow in a bowl.
I expected a small stream crossing in the meadow itself, and I could even hear water flowing, but where the trail crossed the stream bed there was no water. I could look upstream about 20 feet and actually see water flowing, but it went underground before it reached the trail. Dry feet on that crossing.
Ambrose was actually disappointed at that, because he wanted to get more water. I reassured him that we’d get to another stream crossing very quickly and he followed me the not long distance there without complaining too much.
Water for filtering! And not too difficult of a boots-on crossing.
I crossed first and headed up the trail a bit until I found a spot flat enough to rest a bit. I got some water for us and Ambrose started filtering. I didn’t do a fill up, because I hadn’t drunk all my water, and I didn’t feel like carrying the extra weight on the final push up to the lake. But I did take a snack break and looked around. As sometimes happens when you let your eyes rest a moment on nature, I suddenly saw more than I had a moment before and pointed with my trekking pole to a spot next to Ambrose.
“Look!” He looked. He did not see. I tried adjusting my pointing, and then just walked over to point my finger directly at what had caught my attention.
“Mushroom. Morel! You want it?” He did, of course.
I only wish I’d taken a picture of it first, especially that Ambrose was sitting so close to it without seeing it. Oh, and its friends – there were two more once I started looking. And so we began to keep an eye out for morels, even though we hadn’t expected to find any this late in the season. But we were getting close to, if not over, 8000 feet at that point. Summer comes later that high.
We climbed a long way already from the valley floor.
But there was more climbing yet to do.
Ambrose kept up with my pretty well, even on this uphill, rocky scramble. He was, in fact, too fast for me to pull my kindle out and get any reading done, so I had to make do with enjoying all the natural sights and sounds around me while I waited for him to get closer.
This area looks nothing like how it did when I first saw it; it’s much greener, and less of a mud pit.
Mushrooms yes, morels, no.
Within sneezing distance of 8300 feet, snow on the trail.
In a surprisingly short time, we made it to the lake. Right near the outlet is where most people camp, so it was a good sign that we couldn’t see any people as we hiked in. The snow was another clue; I didn’t see any recent prints, or any people prints at all really. Not until I made some. And when we got to the outlet, it was clear that the lake was ours.
Browns Lake – what a beauty.
And there was no one else there!
The first time we camped at Browns Lake we took a spot between the outlet spot and the far side spot. We tried to find it again on this trip, but either we’re not looking in the right place or the spot got washed out. It was a bit steep for pitching a tent to begin with…
There’s a morel in this photo. Also one of my new boots.
Having failed to find the original spot, we went on to our second spot. I led the way again, directing us around the lake, and running into another morel on the way (but only the one). As expected, there was no one at the far side of the lake either. We truly did have it to ourselves, a rare treat.
One of the views from our campsite.
It wasn’t quite noon, and we had finished our hiking for the day. Time to chill out and relax!
Well, first it was time for lunch, and we were both ready to eat by that point. Not quite hungry enough to snap at each other, but it was only a matter of time before we got there. Ambrose cooked, and I scouted out the tent site, and started clearing out the pointier rocks and pinecones from my selected space. I got it pitched, but didn’t get anything set up inside before it was time to eat.
After lunch, I got a lot of reading done, pitched the tent, recorded some videos to use for Zoom backgrounds and just generally did my absolute best to relax and enjoy myself. Because I was out in the middle of the wilderness and I didn’t have to do anything right at that moment. Sure, there would be camp chores later, but they could wait a while. The tent was actually cooler without the sleeping pad protecting me from the cold ground below, so it was perfectly reasonable to delay that chore.
The day had been relaxing, but I was ready to sleep when the sun started sinking below the ridgeline.