I fully expected to sleep in after staying up until nearly 2 in the morning waiting for Ambrose to return and then nursing him enough to get him to bed. But the rising sun and my body’s own hunger pulled me out of sleep before 7 am. Ambrose wasn’t far behind me, if not ahead of me in waking up. I was tired, but moving was better than staying still – especially because if we moved quickly enough we’d make it to Yellow Pine in time for breakfast.
I walked down to the Big Creek trailhead one last time, despite the protests of my feet and legs, to retrieve the coconut water that I’d placed on a post for Ambrose. He hadn’t seen it, and I didn’t want to leave it behind. It was undisturbed and nicely chilled.
We packed the car and Ambrose settled into the passenger seat. He had driven us up, so it was my job to drive us back home – plus he wasn’t exactly in terrific shape for driving at the moment, and although I was low on sleep, I was physically in better shape.
That didn’t mean that I liked driving 5 to 10 miles per hour on bumpy, rocky, narrow, steep and winding roads. After my failure to get even down to the trailhead with the car the day before, I was downright paranoid at first. But after a couple of miles, the road improved a little bit, and I relaxed enough to occasionally hit a daring 15 miles per hour.
The morning was beautiful, but Ambrose and I stank. Usually, I like to take some time to wash off before heading home, but this spot didn’t offer a good spot for that. So we opened the windows as soon as it was warm enough and ignored the smells of hard travel. At least our clothes were clean.
I was glad that Ambrose was getting a chance to admire the scenery I had seen on the drive up. Much of the road was next to flowing creeks, sunlight flashing on water as we drove by at a pace that only seemed a little faster than I could have walked.
We made it to Yellow Pine in time to order breakfast, and they didn’t kick us out for smelling like we hadn’t showered in a week. Both of us were feeling extra hungry, so we stopped by the espresso/milk shake shop on the way out of town, where I ran into an old acquaintance and got a milkshake for us to share – though I, being the driver, would get the lion’s share of it.
As we were leaving Yellow Pine, I felt certain that I knew how to go back the way we came. Go straight at the junction. But Ambrose insisted that we should turn right, and I followed his directions.
This, as it turned out, was not the same road on which we came, but it was a nicer road, in my opinion. It was wide and relatively smooth. When we reached the next junction, where we had a chance to choose between heading to McCall or Warm Lake, I decided to take the left turn to Warm Lake and discovered yet another nice road. This one was even paved, although it was also single lane. And rather curvy.
We only had four or five encounters with vehicles going the opposite direction. And none of them hit us, though a couple came close. Overall, I liked the route better than what I remembered of the way we came, because it was paved and followed a beautiful river.
Ambrose and I talked about our Chamberlain hike sporadically during the drive. We both agreed that we wanted to go back and hike it again. I think we’ve only just scratched the surface of what can be seen there, but the next trip will probably be a better planned version of the hike that we just took. Now that we know where to find water, when to fill up, and where campsites are, and aren’t.
We’ll be able to hike faster next time, most likely, since we’ve been trending that way every year. And a familiar trail always seems to go a bit faster than a new one anyway.
Once we hit Warm Lake, the time passed quickly. We stopped in Cascade for a lunch, and then drove home. Still contemplating next time, but also relieved to be home, to have a few days of rest and relaxation ahead before the routine of work and school began again for the fall.