|Good morning Johnson Lake!|
Although I hadn’t seen them myself, Ambrose did report that the chipmunk was not our only neighbor. He had seen dogs and people around the lake when he went to rinse the pot out (he used dirt to scrub the pot, and then washed the dirt out of the pot into the water – not the food). I was too tired to care about that when he told me, but the next morning the information was more relevant. I wondered if they would come by where we were, or if they would be bothered by our presence. I didn’t mind them as long as I didn’t notice them. And even with a report of dogs, they hadn’t bothered me all through the night.
I slept in, but eventually my stomach growled hard enough to get me out of the tent. It was my day to cook, so I made up our dessert breakfast of apple crisp. For something that’s supposed to be four servings, it always seems to disappear too quickly.
Today was to be a day without an agenda – we could sit around and do nothing or go for a day hike or anything in between. I wanted to explore the area, but Ambrose preferred to stay at camp and relax, so I started to get ready after cleaning out the breakfast pot. Since I have a tendency to under hydrate while backpacking, and because it makes cleanup a lot easier, I boiled water in the pot to clean it, and then drank the apple crisp flavored hot water.
I got dressed in hiking clothes and packed my pack for a day excursion – everything but the cook kit and my sleeping bag and pad, essentially. I checked the topo map to determine which way I wanted to go. The plan was to walk around the lake, staying far enough back from the bank to avoid the neighboring campers, and then see what I could see.
I stopped to empty my bladder before I left, and heard the oddest sound. It was the clack-clacking of rocks falling down a slope, or the clop-clocking of shod hooves on rock, a tinkling slide of sound that brought our heads up in curiosity.
|How about now?|
After I finished my business, I walked toward the source of the noise, which seemed to be somewhere across the lake from us. I looked at the slope up to an 8200 foot ridge and saw absolutely nothing.
Then the mountain goats moved.
Five little white specks made their way across the talus slope while we watched. In the green areas, they were decently visible, once you spotted them, but once they were against a backdrop of rock and shadow they nearly disappeared. I wanted them to come down to Johnson lake for water so I could get a closer look at them, but there was no need. According to the topo map, there was another lake up there between the ridge we could see and the 8800 foot ridge overlooking Browns Lake that was not visible beyond it.
If they hadn’t made that sound in the first place, they would have passed above us without a sign, and we would have been none the wiser.
We stood there long after they had passed, trying to see where they had disappeared to.
When I left on my day hike, it was with a smile of wonder on my face.
I headed away from Johnson Lake, and then angled over in the direction of the other campers, and the outlet of the lake. There was another, unnamed lake visible to my left, and the outlet was just ahead of me when I saw one of our neighbors, standing where the outlet met the new lake. I stopped moving and waited. I saw a nice big rock ridge that I wanted to climb and stand on top of, but this person was blocking my route. I didn’t feel like being social, so I turned around and decided to circumnavigate the small lake first.
|I kept the tooth peak in sight to make sure I could find my way back.|
|Another alien tree! And is that the guy from xkcd?|
I made my way through swampy grasses, trying to avoid the bushy areas. Bushes tend to trip me. I found the outlet of the small lake with a tempting log laying across it as a bridge. The problem was that there was another log that would make it difficult to get all the way across. So I took a metaphorical step back and saw that this crossing was, in fact, a rock hop. I scrambled down to the bank and used a boulder to get across without getting my feet wet or challenging my balance.
From there, I went up. I wanted to see where I ended up, and where I might go next. I ended up atop a rock overlooking the small lake, and decided to continue the circumnavigation.
I began to get a little paranoid about the other campers deciding to take a day hike and stumbling upon me. It isn’t that I thought that would be a bad thing, so much as I didn’t want to see anyone. I wanted to be alone, exploring and able to pee if needed without worrying about others’ sensibilities.
I came upon a ridge that could lead me directly to the rock I’d originally wanted to top. But there were other ridges behind it. And so I began to play that, “just one more” game. I’ll just go to the top of this ridge and see what there is to see. Oh, a tiny little lake and another ridge. Well, I’ll just go to the top of that ridge and see…
I stopped when I had passed my main landmark, which I call the tooth peak, and saw a little lake nestled in a bowl of land. I could hear water flowing down to it, and I figured that if I followed that little flow I would be able to find The Hole and Glacier Lake. But I’d promised Ambrose that I’d be back in time to make lunch, so I headed back.
I probably could have gone out a bit farther and still made it back on time, but I was getting hungry and I figured Ambrose would rather have me back early than late. There would be another time to go see those higher lakes.
I came back by finishing my circle of the small lake. The outlet was free of people, and I found a good log to cross it with. From there I went up and emerged to see Johnson Lake, roughly between their camp and ours. Ambrose heard my bell, so I couldn’t sneak up on him and surprise him. I guess if I wanted to do that I should have silenced it…
I made lunch, and just as we were about to settle in for some serious lounging, the two people and two dogs from the other campsite hiked by. They said they were heading back to the trailhead, and advised us that the smaller lake had good fishing. We waited only a few minutes after they left before heading over to check out their campsite.
After all, if it was better than ours, then we would want to know that for next time. Or even move camp if it was some kind of miraculously awesome place to camp.
The spot was decent, but no better than the one we had. The main difference was the sound of the outlet flowing by. It’s nice for me to have that to drown out Ambrose’s snoring, but it’s not required. There was a path visible continuing around Johnson, and I wanted to follow it to the mouth of the outlet. Ambrose wanted to head back to camp, so I promised I wouldn’t be long.
I made my way to a boggy meadow where I found the place where the outlet met the lake. I was tempted to cross it and continue exploring, but I’d promised. I turned around and saw Ambrose.
He had decided to follow me after all. We crossed the outlet and looked for spots that might make good campsites or places to explore. The ground was mostly either too wet or too steep for a tent, but the rocks near begged to be explored. I wanted to check out just one more place, and that led to Ambrose deciding we would circumnavigate Johnson together.
|Is this a pica?|
|I think it’s a pica.|
Now, this wasn’t the safest hike we’ve ever taken. We didn’t have any supplies, just my camera. So we took extra care with our steps and took some comfort in the fact that we weren’t that far from our base camp, should something happen that required equipment.
We made it safely around the lake, and just in time for me, because I had had an urgent need to dig a hole since about the outlet – but I didn’t have my trowel on me.
After that business was concluded, I joined Ambrose in lounging variously on rocks, dirt and him. I thought about getting in the lake, but I decided that the temperature was too chilly for that hobby. This time. I did really want to get to the island, but that, too, will have to wait – for a hotter day or a wetsuit.
I read on my kindle and chased the sunshine until it was time to cook dinner. I was too cold in shade to remain in it long. I made dinner and we adjourned to the tent to eat it, since there were a lot of bugs and the tent would be getting a season’s end cleaning after this trip. Ambrose began to sleep soon after dinner, but I was up reading for a while. Even after I wanted to fall asleep I couldn’t manage it. I wasn’t comfortable. I had Ambrose’s pack and mine under my feet, and I ended up turning my body around so that my head was elevated on the packs instead. That, and a couple of Benadryl, finally did the trick.