The morning did not get off to a great start. I didn’t sleep well, and woke up reluctantly at the 5 am alarm. At that point in the morning, Ambrose had already been up for 90 minutes. He could have left at 4 am and been a happy camper. We didn’t leave until a little after 6. He was NOT a happy camper. I spent the first half of the car ride trying to ignore the crab next to me and focus on the trip ahead. 

It wasn’t easy, but, eventually, we were able to talk through the crabbiness and get onto the same page. 

The last stretch of road that leads to the trail head parking lot and camping area is always a bit tricky. It is steep, narrow and very rocky. Usually, the bad stretch is on the way back, but this year it was on the way in. Ambrose got us stuck in the soft rocks to the left side of the road, hugging the ridge to avoid the abrupt drop-off. I got out of the car and did some manual direction. At first, he didn’t want to take my directions, because, to his view, I was directing him right off the cliff. So I climbed onto the big rock he was about to back into and got him onto the right track. 

Then he drove off without me, while I chased behind and willed the car to get past the spot. Which it did. 

By the time we arrived at the trail head, we were both in a better mood. Hard not to be, in such a beautiful area. And, bonus, there were no other cars in the parking lot. We would have the wilderness to ourselves for this trip. Well, sure other people could show up later, but this was Saturday on Memorial Day weekend. Most people who intended to go out would already be there. 

Ambrose taking a picture of me taking a picture of him.

Me taking a picture of Ambrose taking a picture of me.

The campsite was occupied by some folks with horses, which means that the traditional beer-swilling, gun-shooting, arguing yahoos had been displaced. And that meant we could have stayed at the trail head campsite. But it wasn’t just getting away from the yahoos that made last year so great. Backpacking out a few miles and hanging out in the wilderness is just worth the price of not having a pit toilet nearby. 

We didn’t take long to get going; Ambrose stopped by the pit toilet, reporting back that the door no longer latched. I decided to pack the big shovel, since we were only hiking a couple miles out and my pack was pretty light.  

A small barrier to wilderness entry.

It felt good to get into the wilderness. There was a downed tree near the start of the trail, but it wasn’t too difficult to step over. I was glad to see that a trail crew had taken out the big tree that blocked off the access to the Little Queens trail last year. But we weren’t going that way this time; instead, we took a right. 

There were only a couple of big trees down, and I was able to walk under both of them – sometimes being short is an asset. Ambrose chose to go around them, because going under would be more challenging for him. 

We hiked out without event past King Creek. Then we both started looking around a bit more. There was a big meadow to cross, and then we’d have to pick the spot to turn left, go off trail and find the spot we’d camped at the year before. 

Where are all the mushrooms?

It was the aspens that really helped me find my way to the old spot. One of the cools things about it is that you can’t see anything of it from the trail, because there’s this little grove of aspens. I found the grove and followed it to the exact spot we had last year. 

But we didn’t pitch in the same spot. Same area, but the spot we used last year had some deadfall that I didn’t feel like moving. So I found a bumpy, but workable spot to pitch. 

After I completed the initial pitch, I got inside to check it out. Not horrible, but a little sloped and definitely lumpy. I also asked Ambrose to give it a try when he had a moment, before I started blowing up sleeping pads and “making house” in the tent. He gave it his approval, and, before too long, we were all set up. 

No morels to be found, but there will be a TON of strawberries here later in the season.

For this first day, we hadn’t planned on doing much mushroom hunting. Unfortunately, we also didn’t see any mushroom sign. Last year, this spot was just brimming with morels, with more around every corner it seemed. Now, we didn’t see any mushrooms at all, let alone morels. I found a half dozen or so big mushrooms that I didn’t recognize, but the ground was too dry and hot for morels. 

Still, we would do a larger look around the next day, do some climbing and find out if there were mushrooms hiding anywhere in our area. Even though it looked like we would be skunked on this trip for morels. 

For lunch, we shared a Mountain House macaroni and cheese. It was adequate; the flavor was fine, but the noodles were very al dente – even after an additional 5 minutes of soaking. It reminded me of eating Kraft Mac & Cheese from a microwavable cup. Good enough. 

However, it compared very poorly to dinner’s mac and cheese. Dinner was Backpacker’s Pantry Three Cheese Macaroni and Cheese. This mac and cheese was incredible. The noodles were a lot smaller and they weren’t crunchy at all. Rather than a soupy cheese sauce, it felt like we were eating actual melted cheese! And there was some spice added, at least pepper, which I can do without, but it elevated the meal. 

For the first time in a long time, I didn’t take anything to get ready for bed. No melatonin, no Benadryl, no cold medicine. Just relaxing in the tent, listening for my husband’s soft snores to become apnea, drifting off to sleep as the wind blew cold air down from the mountains and the deer hesitantly began to examine this new object on their route.

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