Wake up time for this trip was set to be 5:30 am, unless an exception were to be agreed upon the night before. But we both wanted to be up early this morning so we could start attacking the trail up to Mosquito Ridge. This part of the trail has more than 20 switchbacks, rocketing us up from an elevation of about 7300 to just shy of 8900. It’s the hardest part of the day, and we want to get it done before the sun starts baking us. 

I felt relaxed and easy getting ready. I’ve recently felt rushed at times when packing up, because I can’t really get my packing done as quickly as Ambrose, because I carry the tent. He’s consistently told me I don’t need to rush on his account, but until this trip, I always have. This time, I was able to believe what he was telling me and just get things done as I got them done. I mean, it’s not like I was dawdling. The temperature was warm enough that I didn’t even feel the need to dawdle. 

I mean, usually, it gets pretty cool at this camp in the mornings, but not this morning. The mosquitos were still out, it was so warm. Of course, warm is a relative thing. I’m talking high 50’s low 60’s as warm, which not everyone will agree with. But it’s warm enough that I feel comfortable changing into my hiking clothes inside my tent, and that’s good enough for me. 

I moved at a steady pace and got all packed up. Once we were both pretty much ready to go, Ambrose and I did our morning stretches. Nothing big, just some leg swings, static holds for quads and hamstrings, and arm swings. I made us this little warm up routine a while back, and it’s been a very nice way to start the day, just letting our muscles know that we’re about to want something from them. 

And we did indeed want a little something from our muscles. We walked up the rocky forest service road a short distance and made it to the trailhead. Then started the switchbacks. Sometimes I like to count switchbacks. I certainly did the first time I came down this trail, and I’ve done it before hiking up, but I chose not to this time. On this trip, Ambrose was leading, so I felt like I could just go along for the hike. 

And Ambrose was going. I was in awe of his constant forward motion. The last time we hiked up this trail, I remember him stopping frequently. And I hiked ahead that time – on this hike, Ambrose and I were celebrating being together by choosing to hike together instead of separately. One thing that was cool about staying together was being able to share observations of the landscape around us. I didn’t see something cool and then have to wait for Ambrose to catch up or not share with him. I could just point it out to him. 

As we climbed, we caught up to the sun, but it wasn’t yet getting hot. We saw more bear grass in bloom, luminous in the early morning light. Higher up, I spotted a snow bank that hadn’t yet succumbed to the heat of summer. We took a break after almost an hour of hiking, and that was the only break that we needed to take. Because we reached the top of the ridge before it was time for the next break! 

We did take a break at the high point though – we needed to send messages to our families so they could see how high up we were. This was the first trip we were both using our inReach mini’s to send messages. I was only sending to my dad, but Ambrose had conversations going with several family members. 

From here, we just had to hike down to Mosquito Springs along the ridge. It isn’t precisely easy, but it’s a lot easier than the switchbacks that we’d just humped up with fully loaded packs. As we hiked along, I kept an eye out for damage from the previous year’s fires. There were a number of downed trees across the trail, but none of them were too bad. Easy enough to step over or go around. And there was even some snow in the trail. 

Something new happened on this hike. Ambrose voluntarily, and without grumbling, hiked off trail to look at scenic views. This was the man I couldn’t convince to walk down the beach to go look at the Osett Memorial. The beach! It was flat! There’s such a difference in his energy levels now that’s he off of the high blood pressure medication (and recording excellent blood pressures without it). 

We came across a burned section of the trail. It wasn’t too bad. The trail was still discernable, and there weren’t a lot of downed trees. I’m sure in a few years there will be a lot of logs across the trail as the dead roots lose purchase, but for now, it was just a section of ashy trail with no shade. 

Outside of the burned section, the wildflowers were in full bloom. Not just the bear grass, but some gorgeous lupine, paintbrushes, and daisies. So many colors! 

We came upon another burned section, a bit longer than the first one in duration, but the trail was still visible. I’m fine with burns, even downed logs, as long as I can still discern the trail. 

About a quarter to noon, we made it to the Cow Corrals junction. That’s not quite Mosquito Springs, but it was where we wanted to stop. We’ve camped twice at Mosquito Springs, and it really lives up to its name. Though the springs also have an abundance of flies (horse and house). This year, we decided to try camping on the ridge instead, where the wind should help keep the mosquitos away. We’d heard there was a spring on the ridge, so we might be able to avoid Mosquito Springs altogether. 

Ambrose sat down in the shade to send some messages, and I walked over to the edge of the ridge to try and find the water. I walked toward a lone tree stump, and then analyzed the landscape. I saw signs of water and followed them to a small, shallow spring. Sure, it was small, but I was happy to have been able to track it down. 

I pointed Ambrose in the direction of the spring while I scouted out a place to pitch the tent. I thought about pitching out in the open meadow, but I didn’t like the look of the ground. Too lumpy with grass clumps and dirt humps. So I wandered into the nearby woods and found a spot that met my criteria: afternoon/evening shade, no widowmakers (dead trees that could fall on the tent), flat ground and enough space. 

Then I took a break, drinking and eating and waiting for Ambrose to return from the spring. When he did, he let me know it was a bit of a pain to get water from. His next water trip would be to Mosquito Springs. I didn’t mind; I wasn’t the one having to fetch water. 

We ate lunch and I eventually pitched the tent. We spent time just hanging out and, of course, got our camp chores done. My most involved chore, other than pitching the tent, was hanging my bear bag. Ambrose was carrying the Ursack, so he just needed to find a tree and tie it up. I had to find a branch with enough length and strength for my bag, then find a rock and use it to get my rope over that branch. It’s a process that can take a lot of time, but I’ve gotten really good at throwing a roped rock, so once I found the branch, it didn’t take too long. 

The night was warm again, with the mosquitos never quite leaving. I was surprised at how warm it was, considering we were up over 8000 feet. I mean, I liked that it was warm-ish, but I would have liked more for the mosquitos to go to sleep. 

Ambrose is ready to go.

Ambrose is also ready to take pictures of me!

This box just won’t stay together.

These switchbacks are no joke.

More bear grass blooms.

Rocks and a moon.

This photo barely conveys a quarter of the majesty of this view.

Obligatory Lewis & Clark pose.

Ambrose is checking his messages.

We got to the top of the ridge! And so fast!

Ambrose requested selfies on this trip. Clearly, I need to practice my technique.

A little trailside snow.

A bit of phlox next to some bear grass that is not in bloom.

The camera doesn’t capture the distant mountains very well; some texture and definition gets lost in the haze.

A scarlet paintbrush so pretty I spent almost five minutes trying to get the perfect picture of it. 

We got some prints here, possibly wolf. Or dog. But we did see wolf scat… 

I enjoyed walking on the snow, even if it wasn’t hot enough for me to want to put any under my hat (aka do a snow hat). 

One of the downed trees was easy enough to step over.

More phlox! There was an awful lot of it that I didn’t take pictures of.

The trail isn’t bad through the burned area.

Just a small slice of the incredible array of wildflowers.

Can you spot the woodpecker?

It was a bit trickier to navigate around this downed tree.

Another burned section.

I’m not sure what these flowers are called.

The burned section already had green growing things, showing it wasn’t too badly burned.

We made it! I headed off to the left to try and find water.

Ambrose tended to his messages.

A helicopter circled around twice.

I found the water! 

View from my side of the tent.

This was a nice spot to camp.

My food bag and snack bag, snug in a tree.

Ambrose has it easy with the Ursack.

The tiniest of flowers with my index finger for scale. 

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