August 26, 2021
Miles hiked: 19
Passes: North Pole
Vertical: +2,500 ft
Campsite elevation: 10,493 ft
I wake to glassy water surfaces on the lake. Sunrise has not yet found me, though I am ready to get my coffee going and start the day. It truly rained last night as I fell asleep but seems to have cleared up somwhere in the dreamtime. I begin my day with a good solid stretching routine which enlivens my body and mind.
When I start walking I am amazed at how close my camp is to the Kidney Lakes trail junction with the UHT, as it all went by in such a blur last night. Recalling my efforts to get there, my ability to push my body and my will power being intact, I am thankful how it all worked out.
The morning miles roll by peacefully, I have to ford another creek in my bare feet, and enjoy the feeling of squishy mud between my toes and ice cold earth touching my soles. My pack getting so light now I can walk with so much more levity. I am looking forward to the climb up North Pole pass since it was so beautiful the first time.
I want to cover some territory today and set myself up for an earlier finish tomorrow. It would be great to get to my car early enough to have time to drive back to Vernal and enjoy the benefits of town. As I ponder this, however, I begin to realize that this journey is nearing it’s completion and I feel a sense of remorse, as I always do when the time comes to depart the world of wild.
Nevertheless, I am going to have only and exactly enough food, and my back up battery pack is out. My phone memory is prety much full too. I can’t take any more videos, very few photos, and you know what, I am starting to get the hiker hunger so town food sounds extremely enticing.
I am startled after the creek ford to come upon a group of men with their goats as I crest a hill. They ask me the typical questions, where ya comin’ from, how long ya’ been out, and the usual wow, yer all alone out here, thats brave. I don’t linger talking too long but I think their goats are pretty cute. I wonder what it would be like to travel with a little posse of goats!?
As I approach North Pole Pass I am feeling quite lethargic. My body rebels against even the slightest of hills. I suppose it’s due to the big efforts I put out yesterday. When I arrive at the creek ford where I first met the three guys, I fondly reflect on the camraderie with them, and once again, I remove my shoes and socks to cross the creek. Shortly the trail makes it way up close to a large waterfall before the true climbing begins.
Along the climb it is just as beautiful as the other day, except I feel a sense of the weather compelling me to move faster. The winds are up today and I see storm clouds forming behind me. I wonder what this is going to turn into, I think as I reflect back to the storm I got caught in a week ago that ended in a heli ride.
After cresting the long descent from North Pole Pass I am become quite aware of what I know to be an impending storm. I’ve got to get closer to tree line soon, I say outloud, using all my magical powers to hold the storm back as I race downhill. The terrain is quite rockey here, of course it is, and I’m trying to keep my balance, staying swift and efficient. This is like a game of chase or be chased now.
The thunder begins to rumble, it’s that sound like someone is waving a giant sheet of aluminum across the sky. I know now it’s only so much time before the clouds let down. At this point, I am looking to find a place to pitch my tent, whatever I can find, but there is nothing but deadfall, lumpy grasses, bogs and rocks. I must press on. Tem more minutes go by and now I’m hoping to make it to the camp site in the trees where I slept a few nights ago. I just hope it’s not already occupied!
The weather Gods are on my side today it turns out, as when I reach the campsite it is still not raining and the site is empty. Yes! I pitch my tent real fast, toss my backpack inside and start to get my self warm. Literally as I am climbing inside does it begin to rain. The temperature dropped significantly in just the last 10 minutes and soon the faint taps of water on my thin tent turn heavy, then suddenly I can see little balls of hail hitting the ground and collecting outside. It all happens so fast, I marvel at the situation, feeling very thankful I am sheltered in a great spot.
The thunder now turns to large bangs and craks and the lightening jolts inside my brain as patterns of rain and hail alternate falling from the sky, sometimes so heavy I press my hands against my tent wall. I am so ready to eat my lunch so I take this opportunity to have a picnic inside my tent. I make tea too and sip sumptuously. It is wonderful.
I get my sleeping bag out, and make a pile of clothing into a pillow up against my pack and curl up on it. I close my eyes, listening to the chaos outside as my own energy grows more still. Shortly I am asleep.
When I wake, I still hear little drops of rain, but now there are long beams of sunlight streaming through the forest. I emerge from my tent to check out the scene. It’s looking quite a lot better as there are patches of blue sky. It’s now about 4:00pm and I know I need to hike more. I am aiming to at least make it past Chepeta Lake tonight.
Time to pack up and move again! I get going and then remember, argh, that other ford from two nights ago, I have to do that again too! Dang it. I take off my shoes and socks, do the whole routine and get across right at the trail and it is over with quickly this time I tell ya, I think I am getting better at this!
Before I know it, I find myself in the company of two other hikers who also survived the hail storm. We exchange stories and it’s nice to have conversation. I feel the trail pulling me though, so I part ways and we all wish each other well on our respective journeys.
When I reach Cheptea Lake it’s nearing sunset, the reflection of clouds on the low, sad, water after the storm gives the place a bit of a makeover and it looks so much more beautiful than a few days ago. It’s just so fascinating how different a place can look depending on the weather, clouds, time of day, and even the direction of travel.
Glad to have met my goal of Chepeta Lake, I start to wonder where I might camp and see that I notated on my Gaia a sweet little spot by White Rocks Lake where I had taken my lunch break that first day back out. I aim to make it there, but realize it may be dark when I arrive.
The golden hour arrives and I am crossing meadows with sweeping backdrops of mountainous curves falling in the shadows. The grasses are just glowing, the clouds amorphously changing, the air temperature dropping, a hawk flies overhead, it is so very peaceful out here. That feeling of remorse washes over me again, and I just simply have to slow down and take it all in. This is the now that I am seeking, right?
I rock hop over a creek as the sun dips closer to the horizon, and head into a thicker forest. To my right, I spot some flat spots in the trees, but press onward toward my goal. Within about five minutes I stop in my tracks. There was something about that place back there that calls me to it. I could push on to meet my goal to Whiterocks Lake and get there just at dark, or I could just stop now. This is something I rarely do, but I turn around and backtrack to that sweet little spot in the forest. This feels like it needs to be home for the night.