Law 1 of a 5-day camp: don’t leave HQ without a full bottle of whiskey.
Highest priority on this summer’s bucket list, a bear sighting, was accomplished before the soles hit the dirt. As Ben and I were riding out to the East Fork parking lot two black bears necessitated a brake slamming and feverish jostle to grab cameras. There was a reason Yogi and Boo-Boo were hanging around at just under 6000 feet, we’d find out why in the days to come.
At 46 degrees North, the sun lingers in the skies considerably longer throughout the summer, allowing us to leave Philipsburg at 6, reach the trailhead by 7, and have camp set up by 8:30. Night 1 was Carpp Lake; the same campsite I had been a few nights prior.
The goal for day 2 was to hike into Johnson Lake and meet up with Laura and Pelej. The rest of the week would be a slow backtrack to the parking lot from there. Climb the ridge, descend the ridge, clomp through the basin, curse the loitering snow mounds, regain elevation, stumble over scree fields, wish you had hiking boots, damn your running shoes, clear your nose, break the levee of your sinuses, try and stem the flood with every paper product in your possession, arrive at the lake. Just a 7 mile walk in the park.
Some dark cumulonimbus forced a scramble to get the tarp up and dry wood assembled for rapid oxidation. Big, fat orbs of dihydrogen oxide began to smack the ground and saturate terra firma. The sky had a leaky faucet and we were the ants that could only run about between showers. Our two compadres had forgotten their tent, forcing them to bivouac under the tarp that night.
patpit pat pat pit pat PAT pit pat PAT PIT pat PIT PAT PATPATPATPITPITPATPIATPITPAIPTIPTIPATIPAIT
Eyes opened to a pitch black stage with an intermittent, broken strobe light and horrible feedback booms reverberating in the surrounding yet invisible mountain half-stack amplifiers. The flashes lacerated unsuspecting pupils as the Anvil Clouds hammered at their instruments high in the troposphere. But the roving bards were soon gone, moving to the next ridges to tell their cacophonous stories. Mr. Hendrix would have been proud.
The morning was spent drying out from the previous night’s rumble and we split from Laura and Pelej to head to Edith lake. Dry hike, wet camp. We were greeted by the Anvil’s more taciturn cousins, The Sprinkles, they didn’t give us a show as maniacal as the night before but were pesky enough making fire creation much more tedious. This lake held much more opportunity from the pescatarian perspective and there was a group of Oncorhynchus mykiss enjoying a relatively protected inlet closed to the lake by an assortment of logs. Attempts with the spinner only yielded a crop of lake salad, the fly rod landed a decently gilled specimen. It received the coal treatment with a round of just-add-water mashed spuds.
Spigot on, spigot off, spigot on, spigot off. The shelter of nylon and polyester remained impermeable to the meteorological whims.
Now the hike into Tamarack lake. A previous pass provided looks at prodigious snowpack; a repeat that running shoes would not enjoy. Let the posthole commence. 1 good step, 2 good step, sink. 1 good step, sink. Sink. SINK. SINK. Tolerance threshold at the brink. The slog continues… but what’s this? A miracle! The campsite is frost free and blue skies! Quick, assemble the shelters! Raise the tarp! Start the fire before the next barrage of hail!
Another lean-to afternoon breathing enough campfire smoke equivalent to a pack of cigarettes. Aquatic life is even better here, compadre Ben wrangles two fine trucha for the fire. Fingertips are so burnt that I might consider a career change given the lack of fingerprints.
Final day, rocket out of there. Steady drenching rain. Don’t care. We’ve got car fever.