|Sage (turn your computer 90 degrees)|
|Outlet for Lake of the Clouds|
Leaving the overlook at the top of the basalt escarpment, the trail snakes steeply downhill for maybe a half of a mile, coming to a bridge that crossed the outlet for the Lake of the Clouds. There are a couple of backpackers getting water at the bridge and they informed me that the campsites along Mirror Lake had been crowded. There are several campsites on the east side of the lake still open (camping is first come/first serve), so I decide that even though it was only four o’clock, to stop for the night, set up camp and then explore the lakeshore. It is a short first day of hiking, only a little over a mile by the time I get to the campsite. I explore the east shore of the lake, then eat dinner and relax in my hammock reading a book of Rick Bragg’s newspaper columns, before going back to the lake to watch the sunset. It’s an early night. The air is warm and probably because we’d been in such a drought, there are few bugs. I crawl into my bivy tent at 9:30 AM, leaving the tarp off as I’m expecting a clear night. At about 2 AM, I wake and spend a few minutes looking at the stars before falling back to sleep.
|Sunrise on Lake of the Clouds|
I rise early on my second morning. After a breakfast of oatmeal and coffee, I hit the trail at 8 AM, passing other campers who are just getting up. Soon I was back on the main trail as it climbs steeply up the ridge to the east of the lake. Although the elevation gain is only about 200 meters, the steep part of the trail has no switchbacks and feels as if it was straight up, as it parallels a small stream that had gouged out a narrow canyon in the rock just south of the trail. This is hemlock country and the trees that send out roots along near the surface provide barriers that keep the trail teams from the need of installing erosion dams. But the roots are also tough on the feet! There is a campsite on the top of the climb and I take a break and check my blood sugar. This is my first backpacking trip since being diagnosed with Type I (insulin dependent) diabetes. Although I had purposely taken less insulin than normal in the morning, I find my blood sugar has dropped and is barely at 100. Normally, it doesn’t drop to that level until mid-day. I eat a mini candy bar and a granola bar as I continued hiking on the Mirror Lake. People are beginning to hit the trail and at the junction of Government Peak Trail, I run into a man and his seven year old son who had spent the night up on the peak.
From Mirror Lake, I picked up the Little Carp River trail. For the first couple miles, it runs through a swampy area between Mirror Lake and Lily Pond. Often there are boards to walk on, but the summer has been so dry they are not really necessary. Through this section (and only time on this trip) mosquitoes are problematic and splash a little repellent on which did the trick. Through this section, there are pockets of huge hemlocks, beech and maples and I wonder if this virgin timber, too remote to have fallen to the teeth of saws. I arrived at Lily Pond a little before noon. There is a nice bridge over the lake’s outlet, just down from a beaver dam, with a bench in the middle. Although there is a cabin nearby (there are rustic cabins throughout the Porcupines for rent), no one appears to be around. I pull of f my boots off and air my toes and then prick my finger to check my blood sugar levels. Despite having eaten several snacks in the morning, my blood sugar had dropped to 90, so I decided not to take insulin at lunch. It was obvious that I am burning up the sugar in my bloodstream and I don’t need to risk the insulin driving my blood sugar even lower. By the end of a day of hard hiking, I would come to the conclusion that I can forgo my rapid-acting insulin at breakfast and lunch and only take it at dinner. Lunch consisted of peanut butter on raisin bread along with some cheese and crackers.
|Lily Pond with beaver dam|
While having lunch, a family staying at the nearby cabin marches by. The man, a father or grandfather, is on point. He nods to acknowledge me when I said hi, but doesn’t speak. None of them does, as if they’re on a covert mission. Behind him was a son (or grandson, as the man and woman look too old to have a kid that appeared to be a young teenager) followed by the mother or grandmother. What amazes me is their attire. They have matching clothes that make them look like a walking L. L. Bean ad, along with matching walking sticks (with red tassels and a feather on the end). On the shoulder straps of their daypacks are walkie-talkies mounted they were soldiers or police officers on a mission. Soon, another family comes up for the other direction and my quiet lunch spot was interrupted with three teenage boys running around and the banging around in a canoe as they headed out into the little lake. I pack up and hit the trail.
Throughout the afternoon, I found myself deep in thought over my life and for some reason feeling nostalgic as I recalled friends that I hadn’t seen in years, places like Columbus County, NC, Central Idaho, Virginia City, NV and Western New York. I think about Roscoe and Harold, two very different men who’d served as scoutmasters for troops in the district I served. I think about Marge, who served as my western mother when I first directed a camp in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho. She made it her mission to see that I got to see what the west was all about. I think she also wanted me to take an interest in one of her daughters, but that hadn’t happened, even though we remained friends until she succumbed to cancer in the late 90s. I think about Victor and Wendy, friends in Virginia City and Jerry from Western New York, who’d just emailed me for my recipe for hushpuppies. As I got the email on my phone, I decided to wait to return his email. And I think about Ralph, one of my desert traveling buddies from Utah whom I at times find myself missing. On my drive up, I had spent an hour on the phone (with a headset) talking to his widow. We both miss him.
As I think about many of these people, many of whom stories I’ve written, I find myself wondering if there is a market for such a collection of stories. And then I thought about the trails I’ve hiked and the trains I’ve taken and the stories I’ve written and ponder the idea of a collection titled “Rails and Trails.”
|Little Carp River|
After pitching my tent and finding a good place to hang my food, as this site didn’t have a bear pole, I go for a swim in the creek. Id’ been hot, sweaty and dirty and the cool water helps revive my spirits. I try fishing a bit, throwing a Panther Martin (spinner) into a few holes and catch a small brook trout, maybe 7 inches long. This is a special trout stream and they have to be fifteen inches. I have seen a few trout, but nothing that comes close to the fifteen inch mark. Afterwards, I head back to camp and fix dinner: rice and curried chilies (an Indian boil in the bag meal), along with tea. After dinner, I head out to try my luck with some flies, but don’t get any fish to rise. Exhausted, I’m in bed a little after nine o’clock.
To be continued…