Saturday, August 22, 2015

Backpacking, Hunkering Down, & Bookreading

I've always wanted to backpack somewhere beautiful to hunker down and read a book.

Backpacking to somewhere beautiful and hunkering down... read a book.

That's what I've wanted to do, and so that's what I did.

I've also always wanted to do a backpacking trip by myself. And so this trip fulfilled two purposes: 1) backpacking to hunker down and read, and 2) backpacking solo.

I spent three days in the Alpine Lakes region, at Ridge Lake. The lake is located just beyond the Kendall Katwalk, along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).

About an hour into the seven-mile trek to Ridge Lake, the highway sounds of nearby I-90 were dispelled by the sounds of silence, punctuated only occasionally by chirping birds and chirping marmots. The trail afforded awesome views of rocky meadows, alpine lakes, nearby peaks, and nearly-spent wildflowers. The vistas were somewhat grayed and granulated by smoke from the wildfires burning on the east side of the mountains. The smell of smoke lingered in the air and in the back of my throat.

As my trip was mid-week, I didn't expect to see a whole lot of other folks out on the trail. But, boy, was I wrong! The trail I hiked is part of the PCT, and so, as expected, I ran into a few end-of-season thru-hikers. In addition, there were a handful of hikers who were just starting out on the 75-mile long "Section J" of the PCT, which passes between Snoqualmie and Stevens Passes. And, of course, there were the day hikers, too.

To my surprise, as I was hiking to the lake, I ran into Luisa, a woman I used to work with at REI (see A Fun Job: Not An Oxymoron). She was out trail running for the day. Although it's not uncommon to run into friends when I'm out-and-about within the Seattle city limits, I'm always astonished to come across people I know when I'm miles away from home. 'Tis a small world.

As I approached Ridge Lake, I spotted the most perfect campsite -- isolated and cozy -- on the far side of the lake. I meandered along the walking paths that interlaced the various campsites until I arrived at my home for the next two nights.

After setting up camp and replenishing my calories, I set out to read my book. I read for hours, occasionally drifting off into much needed snippets of slumber. I loved how I'd get absorbed in my book, and then I'd look up to see that I was surrounded by tall evergreens and granite peaks. I had completely forgotten where I was! Every time this happened, I was grateful that I had the opportunity to read in such a beautiful place.

One of my reading spots.

After supper, I rinsed off in the lake and then called it a night.

This was after cleaning my feet,
before I crawled into my sleeping bag.

I spent all day Wednesday in solitude heaven -- reading, napping, thinking, stretching. Ah, it was a glorious day of one-with-nature blissfulness!

The happy camper.

I awoke just after midnight on Wednesday; my bladder was calling. Hesitant to crawl out from the comfort and warmth of my sleeping bag, I finally forced myself to throw on my shoes and step outside the tent. I'm so glad I did!

My mid-night pee break allowed me to stand, in complete awe, beneath the ceiling of the stars. The dipper was low in the sky, suspended just barely above the shadowed outline of the tree tops across the lake. The lake was so still that I could see the dipper stars reflected on the water's surface. Oh, mama mia! I was in heaven! After crawling back into the tent, I spent a good hour or so watching the stars from the comfort of my sleeping bag before drifting back to sleep.

I had planned on spending a good part of Thursday doing some exploration of the nearby peaks and lakes before hiking back to the car. Alas, when I unzipped the tent door shortly after 6am, this is what I saw:

My view of Ridge Lake on Thursday morning.

It wasn't exactly raining, but the air was hyper-saturated. I've always thought that if you stood beneath the cover of the trees, then you'd be saved from some of the water falling from the sky. But it was the other way around -- it felt as though it was full-on raining only when you stood beneath the tree branches. It was very unusual.

I waited for three hours for the fog to lift, to no avail. Given the short sight distance, there was no use in further exploration, as I wouldn't be able to see beyond the ten feet in front of me. So I packed up my things and started the hike back to the trailhead.

Remember how I ran into an acquaintance as I was hiking to the lake two days earlier? Well, not more than ten minutes after leaving the lake on Thursday morning, I crossed paths with Michelle, another woman I used to work with at REI. She and a friend were out for a day climb of nearby Mount Thomson. Wow, I ran into two people I knew out in the middle of the wilderness! I guess it's true that REI employees really do spend a lot of time in the out-of-doors.

About half of the hike back to the trailhead was in thick fog. The Kendall Katwalk, for which this section of the trail is best known, is a 100-yard-long section of the trail that is etched into a granite cliff, more than 1,200 feet above the valley floor. Though walking along the catwalk is gravy, it was really quite eery looking at the drop-off on my left and seeing nothing but thick cloud. I was curious if the fog would be more comforting or more frightening for someone who had a fear of heights.

On my way back to the trailhead -- the fog has cleared.

Although the fog cut my backpacking trip a few hours short, I had accomplished what I had set out to do -- I backpacked somewhere beautiful and hunkered down to read a book. And, as this was my first solo backpacking trip, I also crossed one more item off My Bucket List. I love how each successive crossing off my list gives me even more confidence and momentum to tackle the other things on my list. Ah, life is good!


  1. Awesome! I call the tree rain, 'the drips' . . . and the section of trail between ridge lake and spectacle lakes is gorgeous. I hope you get to explore that area some more!

    1. Ha -- "the drips"!

      I'd like to hike the PCT between Snoqualmie and Stevens, so I will eventually see the gorgeous place of which you speak.

      Thanks for sharing, Max! :)

    2. I did that gone a few years ago. If you have interest here if a friends blog post on it.

  2. Nice to see you ventured into solo backpacking. Its such a wonderful and peaceful way to get out and recharge. I do recommend going all the way to the border from Snoqualmie Pass.

    1. Thanks, Paul. Going all the way to the border is a good idea--hadn't considered that before. I enjoyed backpacking with you in April. If you're up for another outing, let me know! :)

  3. I am WAY behind!!!

    LOVE this! one of my bucket list items is to climb high in the cascades and spend the night watching shooting stars. And on every mountain I ever climbed, a book came with me!

    Great job lady! And those were some hard working feets!

    1. Thanks, Tony. Watching the nighttime sky is grand! :)


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