Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Lake Neva. Roosevelt National Forest.

Two years ago Jack and I tried to get up here. It was late summer and we had to turn back because of torrential rain. We set up camp at the Rainbow lakes campground. There was nobody there. We dined in. We ate our familiar feast of salami, cheese, dried figs, bread, almonds and a bottle of wine. Background music was provided by the rains. They pelted their rhythms on the tent all night long. It was a little bit like listening to a Phillip Glass record but not as dry.
This time we were determined to make it to the lake. I had a pack with enough supplies to spend the night if necessary: A light tarp with pegs and rope, a whistle, a small first aid kit. Extra food and water. Whiskey. Rain gear, topo map and compass. It turned out I didn't need any of it because I had Jack. He's a master of these mountains. Knows them like the back of his heel.
Our journey began at the fourth of July campground on the Arapahoe pass trail. At eight in the morning on a Sunday in August, it is laden with cheery Boulderites donning BPA free Nalgene bottles and color coordinated REI clothing.
After crossing Boulder Creek we left the main trail and its congested highway of hikers. We followed the creek upstream.
We took a faint fisherman's trail, which narrowed into a scat of a deer trail. It turned into a scrabble of a sheep's trail, and many a winding rabbit run— sometimes taking us in circles as if we were chasing our tails. We came across some flattened grass where an animal had recently lain. We didn't know who or what but thoughts of bear and big cats were pawing quietly at our minds.
We stumbled across streams. We meandered in meadows of wild flowers. We bushwhacked through soggy brush.
When in the mountains without a trail I always find a firm hold in Edward Abby's dictum, "When in doubt, go higher." This was a constant comfort as we looked up and saw nothing but obstacle after obstacle of rock, boulder, talus, tree and thick brush.
We never saw a soul until we got to the lake. A solitary gentleman with his dog casting his fly into the wind at 11,800 feet.

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