Thursday, July 29, 2010

IPW Backpacking, Day 3

The morning had a slow start as we tried to dry out our clothes, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, tarp, rain fly, and tent before packing it all up. Once everything was dry (except Laurel's boots, which were hopelessly soaked!) we headed west on the Cascade Creek Trail.

Our original plan was to summit Thunderbolt Peak on the way, but it was already too late in the day to safely attempt. It was neat walking around it though and also seeing the back side of Cherokee, which we had ascended the day before.

The Cascade Creek Trail had many large, beautiful, cascading waterfalls. Truly impressive how the creek had carved its way through the surrounding rock.

We eventually came to the Buchanan Pass Trail and began hiking east again. We ran into other backpackers who were heading for Gourd Lake, but they missed the trail junction. We hiked on a bit further than they had and found it well-marked about a third of a mile up the trail. I thought we might find a good campsite along the way up that trail, and was mildly interested in seeing the lake, so we started hiking up the very, very long switchbacks.

About a third of the way up, it started to rain a little, then thunder, then rain a lot. We found a fairly flat spot and put the tent up in the rain. Bad idea. In hindsight we should have just waited it out a bit, but we were afraid that like the day before, it wouldn't stop raining. The inside of the tent was soaked. It didn't help that we put the fly on upside down and then had to flip it over.

Fortunately, this night the rain did let up -- right after the tent was set up. Then it stopped completely. I sopped up the water with a backpacker's towel we had and Laurel made dinner (again under a tarp because the trees were still dripping). Dinner was a delicious "stew" of couscous, black bean soup mix, and veggies.

After dinner the weather had really cleared up, so we decided to continue on the trail to see Gourd Lake. It was much further than we had anticipated due to the enormous switchbacks. (In total, 2.6 miles of trail to cover 0.7 miles of straight-line distance and 1300 vertical feet.)

A mile and a half later, we finally reached the top of the hill and saw the lake. It was incredibly tranquil and lush with vegetation on its shores. Too bad we didn't have much time to explore, because it seemed really neat up there. We never saw those other hikers again, so hopefully they found a secluded spot somewhere and actually made it to the lake at some point on their trip.

We got back to camp just before dark -- a nice change getting to fall asleep without the lights on!

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