Sunday, August 16, 2015

Lake Valhalla

Did you know the name Valhalla comes from Viking mythology? I didn't either...not until I met Hans. But that comes later in the story.
Last year backpacking virgin, Leigh, became infatuated with hiking when she came with me to Hart's Pass. She has let me know she wants to come with me on my 7 day trip this year...after only one 4 mile round trip experience. She's a go getter, I have to give her that, and I know she could do it; but I thought it best she test the hiking waters a bit more first, as infatuation does not necessarily equal true love. (especially when mosquitoes are involved)
"How are these supposed to help?"
Finally the time had come for her "second date", so to speak, and because her 14 year daughter was also wanting to give backpacking a shot, we decided to make it a mother daughter trip. Melissa, my "first time" and hiking mentor, was also on board with her teen, making it a full on maternal lovefest.
One of my favorite free spirits
There are two approaches to Lake Valhalla. I've been saving it for a group hike because I am always intrigued with the idea of not having to double back...loops and such have been a bit of an obsession for me. But, saving money (on gas, or anything) is an even bigger obsession; and Melissa's car could fit all of us, so it just made more sense to pile in together. Therefore, we had to decide whether to do the more popular Smithbrook shortcut, or the traditional 5 mile in PCT route. Being that we got on the road much later than planned, (is it ever true when someone warns you that their "house is not well marked, but GPS should get you here"? ) I was tempted to try the steeper Smithbrook "backdoor" in order to get swimming before it got too late.
Mom Power!

After my last hike's inclination overdose, I was glad everyone agreed that a little longer but less steep experience was preferable. As we were hiking along (and I was still within ear shot, which is rare; typically I'm playing catch up) Leigh would ask me questions like, "how do you determine how many miles you've gone", to which I would answer with things like, "I don't" or "I'm not sure" or "I'm really bad at that". I'm sure this must have made her more and more uncomfortable with the idea of spending 7 days in the wild with me--and it should! My "skills" at hiking include the ability to be alone for days and a contempt for hygiene; not exactly qualities you look for in a partner. The girls, on the other hand, had already downloaded some AP on their phones which determined exactly how far we had gone at any given time. Kids these days. 
Kids these days...okay, they are pretty great

When we at last caught up with the girls, we found they had already plopped down all their stuff at the first campsite they came to. Happily frolicking in the stream, they all boldly declared it to be "the best spot ever!"

As to be expected, we adults could not be so easily convinced. Why is it so hard to just let children be happy with what they have? "No darling--you can't be so satisfied with that cardboard box, when I know the shiny toy is so much better!"

What a happy little stream!
So, unfortunately we made them strap their packs back on and continue with the quest for the perfect spot. (nothing short of beach front property would suffice!) Passing 3 locations that were already taken, I began to doubt our lusty ambition, but then we came upon our dream site come true! Right on the lake with plenty of space...I was too excited to consider why nobody else had claimed it. The mystery was solved when Melissa pointed to the "Day Use Only" sign. Of course we thought about setting up camp anyway; would a ranger really come by and kick us out? Probably not...but the "villagers" who obeyed the rules and camped legally just might. Lesson #44: If your kid says they love a tent site, for heaven's sake, just let it be. And while I'm at it, here are 3 more lessons:
#45: Do not store wine in a ziplock
#46: You can use your Sawyer Squeeze to filter wine that has been sitting on the bottom of your bear bin
#47: Teenagers will eat every gram of food you bring so pack accordingly
Teens...gotta love em'

I suppose I should get around to Hans. After we had a wonderful night back at the "perfect spot" (even though you can't see the lake, the privacy factor is a huge plus) we finally got our chance to go for a dip. This lake could not be more perfect; I actually thought twice about even writing about it because it's the kind of place you want to horde for yourself. (good luck with that, right?) Just as we were getting cozy on our floaties, Hans waded over with some Viking history lessons. What a character!!! Once a boy who left his village after it was taken over by Nazis, and now a 70ish old man who has cycled the globe not once but FIVE times, I really didn't know what to make of him. Was this guy legit? Considering his deflated sleeping pad which was supposedly ending his journey from Canada, and the fact he looked like hell (yes, you typically look a little worn at 70, but he did have the "I haven't slept in days" look) makes me think it's a possibility. I like to think so--he told the kind of stories that make being human sound like a beautiful adventure. 
This is how you filter water!

Mad diving skills, Mel!

When it was time to go, we briefly discussed the idea of hiking out the Smithbrook way and taking the chance we could hitch a ride back to our car; but there are beautiful adventures in life, and then there are the nightmare ones...and we didn't feel like taking the risk. So we played it safe and hiked back the way we came, and then we played it extra safe and spent our 2nd night in luxury at the Enzian Hotel in Leavenworth; causing my confidence at Leigh's resolve to rough it for 7 days to waver slightly. 

I do hope Leigh comes with me next month, and that she is able put up with my antisocial, smelly self. If the Viking hiking gods be willing, next time I'll be writing of our Stevens to Snoqualmie conquest. Until then, may all your adventures be beautiful!