After the 3.6 mile conga line up to Snow Lake, the crowds thinned dramatically. Jem Lake was our destination, where we would set camp and continue on to Lower Wildcat to check it out, then return to camp before dark. Only a 1.4 mile add on to get to Jem (according to Beth's app) so another 4-ish miles to see Wildcat shouldn't be so bad; especially without a pack.After what felt like at least a mile and a half and looking at what was clearly a big push up with no Jem Lake in sight, I sat my butt down to collect myself. "This is one long ass 1.4 miles," I tried to joke without sounding too negative. (It's actually a full two miles starting from the Rock Creek trail junction according to WTA. You can't always trust the apps.) Earlier, a couple of day hikers had let us know where the best site at Jem Lake was, and as I got slower and slower we had several backpackers pass us. Now on our little five minute break, even more passed us. I cut Beth loose once the next backpacker went by. "Go get that campsite!" I commanded. She had been so patient going my speed up until then, but it was time for her to kick it into beast mode. She of course passed everyone and secured the dream spot. Sorry, but I just couldn't waste those kind of super powers!
|Got it! Thank you Beth!|
Thankfully the race for the campsite had drained enough of Beth's energy that she decided Wildcat would have to wait until morning. (Thank God! It's a thousand foot loss, just to be marched right back up again. I might have died.) We decided since we were already on the trail up to Mt. Wright, we'd do the short half mile up for sunset instead.Once again, crisis was averted when other hikers let us know the half mile up included some pretty serious rock scrambles, so we settled for "sunset-ish" and quickly got going. We had just enough light getting back to camp, and before hitting the hay Beth declared Wildcat could wait indefinitely, because sleeping in sounded better. "Whatever you want," was my grateful reply.
|Beth's new hiking buddy "Sprout"...I need one!!!|
Surveying our map during breakfast in the morning, we noticed a loop going all the way around the lake. I faintly remembered reading something about it online, with the words "sketchy" attached. Looking across the lake at the vertical bluff rising out of the water, my first inclination was to tell Beth, "I'll watch you from here." But since we were passing on the Wildcat adventure, a little extra sketch started sounding appetizing.
Accidentally knocking a rock off while carefully lowering myself and watching it plummet like a meteorite all the way into the water did not help with my shaky legs. Once I was safely at home I looked again for what I had read about this loop, and sure enough - "would not recommend." Weird how I blocked that out.
|An amazing campsite I couldn't believe was empty...|
but it's way harder to get to than you think!
Somehow we were not quite full of sketchiness though. After hitting the conga line again and inching our way back up to the ridge from Snow Lake, we were suddenly totally game for another sus trail. On the map there was a "dotted line" going the opposite direction and away from the masses until circling back to the main trail. And even though it ended with a scramble down yet another talus field, we both agreed it was totally worth it for the solitude.We still had to cut back in line to finish that last mile or so, but it was all good. I was too grateful to be alive on such a beautiful day, with such a beautiful friend in one of the most beautiful places in the world to be grumpy about the crowds. Though truth be told, because there is so much beauty here in the PNW, I don't think Wildcat Lake will be a strong enough draw to bring me back. But you know I always say, never say never! Happy trails with ever changing plans!
|I often wonder if I dig holes outside my tent in my sleep?|
I mean, seriously, how?!