Saturday, July 26, 2014

Marmot Lake to Nine Stream (Part 3)

On day three I hiked six miles to Marmot Lake. Sounds kinda boring, huh? It was, and it wasn't. Part of the beauty of hiking is going into "zone" mode. You hike up, you hike down, you go through a forest, you hop over a small stream, you go up, you go down, you go through a forest, you hop over a small stream...rinse and repeat. You start to slip into a sort of auto pilot; which I'm actually kind of into. But hiking lesson #40 is a big one: Try to pay attention. Pretty deep, right?

I was plodding along like a giant oaf, (I purposely made a lot of noise the entire time...scaring away the bears, y'know. And it worked--I never saw a single one) when all of a sudden I was on the ground...hard. My foot had just barely gone off trail, and unknown to me there was a very steep drop off that made my foot slip straight down. I credit the fact I didn't pitch it over the edge to my trekking poles, which where planted and gave me the balance to fall the right direction.
It was a "what the hell just happened" moment. I hadn't noticed the precarious edge because of the shrubbery, (I love that word; yes, it must be because of Monte Python) but at that moment laying on the ground and looking down at the creek about 40 feet below with giant rocks to land upon was a wake up call. I'm not going to look up statistics, because I'm already sure this is how the majority of hikers die. (though, I doubt this fall would have killed me; just made this lesson a far more painful one learned) I had dreams of falling all that night. From now on I swear; I will be more aware. I promise.
I was hoping to find some Keebler cookies

What a beautiful stream, right? Take off your boots,
the trail is at the top

One part of this hike that I was definitely not in auto pilot for was 'the ford'. I was so nervous about it; imagining myself being swept downstream in an instant. It turned out to be a non-event. Getting to the other side and not being able to find the trail was an actual event. I almost called it a day and turned around. More about that later.
The 'real' ford...wish it looked scarier
Marmot lake is wonderful. It's cold, but not punch you in the gut cold. I stripped down to my sports bra and underwear and jumped in--glorious! Then the horseflies showed up. Why are these creatures so evil? They just don't give up...circling, circling, circling. It makes you nuts. When I got up to my private camp spot (I was not having a repeat of the prior evening) I got my handy REI towel out and went into ninja mode; that f@@#*%# horsefly was going down! This is when the nice man camped out at a higher spot decided to come say hello...and found a crazy woman whipping her towel around in her underwear like an idiot. Who's the weirdo hiker now? He was a great guy out hiking with his son; so when I was dressed I went up and said a more proper hello. This was the site to have!!! The picture does no justice; it's panoramic and breathtaking. When your at the lake, go up the steep hill to the left and you'll find it. Don't bother with the group site when you first arrive...that's where the legions of 14 year old boys will be; guaranteed.
Marmot Lake
A great spot, but the best one is on that hill

John and his son and their view to die for
The nice man let me know I really needed to do the 3 mile round trip up to Hart Lake, or even push on to Lake La Crosse if I had the energy. I didn't feel like sitting around camp battling the horseflies; so I converted to a day pack and left. I must say, if you've put in all the effort to get to this elevation, it would be a shame to not push on to see these lakes. It was well worth it.
Heading up with sweeping views all around

One of several little tarns on the ridge trail

The far end of Hart Lake. It's much larger than this
Lake La Crosse. This is as close as I got.
(I didn't have that much energy ;))
The next morning I left early because I knew I had a very long day. Even though it was my toughest day, it was the "knowing" that made it easier. There is something comforting in going back the way you came that I don't think I've really appreciated before--but I will from now on. (no more obsession with loops!) 
Took this from my tent just before going to sleep
Wildflowers everywhere on the way back up the First Divide
I had just finished 're-doing' the stream when an adorable couple showed up. I video taped her coming across so I could show my husband the big bad ford I had to do. Of course, she just tromped across like it was nothing.
Thanks for making it look so easy, beoch ;)
When I asked them how long they were planning on hiking they said they were hoping for 30 days, except they weren't sure they could make it with their food supply. I gave them what I had over packed and asked them to look up my blog and let me know how they had fared. The week after I got back we had RECORD amounts of rainfall, so they have been on my mind. If you two ever find this; hello!!!! Glad you made it out alive!
So cute, right? I love how she's clutching the food like it's gold.
At Nine Stream Camp I found a primo spot right on the river. The only thing I didn't like about it was the fact there was another site just above with a clear view of my spot. I was hoping nobody would claim it, but eventually I looked up and saw that someone had snagged it. Do I go up there and say hi? What if the person gives me the creeps; then I'll be freaked out all night thinking they are watching me. But, I figured I'd be wondering that all night regardless unless I met them; so I went up there hoping for the best. You'll never guess who it was...

"I thought you were long gone! Where'd you camp last night?" 

Matt (finally got his name right, I think I asked him every time. Sheesh, I'm bad with names) informed me he had made it up to Marmot after all. He told me a story about losing the trail after the ford, and thought he would have to turn back. (just like me! A blow down made it really hard to tell where the trail is) Just then a doe came down, revealing the path. (Snape's patronus? Sorry, I'm a Harry Potter nerd) He took it as a sign, and pushed on. Don't you love it?
Doesn't look much like a trail, does it

I loved my Nine Stream spot!
This was my first time not putting the rain fly on the tent and getting to gaze at the stars; it was a wonderful night. In the morning when I went to say good-bye to Matt, I asked him if I could trade some coffee for a little toilet paper. (or mountain money, as my husband calls it) He retrieved a plastic baggie out of his pocket with what looked to be two sheets in it. He was so sweet to offer, but there was no way I was taking someone's last two sheets of toilet paper! We both pondered why we never pack enough, considering it hardly weighs anything. I ended up tearing a few pages out of the book I took to read, and it did the job just fine. I don't know Jim Palmer (author of "Notes From Over the Edge") but I have the feeling he would actually get a chuckle at the fact I wiped my butt with his work. It's important to not take oneself too seriously, don't you think?
The scariest part of the whole trip
There are quite a few log bridges to cross on this hike, but by the time I re-crossed the last one on the way back I was hardly even phased. I'd call this trip a sort of immersion therapy experience that quite possibly has cured me of that fear. Now to start planning my SIX day hike, where I will hopefully NOT be having the same therapy for my bear and tick phobias. ;)   
The progression of bridges starts you off easy. Ha ha!!...
I think I got this

A little more nerve racking.
 I'm pretty sure you have yourself a busted ankle
falling off this one
Hard to tell how high this is, but it's up there...I'm thinking certain death if you fall.
 Except there's a handrail, so it doesn't really count.
(I stole this pic off Eric Jain's trip report on WTA; hope that's okay)


  1. No problem, I'll just borrow one of your pictures on occasion... maybe the one with the toilet? :-)

  2. Great Blog entry! I'm so envious of this trip. Keep up the great work