Into the Woods. That’s what this first stretch of trail reminds me of, and it reminds Yan of that same movie we watched in the plane while on our honeymoon. Lee Ridge Trailhead begins as a small inconspicuous orange flag trail marker a half mile south of Canada. I would have missed it had it not for Ms. Ranger’s directions. Stepping off Chief Mountain Highway through the border of brush alongside the road, the trail emerges. Little did we know that this trail would transport us to a trip that will challenge our gear and push their limits.
We start at 1:05 and figure we would hike about two miles before stopping for lunch. It’s a late start, because setting up for this trip had taken more time than expected. We had to drop one car off at Many Glacier, in the Apikuni Falls parking lot, and transferred all the gear into the other car, all this under piercing rain. We laugh at the rain, though, because it’s dry here on this side of the ridge and because we have come prepared.
Although the name of this route is called Lee Ridge Trail, there is little about it that is along a ridge as far as we can tell. We are smothered in pine forest for most of the way with little expectation of far-reaching views. With little change in the scenery, we randomly pick out a lunch spot where there are fallen logs to rest our packs. Mark pulls out the heavy blocks of tofu and cubes them. I casually rinse off the lettuce leaves. Assembling the rice crackers, tofu, wasabi soy sauce almonds, and cilantro, we snack on Asian lettuce wraps. This was lunch part one.
The ridge actually emerges as we exit the thicket and climb toward Gable Pass. Tree line falls behind us. We have our second lunch at the edge of this alpine meadow. Chief Mountain rises to our left, and the spine of the Continental Divide sprawl out to our right. We shortcut toward the pass and finish off the rest of our snacks behind a house-sized boulder. Wildflowers dot this alpine landscape. We pick some wild onions.
The trail slithers down the other side of the mountain, and while Slide Lake looks so close, the descent is hard on the knees. We quickly loose elevation and arrive at the “No Fishing” sign posted in front of the upper part of Slide Lake. Mark and I scout for the actual camping area to discover that it is on a bluff just above the lower section. The once-flowing creek through the campsite would have been convenient, but water is a far reach down a rocky scramble to the lake’s northern shore.
Yan and I clean up and treat water for everyone while Mark makes dinner—kale salad with apples and carrots, adobo rice, and calabacitas from fresh zucchini. It is here that Mark discovers his Jetboil replacement cup had cracked; for the rest of the trip, Yan and I lend him our spare. After a late arrival and cold bath, this meal turns out to be the perfect dinner to warm up with. And to make sure we all stay warm, Mark treats us to cider and giant oatmeal cookies.