We had gone to bed when it was 40 degrees outside, and this morning, our breaths had condensed and froze to the tent wall. I am scraping ice off the silnylon using my towel. Outside, everything is frozen: my water container, my shoes, the tent. The first thing I do is to heat the water. While it’s going, I wander the lakeshore to take pictures.
On such a cold morning, hot coffee feels so good. I make mine more dilute to get more hot liquid, while Brad wants his more concentrated. Sunrise happens quickly, and everything warms up rapidly. We have oatmeal as the surroundings thaw.
After breakfast, morning urges happen, and in this stark landscape with no cover, there isn’t much in terms of privacy. There are large boulders, though, and I find a flat spot behind one. This place overlooks the lake as well, and it is sufficiently out of the way. The sun casts long shadows from behind me.
Because of time constraints, we quickly pack up and hike up over Piute Pass without taking any more pictures. We did that yesterday. Down switchbacks, we wind our way through this drainage valley. We pass Piute Lake and Loch Leven. From this last ridge, it was all downhill through increasingly dense forest cover. At the trailhead, we find out that the parking lot is nearly a mile further. After having gone almost sixty, another mile on a flat dirt road would be nothing. We arrive to find my car intact.
Brad and I had brought a clean change of clothes. We take water up into the aspen stands next to the parking lot and rig up a shower system. Here, it is full formal showers, which feels so good on this sixth day.
We finish this most epic trip off at Carl’s Jr., and I drive Brad back to Ontario International Airport. We both fared well on this trip—no blisters, no ankle sprains, no knee pain. Everything went as smoothly as our last major backpacking trip, which took us around Rainier’s Northern Loop.
I first dreamt of this trip ever since Rod Brandt told me about it more than a decade ago. Now having done it, it is everything that I expected it to be, plus more. At every step, around every turn, and through each day, there was nothing but spectacular scenery, invigorating exercise, wonderful food, and a sense of deepening friendship.