Photo Friday: Alpine Lakes Part 3

A couple of weeks ago I started with the first two days of this 8-day, 65-mile excursion. Last week we covered three more days, into the heart of the wilderness--and the thick of the smoke. 

Today we pick up with Day 6

Naturally, I had hoped to wake up to clear skies. Alas, that was not to be my fate. I began my 3400' descent in smoke as thick or thicker than ever. 

 As with rainy weather, the smoke forced me to shift my attention to the closer details.

I spent some time studying and photographing the texture of this long-dead snag.

I was more excited about what I heard and saw a moment later.

Ptarmigan. There were several trotting around (don't break your brain hunting; there's only one in the photo).

The day's hike spent a lot of time in old burn areas. They can be a little bleak, but were also the only places that there were wildflowers.

Fireweed and (I think) yarrow.

Eventually I dropped down out of the burn and into Lemah Meadow, or as close as the trail comes. I think there is an actual  meadow farther up the valley as the sign suggests; the PCT just runs through the woods. It was nice to be in undamaged forest, but the smoke was worse in the valley. I was glad I'd camped up high the night before.

From the second stream crossing (the one that's indicated on the sign above as having the bridge out), I began the 2300'+ climb to Spectacle Lake. I believe I have mentioned before that this "Crest" trail spends a lot of time climbing in and out of valleys, right? Part of that climb was through another burned-over area. And remember, that haze isn't fog or mist. It was a hot and smokey climb, and I began second-guessing my decision to stick it out.

Halfway up,  the trail crosses Delate Creek, which drains out of Spectacle Lake. The map says there's a trail to the lake from here, which would dodge 3 or 400' of climbing, but I never saw it.

The cool spot by the falls attracted a lot of hikers taking breaks. Good trail chats, and a generous (and over-packed) hiker gave me a couple of life-saving Snickers Bars.

I visited Spectacle Lake sometime in the late 1980s, and remembered it as gorgeous. That hasn't changed, even when viewed through a smokey haze.

The only thing I didn't like about this view was the smoke. Well, the smoke and the 200' drop to the lake.

Because the lake is a ways off the PCT, through-hikers mostly don't go down there. They're missing out. I took my time and found a campsite that was both somewhat sheltered from the wind, which had picked up, and had good views.

I was fairly early so I pretty much had my pick of campsites, and time to do laundry.

The wind wasn't wholly pleasant, especially at bath time, but did offer hope for a change in smoke conditions. It also made it possible to finally wash my pants and get them dry before bedtime. That made me happy.

About dinner time a couple of families moved into a site not too far from me, and wandered over my way for an extended photo session. It was a bit in my face, but also entertaining watching the kids enjoying themselves. I am always glad to see people getting their kids out backpacking.

One of the campers took my picture for me while I enjoyed my dinner.

The day ended with some hope for a change, and also with nice light thanks to the smoke (happy to trade that for clean air, don't get me wrong!).

I have too many photos to finish the trip in this post, so I'll stop here... with just this teaser for what I saw in the morning.

Day 6 stats: 9.7 miles, 2330' up, nearly 3600' down.

Apropos of kids backpacking, did you know. wrote a backpacker's ABC picture book, A Is For Alpine? The photos were taken by myself or my late husband, and the little hikers are our children, so it's been a while!

A fun ABC book for outdoor kids and their parents, A Is For Alpine is meant to help children (and their parents) imagine themselves hiking, camping and backpacking.

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2023
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  1. Loved the snickers bars and that bird with the pt name. Smoke not so much.

    1. Ptarmigan. The p is silent. And I have to check the spelling every time. The smoke wasn't fun, but did make for some interesting photos.

  2. No over packed hiker in their right mind gives away snickers. I’d be giving up nearly any other food first, unless they were bite sized

    1. Snickers appeared to be pretty much all he'd packed, food-wise.


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