Saturday, August 31, 2013

Island Lake (a valiant attempt to escape the smoke)

Since I was in high school I've been going on a summer backpacking trip with folks I've grown up with, a few park rangers and a smattering of kids playing in the Sierra's. As I've gotten older so has the group and as people's lives have become busier (ie getting real jobs and moving around the country) the trips size has been steadily decreasing. I missed last year and was pretty excited when I got the email about this summer. A trip full of old friends that I didn't have to plan, count me in! As the date drew nearer I realized I knew zero details, originally planned for the grouse ridge area the Rim fire and American fire threw a wrench in our plans. With fingers crossed for good wind and amazing firefighters the plan changed half a dozen times. Desolation, Domeland, Mendocino all sorts of ideas were thrown out there. Ultimately the air looked promisingly clear and two days before our planned departure my email said screw it lets just head to Grouse Ridge and hope for the best. 
Turns out our group was down to three and we would try to meet up in a parking lot, Chubb Lake right off 80 between Truckee and Colfax. So as seems to be my habit I got off work, haphazardly packed my bag, attempted to take a nap and hit the road. A few phone calls later and a whole lot of driving in circles finally had me next to the 80 off ramp. Turns out that our super simple meeting spot was hard to find and neither of our cars had any success, Chubb Lake will have  to remain a mystery. Then it was off down the highway, down the dirt adventure that masquerades as forest service roads and finally to the Feely/Carr Lake parking lot. 
I was handed a sack of food and a mile or two later had us settling down at Island lake for the night. One of our group can't hike far, so the plan was for a mellow base camp with the ability to day hike off wherever we so desired. We hit the lake after 5 pm and with only a bit of haze we were hopeful for our trip. 

After a ridiculous amount of chatting we made some dinner playing with the Kelley Kettle, a fun wood burning kettle that made it feel like we had a campfire. Sometime close to 11 we realized it was super cold out and bed was probably a good option.. Starry skies complete with shooting stars made for a pretty great time falling asleep. 

I woke up under a bright moon, coughing with the surrounding mountains that were pretty obliterated by smoky haze. Not good. By morning it had somewhat cleared but not as much as I had hoped. After a very slow morning (smoke does not motivate me to climb great heights) Lauren and I went exploring eventually cross countrying down to a lake for a short swim. 

The clouds were gathering and the winds were whipping clearing up the air and making reading in the sleeping bag a pretty great afternoon option. The sky was almost clear and the afternoon passed in a lazy happy way. Sunset was pretty much my favorite time of day and another day in the woods wrapped up with an earlier night and a cloudy sky making for a much warmer sleep. 

Turns out a base camp makes me super lazy. With more haze and cold crazy wind it was yet another slow morning. Swimming, snacks and general laziness was my day. I had to head back home that afternoon because I unfortunatley needed to do some errands before working and get ready for my upcoming trip. I have 10 days off and zero prep completed for (drum roll please) Washington. I figure I need to spend at least one day getting ready for that so a short forested hike later I was once again back at my car heading back into the haze that is currently Reno. It was great catching up with old friends and the 3 days felt much longer than they were. Beautiful area, so worth the trip. 

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