Mon 26 Sep 2011
What is a dive? Its bare feet on warm rock. Then air. Then convergence of cool lake water on skin. Then fish and swirly breath caught swoosh. Then burst up into alpine air and WHOOP! Then swim scurry back to the benched granite with a big grin to do it again.
What is a dive? Its dropping the tether of ‘its too cold’ and ’scared’ on the rocks with your clothes, instead taking in the surface and depth beauty of the high mountain lake water, and wondering what it feels like to fly, and, then, leaping.
What is a dive? Its jackknife and cannonball. Its a big breath in and jump high, shouting “summer!” on the way down.
I just returned from a trip of honoring the last days of this summer, traveling up to Boulder and Lyon Lake in the Trinity Alps. I have backpacked solo so much these past years, it was a treat and a comfort to have company this trip in my friend Greg, who’s even more passionate about beautiful water than I am.
Our trip bridged the last week of summer through the first day of fall. An early start and half day drive and we were hiking the few miles into Boulder Lake, meadowed and green bowled, quiet enough for us and the dragonfly wings, and the ht-hoot, whoo whoo of the resident owl. The next day I scrambled early up to the lakes above (Lost and Found) and came back to a leisurely breakfast and swim.
Heading toward Lyon Lake we enjoyed a Trinity-steep pull up, breaking finally out of the darker woods to the open big trees, wildflowered meadows, bear tracks and benched views.
The lake offered Greg some good brookies, so he cooked them over the fire for dinner in earl and salt.
We had perfect weather the entire time and no skeeters so we slept out, able to see stars when we awoke in the quiet, and watch the sun come up chasing the late moon across the sky every morning.
No people until our last night, so we lazed the last day of summer away at the lake; diving, watching, fishing, swimming, painting, balancing on our floating log friend, listening to the jay pretend to be a hawk, then watching the hawk thermal up and disappear in the sky. Watched the light leave the basin early, watched the bats come, then Greg said “Lets chase the sun!” so we went, scrambling up to the pass for an epic still, warm sunset.
We sat quiet for a long time while the views back to Shasta cooled to periwinkle and rose, and the cadmium sun greened the blue sky as it set over Caribou Mountain and the coast range in the west.
Shasta seemed to grow taller and taller as her smaller cousin ridges grew dark in the shadow of the earth.
The very last blaze of orange told us it was time to go, so we scampered down in the dark granite light, no headlamps, back to our peninsula campsite, dinner, and fire.
First day of fall we again lazed the morning away, then geared up to head off trail to a pass high above Parker Creek with views into the heart of the Alps.
Perched above the sloping meadow we watched mountain bluebird and a white band tailed hawk work the winds, with silver granite and red peaks and forests in the distance. I saw so many places I’d been before, geeking out on the map flapping in the breeze, identifying some of my favorite Trinity places.
A sweet surprise? We could look directly across at Ward Lake, a place where two great journeys began: my friends Leisyka and Blair got married there and it was on that trip, walking up Swift Creek in the wildflower riot of July, that I fell in love with the Trinities and started my affair with backcountry travel.
We took another route home passing the lovely tarn Blair promised was there, and stopped often taking in the open views out over Cub Wallow and to Shasta, landing back to our lake for another afternoon of still sun, dive, swim, and brook trout.
Ate an early dinner and scrambled up again for the sunset (this time taking the camera) and heading right up the pass, avoiding our first-of-the-trip neighbors who’d set up camp at the outlet.
I slept deep on our last night, laying in late (Greg has my kinda backcountry morning schedule: “slothlike” he called it…works for me!). We swam and chatted in the morning sun, then headed unhurriedly out, feeling as if we’d been up there forever.
On the way out, fresh bear scat, flowers I had not noticed on the way up and (so perfectly fall-like) berries! (thimble mountain black, straw, wild currant, and goose).
At the last tall view of Shasta and the clouds she was collecting we paused, noting how much quieter our minds were coming out than going in.
Double high fives and hugs arriving safe at the trailhead to a dusty (maybe named Meg) red Honda, we headed down for a wash off in the sweet rushingTrinity, and waited for the best ever burgers and shake from the Yellow Jacket in Trinity Center. Full up we headed home under cloudy skies and windblown forest fire smoke turning the sky crimson.
We tugged a bit more summer from this early fall, and a bit of our youth into our evening, zooming down the blue highway with windows down, music blasting, zig zagging down the pass to Whiskeytown and through the broad valley watching the dusk draw into itself eastward.
Warm wind night drive and we were home.
Full set of pics here.