As with any art, once you learn fundamentals then you can fully improvise.
Wilderness travel has been my obsession and practice for nearly 20 years. There’s really nothing that has offered the freedom, reward, and awe as exploring the steep and wild gardens of the alpine. So saturated have I been, at times, that I’ve completed long loops while in REM state; holding unreal maps and reaching places that have left me aching to find upon waking.
One such place that has recurred, I will clumsily describe as a dark blue body of almost oily water surrounded by sheer granite walls. As stark as stark can be. No vegetation, just pre-mordial liquid and stone.
I know of a few alpine lakes that would fit this bill, but they are above 7,000 feet in elevation where trees just don’t grow. But, none have quite matched the feeling.
Last summer, while pouring over maps, I stumbled upon three intriguingly nameless blue ovals all neatly aligned. Wha??? NO NAMES? Isn’t everywhere nowadays labeled, categorized, and charted to the minute and degree? No name, no trail, no trip reports found even on the most intrepid of sites. Hmm…could be just what the doctor ordered!
After printing a more detailed map where cliffs actually show up due to sharp top0 lines, it looked pretty plausible to make it there without event. (Uneventful hikes don’t end up in expensive helicopter rides).
So, with a favorable forecast and a couple of four legged companions, off I went.
There’s a trail to settle into for a while, but soon enough, the route I was to find with each step took off in another direction. Up, through, over and between; reading and responding to the landscape. At times wondering about what was over that next rise, fearing whether this was such a good idea after all…then, I’d come across a “spot” and know there’s nowhere else on the planet I’d rather be. For example –>
I ended up on a ridge and was able to spy the lakes for the first time. Glittering jewelry and hydrating sustainance all at once. Only trouble was how to get down to these charms. Following water is SOMETIMES a good idea as it seeks the lowest route. Of course, there are these things called waterfalls. As these places are where stuff naturally likes to fall, I find it best to avoid them.
The best routes are forged by game. Deer, sheep, goats, cats, bear, etc. Deer and goat tend to leave the deepest gouges in the surface and so are easiest to track. Animal intelligence/instinct tends to follow the path of least resistance. Saw these on the hike:
Finally, after not so much a fall as a controlled-slide-with-sudden-handplant, I made it to the first, largest lake. It was blue of course, but an unusually dark shade of blue. And totally surrounded by light to dark gray rock. No trees. No vegetation whatsoever. And it only sits at 4,000 something something feet. Here’s the kicker, in my mind: there was one sheer wall at the edge of the water toward the outlet. Do, do, do, do, Do, do, do, do.
The next lower lakes began to show signs of life at the shores as they likely melt out sooner. Still, zero trees throughout this chain of lakes.
I was not able to completely relax, however, as the loop-hike meant still more explorations in order to connect once again back to the trail. One steep and grassy sidehill proved to be the toughest stretch. Here (on a later trip) Gwen makes it look easy.And the warm weather meant snow patches and swims were welcome reliefs for myself and the pups.All in all, a successful creation. Or, RE-creation. And possibly, a dream-come-true! I hope these beauties remain unnamed for the rest of time.