Where the Lakes Have No Name

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!unnamed lakes pic

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 –>il36

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. unnamed2

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:Unnamed Lakes 7:3-7:4:15 - 10

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.Unnamed Lakes32

unnamed4

Kinda spooky.

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. unnamed1Unnamed Lakes 7:3-7:4:15 - 44

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.Unnamed Lakes 7:3-7:4:15 - 61And the warm weather meant snow patches and swims were welcome reliefs for myself and the pups.Unnamed Lakes03All 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.

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Anderson Lakes Snow-venture

The day began with a hazy pall. The type not promising the views one might hope for when giving such an output. No matter, when the clouds gather, it begs micro rather than macro.

The dogs were not bummed as infinite wild smells awaited exploration. Then when bored just exhibited a little sibling sparring.

After enjoying an extremely refreshing dip, pockets of blue drew me onward and upward. Termed “sucker holes” in climber-jargon, they elicit hope and frequently disappoint by narrowing their aperture.

This time the gamble paid off…and conditions were perfect for glissading on the descent: dry powder atop a consolidated, anchored and surprisingly smooth base.

And by all means, get up and shake it to Adham Shaikh’s super sonic fusion!

“ReWilding” on Hannegan Peak

Having just listened to a couple of interviews of Daniel Vitalis about how to bring some wildness back into our overly domesticated lives, I was primed for a little adventure. In the mountains, that generally means either going someplace new, someplace old in a different season, or choosing a new route to an old destination.

I formulated the latter yesterday and in transcending the healthy discomfort of the unknown, was handsomely rewarded with WILDlife, world-class views, and the type of satisfaction one only finds from DIY (Do It Yourself)!P1020949Goats at left snowfield: Continue reading

Polar Plunge at Gothic Basin

Today, I had to pass up the opportunity to take a “Polar Plunge.” Seeing the post-plunge video of friends jumping into a body of water during winter reminded me of a sublime day a few years back. Continue reading

Warm and dry in Red Rocks

This is the second and final installment from our short trip to Las Vegas where we chose to play in the slot canyons rather than play the slots. Here’s proof, however, that Gwen and I actually spent an evening on the “strip.” redrocksstripThe following morning, hangover-free and still “in the black,” we were raring to get to nearby Red Rocks Conservation Area. The warmth and dryness of which was easy to settle into.redrocksjosh Continue reading

To play the slots or in the slot canyons? Hmm…

lvslotLast week Gwen and I flew direct out of Bellingham to Las Vegas, Nevada…for cheap. We were originally going to pull the camper Southward to a better chance of sun and possible warmth, but the 49th parallel is a LONG ways from anything resembling summer this time of year. Continue reading

A slaked thirst

A commonly held belief about the Pacific Northwest is that it rains all the time. While, admittedly, it does feel like that at times; those times lie primarily between the months of November and May, sometimes June. Currently we are in the middle of a full on drought. Continue reading

Focal points and yoga

In the yogic tradition (my experience is with Hatha yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar Method), there is a concept, “From one body and many mind, to many body and one mind.” Awareness of subtle movements within our hundreds of muscles and dozens of joints attuned with breathing brings scattered thoughts to a point. Yeah, that stubborn aching point in the hip! Continue reading