Where 10’000 ft. Does Me In (Kenneth & Dorothy Lakes)

(In the last episode, we left me at Rock Creek Lake, sleeping in my car and freezing through the night.)

When I got up the next morning for my coffee, I found Ken raring to go, but I was not. I had to explore one thing before leaving: the roiling creek next to our campsite. A lovely path had been carved out of sand and stones alongside it, so off I went. So many lovely shots were to be had, it was hard to pick one, which reminded me of a little Stephen King story. In his book about writing, he admonishes: “Kill Your Children”, by which he means simply that sometimes your favorite phrase/paragraph/chapter just has to go, even though you love it best, simply because it doesn’t fit in the overall picture. So when I look at my photos, I try to remember that. This, below, is one of the children that lived.

Ken was stomping a bit when I came back, so off we went to hike up to Kenneth Lake, which he was convinced had been named after him and was therefore his by rights. The trailhead was hidden behind a monstrous RV and its owner, parked in a camp chair next to it, but once we cleared that obstacle, we were good to go. Or I should say Ken was good to go. The man is a maniac. This, for him, was a meek little warm-up for his next day’s hike, an 18-miler with 8000 ft elevation, bagging two peaks. In case you’re not familiar with the lingo, peakbagging is a disease common among climbers and hikers, who constantly have to add to their list of conquered summits, Don Juans of the Mountains that they are.

But back to Kenneth: the trail got fairly steep right away and strewn with rocks and boulders, so no autopilot treading here – I really had to look where I put my feet, especially since I have a tendency to have my head in the clouds, which invariably causes me to trip and fall and break cameras and lenses and cause expensive stitching somewhere on my face. So now I pay attention. Before the first mile was out, I was huffing, puffing and heatstroking and I had to stop and recover a couple of times. Meanwhile, Ken was hopping up the mountain like a carefree goat, which really annoyed me, because when I was a kid, that was my nickname, “The Goat”, so keen was I on hopping ahead of everyone else on the mountains, and now…. 🙁

Eventually we made it to a plateau, which soon revealed the most beautiful meadow I had ever seen, at least since the last most beautiful meadow I had ever seen. The lake itself was hidden from the trail, and we had to look a bit to find it – but it was worth it! Sculptural and unusual stone formations dotted the still green waters, and a large grassy marsh bordered the other side.

We bushwhacked a bit to get around the far side of the lake and eventually found the trail to Dorothy Lake. Soon, again! there was the most beautiful meadow I had ever seen, really really this time, and except for having to get to it on foot, I was ready to build my summer cabin there. Dorothy Lake wasn’t bad either, and we mucked around it a bit, with Ken setting up timed release shots for himself, which meant he had to run up to the rock I sat on and pose, which he did three times while I wondered if I could ever get up again. Honestly! 7 miles and what, 1000 ft elevation, and I was this beat? Of course, I didn’t take into account the difference in altitude. Everything is SO much harder at 10’000 ft. Everything! And a lot!!

Suddenly it was time to go back. After half-a-mile or so, I sent Ken ahead, because I was feeling pretty pooped and not in the mood for a forced march. That was an inspired decision because I got back to my car a full hour and a half after he got to his. But first I got to see the most welcome sight ever: that of the emerald and turquoise Rock Creek Lake lovingly framed by trees! I was home!!! And like a horse smelling the stable, I felt a sudden burst of renewed energy and made it to the shore where I splashed my face with loads of cooling water. The last half mile was done dragging my knuckles to the ground and inwardly moaning and groaning, and yearning for a very cold gin and tonic at a dark bar nearby, of which, alas, there were none. Instead, I found the general store at Tom’s Place, where I purchased the necessary ingredients. As I left, a woman looked at my Uggs in the 105º heat and smirked: “Ready for winter?” No, lady, I wear them year-round, but mostly that’s all I have beside my hiking boots, so there. Aaaand there are few reliefs in life as intense as getting out of your hiking boots (or your ski boots) and slipping into a pair of comfy, warm, soft Uggs. Heaven.

So that’s it for my Lake Adventures for now, and until I get back from my trip to Sequoia this weekend and report on my fabulous new Teton 0º sleeping bag, I wish you gobs of fun and laughter. Cheers!