Mike and Derek and I followed the
The water was aquamarine and deep, clear to the bare granite bottom. Trout swam in the shadows cast by a few drifting logs, feeding on whatever the current carried down from the heights above. A few yards upstream, two logs with sawn crosshatches for traction spanned the wide stream, and the trail began to climb, first through forest and then through alternating stretches of gnarled root, bare granite, and rocky ground.
At times, the trail was shaded by trees, and the footing was a mix of earth and root. The higher we climbed, the more rugged the trail became. First came easy granite bedrock, with
Mike and Derek cooked up ramen while I laid on my back, listening to the water and looking at the sky and jagged ridge across the valley. If we were all healthy, we’d consider the climb fun – but we weren’t, and I was doing my best to contain my excitement while Mike and Derek were admirably biting back complaints.
One of the things I’ve come to appreciate most about backpacking is that it teaches self-reliance, while valuing sharing and teamwork. Each of us carried our own weight – everything we’d need in the wilderness was in our packs, on our backs, and in our hearts and heads. We shared food, insect repellent, water purification, sunscreen. We set up our own tents, cooked our own meals, carried our own loads. Whatever stresses we encountered were our own. Though there were complaints, they were not bitter, and though there were obstacles, we supported each other. This was Derek’s first extended backpacking trip and he asked a lot of questions, learning as he went. All three of us shared our past experiences, enthusiasm, and good humor, teaching as we went.
That’s why it was so damn relaxing to lie back on a slab of granite and soak up the sun, listening to the rush of falling water and the quiet voices of my friends as they prepared a simple meal in the shade of the Enchantments basin.
The rest recharged us, and up the trail we went, into a more open country where the views were magnificent and the route more difficult.
Scattered pines cast crooked shadows over granite bedrock and blooming pink and white heather. The sun shone brightly on the lakes below, and
The trail lost elevation, rounded a corner, and opened up to Viviane where the outlet coursed through a granite channel and fell down the mountain side. Viviane was beautiful, with walls of granite holding two sides of the lake and
After taking photos and relaxing, Mike and Derek wandered down to an overlook above the valley and
Several small logs had been jammed between the bank and a boulder to make a surprisingly sturdy bridge. The gap between the boulder and the elevated bank opposite was no problem for agile, confident backpackers, but I proved it was possible to cross by hikers with other attributes. The trail wound around a large outcrop and I climbed up to see an elevated view of Viviane and the little shore crowded with backpackers.
When I returned, we watched seven or eight backpackers – two couples and three teenagers – cross the bridge. I’m always envious of kids that get to backpack; I wish I’d been able to go hiking or backpacking more often as a child, but at the same time, I recognize that I might have hated it, subsequently avoided it, and never have the opportunity to experience wilderness again. It worked out okay, but I wish I had those kid’s energy.
At 4:30pm we hoisted packs and began the descent, which, steep as it was, stressed Derek’s knee even more. Our downhill pace was still quicker than our uphill, and we passed a number of backpackers heading up or resting on the way. One group of guys had hiked all the way from the
The sun was bright but low over the headwall when we walked in to our own camp. Mike crawled into his tent to rest, and I joined Derek at the lake, soaking sore feet in the clear, cold water and leaning back to watch the sun set over the bottom lip of the Enchantments basin and trout jump in the lake. Those trout could feast all night long, I thought, and not make a dent in the mosquito population. We were just two days in, with two more to go, and our supply of DEET was running low. I thought the mosquitoes at Crater Lake two weeks before had been worse, but these were just as plentiful, and for whatever reason more annoying to Mike and Derek than to me. I’ve never heard more creative swearing than on this trip.
Dinner was once again dehydrated meals – spaghetti and meatballs, in my case – as well as ramen with a dash of DEET and a sprinkling of dirt. Dessert consisted of sitting back with a hand-rolled cigarette and a nalgene bottle half-full of bourbon, watching the stars come out. We discussed plans for the next day, which depended greatly on Mike’s cold and Derek’s knee. We were low on DEET, ibuprofen, and emergenC, and our aqua mira supply was halved when one of the bottles leaked. The day hike to Viviane was frustrating in that we’d have to do it again, and it had tested us already. There were no answers under the stars, but we were in high spirits and not about to suurender – we all wanted to push through the Enchantments, and while we agreed that any one of us could say “I can’t do this” and we’d reverse course, there was little chance that would happen. Still, I had concerns, though I kept them to myself. After the moon set, it was a dark night - but I had friends I trusted and a wilderness to conquer.