Bear tracks in the road on the way to Heart Lake
During our recent trip to Lassen, we decided to take a hike outside the park to a small lake to the West called Heart Lake. We'd read about both the lake and the hike in a few places, and were really looking forward to the experience. Of course, since there were two routes to the lake, we decided to try for the slightly more difficult route that offered better scenery.
But the whole area had been logged a few years ago, and there was no real sign of a trail. A dirt road led up into the forest, and we followed that for about half a mile. Then it ended in a clearing. The bears tracks above were on this road. We poked around the edges of the clearing, and found a D9 track that seemed to lead in the right direction. It wasn't exactly the hike we were expecting. The route was criss-crossed with D9 tracks, bits of ribbon, and logging refuse. Still, we continued by compass and available route for about another mile.
And then we came to the edge of the logging tract, and the landscape changed completely. Instead of open understory with medium and small sized trees, we were now in an impenetrable thicket of rocks. underbrush. and downed trees. No fun there.
So we pulled out our compass and tried to work out a new route. There seemed to be an easier path a bit to the North, so we went there. And followed that up a steep ridge through boulders and brush. At the top, we found a cairn. And then two more. Aha!
The only problem was, we never found cairns four and five. They first three lead up the ridge even higher, and the going became really rough. And so we went North again, where we could see a more open area. That led us to a creek, that might or might not lead us to the lake. There were two creeks in this area--only one of them leads to Heart Lake.
But the creek only offered a brief respite, before we ran into another steep and difficult section. We poked around for another route, but our heart (sorry) wasn't in it. We were scheduled to cook dinner that night for the whole crew (25 people) and we didn't want to spend any more time wandering in the wilderness. We had bellies to fill. That's M following the rocky creekbed...thinking that it was time to start heading for the camp.
So we turned around and tried to trace our route back to the car. We found our first landmark, and then our second. And then we knew we had to work our way South and West, so we did. And just when we found what we thought was the very first clearing at the end of the road, we realized that it wasn't. It was a different clearing--and we were almost back at the main road out of the forest, right at a road marked #9. We had entered on road #12.
Hmmm. Which way should we go? We turned left, convinced that we needed to go further South. But after a few hundred yards, we guessed that we had overshot our goal, and turned around. A few hundred yards on the OTHER side of road #9 and came to another road...and it was not #12. In fact, it had no number at all.
Now we were confused indeed!
OK. Logic prevailed. M took her car keys and continued North. P took his car keys and went South again, passing road #9 and continuing on. About seventy-five yards past the first place we turned around, he found the car. And he hopped in it to rescue M in time to cook dinner for the crowd.
Disappointed? Yeah, we would have loved to seen Heart Lake. Humbled? Just a bit. Walking in a dense forest with no landmarks is always a bit tricky, and we probably could have done a better job of tracking our way in and out. Wishing we had a GPS? This is one example of how a GPS would really make things a lot easier.