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Desolation after the Rain

Day One: We drove up from Napa and started hiking at Wrights Lake, where we took the Rockbound Trail. While most people use the Twin Lakes trailhead, Rockbound gets a lot less traffic, and there is almost always room to park.

The Trail up to Maud Lake is only four miles, but we struggled as M seemed to be having trouble with the altitude. Normally, she wouldn’t worry about 7,000 feet, but today, and since we drove straight up from sea level, she was huffing, puffing, and really fighting, especially on the two short but steep uphills. At any rate, or at our very slow rate, we arrived at the lake and checked out the campsites. We were the only campers, so we had our pick. But with the heavy rain the day before, we noted a lot of flat places were now either swamps or ponds. One the bench above the trail on the west side there were plenty of nice spots, some were even dry, and we found one to suit, set up camp, and rested from the day’s exertions.

That rain the day before had really affected the landscape. In places, the trail was running water. Dusty spots were now muddy spots, although they hadn’t yet been kneaded into quagmires by hundreds of hikers’ feet. The tiniest rills were flowing with water, and the bigger streams were now wading depth, rather than rock-hopping. The hikers we met on their way out were universally impressed with how much rain had fallen, and those that had made it to the Rubicon River told us that it was raging. Good to know!

Day Two: The next day called for us to hike over Rockbound Pass—a steep climb out of the lake for almost two miles. That's the pass on the left in the photo above. But when we awoke we found our tent absolutely soaked both insaide and outside. That moisture from the rain had done its level best to cover our gear. Sure, the tent had a layer of condensation on the top. But it also had enough condensation on the inside to not only soak the tent, but also drip on our sleeping bags. We decided to take the day easy—we had only four miles to hike to Schmidell Lake—and let the bright sun dry everything out.

Unfortunately, we were camped right in the shadow of a local peak, so we didn’t really get sun until 8:45, and we didn’t pack up and start hiking until almost 10:00. We spent an extra few minutes trying to find my spare pair of undies. After searching the campsite and our gear, I finally concluded that they must have been snatched by a local rodent. They were nowhere to be found.

And the climb up to the pass was another struggle. It seemed to take forever, and M’s slow pace had me worried. We did see a very insolent marmot in the talus below the pass. We finally made it to the top and got our first view of Rockbound Valley on the far side including lovely Doris Lake just a few hundred yards below the pass. The valley was lush with greenery, flowers were blooming, creeks and tiny rivulets were flowing, and the hike down to Doris and then Lois Lake was delightful.

But M was having trouble today with her feet, and we stopped for lunch at Lois Lake. I stopped to filter some water and promptly dropped the reservoir bag on the ground, where it landed on a prickly piece of granite and developed a few tiny leaks, which I then had to repair, more or less successfully, with duct tape. Ugh.

From Lois we continued on to Schmidell Lake, giving us another four or five mile day, but another long day on the trail, as M’s feet were now quite painful. She worried that her boots we wearing out or maybe that her sole inserts were wrong. I had originally planned to hike the short 1.2 miles to Leland Lakes in the afternoon, but with our late start and slow pace, that was not going to happen. We were delighted to see an osprey overhead, and the scenery at Schmidell is truly wonderful.

After we set up camp, we rested and discussed what to do next. It made for a sobering conversation around our dinner, as I contemplated how we were going to get back out again. One piece of good news was that as I got on my warmer clothes after dinner, I found that missing pair of undies in the pocket of my down jacket. Much laughter ensued, and we dropped all charges against the rodents at Maud Lake. And a dry but breezy night did away with any condensation, and we woke to a dry tent and dry gear.

Day Three: I had initially thought we might hike down to the Rubicon River and follow it for a few miles to make a loop back to the pass, but with the way M was feeling (her knees were now an issue, as was her tummy—possibly from dehydration—we determined that we would hike right back out the way we had come, and I would take a number of the heavier items out of M’s pack. We were not looking forward to the steep climb back out of Schmidell, but took it slow and steady, and finally got to the top.

From there the going was easier through Lois and Doris Lakes. We noted the foreleg of a deer on the trail that had not been there the day before, and a pair of hunters we met told us that they had observed a pair of coyotes tailing a herd of six deer the night before. Apparently, they had caught one.

It was a steep struggle for M back up to the pass, and then we slowly but surely made it all the way back down to Maud Lake, arriving just in time to eat lunch there. We scoped out all the campsites as we hiked back along the lake, but determined that the best one was the one we had used before, and so set up camp there. While it had taken a long time to get here, M was feeling better now, and we had the afternoon off.

I even tried fishing with no luck at all—the water was like glass, and the only fish rising were well out into the middle of the lake. But that evening was peaceful. M was feeling better, both feet and tummy, and things were looking up for the hike out. As we prepared for bed, M announced that she could not find her toothbrush anywhere. We searched without success, and she ended up borrowing mine, convinced that she had left hers behind on a log at Schmidell Lake.

It was not until she put on warmer clothes some time later that she found her toothbrush in the pocket of her down jacket. More laughter ensued.

Day Four: We were up early and pleased to see only minimal condensation in the morning. While we could have waited for the sun to hit our camp, we knew how long that would take, and just packed up with a slightly damp tent and ground cover. The trails were now drying out. What had been creeks were now barely running, rills were now just damp, and standing water was now just mud. It made the hiking easier, and we even rock hopped across the creek that we had waded only a few days before.

With most of the weight in my pack, M’s feet were doing better, and we made it back to the parking area in time to drive down the hill to Kyburz for lunch. Which was a good thing, because I had packed carefully for this trip, and we had only one granola bar, a single slice of salami, and a small kernel of cheese left in the bear canister.

The Kyburz Café had been closed for more than twenty years, but a new owner was in place, and we stopped for very competently made burgers for lunch. And the drive to Napa was easy, with no traffic at all, and a quick stop at the Pedrick Road produce stand to load up on fresh veggies and fruit—something we’d missed over the past four days.

This trip took us into some wonderful country, and the timing (starting on Labor Day Monday, when most people were leaving) meant that we saw very few people in the most visited Wilderness area in the USA. But the concerns about M’s feet and her struggles with altitude left us worried about the future. And we don’t have answers for that one.

As usual, the complete photo log is here:

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2 kommentarer

24 okt. 2023

Schmidell is a great destination, and you were fortunate to have Maud all to your self. Sorry Leland didn’t happen. The upper lake is one of my favorite places to camp in DW.

Thanks for this resource. It’s always fun catching up on your dispatches and musings.

24 okt. 2023

Thanks for the kind words and the thoghts about Leland Lakes. They are on our list for next year!

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