The Eagle's Nest Wilderness is a special place. Most of the high lakes and peaks are difficult to access on long, steep trails (or off trails). Tim and I both were already tired before we even started backpacking on Friday morning. We weren't really feeling it this weekend, but we'd planned this trip months before and stayed true to our commitment.
Molly sure was excited to go with us though. She sat in the garage the previous day while I packed and wouldn't come inside the house because she was afraid of being left at home. She's 10 years old now and doesn't seem to have the energy she once did. I figured that this might be one of the last strenuous backpacking trips that she might get to take. It wasn't too much for her, though she did choose to stay in the tent and rest rather than go out and explore with me a few times.
The first part of the trek in is 4 miles on the Gore Creek trail to the Gore Lake split. It's fairly easy and unimpressive through the forest without many views other than some nice aspen groves. In the fall, this would be a great place to see the colors. Once we reached the trail split, there were actually hundred year old marked graves for two men right next to the trail, a strange and kind of surprising thing to see while hiking. There were rock piles to mark the graves and a metal sign description.
Grave signs (Photo from backpacker.com)
The next couple miles up toward the lake were steep and tiresome. We weren't sure if it would rain so we were trying to move quickly, but were still going at a pretty slow pace
(at least for Tim). He's been doing a lot of long distance running lately, but hiking up steep hills at altitude with a heavy pack on is a totally different kind of exercise. Finally the trail leveled out and the views opened up. Wow! Jagged peaks all around with colorful wildflowers and streams and pools everywhere. It was truly an alpine paradise.
First views of Gore Lake
Not long after we set up camp near the lake, a thunderstorm moved in. We all ducked into the tent to avoid the rain as loud thunder clapped and echoed and rolled through the valley. You know, the long, loud, ominous kind that seems to shake the ground. As the storm moved in, you could tell the sudden change in temperature from hot enough to make you sweat to cool enough that you need a jacket. It was a good time resting our legs and just laying there listening to the wonder that The Lord brings.
After the storm passed, I tried my luck at fishing. I don't think there were ANY fish in this lake. There were a number of other people fishing that afternoon as well and nobody had any luck. We never even saw a fish surface, which was strange because the reports I'd read about the fishing here were good. Luckily, Tim brought some tuna packets and shared some with me to go with my fish dish. After we ate our warm meal, I found a good sunset spot for the evening.
Gore Lake with Willow Benchmark/Mount Silverthorne
Red Peak (center) and part of the Zodiac spires (left of center)
Stars over Gore Lake
The next morning I woke to catch the sunrise on Gore Lake.
Believe it or not from the cloudless pictures above, after we ate some oatmeal, the sky quickly filled in and it rained for a little while that morning. I was concerned that our second day of hiking might get cancelled due to weather, but it turned out to be just a quick little drizzle and we were able to get some sun afterward. We bushwhacked off trail, around a ridge and into the Snow Lake drainage. From here, we hiked up to Snow Pass and summited an unnamed peak of 12,835 ft. between Mount Valhalla and Snow Peak. This area was stunning. I just could not stop taking pictures. I mean... postcard shots in every direction. We saw at least 4 different groups of mountain goats along the way. From the time we left camp until the time we returned, we didn't see another humans soul (Other than two specs of people on top of Grand Traverse Peak in the distance).
Grand Traverse Peak and Deluge Lake (left) with Mount Valhalla (Right)
Snow Peak from Point 12,835
We found our way back to camp in the afternoon in time for more thunderstorms to move in. The sunset that night and sunrise the following morning were more fiery due to cloud cover. The next morning right as I was setting up my tripod to shoot the sunrise I hear this loud, rapid thumping in the trees. Suddenly, a big white mountain goat comes running through the field at full speed being chased by a dog. I didn't realize they could move so fast! It outran the dog easily and then leaped across a 5 or 6 foot stream which neither the dog nor any normal human could do. Eventually the dog figured out a way around the stream and continued up the hill after the goat until it disappeared.