The RocketDog

The RocketDog

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Unwilling Swan Song: Upper Cedar Lake, Cabinet Wilderness MontanaSept28-30, 2015

Larix Layallii
Cedar Lakes
Oh, End of September.  How gorgeous you can be.  I'd been backpacking over to the Cabs twice this year, but poor Scott only once.  We'd had a couple other nice trips this summer, but our (mine wholly) hearts will always reside in this most gorgeous, wild, and unpopulated spot in my beloved Montana.  We had a few days off, and although I didn't feel very well the day before, we decided to zip over for a quick trip, since the weather pattern has been fantastic. We settled on Cedar Lakes, after speaking to one of the Rangers out of Libby, regarding trailhead closures.  Unfortunately, several of the fires smack in the middle of Heaven remain burning. Cedar Lakes was open though, so we packed up, and with a late start, we were off.  Or so we thought. 

We packed rather quickly, luckily having some dehydrated food leftover from what I'd made for The Church, but needed some snacks.  We decided to stop in Sandpoint, ID, at the Chevron there that we always have, to grab some more bars and candy.  When backpacking, we prefer to just take the car key, not the entire key ring.  Usually, we take both.  This time, in the interest of expediting our lateness, I declined the offer of Scott to take mine off too.  ::sigh:: I loaded up the grub, and transferred it to Scott to pay for while I used the restroom.  I had been driving, and after plopping the stuff in Scott's hands, I then held the key out and specifically mentioned "Here, hold this while I go, please."  He went off to pay, and when I returned, transferred the load back to me.  I briefly thought "I don't feel the key" but assumed he'd stuck it in one of the many pockets on his hiking pants and happily accepted the dog treats the cashier had given him when she'd spotted Rocket looking out the window.  We'd left his window down, but I had locked the car, and forgetting about the security system on the 'burb, I reached in Rocket's window and opened the car door, setting the alarm off.  I gave Rocket his treats, expecting Scott to come out, but went looking for him when he didn't.  He was just coming out of the bathroom and I held my hand out and said "Key, please.  I set the alarm off."  He looked perplexed at me.  "I don't have the key, I gave it to you."  "Um, no you didn't.  I don't have it."  This back-and-forth went on for a few minutes, precious minutes, and then we started looking around on the ground.  I re-traced my steps, crawled in the Suburban, looked everywhere.  Time ticked away while we started to argue about the key.  We went back inside and the cashiers were looking at us, and I asked Scott if he laid it down on the counter. (I have been married to him for 20 years, I know him well.)  He said he kind of remembered doing that, and the cashier then suddenly remembered seeing a key on it.  He asked her "Yeah-- a black key with just the silver cut sticking out?"  She insisted there was a ring on it, causing Scott to quit that angle.  I am much more suspicious of human memory though, and told Scott privately that people always insist they remember things accurately but studies have shown just how terrible memory is.  I turned back to the cashier after another futile 10 minutes of searching and asked her about the key and what happened.  She remembered a young guy picking it up and felt it was his.  She was sure.  I, frustrated, insisted it had to be ours, because there was no other explanation (don't worry, I was calm and nice.  Really.  )  She, in a moment (duh) of inspiration exclaims she'll go check the camera footage and see.  AWESOME.  After another ten excruciating minutes, here she comes, sure as shit.  "Yep.  That's EXACTLY what happened", beaming with pride.  Argh.  So then we ask if they know him (Sandpoint is a very small town) and, even though he 'comes in at least 2-3 times every day', and the other girl went to high school with him, they 'can't remember his name'.  Double fuck argh.  Scott calls a locksmith, who advises with all the rigamarole they have to do for a car key, it will be over an hour, plus cost $70--so we finally call my poor Hallie, who had been up all night with a stomach flu, and beg her to please drive our spare key over. (We also were missing our trusty Hide-a-Key, which Scott insisted he'd replaced after taking it out to loan Hallie.  *cough cough* Hallie still had the spare.  Grrr)  Anyhow, they tried to look him up on Facebook but of course, FB had to 'burp' and all of us lost connection.  Finally, two plus hours after we stopped for a minute, Hallie arrives! We woke Rocket from his unconcerned sleep, left our phone number with the clerks, and were off again.  LATE.  We arrived at the TH about 4:45pm and hustled off at just 5 o'clock.  

Cedar Lakes sit in a basin with a giant granite wall blocking the West.  I knew it would be dark soon, and with a forecast low in Libby of 26 degrees, I wanted to hurry.  I don't mind hiking in the dark, but part of the fun is the trail.  This is supposed to be a particularly scenic hike, and I was still pissed about the whole "how could a fucking dude pick up a car key that wasn't his and fucking walk off with it?!"  The trail is about 5 miles to the upper lake and gains 3200'.  Hump, baby!  And hump we did.  We stopped once, right after we started, to talk to a wonderful old Man of the Mountain, with long white hair and a just-as-long white beard, who was mushroom collecting.  I didn't want to hurry him off, he was quite interesting, but tick tick tick was sounding in my head.  We then stopped one other time for Scott to put a blister measure on his heel, but we arrived at the lake, huffing, at 7:39, just as dark was falling. Scott immediately turned to me and said "Ok.  This is cool."

 We quickly made camp, during which I got our dinner rehydrating and as the cold descended, we crawled into our bags.  I wanted to check out the lights on my new Big Agnes MountainGlo tent (Prodeals, people, Prodeals).

It twere chilly that night.  I had to put on my Stratocloud jacket over my wool shirt, plus my fleece hat.  I was warm enough though, considering I only had a summer pad.  We woke up to frost still present at 9am.  Smoke was wafting into the basin from some renewed burst from one of the fires down below. 

 Some very pretty views of the basin. After a leisurely breakfast, we took off for some day hiking to see if there be larch. The trail was a pretty but round-a-bout switchback that took us through the remnants of the Scenery Mountain Fire in 1994.  Amazing how hot a fire can be that 21 years later, not much has regrown.

"Dudes.  What's your hold up?"

Upper Cedar Lake

The trail went around the north east slope of the ridge, brrr.  Got cold, and the ground was already frozen in spots.  Cool bridge between a deep chasm in the rock.

A little further along the trail, then west again, then.......LARCH. A beautiful, explosion of larch.  Be still, my beating heart. (If you don't like pictures, scroll, baby scroll.  I'm letting loose.)

Yeah, pretty much the entire trail I'm in heaven now.  I can't begin to explain the way this tree, in this color, against this sky makes my heart sing.  It's akin to the feeling I got when I played music.  We intended to head up to Dome Mt, and in sky gazing, failed to see the cairns marking the old trail.  After a water stop, we checked the DeLorme and found we were below the old trail.  We headed up a sketchy and long talus slope, during which Scott dislodged a boulder onto his toe, causing a yell and me to scurry back down as fast as I could, imagining 127 Hours the whole time, but Scott got it off.  At the top of the ridge, we were treated to a golden alpine meadow, which made me want to run back down, get the tent, and move it up here.  Scott declined.  Party pooper. We had a small lunch, enjoying the views.

We decided to make our way back to the trail, following the ridge. Interesting tidbit regarding technology: the DeLorme showed a trail on the ridge.  While we found one big cairn, there was no trail at all, not even a hint at an old one.  This is one reason I love/hate technology.  But we knew where we were going, so as long as we didn't get cliffed out, we were fine.  We did see someone's sense of humor, though:
"Gnome Mountain instead of Dome?"

The RocketDog

A beautiful jaunt back down to the lake in the golden afternoon sun.


Some one was a tired pup.  He is on (and had just started the night before we left) abx for crystals in his urine.  Scott had noticed him acting strangely the day before we left, taken him to the vet and they'd x-rayed and urine sampled him.  He was given the ok to go, but we were taking it easy on him.

 He did feel good enough after the nap to do some posing for me. hee hee

We had a nice dinner, hit the sack, and that night was much warmer.  Either that, or my new REI fleece is super warm!  I had taken it to try it out.  Did not have to sleep in the Stratocloud, just the fleece.  This night though, just like the previous night, I coughed and coughed.  We also, just as we drifted off, heard a big critter come right into camp, on my side.  We laid completely still, listening.  We still aren't sure what it was, didn't sound like a deer though.  Rocket was out, and frankly, I wanted to keep it that way, because we didn't want him to rip the tent like he did when he was a pup.  But really, we should've been talking loudly and scaring it away.  Scott thinks a bear, I'm not sure.  After about half hour, though, another critter came.  This one sounded more like a deer, and I insisted Scott look.  Yep, this one was a doe, and she kept coming back.  Even Rocket was over her.  He didn't even lift his head to utter his lazy growl.

Next morning I felt a little like death.  I'd figured the hike would get the better of the incoming virus, but I definitely felt it.  We walked over to the sun to enjoy our coffee.  The lake was like glass.  Glorious. Perfectly blue sky. No smoke this am up in the basin, but we could see it to the east coming in.


Dog looked too good to resist.

When my kids saw this picture, Cait was like "Mom.  You look like you're sick."  Nothing like a kid to be honest.
Reluctantly packed up, all the while this chest thing is trying to make itself known despite my ignoring it.  Hit the trail, hoping to make it in under 2 hours, but downhills are rarely easier than ups, and especially when the trail is so steep and rocky.  Montana has a special affinity to adopting old creek beds as trails, I swear. We did not make it in under two hours, it took us almost as long to hike out as in.  I think either an Elk, bear or cougar was coming up the trail, as Rocket suddenly got extremely excited and wanted to rush off the trail.  As we descended, he kept trying to run ahead, nose to the ground for about a mile.  I think we surprised it and he was following it's ascent.  He is so used to deer and moose, I feel sure it had to be something we don't have a lot of at home.  We do have bears and cougars here, back where we hike, but they are not nearly as numerous as deer.  Too dusty for good tracks, so we'll never know. The trail was very pretty in the fall sun.

We hit the TH, drove into Libby to eat, and I proceeded to have such a coughing spasm I caused something to close in my throat and I couldn't breathe for a bit.  My eyes started to water, I brought my hand up, and Scott's burger hovered mid-way to his mouth, his eyes boring into mine.  I tried to indicate I wasn't choking, but that I couldn't breathe. Just as he started to get up, I managed to choke out (sorry, pun intended) that I was ok.  The coughing spasms have just continued to get worse, and I had to cancel a much-anticipated trip to the Chelan Sawtooths with a new friend today, much to my extreme dismay.  I can't even begin to express my disappointment and angst, even though the urgent care doc (my visit to was urged by my dear RN friend who insisted I not go out again without an xray) pretty much strong-armed me into staying home and instead, I got a breathing treatment, abx, and a several swabs for stuff, including a Pertussis test.  Yay me.  So while it isn't the best larch display in Washington state, I again am thankful for my beautiful Montana, for it's glorious larches I got to see.  Better a little than nothing, I guess.  The weather right now is so beautiful, high 70's with lows in low 40's, but I know that there are worse things in life.

As much as I hate to admit it, this could very well be my last trip of the year.  The rest of the month is busy, and of course November and December speak for themselves in terms of commitments.  My beautiful larch display will have to wait until next year.  I did miss blogging about Scott and I's actual anniversary trip to Engle Lake/Engle Peak in July, though, so this winter will hold a little something in terms of living vicariously.  If you've made it this far, thanks for reading, and get out there and find a larch to appreciate before it's too late.  If you're a real geek like me, you'll know where this quote comes from:

"And there, in that whirlwind of golden leaves, Ashley Longsworth kissed me."