Monday, July 21, 2008
Even though we had hiked 10 miles the day before and had almost been eaten by something strange in the woods, we woke up Sunday morning and decided to do it all over again. Del has been searching for a lake recently, to no avail, so he suggested the hike to Granite Lake.
Before heading out he checked the route online. An article stated that the trail was about 11 miles round trip with a moderate gain. We packed minimal, thinking 11 miles wouldn't be too bad and headed out. This trail was also in the Middle Fork area, except it was only 2.5 miles in on paved road which was a welcome from the hike the day before which was 15 miles in down a dirt and gravel road.
We located the trail head with little difficulty and began our trek. Right away the trail proved to be more scenic than the previous day. The trail is actually an in use forestry service road so it was very wide, which made for a nice side by side walk. Right away we came upon a clearing that provided amazing views of Mt. Si and Mt. Teneriffe. I remember saying that I hoped the gain continued the way that it was going because it was very moderate and felt like a nice comfortable work out. Unfortunately Del laughed and said "hahahaha....don't get used to it". He was so right, as the trail really started to climb.
We could hear a pretty large creek off to the right and finally it came into view through the trees. It was a bit off the trail and to get to it we would have needed climbing gear, just to be safe. I kept hoping that we would end up crossing it so I could see it and luckily about 2.5 miles up we did.
Shortly after crossing the creek the trail really started to climb. The gain started to get pretty crazy and there were no switch backs to help in the process. Luckily it wasn't very rocky so we weren't slowed to much by having to scramble over rocks. It was really warm and there were quite a few clearings and not a lot of tree cover. The views were still excellent as we were able to see all the major peaks.
I started to get very tired and at one point I almost snapped at Del, and it was at that point I realized I needed to stop and eat. Del agreed and we sat down in the middle of the trail and ate a gigantic sub sandwich and rested for a bit.
Continuing up the trail we came to a fork in the road. The directions had said there was supposed to be two forks and at the second one we were supposed to see picnic benches. As I didn't remember seeing a fork in the road at all on our journey, I assumed this was the first one and since I saw no benches we decided to take the fork left...which we found was a mistake as we steadily climbed an empty creek bed. We eventually came to snow, which was a welcome site because we were so hot and covered in sweat and bugs. Grabbing handfuls of snow and letting it melt on our face and our limbs, we rested for a moment and hydrated ourselves from the outside.
Continuing up the trail we finally came to a clearing before what looked like a very steep and rock hill. We stopped to gather ourselves before taking on this endeavor as we were very tired from the hike up. As I laid on top of my backpack on an ant hill I began to pray for someone to come down the trail so we could know if we had taken the right path. Strangely enough I heard rocks tumbling down the hill and coming from the trail was a man on a mountain bike. I jumped up and asked him if we were on the right path. Of course, the answer was no. We were actually on our way to Russian Butte and were supposed to have taken a right at that fork a while ago.
Relieved to finally know where we were going, we started backtracking. I asked Del if he was excited to finally be on his way to see a lake and he said no..."I won't get excited until I actually see it". He has had so much bad luck trying to find a lake that he figured this would be no exception.
We reached the fork and started our descent towards Granite Lakes. I soon realized why Del was so melancholy about finally finding the right trail as we came to a clearing about .75 miles in and did not see a lake nor a clear trail. We started down one, only to come upon many trees blocking the trail. I remembered seeing the beginning of another trail so we started down that and after quite a bit of scrapes and tree branches in the eye we finally came to a point where we could see the lake.
I realized right away that in order to take a good picture out here I would need two things: a UV filter and a polarizer. As you can see in this picture the water filtered out the UV rays and made the sky a bright blue, however the sky is a wash. It was still a beautiful sight, even though we had to push our way through quite a bit of brush as there was no trail at all on the shores of the lake. The bugs were another story.
We knew that there would be issues with bugs, but for some reason we keep forgetting to purchase bug spray before the hikes and this time we paid dearly. I couldn't even sit for more than one second without a bug in my eye, my ear, my hair, my face. I literally had my own swarm of bugs that I named "Swarm Junior Junior".
Forever suffering for his art, Del braved the bugs and headed out through the brush to find the perfect shot. He has been waiting for this moment for quite sometime and he wasn't going to let any bugs stop him. At one point I heard him call for me as he was hearing a growling in the woods. I ran over his way with the gun and covered him while he continued to shoot. I found it amazing what fears he overcomes when out in the field. The shot is so important that he becomes no longer afraid of heights and can stand in the middle of an area full of animals and not show fear.
I had taken a few shots but was so fed up with the bugs that I put my camera away and used a bush branch to swat them away while I waited for Del to finish his. There was no way I was going to ask him to leave early. I knew this was pretty important to him and if he can man up and take the bug swarm, so could I!
I took this one last shot of Thompson Point before putting my camera away for the rest of the hike. If you click on the picture and zoom in you will see the cabin at the very top of the peak. It was a strange sight out in the middle of nowhere. I did some cropping on this photo as the colors were so off from the haze in the air. I can't wait to get those filters.
This trail kicked my ass...for sure. The gain was tremendous and add to it the heat and the bugs all I wanted to do was click my heals together three times and be transported back to the truck at the end of the trail. I keep reading that this trail is really only suited for winter hiking, but I strongly differ in opinion. Not only are you awarded with excellent views of the surrounding peaks, but you cross a lovely creek, come in contact with many wildflowers, have the opportunity to see at least two lakes if not 4 if you continue the trail up. Add the fact that this is an EXCELLENT work out due to the large elevation gain and no switch backs, I think this is a fine summer hike and wish that more people took the trail out to Granite Lake so it was clear of brush and more easily accessible.