Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Ancient Lakes

Last weekend I was asked to go on an adventure over the mountains to Eastern Washington. Always up for something new and ready for a trip away from the city, I said "Heck Yeah!".

Panda had been gone for a week and to be honest I actually missed him and was glad that he had come home. After a celebratory night of the Arch, we decided to head out on Saturday. After running errands (which for some reason is like our thing) and a nice surprise, we headed out late. I remember thinking who would take a trip over the mountains when they knew it was going to be dark when they hit their destination...oh yeah...Kobna and Panda.

We hit the trailhead at dark and scoped it out a bit to make sure we could sleep there. The wind was very strong and it was blowing the sand pretty hard. Panda had wanted to get a star trail and honestly I just wanted to look at the stars because they are pretty. It had been so long since I'd seen the Milky Way misty across the sky that I gasped when I looked up.

Two guys in a white pickup drove up the road to the trail and pulled up next to us. They offered us a place to camp up at their property, but luckily Panda had seen enough horror movies to say no. They did mention that the Gorge Amphitheater was across the way and I instantly teared up. I tried to hide it, but Panda knew...I was bummed. With the death of Roi only a week back, I was still sore about the fact that I wasn't at the show. It was around 10:30 at the time I took this picture and I knew they were doing their encore. "Anyone Seen The Bridge" into "Two Step" into "Ants Marching"?! In Seattle? The crowd must have been going nuts. I consoled myself with the Arch and appreciated what I did have. The stars in the sky, a huge mesa to my left and a great friend to my right.

After a night of tossing and turning and weird, but oh so good, occurrences (chicken, baby? really??) I awoke to a truly mind blowing site. To the left of the truck was a small marsh with the cat tails I'd been trying to capture sine I got my camera. They remind me of growing up on Lake Tapps, the small inlets of the man-made lake that you wouldn't dare swim in but were captivating because of the strange vegetation that would grow there.

It was early when we ventured out, which felt a little strange as usually my hikes are later in the day. The morning sun was shining on the fall colors of the brush bringing out every detail the desert had to offer. Red rocks, green grass, yellow desert brush, purple and yellow flowers; it was oh my god, so beautiful.


We started off by taking the trails leading to the right, but along the way saw a "hikers mark" which Panda always picks out when we are hiking so we decided to follow the path to the left.

The path took us through the side of one of the mesas, and with vultures flying over head we pressed on through the brush. We came to the main trail and continued on, up over a hill and then the views were upon us. I could see the lakes in the distance and I could tell they were not a mirage. Ancient Lakes are actually 5 lakes in a large basin between three mesas. One of the lakes was only a marsh at this time of year, but still had green plants towards the middle of the lake so you could tell there was still water there.

Getting down to the first one proved to be a bit of a challenge and we had to bushwack through some wildflowers, but they made for a lovely shot so it was worth the effort.

Each one, for me, was an Oh My God moment. Panda joked with me about it and I was a little upset by the mocking as I really didn't know what else to say about the area. It was so breathtaking and really each time I go out on a new adventure I'm so grateful and I am so blown away by the fact that my eyes are seeing such beauty that I can't help but exclaim "Oh my god, it's beautiful". I felt a little upset that my gratefulness of what he shows me every weekend was mocked...but I knew that he had good intentions so although I gave him shit for it, I was able to joke along with him at my expense.

I was basically shooting blind on this trip. The sun was so bright and my viewfinder is so small, plus I was wearing these polarizing sunglasses, so I basically would just point at something and shoot the hell out of it. Many of my shots were too dark and I had to lighten them up...and then there is this lucky shot. Oh so lucky.

I was really happy with how this one turned out. At the edge of the first lake I spotted a piece of driftwood, strange to say as where would it drift from, surrounded by the blue of the lake, the purple of the wildflowers, the green of the grass and the yellow of the brush. There is even some blue in there. I'm so glad it came out well.

At the end of the lakes is a large waterfall. I wanted to get some longer exposures of the falls and Panda was up for it so we traversed some pretty dicey rocks and ended up at the falls. As I climbed up, Panda went down to the lake shore to practice his "macro at will". I spent some time up there with my surprise gift from the errand running on Saturday, my very own Manfrotto tri-pod. I had it in the water, sideways, in the bushes and it worked like a champ. Unfortunately my composure skills weren't as great as my new tri-pod and I didn't like a single shot from up there except for the above one, which was from the top of the falls looking out to Ancient Lake.

While sitting up on a rock waiting for Panda to take some pictures of a tree I looked down to see a snake skin fully intact. Just like my bones shot from LA, I was so disappointed in this shot. The composure is all off, my shadow is in the shot and there are pieces of grass in the way...but oh well, it was a cool find.

As we headed out of the trail I heard some gun shots ringing through the valley. I looked over to Panda with a shocked look on my face...he had heard them too. I looked up to the ridge and saw two figures on the mountain. Panda used his zoom lens and said they were pointing the other way, so we continued up the trail. They would shoot, then stop to reload, then start shooting again. We rounded one of the lakes and I heard the gunshots really close. I said to Panda "Those are coming our way" and we looked over to the lake and saw the bullets going into the lake like rain falling from the sky.

Sticking close to one of the ridges, Panda tried dialing 911 but he didn't have enough signal and only was able to get a few words out to the 911 operator. Luckily those few words were enough to get through to the local Ranger. Unfortuantely they only gave a warning to the stupid kids that almost took our lives. I'm still really upset about it, but with so many things going on with my friends and at work this week I'm trying to stay strong and happy, thus those little assholes are not going to get the pleasure of pissing me off.

I'm so grateful for this trip, for the opportunity to finally have seen what was on the other side of the Gorge, for my life, for my friends, for this great state that I'm so lucky to live and for my best friend who comes on all my adventures. Even after being fired upon, I still rate this as one of my top hikes. I can't wait to see it in the winter.

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