Mileage: 2.6 (74.5)
I’ve decided to forego the 15 mile day and save the hike into Red’s Meadow Resort until tomorrow, which means today is a very short day. I feel alright about taking a nero; my body needs to do some healing.
Short days mean trying to sleep in, and I succeed in doing that–until 7 a.m. Then the sun is blasting over the smaller mountains and lightening my eye lids. I get up and lazily half pack my tent site. This morning I decide to see how far I can walk around the lake, without my pack on, so I leave most of my stuff out and spread throughout camp. Sometime later today I will hike to Garnet Lake, which is only 2.6 miles from 1000 Island Lake. I’ve heard many great things about Garnet Lake.
The path along the shore is well worn. How many pairs of boots and trail-runners have beat this ground? Its a sandy path, flat, and strewn with large boulders and short scrubby plants along its edges. The earth gently rises away from the water’s edge and I begin counting the number of viable campsites.
At the west end of the lake the trail begins to peter out and finally comes to an end in the middle of a large, rolling field. A small watery inlet blocks the way, as if those walking the trail decided it was too much of an obstacle.
I leap across and walk on.
I come to a rocky outcropping next to the lake, just below Banner Peak. It is a giant of a mountain. I sit down and decide not to go any farther. This is a fine spot. Far away, on the southwest shore I can see a couple tents with people moving around. Let them have their privacy.
I stop for 45 minutes and do nothing. I don’t know if I even thought about anything. Surely I did, but whatever it was made no lasting impression on my memory. It was as if I had left my body.
After walking back to camp I pack the rest of my things. I go to the lake’s shore to fill my water bottle and notice a small pin-sized hole in my water reservoir. As I squeeze the sac to push water through the filter the hole grows, and soon untreated water flows down the bag, and drips into my clean water bottle. Not good. I take a bandana and put pressure over the leak, hoping to hold off the flow. I wash the bottle with clean water and resolve to buy duct tape tomorrow when I get into Red’s Meadow Resort.
The walk to Garnet Lake is short, and cuts steeply up a knob. I pass a hippie-looking girl who is sitting next to the trail, completely zoned out. I don’t think she ignored me, I think she was entirely unaware that another human presence had just passed her. I almost went into a zen state just looking at her.
Shortly, I come to Ruby Lake. Ruby Lake might be the most beautiful body of water on the trail. If not, then its in the top five for me. Black cliffs border it on the west and southwest shores, ideal for diving. The color is otherworldly and I imagine it goes down deep, deep. I stop and stare and wonder if Ruby Lake put hippie-girl in a trance. Its possible. For some reason, I have no pictures of this place. The allure to drink in the scene must have been too much.
Continuing on, I soon descend toward Garnet Lake. Geographically, it looks very similar to 1000 Island Lake. Long, somewhat narrow, and oriented in a northeast to southwest direction. Both lakes are what I would call oblong. But the topography surrounding them is totally different. Garnet feels wild, jagged, rough. Steep cliffs line the trail. I suddenly feel hemmed in by these menacing mountains. The wind hits me harder than it did on Donahue Pass. Shards of rock cover the trail, and I slowly walk over them. Part of me wishes I had just stayed a second night at 1000 Island Lake and my gentle campsite, but I don’t want to backtrack. I cross to the south shore of the lake and begin looking for a place to camp. I find one that’s sheltered and set up. I see no one.
All the sunlight in the past 36 hours has recharged my phone, and I have music again. I walk along the sparse side trail along the edge of the lake and come to a cliff-like boulder sticking out over the water. I stick in my earbuds and listen to music for a couple of hours, which is a very welcome change of pace from the noisy wind.
In the late afternoon I walk back to my tent and prepare dinner. Dusk falls and I walk to the lake and soak my feet.
The wind pushes the water from west to east, and it topples over itself again and again, and it falls away over the outlet in the east. Otherwise, there is no movement.