In early spring of 2007 I decided to quit my job, sell my house along with nearly everything else that I owned, and to live out of my car while traveling the country. These are my stories (and pictures) of life on the road.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Price of Admission

I arrived at Dusty's house around 6pm on Friday where I found him outside by his current project; building a pond (a real one) in his yard. Right now it's just a really big terraced hole awaiting the large liner. We sat in the back yard to talk and admire the mountain view before I met one of his sons Jessie and his wife Kathleen who's already cooked up a couple excellent meals for us. We sat down and planned out a hike for the next day which would include hiking to three different mountain lakes; Killamacue, Red Mountain, and Summit Lakes in the Elk Horn Mountains. He promised me an all day hike with gorgeous scenery, so we got to bed early so we could start fresh.

We were out of the house by 6:30 the next morning and at around 7:30 we'd reached where our hike would start. While driving down the dirt forest road we scared up a mule deer and came across a small pool next to the road full of little 3-4 inch long salamanders. The hike was all Dusty promised and more (in terms of scenery and mileage). We were hiking high in the mountains and over 7500 feet in elevation most of the time with a peak of around 8500 feet. The scenery was magnificent with sweeping vistas of mountains, valleys, and mountain lakes tucked away out of site most of the time. Parts of the hike were some really tough up and down terrain and it was all I could do to keep up with that 51 year old man ahead of me.

As we were hiking up one particularly steep cliff we were talking about how some of the best scenery was also the hardest to get to. Dusty said that's what he calls, “the price of admission”. That phrase would be repeated many times through out the day as motivation to keep going; it was heard almost as often as “we'll be there in a couple hours”. I don't know just how many miles we hiked that day; I guess however many miles you can hike in fourteen hours in the mountains. Some would accuse Dusty of taking a wrong turn or two and costing us some extra miles; but it turns out we were just checking out new territory for Dusty to hunt in the fall. Too bad it all that “new territory” seemed to take us away from our destination of Red Mountain Lake. But who am I to doubt my guide.

Happily we did make it to all of our destinations and they were all spectacular. The lakes were small, tucked back into the mountains, and would be very easy to miss if you didn't know they were there. The lakes were an amazing emerald green and incredibly clear. Unfortunately the skies began to cloud over and it got breezy part way through the hike, taking some of the splendor away from the scenery. On the way to our final destination (Summit Lake) I was starting to get pretty worn out and wondering if this lake was really going to be worth the price of admission. It was getting late, windy, and spitting rain off and on. By the time we reached the lake I was ready to be back at the truck and heading home. Those thoughts were gone within a few minutes of reaching the lake though. We found it surrounded by white flowers and we were able to find a rock out cropping to keep us out of the wind where we could catch a couple small trout. We rested there for a while, ate some snacks, drank some water, and decided to start a quick fire. The sun was close to setting behind the mountains but we hung around the fire a while longer to warm up and it was tough to leave it behind. We were finally able to pull ourselves away though and we started the final hike back to the truck which was fairly short and pretty easy except for one real steep hike over a saddle at the end. By the time we got back to the truck it was pretty dark and we'd been hiking for 14 hours. We were both in pretty good shape considering how long we'd been hiking but it was good to be done and I was definitely feeling it. This was by far the longest, toughest hike I'd ever been but it was worth every minute of it.

We'd planned on sleeping in a little longer this morning before going on a shorter hike but unfortunately when we awoke we found the weather had taken a turn for worst. There was heavy cloud cover and it was raining pretty steadily. Dusty said it's normally very dry around here and this was very unusual weather. It kept up the entire day and rained pretty hard a few times. We went for breakfast at a restaurant in the neighboring town which had some very unusual wall decorations and took a drive to check out some of the scenery. We took a little time to go to the shop to put new front brakes on my car which started grinding just after I left Hells Canyon and then pretty much hung around the house the rest of the day. I can't say I minded not doing much because I was feeling a bit stiff from the day before; though I'm sure I would have loosened up once I started moving around. Still, it will be nice to have a full day of rest before doing anything too strenuous.

The weather is supposed to improve tomorrow and I guess we'll see then what it holds in store for me.

I almost forgot to mention it but Dusty and I were accompanied on our hike by his dog Grace, who is a fantastic dog and more then kept up with us all day long. It felt good to get out and hike with a dog again. I miss Rudy sometimes and I hope he's getting along well with Sarah (Rudy is the second dog pictured).


debbieuu said...

Why are the lakes emerald green? Does anyone know the answer?

Edith Clarken said...

Al I miss you and Rudi! I showed your house last week. This man is looking at one in Ceylon and yours. Hopefully I can twist his arm. Your house shows well and looks good.

You've reached the end of the page but that's not the end of the stories. If you want to read more (and who wouldn't!?) then click on the archive links to the right hand side of the page. They're listed by month; the adventure starts in May.

The February archives aren't actually from this trip but are previous adventures I've had, which are worth reading as well.