A week or so ago I headed deep into the woods for three days. It was magical. We spent four days mostly above tree-line. We hiked past perfect blue alpine lakes, bushwhacked across heather wildflower meadows and spent sunsets on high ridges watching the alpenglow fade across glaciers and mountains. We fought the bugs. The bugs almost won. The best part? We did not see a single person the entire time. Or, a trail. There is such raw intensity being so far from human presence. When following the path means, “follow the goat trail,” or “forage across a giant alpine meadow” or “boulder hop for hours.” When hiking takes a small amount of courage, instead of blindly following the path that someone decides you should follow. Good metaphors for living, even if the hiking is a little hard some of the time.
The first day we hit the trail in the late afternoon. A little belated. No surprise. The trailhead is only an hour or so from true alpine, so we took the lazy advantage and didn’t try to get an alpine start (To avoid all expectation of hard-core, we didn’t manage an alpine start the whole trip. Sleeping-in on vacation is good for you). We hit Rohr lake and its resident mosquitoes within the first couple of hours.
While the lake was beautiful, we carried on for better views and that happy sensation one achieves only from hours of good hiking. After passing a few little tarns we started the game of “we can’t possibly settle for anything but the most perfect camp spot.” It took some rock jumping and hill climbing, but we found a great little home for the night with enough chirping marmots to melt my heart completely.
The second day we carried ourselves (and our amazing stash of delicious food) towards a pass to the left of Mt. Rohr. We dropped our packs and headed up a relatively easy and non-technical scramble to the peak of Mr. Rohr.
And then, the off-road adventure began. See the closest little blue lake in the photo down there? That was our next destination. No trail, all play.
After a very short swim in the lake, we resisted the temptation to stay put and lounge lake-side all day, and headed around through a heather covered slope and over a short pass to a small-un named lake. We set up camp, feasted on indian boil-in-a-bag and wine that miraculously did not spill all over my bag. We fell asleep to a pile of new yorker magazines and a gorgeous sun-set. This part of the trip was particularly neat, because our route put us at the geographical divide between the coast mountains and their large glaciers and granite boulders and the red dirt and pine trees of the interior. I loved witnessing (for the first time) the physical separation between my adopted home of the coast and the beloved heat, dust, and desert of my childhood. One day I would love to do a long-traverse in this area and explore, one-step-at-a-time, the change from cedar to sagebrush to cacti.
The third day was another slow walk up-and-down-and-up a few passes. I still can’t believe no one seems to complete this beautiful loop. Every turn had an amazing view, and while the terrain was slow moving, it wasn’t particularly technical. Even more amazing is that no part of this trail was completed in a park or protected area. The mountains are just sitting there, ripe for picking.
Halfway through the day we ran into a steep snow-slope, and faron graciously hosted snow-school right there on the high alpine pass. How lucky. A few self-arrest practice slides later, we made our way down the steep slope. Total win. So much fun.
We had lunch at yet another gorgeous lake, and headed up our final pass to re-enter the Marriot Basin.
-lunch spot looking towards our final pass and the peaks of the Marriot Basin-
-heather meadow looking down towards Marriot Lake-
We set up camp on a high ridge, and (trying not to worry about lightning storms) spent a glorious last night in the alpine.
-best campspot ever (even came with annies mac and cheese)-
Our final day we attempted the Mt. Marriot summit. It was semi-quashed by sleeping-in and my reluctance to scramble anything unprotected that afternoon. I had some adrenaline circulating from work the week before that hadn’t quite ebbed, and taking it easy felt like the smartest path. Still, we hit a high ridge just before the push to the summit of Marriot, and the views were spectacular.
Sad to be leaving the woods, but happy to escape sunburn, we headed down the basin, past an ACC cabin promising pleasant winter ski-tour times, and back to life in the real world.
This trip left me wanting so much more. More skills for managing high alpine passes and mountains. More curiosity about where the mountain goats live, and why they didn’t grace us with their presence. More information on if areas of crown-land like the Marriot basin are susceptible to logging, mining, and other forms of resource extraction. And, if yes, if there is anything that needs to be done to help this part of our Coast remain wild and open and free.