Sunday, August 08, 2021

Backpacking to Trio Lakes

Every year, Sarah and I take at least one backpacking trip together. This year, I was particularly excited because I retired my old backpack of thirty years and bought a new one - and shaved off about 4 pounds! Which is good because I think I may be 4 pounds heavier than 30 years ago. 

Sarah was really stoked about taking me to Trio Lakes. She was up there last year and the trail was easy but long - about 7 miles. Perfect. We would start at the Goose Creek trailhead, make our way through Idaho up to Goose Lake and then onto Trio Lakes, just inside the Montana border. She had camped at Goose Lake last year and then took a day hike up to Trio. She saw very large trout there and was looking forward to having me fish. I get a Montana fishing license every year, so I was ready. 

The hike started out pretty easy, until we started getting into more and more downed trees across the trail. It was pretty obvious that there had been no trail maintenance since last year. Most of the blocking trees we had to either bushwhack around, crawl under or over. 

I had the trail on my “airplane-moded” phone and was tracking our position using my Gaia GPS account. Sarah had the trusty paper map. I was also tracking our progress with my watch. 6 miles to Goose Lake and then another mile and a half to Trio Lakes. 

We went through the usual beautiful forests, but what really floored me were the wild flowers that sometimes were over our head and  expansive meadows that were miles long with not another living soul in sight. Amazing. Unfortunately, the wildflowers, huckleberries and thimbleberries had also grown over much of the trail and had, for lack of better words, “consumed” our path. 

At 6.5 miles, according to my watch, we were nowhere near Goose Lake. This was disappointing. We were hot and tired. And I should have known not to trust my watch. The week before we had picked huckleberries at Mt. Spokane and my watch’s GPS said I had gone 10 miles, when I had really done about 6. So at 8 miles we reached Goose Lake and at 10 miles we are at one of the Trio Lakes, which is the only one of the "trio" with a really nice campsite. My Gaia GPS told me that we had gone 7.5. OK! 

The first order of business was to get naked and go swimming. The water was cold but not as cold as most alpine lakes I have hiked into. It felt SO GOOD! 

We set up our camp and made dinner, and we realized that I had forgot the wine. Oh oh. I had also forgot (misplaced) the hand sanitizer and the cribbage board and cards. Boy oh boy, my hyper-vigilance and constant state of worry has really been disarmed since retirement (and counseling and wonderful medication). That’s the way it goes. 

Last year, we purchased backpacking camp chairs and they are wonderful. Totally worth the extra pound or so. We had a great evening. Tea and cookies took the place of the wine and were a fine substitute. In the middle of the night, a storm brought rain and high winds. Sarah sprung into action before I had a chance and had the tent fly up and over us immediately. The wind was extreme and really buffeted our tent. My sleeping mat was comfy. I had my usual light sleeping bag with a down comforter and a great little pillow. Same with Sarah. The rain pelted. The wind was ceaseless. My hearing aids were happily  charging next to me. So cozy!!! And back to sleep.

In the morning, Sarah was concerned because we saw very few fish jumping and she was apologetic. This was the main reason she wanted to go to this lake. No worries! For the first time ever, I brought along some watercolors and a pen. At least I remembered these! 

I have a Tenkara fishing rod (a gift from my brother Joe) and some flies that Joe had tied. The beauty of this rod is that there is no reel. It is super light and telescopes out of a very small package and into a very long rod. I caught a really nice cutthroat which I released immediately (more like it released itself). That was good enough for me. 

Then onto some painting. I haven’t done water colors in such a long time. I don’t think I have ever brought any art supplies with me backpacking. But, I will from now on!

A quick little painting - 

And a sketch of an idea for my next big old oil painting. 

A day of total relaxation, although Sarah did a short hike to one of the other trio of lakes. I fished, read, painted and snoozed. 

We ate great meals (thank you Sarah)! The next morning, when we hiked out, we counted 28 trees, or piles of trees, that we had to crawl over, under or around. My legs were bloodied by the end of the trip. 

We were both exhausted, but we made it to Saltese’s Montana Bar and Grill (now mostly a casino) and had an excellent meal and then onto home. 

We’ve been back in Spokane for a couple of days now, but often my mind is not here. Standing in those boggy meadows, watching an owl swoop up, staring at wolf scat and expecting to see a grizzly sunning herself in the steamy grass, I felt at home and I miss that feeling. If the coneflowers, thimbleberries, huckleberries, honeysuckles, asters, and trees have anything to say about it, this trail is unlikely to exist next year.

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