Monday, March 15, 2021

In the "Middle" of the Wilcox Lake WF

 Another trip with my good friend Justin. After some deliberation we decided on Middle lake in the Wilcox Lake WF. I had not been here in quite a few years. The last time was as a day hike after a lean-to rescue trip with Dan. Prior to that I had only been here two times before. Justin's truck was at the parking area and he was signed in. He let me know he would wait at the Bennett Lake turn-off. The trail was hard packed so micro-spikes were all that was necessary; and they WERE necessary. This old tote road becomes sheets of ice in places. I recalled this from my las trip as well. My new spikes were a bit tight putting on. I was used to my old worn out pair I guess. Heading down (or should I say "up") the trail I made good time. Much better than in snowshoes although they were strapped to my pack just in case.

I saw Justin's pack on the trail before I saw him. He was just coming back up from Bennett. We hiked the rest of the way in to Middle talking about different features we had explored in the area. Justin has been coming to this area since he was a little kid, and has done a lot more explorings since. As Middle Lake came into view, we headed off the trail following some old tracks to ther shoreline. We passed by an old firepit with some stacked cordwood. A few more yards and we were on the lake. What a great day. We made our way to one of the islands, then explored the far shoreline. With the prevailing winds we chose a site which we hoped would block most of the wind. Gathered some wood, set-up camp and the like.

A quick day hike to Murphy was in order, so we headed across the rest of the lake and then caught up with the main trail. We found some nice firewood here, so we left it to grab on our return. The rest of the trail we noted where snowmobiles had turned around due to obstacles. Also noted a side trail to what was apparently a designated campsite. We chose to check it out on our return. At Murph a lot fo memories for both of us came to the front of our minds. We shared a couple stories and read the lean-to register. I had forgotten how short this lean-to was. This was the location of my "I hate lean-tos" trip due to such a crappy nights sleep in it many years ago. 

We hiked the perimeter of the lake and then returned to Middle. We looked for the campsite along the "trail" but if it was there, it was buried in snow. Gathered up the wood and dragged it to camp. A nice fire and some beverages with a good friend is always fantastic. Eventually I was falling asleep so I retired to my hammock. It has been a while since I had slept in it, having been bagging lean-tos as of late. How apropos I would eschew the lean-to for the hammock near the site of my "I hate lean-tos" trip. 

The morning was lovely with the sky ablaze just before the sun emerged from over the hills. Then it snowed. Then the sun came out, then it snowed while the sun was shining. Then just a nice morning, after some coffee and a bite to eat we headed back to our awaiting cars.  

Monday, March 1, 2021

End of February Winter trip with rain to Seventh lake

 Winter with rain isn't fun. Mostly because one has to pack for both wet and cold. usually winter gear is heavier due to extra clothing but is offset by not needing raingear. So this weekend would have a bit of extra weight. Also due to its location along Seventh lake I anticipated firewood would n ot be easy to procure so I added a stove to my gear list. Plus snowshoes, and micro-spikes.

The initial plan was to park at the Bear Mtn trailhead near Inlet and take the x-country ski trails to the Bug Lake trail then the spur to Seventh lake. Knowing the increased numbers at Mtn trailheads we had a few back up plans. As we (Shannon and I) approached the trailhead we could see it had many cars. Unfortunately there was not enough space for one more. So we proceeded to plan B, which was the 8th Lake campground. Unsure of the parking on the seemingly unplowed road, we parked at a pull-off parking about a mile up the road. With our gear loaded up including snowshoes on our packs we walked the main road to the campground. I commented to Shannon how I often find myself doing road walks with her. 

At the campground, we followed the snowmobile trail to the start of the Bug Lake Trail. At this point the drizzle was enough to force us to put on some rain gear and pack covers. A few snow machiones came by. Heading up the trail I knew the spur we needed to take was not prominent even in non-winter so I expected a significant bushwhack. As we approached Eagles Nest turn-off, the vicinity of the spur we needed, I consulted the map. The trail junction was near the bridge, but it was hard to tell which side of the outlet we needed to be on. We donned our snowshoes and I took a compass bearing. The snow was crusty on top but soft and deep underneath which made for not easy going. As the outlet began to turn away from the direction we needed to go, I looked for a place to cross. Shannon spied some flagging on the opposite side, quite a distance away. Not unusual. With no easy way to cross, we backtracked up the hill to the trail to try the other side of the outlet. A few steps past the bridge a brand new yellow trail marker was right where it needed to be. A few paces beyond some old flagging was visible. I guess this was the trail and it was recently marked, although not broken out. We followed the flagged trail which had a few markers, we counted six total for the next mile. Travel was not easy in the snow until we reached the last quarter mile where someone had come up from the lake and broken it out. From here it went quickly to the lake. We found our lean-to empty, so we made camp and relaxed a bit. 

There was some split hardwood in the lean-to. A nice gift, but I would still need a bit more. Not a lot, just enough to melt snow and have some campfire tv. We collected wood, made some soup, played jenga. I was tired. We didn't come far, but it was hard miles. The rain subsided and we had a nice little fire. We made it to hiker midnight before we retired. 

As usual, I was up early. I tried to sleep in as much as I could. Some coffee and an easy breakfast before we re-traced our steps back to the car. As we passed through the campground there were a couple cars parked. So I guess we could have parked there. We needed the extra miles though as this plan B was already shorter than our original. Great trip even with the rain.