Friday, April 15, 2011

All lakes in winter are the same

I selected Talapus Lake because my guide book dubbed it “most difficult.” I anticipated a thigh-burning trek uphill where I could enjoy a snowy forest and challenging workout. The difficult I hadn’t intended (or desired) was another go at route-finding.

The forest road leading to the trailhead hadn’t been plowed so we parked on the side and walked the last two miles to a wooden board displaying a map of the area. Since the trail to Talapus Lake is only 7 miles roundtrip (including the hike from our car), I held out hope that we could push on and check out Ollalie Lake as well. Several feet of pristine powder covered the trail but we followed the creek and gazed at how much snow had accumulated on the branches. It doesn’t appear many people wander this route in the winter.

Since a storm was predicted to roll in this afternoon, and with the whiteout at Muir fresh in our minds, we tied markers to tree limbs and trunks to ensure we could find our way back if the weather turned. Before long, the trail was invisible and we were guessing which direction to go. Remembering the guide description, I led us into a valley, quickly past several avalanche slopes and tried to stick to the icy creek’s side as we navigated.

When the snow hit thigh-level, I slapped on my snowshoes and pitied my friend’s chocolate Labrador Retriever that was practically buried as he struggled to keep up. It was a relief when we came across a sign nailed to a tree, urging us on to the lake. Within a quarter mile, we found ourselves staring out at the iced over lake nestled in the valley. All lakes look the same in the winter, and this trip reminded me of why I turned from hiking to climbing this season: better scenery.

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