Monday, May 20, 2013

Anna Lake – May 2013

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The truck was ready Friday late afternoon, waiting for the Lady’s return home from teaching. The school year usually comes to a hectic climax. This year is no different. To relax, the Lady likes to get away as often as we can and leave everything behind. We headed down 395 and grabbed a quiet dinner at Walker Burger. We finished off with a couple of small soft serve ice cream cones. The Lady always gets a small vanilla dipped in chocolate. The young girl behind the counter was getting a lesson in doing her first dipped cone. We had to watch this slice of small town America. We cheered her efforts and the cone was great. We didn’t have far to go to where we wanted to camp. This trip was not just wandering. This trip had a goal – Anna Lake.

We pulled into our favorite spot off of the Little Walker River Road. We were set up just in time to catch the last evening light.

We woke just as the sun hit the top of Mount Emma. I got out of the way of the Lady’s morning rituals in the camper and walked in the chill of the morning. It was 27°. The Lady soon found me and she was carrying our mugs of Peets.
“Why do you like this so much?” I asked her. The sun was just now touching our heads. “Why do you like to stand out on a cold  morning like this, away from everyone else, a view like this that is all our own, and feel the first rays of the sun warm us? Why do you like this so much?”
“I just like it. I’m smart.” This was the Lady’s answer. There was no attempt at Muir-like eloquence. There was no pretension. It was a simple straight forward answer from her heart.

Anna Lake sits up above the headwaters of the Little Walker River, a much less visited area in the Hoover Wilderness. The trail starts just below broad Willow Flat with a couple of private in holdings in the Toiyabe National Forest. The forest road is gated and locked at the property line.

The route turns into a proper foot trail near the south end of Willow Flat. There is an old snow survey course. The Lady is equipped for our spring adventure in the Sierra Nevada with her ice axe and wading shoes.

On this beautiful cold morning all standing water had a thick cover of ice.

We love maps and we teach land navigation. There is a reason why map and compass are at the head of the list of the ten essentials. This was our first trip into this area and the Lady kept us on track with her exercise of continuously “staying found”.

The new leaves on the aspen were wonderful.

The Little Walker River drainage generally runs south to north. There is a narrow west to east section that is Burt Canyon. Here was our crux of the trip.

This route requires a ford of the river. In normal years this is impossible in the spring. This year with our dismal snowpack, in this area around 15 to 20% of normal, we figured we’d get a break.

The water was amazingly cold. That’s what I was thinking as I was half way across. The Lady was out of the water and yelled, “My god that is cold!” We knew later in the day the water would be higher as snow melted in the heat of the day.

We dried off our feet and put our boots back on. We watched a Mourning Cloak Butterfly in the new flowers on the willows. The Mourning Cloak is one of the only butterflies that overwinters as adults. How in the world do they do that?

Further up Burt Canyon we found the remnants of beaver dams.

It was amazing how much of the water spray was frozen and ice.

The canyon turns again to the south and opens into the broad headwater valley of the Little Walker River. This is a drop dead gorgeous place.

This is a place that makes you stop. It demands it. The Lady relaxed, got us oriented on the map, and identified all of the landmarks.

From this point on the open areas were clear of snow but most shaded spots were snow covered. The world was changing as we climbed.

About a mile and a half further up it was time to make the turn to climb up to Anna Lake. The lake sits on the top of the crest to the west. The ice axes came off the packs.

I led most of the way up. We love route finding and working the terrain. There were several steep sections where I kicked steps, falling into the rhythm of plant, kick, kick – plant, kick, kick. The spring snow was just right for climbing without crampons.

As we neared the ridge top we pulled out the map, took a look at the terrain the contour lines indicated, and plotted a route through a gentle pass……………………………

…………………..that led us into the frozen basin that held Anna Lake.

We snacked, napped, dozed, and enjoyed this wonderful place. We talked about the fresh coyote tracks we had seen and we watched the Clark’s Nutcracker, so at home in this high place. We were about 8 miles from the truck. We’d have to start back some time. But there was no hurry. This is the luxury we have with the truck and camper. If, needed due to time of return, we could just pop the top where we had parked.

We started back down off of the crest.

An hour brought us back to the intersection in the valley floor.

We had to stop again at the bottom of the headwater valley. This is the place for a wilderness base camp. Information on the Hoover Wilderness can be found here – Hoover Wilderness.

The ford of the river, that was knee deep early in the day, was now mid thigh.

The late afternoon light was wonderful as we returned to the upper end of Willow Flat.

Ours were the only tracks on the trail. Our tire tracks were the only ones on the road in. We changed out of our boots and decided to drive down to see if our favored camping spot was empty. We lucked out. It was. We enjoyed our showers. I found one tick just fixing to auger in at a spot that would not be any fun in the slightest; a reminder it is spring and always do a check.

We sat in our chairs and watched the world as we ate supper. We recounted the critters we had seen - red-breasted sapsucker, deer, Clark’s nutcracker, a huge white-tailed jackrabbit, and a weasel that scurried across the meadow ahead of us.

We slept soundly. Dawn came in all of its glory.

We walked down the narrow road and looked into the lower section of the Little Walker River and marveled at the lateral moraines.

We slowly walked back to the truck waiting for the sunlight to reach us. We talked. I asked the Lady, “Do you want to head into Bridgeport and get a special store bought breakfast?”
She answered with a question, “Do you?”
I smiled. “No I don’t. We have this all to ourselves. The sun is just hitting here. How could we leave this wonderful spot for breakfast? Want pancakes?”
“Buckwheat with fresh strawberries!” Then the Lady surprised me, “Do you think you can fry eggs in the pan? I have extra eggs.”
“I know I can fry eggs but I bet it has been thirty years since I have fried an egg.”

With us, eggs for breakfast have been only a “go out to breakfast” treat. The Lady tells the story about moving in with me and I had bacon and eggs every morning. I was a product of my Midwestern roots and upbringing. What happened with my diet?

The Ski3pinners died and went to heaven. We were sitting through Saint Pete’s orientation talk where he was expounding on the glories of heaven – all the wonderful mountains to climb, streams chalked full of wary trophy sized trout with single barbless hook catch & release requirements, high mountain lakes just right for skinny dipping. He went on and on and the Lady got more and more excited and I got grumpier and grumpier until the Lady couldn’t stand it any longer. She exploded, “How can you be mad? Aren’t you hearing how wonderful this place is?”  “Oh, I’m hearing all right and all I can think about is if you hadn’t been stuffing us full of bran and fiber we could have been here twenty years ago!”

We had fried eggs on top of pancakes. This might become a new special camper treat. It was a great breakfast in a special place.

I wondered if I could get more details from the Lady as we relaxed in our chairs in the morning sun. “So why do you like this so much?” I asked.
“Because it is quiet. Because it is just the two of us. Because I completely relax out here.”
She is smart.

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