I will both lie down and sleep; for You, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.
Well, we made it to Lake Annette. The 3.5 miles felt much longer than the real distance on the way up, because though the book says “only 1500 feet elevation gain,” what they don’t tell you is that it’s all at once in a series of long and grueling switchbacks that seem to go on forever. I felt pretty good until we stopped to rest at one point, after which my legs just decided they were tired of this whole hiking crap. The additional 35 lbs on my back didn’t help much, either. Zoe dripped sweat like a fountain; it formed in drops on her chin. I sweated copiously myself as we dragged ourselves up what felt like much more than 1500 feet. We met several groups going down, and each answered “You’re about halfway,” to my desperate inquiries. Only we weren’t, because we’d kept walking between groups: this only verifies my hypothesis that nobody really knows how far they’ve walked. When we arrived at the lake, Zoë and I were dismayed to see a family of young children, none of them over…oh, seven… troop by. They made it to the lake even before we did! Still, it took us less than two hours for the whole thing and that made us feel good.
Lake Annette is beautiful, well worth the struggle: situated in a bowl, surrounded by rocky peaks and second-grown evergreens, the lake is a sapphire. Clear, clear water that edges from pale blue-green down to a deep navy blue; the change follows depth, but sunken trees were visible nearly all the way out. As Zoë and I sat on the bank near the lake-feeding creek, we talked and watched rainbow trout surface, snapping for bugs, not five feet from us. The bugs were never more than five feet from us – most of the time the mosquitoes were successfully trying to drill through our shirts in pursuit of our blood. Barring that, they attacked our faces so that at last count I found eight mosquito bites around my face, mostly following my hairline. I swell up when bitten, too, so I look something like a Neanderthal with my forehead all protuberant. Very icky, very itchy. At least the ones on my back and shoulders aren’t visible, though they get rubbed. The mosquitoes, I must say, were ridiculously voracious and impervious to Off©. After Bite helps somewhat, but if you use it that means it’s too late not to get bit. I didn’t think Washington supported such a lively population of exuberant mosquitoes.
However, bugs didn’t get us down (too much). Our camp site couldn’t have been situated more perfectly: Zoe found a bluff just above the trail, back from the lake a bit, that provided easy lake access and an absolutely stunning view. Also, we saw every day-hiker who came by and exchanged comments with them. Around 8:00 in the evening a group of 25 or so people trickled in, 3 – 5 at a time. Turns out they’re from U Prez that just enjoys walking together; many of them commented on our fine camp fire, generally asking “What’s for dinner?” A gregarious group, two of their members went swimming in that cold lake! During the daylight hours we sat along the lake shore, explored the muck adjoining water to land, and marveled at the clearness of the water. I read a little bit of The Left Hand of Darkness but found that I needed my hands to squat mosquitoes rather than read with. Our greatest excitement came when we gathered up dry wood lying about and lit it ourselves. We maintained a good blaze only arduously, however, because the wood was so dry it burned very quickly. There’s something mesmerizing about staring at flickering flames or even dying embers (it was a super smores fire, but we hadn’t brought any of the right ingredients), an activity we pursued avidly for several hours.
The thing about backpacking is that once the sun sets and darkness falls, there’s not a lot to do. Bugs still whisper cruelly around your ears and face, but you can’t see them; words become blurred on a page; the fire eventually dies. So we went to bed, and I slept lightly as I always do on these trips, dreaming about chipmunks getting into our low-hung food and the dying embers roaring to life as a full-blown forest fire. Not a cold night by backpacking standards, I woke up early and changed clothes (oh the luxury!), slathered on more useless bug repellant and went to watch the shadow of the mountains creep into the lake as the sun rose behind them. I took a picture of the still lake reflecting the mountains, a classic shot.
And by 9:05 we had packed the tent away like pros, I refilled our water bottles from the creek (filtered water, of course! –and watched a woodpecker demolishing a downed log, presumably in search of an insect-breakfast), and we settled our packs on our slightly-bruised shoulders. The hike back down took an hour-forty minutes, only a few minutes slower than the hike up, probably because rocks menaced our ankles the whole way down. Only Dad’s kind lending of his fancy “trekking poles” saved us. By 10:50 we loaded up the van and off to Seattle and the real world we went, feeling accomplished and skilled at backpacking.
So in the end nothing was muffed up; we didn’t break, lose, tear, or damage anything; nobody got hurt barring unwilling blood draws; and I believe we’ve started a tradition. Next up: a ferry ride to Port Townsend tomorrow and a weekend there with the “rents.”
– KF –