Start Eagle Fork Horse Camp
End Upper Pine Lake
Miles Hiked 19.01 Miles Hiked, Elevation gain 4,347’, Elevation Loss 3,261’
We awoke early, man it felt great to get so much sleep the night before, my body really needed it to recover after yesterday’s butt-kicker. I walked up above camp to take care of the daily AMBM and low and behold 100’ from where we were camping there was a great big camp spot with lots of flat areas. Our camp last night was small and a bit sloped tucked up in the bushes, oh well that seems to be how it always goes when you roll into camp at dusk.
I had a quick coffee and packed up as fast I could so we could be on our way. A few miles down the trail and we came to a junction with Moon Lake trail which was marked in our data book at 19 miles however our GPS showed almost 22 miles hiked since the start, after some discussion we determined that the data we were operating off of might not be accurate, so we would need to keep that in mind going forward.
We descended down through the valley and the large meadows turned to forest eventually, as we dropped into the valley floor we came across Big M Mine, which appears to be somewhat active, why we sell off our public lands for this type of destructive activity will never make sense to me. We arrived at a USFS parking area for a few trails that started in the area. We chowed down a second breakfast, cameled up on some water, and filled our water bottles for the upcoming climb which showed 3,100’ over 4.5 miles. With the weather getting hot we started up our climb at 10:45 am.
The climb was beyond tough, it was sunny and wicked hot without a breath of air to be found. We trudged along at our own pace each of us lost in our own thoughts as we grinded up the endless switchbacks. The terrain was steep, rocky and the shade was pretty scarce, as I looked up ahead, I could see FeMike crushing the climb and The Punisher not too far behind him.
All of sudden my gut gave out a gurgle and I all of a sudden had to stop for a pooh. I enjoyed the unexpected break and then set off to finish the climb. Little did I know that I was about to climb and climb and climb on an endless rocky expanse with the sun cooking me from above and from the radiant heat from the rocks below. Due to some overhanging brush, I snagged my umbrella on a branch and snapped a rib, dang now I had to climb with the sun beating down on me. The climb never ended. I looked at the data book when I had started below, it said 4.2 miles, yeah, I must be close…then I turned the corner and saw The Punisher trucking up a rock face a few switchbacks ahead. Good golly Miss Molly, where the hell is this lake? Finally, I crossed the pass and walked by a couple of ponds that looked inviting, and then I crossed over a rise and came upon Crater Lake a true-blue gem of a high alpine lake. I dropped my pack and walked down to where FeMike was sunning himself on a rock after a swim.
In an extremely rare moment in life, I stripped off my shirt and shoes and jumped into the ice-cold water, it felt great and refreshing! We laid around eating lunch and lamenting about the databook mileage being off and how long the climb was. As we looked at our maps we discovered an alternate we could have taken that would have kept us above 6,000’ of elevation and have avoided the long descent and ascent we had just done, my good friend She-ra was planning to do this route in October so maybe she can try it on her hike.
We walked along the high country traversing wonderful rocky ridges and taking in the beauty, however, our joy was a bit deflated when we realized what we had to postpone our meeting that evening. Mike Higgins one of the founders of this trail, had invited us to his house for the night for dinner and a shower, however looking at our maps we realized we could never make it. We got to Pine Lake pass and got a cell signal, so we called Mike to rescheduled for the next day. We now had 10 miles to go to the road crossing at Cornucopia Lodge, being 4pm we decided that instead of killing ourselves we would hike the 3.5 miles to Upper Pine Lake and call it early for the day to get some rest and recover from our hot climb earlier in the day.
We found an amazing campsite above the lake with rocks arranged to sit on and cook on, flat spots to set up our tents, and easy access to the water. We all sat around eating and joking with each other, being such good friends really helps when you have a tough day like this, and laughter truly is the best medicine. Before dusk turned to dark, we all climbed into our quilts and fell fast asleep, 4:45 am comes early so we knew we needed to rest and recover to take on whatever tomorrow had in store for us.