Summer at Ross Lake, part 2

The day after hiking up Desolation peak for a view of a mountain that Jack Kerouac called “the most mournful mountain I’ve ever seen” (he also called it “the most beautiful”), we spent a more leisurely morning around camp, drinking instant coffee and eating a hearty breakfast.

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Yes, a perfectly balanced breakfast.

Then we decided to get back in the boats and paddle across to the lake’s western side. Ross Lake is over a mile wide, and to be sat in the very middle of it, the water black and bottomless, your arms tired and your boat not feeling like it’s going anywhere, could have been cause for panic. So lucky it was that I had teamed up with the most upbeat group of companions, always making bad jokes, singing 80s hits, and quoting eloquent and charismatic naturalists (Richard Proenneke is a favorite).

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By the time we made it up Little Beaver Creek, we were ready to stretch our legs, so we pulled up to the dock and got out to explore. Never ones to turn down the chance to scramble (up a rocky cliff, down a crumbling slope, or even a skillet of eggs at breakfast time), the boys saw the opportunity to cross an inlet via floating logs as one they absolutely had to take. Me, I stuck to the bridge that was just within eyesight and poised myself with my camera to capture their moment of triumph. Ahem, “triumph…”

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After making quite a splash, we spent the rest of the afternoon returning to camp, stopping to swim, eat lunch, swim, and swim. Awaiting for me back at Lightning Creek was a challenge I had the courage to undertake: making and consuming my first campfire s’more. I may have even helped start the fire – a real nature-woman!

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Heavenly. Glad I packed the big bag of marshmallows! I am forever changed.

After the sugar crash, we climbed one last time into our sleeping bags and set our alarms for before sunup. We anticipated a long, strenuous paddle back to the Ross Lake Resort, with early-morning winds blowing against us and four days of fatigue slowing our strokes. But things in nature seldom happen in the way you’d expect, and we cruised on calm waters, making it back to civilization in half the time we’d expected. After a quick stop on Cougar Island (the guys couldn’t resist making the same joke over and over again), and a rock-skipping competition, we turned in our canoes and headed west on State Route 20.

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To celebrate the end of our escapade, we stopped by a tried-and-true favorite – Cascadian Farm, for organic berry ice cream and espresso. You know, to soften the shock of reintegrating ourselves into society, of course. Society, man – SOCIETY! Here’s hoping that I’ll be able to make another such escape with these guys, one day soon.

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