Last week we drove two hours from home for a two-night camping trip in the White River National Forest. We hoped to get a first-come-first-served site at Cataract Creek Campground, in large part because of the multiple hiking trails there. Minutes before we arrived at our destination Zippy exclaimed, “Oh, that’s not good!”
He’d just realized he hadn’t brought any shoes. All he had were the Tevas on his feet. He didn’t want to drive back to Silverthorne and shop for shoes because he didn’t want us to miss out on getting one of the five camping sites. So, we went ahead and were fortunate to claim a great site. This was our view:
After getting settled at our site, we hiked around Lower Cataract Lake where we saw the moose. It was about a three-mile hike, mostly level, and comfort-wise, Zippy had no problem wearing Tevas (with socks). The biggest issue was the worn-out velcro on the straps that required frequent readjustment.
The next day’s hike, however, would present more of a challenge. We’d planned on hiking to Eaglesmere Lake which was about an eight-mile round trip from the campground with an elevation gain of 1,850 feet. Zippy insisted he could do the hike so we got ready by late morning and headed out . . .at the same time it began to sprinkle. The rain wasn’t a problem because the early part of the hike was in the forest. So on we went, me lagging behind Zippy and Emma because I couldn’t refrain from taking photos. Everywhere I looked there was yet another beautiful sight.
We encountered a couple from the campground as they headed back. They hadn’t hiked to the lake but turned around partway there. We chatted and continued on. And on and on and on as it sprinkled rain, off and on.
“How much farther?” I asked.
That’s when Zippy remembered that he’d printed out trail info before leaving home but had forgotten it in the van. Cool. We’d also neglected to use his phone to take a photo of the trail map at the trailhead. I’d photographed one the day before with the camera and that image was now buried below many, many photos I’d taken since. Who had time to look for that? Zippy did remember the info saying that there was a downhill before the lakes.
Eventually, Zippy had had enough and sat on a log. (He didn’t tell me until later, but the pad of his foot was blistered below the skin.) I, however, was determined to make it to that damned lake. We’d come so far and I wasn’t going to miss out. So we divvied up the trail mix, I replenished his water bottle from my camel back, and we synchronized watches, noting the time I left. Zippy said he and Emma would wait there 20 minutes. What wasn’t discussed was whether he’d head back to the campground or follow me.
On I went, hiking fast and hoping each curve in the trail would reveal the downhill taking me to the lake. As I cruised along, I came upon a sign post. I checked it out (but didn’t photograph it then ) and continued to bear left where there was a visible decline on the trail.
Soon, I heard water and figured the lake must be fed by a waterfall. Down, down, down I went until . . . a creek. No lake and no sign of the trail. It’d just ended. I stood there on the rocky outcropping above the water, exclaiming WTF over and over, as I thought about how I’d just given myself a whole lot more of uphill. There was nothing to do but turn around and head back up the trail. Several minutes later, there were Zippy and Emma coming to find me! I was very happy to see them. Zippy wasn’t sure which way I’d gone at that sign post but decided it was correct to bear left. He started to worry I’d gone to the right but then saw my wide toe-box footprints and knew he was on the right track.
I told him I’d since realized I should’ve turned at the sign post, but we both agreed there was nothing on the sign to indicate Eaglesmere Lake. Wrong! When we got back to the sign, Zippy noticed the faded white arrow pointing to the right. Aargh! I still wasn’t willing to give up on seeing that damned lake so we went up the trail a ways until it was obvious there was still a long way to go. The sky was darker and thunder had been rumbling off and on throughout the afternoon so it seemed extremely foolish to push on. We agreed we’d come back next fall and do the correct hike.
We hiked miles back to the campground, rain pelting us. The one and only smart thing we’d done was bring rain coats and gloves. Emma, however, got water in her ears and had to shake now and again. By the time we made it back, Zippy and Emma had gone about nine miles and I’d hiked ten. We were wet, muddy, and cold. But in light of all the stupid things we’d done, we were very lucky that was the extent of our discomfort.
We’ll see Eaglesmere Lake in 2022!