September 1, 2016
Crater Creek to Iceberg Lake
Miles: 12.8 (4.1 PCT/JMT miles)
Our total miles: 2273
As long as it isn’t raining we enjoy sleeping with no rain fly so we can gaze at the stars as we fall asleep.
Laurie tossed and turned all night like a rotisserie chicken. She got all twisted in her silk liner which made matters worse.
At 2 am it got cold. Laurie was half asleep and too lazy to get her hat out of her sleeping bag at her feet. So instead she continued to toss and turn.
At some point Andy woke up and offered Laurie his fleece. She put it over her head and instantly was warmer. We both slept better until 6:30 when our neighbors started rustling around.
We packed up with gloves and down jackets on and were walking by 7:30. It was at least 10 degrees warmer when we got into the trees and away from the creek.
Andy realized last night as we descended into camp that it might be cold. We would be near a meadow and a creek. Cold air tends to sit in these places. Next time we should look at a map instead of just mileage to prevent camping in an ice box.
We switchbacked down the dusty trail watching the morning light illuminate the hillsides on the other side of the valley. As we neared the bottom of the valley we entered an old burn area.
Majority of the burned trees were missing their tops. In 2012 there was a huge wind storm that tore through this area with winds up to 150 mph. We assumed these topless trees were a result of that storm.
We got to Red’s Meadow around 8:30. Andy found a table in the restaurant next to an outlet and we set up shop charging all of our electronics.
Because it had gotten so cold, our camera and Laurie’s iPhone had considerably less charge than they had the night before.
We enjoyed hot water as we ate our eggs, potatoes and sausage. The food was ok. While grateful for freshly cooked food, we’ve had way better for much less!
At 9:45, while working on the blog we shared a vanilla milkshake. Laurie had been looking forward to this milkshake for days but because this morning was so cold she had started to change her mind. Once warmed by many cups of hot water however, the twinkle in her eyes returned.
At 11:00 we left Red’s Meadow heading for Minaret Lakes. We took a detour up to the top of Devils Postpile. The Postpile is a rock formation consisting of many hexagonal rocks. The top looked like a honeycomb. Nature is so cool!
From here we left the day hiking crowds and headed north on the JMT. Big Red had suggested an off trail route from Minaret Lakes to Lake Ediza that we wanted to try to see something new.
The hike up to Minaret Lakes took longer than either of us expected. We hadn’t planned well and were both hangry by the time we reached the lakes. With a short break, and tuna and countless other food items in our bellies, we were happy again.
Minaret Lake was spectacular!
We walked around (well scrambled is a more fitting description) the northern part of the lake. By this time it was 3:30. It was later than we would have liked to begin a backcountry adventure but we figured we had 4 hours of daylight and could always turn back.
We followed an obvious use trail past the second lake up a meadow. The trail became more faint as we got higher and were walking up loose scree. The faint trail switchbacked up and we followed cairns hoping they were made by people who knew where they were going.
Our calves burned and we were breathing heavily; both of us a little nervous but excited. We communicated well, checking in with one another frequently and decided together which would be the best route to pursue.
We made it to the top of the first climb in 30 minutes. From here we skirted around a puddle and climbed up another shorter incline.
At the top our mouths dropped. There in front of us was a huge beautiful lake set in a bowl of boulders. The clear blue water of Cecile Lake glistened in the sunlight.
There was one person setting up camp and a family with 2 kids under the age of 5 scampering up the rocks toward us.
Laurie told the youngest one she was doing a great job. She smiled and said thanks. When asked where they were coming from she replied “Portland.”
Gotta love how literal kids are!
We were utterly impressed by this family. It helped settle our nerves to know that kids did what we were about to do.
We boulder hoped around the east side of the lake. It was difficult to choose a path but we took our time using our hands more than our poles.
As we neared the outlet we found a faint trail and followed it down a massive scree field. Below us was Iceberg Lake. Quite possibly our new favorite lake in the Sierra.
Unfortunately we couldn’t admire the lake as we stared at our feet as we mindfully placed each foot to prevent from sliding on the loose rock. We could see a trail in a meadow at the far end of the lake.
Looking at the trail was not helpful since there was at least a half mile of loose rocks between us and the trail. Laurie kept reminding herself to focus on the 10 feet in front of her.
Like in life, it is nice to have a goal or direction but often all we can change is the near future. And today in this boulder field, the near future were the rocks 10 feet in front of us.
Eventually we made it through. The sun had dipped behind one of the rocky spires of The Minarets, creating sections of shade.
Once in the meadow we looked back at where we had come from. It looked like a scree wall, not something either of us would consider attempting to scramble up had we not known there was a trail.
We had planned to hike all the way to Ediza Lake but this lake was too nice to leave. Plus, we figured Ediza was easier to get to and would probably have more people.
We washed our feet and faces in the lake and since the water wasn’t too cold, Laurie dunked her entire body in. While initially chilly, a quick dip at the end of the day is quite refreshing.
We ate dinner on a rock watching the last evening light leave the western tip of the rocky spires.
This lake is magical. Laurie felt happy and carefree. We wish there was a way to come to this happy place more often.
The fresh air, stary sky and quiet days have a way of making our hearts feel full and spirits high. We both hope we can hold onto a little bit of this when we return to jobs and city life. Or perhaps, we may end up moving out of the city to a place that allows us to feel this serenity.
Who knows. As for now, we will savor these sensations and emotions.
Tonight we are grateful for unexpected cross country adventures and new lakes.