Backpacking in high school with the Pinkerton Academy Outing Club, I coined the adage “the second day is always the hardest.” On the first day, you’re fresh and energetic. On the second day, you’re tired from the first and your hips and shoulders are sore. By the third day, your body adjusts itself to the burden and develops a comfortable rhythm. The second day just hurts.
Today was the second day, and the adage proved true. We broke camp and immediately left the trail behind, climbing a very steep and rough slope out of Cook Lake. After the initial brush around Cook Lake, the terrain became more open and crossed a combination of open meadows and talus fields. The steep climb when on and on and on. I was thankful when we finally hit the ridge above the lake and could take a celebratory rest.
The climb kept going across open tundra, thankfully less steep. We saw a herd of elk, stopped to get water, and kept going. I switched to the “50-pace protocol” that I use when in difficult climbs- take 50 steps with my left foot, stop and catch my breath, repeat. We finally crested the top of Windy Mountain and could coast across the top and down to the Lizard Head Trail.
Unfortunately, forest fires in Idaho filled the skies with smoke and filtered our views.
The trail traversed around Cathedral Peak and we met the Bears Ears trail. We contemplated camping up there on the tundra. The breeze was glorious, and the air mosquito-free. It was only 4:00 pm though, so we reluctantly dropped down into the valley. We spent a while searching for sites, and eventually found one overlooking Dutch Oven Lake. The breeze was inconsistent, but at least gave us breaks from the mosquito assault.
Jon wandered around to take more pictures, but after 11 miles my tank was empty. A hearty freeze-dried dinner and sleep were all I was good for.