This was the second most difficult climb I've ever taken. I was way more tired than Alex, maybe due to my previous day's minor illness, maybe due to not being acclimated to the altitude. The lower bridge over the Lostine River was out, but there was a long that we reluctantly managed to cross. We camped in the lower Lostine meadow. Best view out the tent door ever. I was so tired that I fell asleep with one eye open. Alex said it was super creepy. The Clif bar I ate before nap time may be the tastiest thing I've ever eaten. Sorry Mom. We accidentally put too much spicy Cajun flavoring in the lentils for dinner; we thought it was barbecue flavor. I suffered through it, but Alex ate mostly trail mix. We had trouble lighting the stove and used way too many matches. Also, I discovered that I did my math wrong and brought way too much propane. There are amazing amounts of mosquitoes.
We discovered that the stove can be on when the flame is almost invisible, so we probably wasted a bunch of matches the previous day. We got more matches from two groups coming down the mountain, and gave one of them a propane tank in return. This time, Alex had a way harder time of the hike than I did. However, we eventually made it to Mirror Lake. We decided we probably needed to scale back our super ambitious plans and rest at the lake for a day. Alex wants to stay in the lake basin for the duration, but I decided to try to convince him to at least make it to Glacier Lake. Alex made a tasty dish that I like to call Tuntils - lentils with tuna. It totally made up for the previous night's iffy meal. The mosquitoes weren't as big as in Minnesota, but they were at least as plentiful. We totally didn't bring enough bug spray.
I convinced Alex to take a day hike up Glacier Pass to see if Glacier Lake was a possibility. After crossing two iffy ice sheets, we came to a third that we didn't want to cross even without packs, so we decided the high passes were right out. We would have to stay in the lakes basin after all. We didn't even get high enough to get cell signal. Still, it wasn't a waste, because we got some great silly and serious photography. Got back and after scrutinizing the map, I decided trying to find Unit Lake would be a fun alternate plan. Neither of us have been there, and there is no marked path to it, but it isn't far from a major path on two sides so it would be difficult to get lost considering the three compasses we brought. Mountain House made Alex fart. We couldn't stop laughing. We're so juvenile, it's awesome. Alex went out to do some moonlight photography and I tagged along. When we returned, Alex saw some sort of canine we couldn't identify in the dark. The sky was black with mosquitoes.
Mirror Lake finally decided to live up to its name in the morning. We got hiking earlier than we had yet (about 11) and made it quick to Horseshoe Lake. We took the Lee Lake path which was a good decision because there were some great views. After setting up camp, I hiked down to where the path passes Unit Lake. I'm fairly certain I found the way down to it, but it was heavy with vegetation. Alex and I weren't sure we wanted to trudge through that with packs, so we decided to stay a day at Horseshoe lake instead. Alex took more moonlight photography and then we slept way in. I'm pretty sure a swarm of mosquitoes formed into one big supermosquito and chased me for a while.
We decided to stay off our feet because the next two days would be rough climbs. I took a little walk around the side of the lake and we read a lot. After a while, I went and jumped in the lake while Alex took pictures. It was awesome and extremely refreshing. A bit too refreshing. Soon after that, ominous clouds started to roll in and we heard distant thunder. We got our stuff together and crossed a log onto an island near our campsite. We spent the thunderstorm on that island, complete with lightning, rain, and hail. No good picture opportunities, but I got some videos of lightning. When evening came, the sky graced us with one of the most brilliantly colored sunsets I had ever seen. Alex took tons of pictures and I took some more amateurish ones. The mosquitoes gained sentience and spelled the word 'blood' in the dust.
We packed up camp and left at the earliest yet. We took our shortest hike of the trip and got to Douglas Lake at 11:30. While Alex scouted for campsites, I watched a bald eagle fly over the lake. We camped on a bluff overlooking the lake. We were kinda bored, so I put on some Muse while the phone charged. It was good. Another small thunderstorm passed overhead, and we just relaxed in the tent this time. Then as we ate Mountain House, the fattest chipmunk I've ever seen came asking for a bite. We didn't oblige. I tried to coax him out later with some nuts, but he wasn't interested. Fat and picky. We did some sunset and night photography and then went to bed. In the tent, I could see thousands of tiny mosquitoes trying to poke through the tent material to get at us.
We stayed in the tent half the morning to avoid the rain. When it stopped, we went out and saw blue sky ahead, so we ate, packed up, and left quickly. When we arrived at Moccasin Lake, new clouds were moving in. We had timed our hike perfectly. After setting up camp, I went up to Mirror Lake to search for the cap to the water filter I had left behind a few days before. I had no luck, and in fact got caught in the rain preceding the next thunderstorm. The rain and thunder stopped when I returned, and the rest of the afternoon was uneventful. We read a lot. When we were getting out the last of the Mountain House meals, I discovered that I had accidentally bought one in family size, so we ate like kings. The sunset rivaled Horseshoe and we got lots more pictures of the fiery sky behind Eagle Cap. In a coordinated strike, the mosquitoes all attacked me at once and I had to jump into the lake to escape them.
The morning was fairly uneventful; we got up, ate, got packed, and left like usual. When we passed Mirror Lake, Alex checked for and found the missing piece of the filter. I was totally looking in the wrong place. It's good that we got off when we did, because not an hour after we arrived at the upper Lostine valley, a new storm started. This one was the worst of the entire trip. We had to cower in our tent, hold it up when the wind threatened to blow it over, and then we got our hands stung by the hail through the tent material. Then after it stopped and cleared up, a few hours later another storm hit! This one, fortunately, wasn't as bad. That evening we set up our only campfire of the trip, but ironically, we didn't cook for the only time of the trip, instead sticking to trail mix and bars. Alex took some pictures of the river and the campfire, and as the moon rose we went to bed. Instead of water, the Lostine River flowed with mosquitoes.
Alex had decided early on that he wanted to get off the mountain a day early to coordinate with some friends about what to do next. It's a good thing we planned for that, because as we were packing up on our last morning, two of the straps on Alex's pack broke! He managed to rig them up enough to make it down the trail, but since this was our longest hike of the trip (about 6 miles), he had it kind of rough. By the time we made it down to the log over the Lostine, my legs were so shaky from hiking that I couldn't cross it. Alex made it across the log while I tried to balance over rocks across the river. I made it most of the way across before slipping in up to my knees. It took two days for my boots to dry out. The four housemen of the Mosquito Apocalypse chased us all the way down the trail. When we got back to our cars, we promptly found showers before demolishing a large Carnivore pizza at Ember's Brewhouse in Joseph. I highly recommend it.
Trip to Space