Sunday, August 17, 2014

Oldenberg Lake

Oh happy day! The scale used to scream "225 POUNDS!!!" at me but there it was, the magic number of 209, my short-term goal of less than 210 pounds accomplished. So I give myself a self-congratulatory pat on the back and posted a picture of the scale reading on Facebook for all the world to see. In response, Dale tells me "Gee, Richard, my fully loaded backpack and I combined together don't even weigh 209 pounds" So I pushed him over the cliff. Just kidding, of course, I just consoled myself by realizing that if the tables were turned, I would have come up with a wittier insult and THEN I'd I push him over the cliff.

Dale on the trail
Fortunately for Dale, there were no cliffs on the Oldenberg Lake trail as the path gained only a meager 650 feet in the 5 miles to the lake. At any rate, the insults and banter flew fast and furious as we hiked on the trail, located just south of Crescent Lake. The air was slightly hazy with wildfire smoke but that was OK as this was not a view hike. The trail basically followed the base of a ridge extending from Cowhorn Mountain to Summit Lake. The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) runs on top of that ridge but the Oldenberg Lake Trail is a popular alternate route for the the through-hikers as water is much more readily available on the Oldenberg Lake Trail than on the PCT.

Trailside wet spot, suitable for pooping
It didn't take long for us to run into our first PCT hiker, a bearded gentleman resting on the trail next to two packs. As he told us this area is beautiful, a woman came down the trail, sporting a roll of toilet paper, a small trowel, and a sheepish smile. Without missing a beat, the fellow said "...was it beautiful too where you pooped?" She shot him a look that married men the world over would recognize and since Dale and I are both married men, we hurriedly departed.

Pinewan Lake
There really wasn't much to see between the lakes, just miles and miles of spindly little trees and a dusty trail. We did pass a small, muddy, and oft visited wet spot that was overly dignified with the name Pinewan Lake. Chatting with all the through hikers we kept running into was far more entertaining than the lodgepole trees and Pinewan Lake.

One of the Bingham Lakes
At the 3.5 mile mark we hit the first and most accessible Bingham Lake, the Bingham Lakes being a collection of either 3 or 4 lakes, depending on which map one uses. A small cone (Peak 7021) was visible beyond the lake and the tip of Cowhorn Mountain peeked over the peak. A sandy beach along the lake provided the first of several lollygags and this lake was filed away as a future backpack trip with grandchildren.

Stealthily, Dale stalks the wild photographer
Just past the upper Bingham Lake lies Bingham Meadow, an erstwhile pond that was totally dry this late in this dry year. The grasses in the meadow were going yellow in yet another sign the summer is getting ready to depart. It's been a hot and smoky summer but I'm not ready for the season to end just yet.

Temptation in the form of a trail sign
On the approach to Oldenberg Lake, we crossed the trail heading towards Lakes Suzanne, Darlene, and the plural Windy Lakes, all filed away as a future weekend backpack trip. So many lakes and, given the right time of  year, so way too many mosquitoes. But on this late summer day, there no mosquitoes to torment us.

Oldenburg Lake
Next up was our turnaround point: Oldenberg Lake (or Oldenburg, depending on which map gets used). At the south end of the lake, there were several unmanned tents and we tiptoed around them and ate lunch in some beachside huckleberry bushes. The lake lapped lazily upon the shore and we lapped equally lazily at our respective snacks and/or meals. Past the lake rose the symmetrical cone of Odell Butte with its lookout affixed to the top like a party hat on a drunken conventioneer.

Lodgepole forest
So back through the lodgepole we went after our lake visit, heading back to the car. We were sort of on autopilot, each of us alone in our heads when we passed Pinewan Lake. Just a relative hiking hop away from the trailhead, a brief moment of disconcertment occurred. As we approached a dry creek, the gulley lush with green vegetation, Dale just had to ask "Did we come this way?" To be frank, the terrain looked sort of alien and I was pissed at myself for getting lost so close to the end. Well, we were just being stupid as shortly thereafter, we found our trail junction and just like magic, my car. Turned out we had always been on the right trail and not lost at all, and I do use "lost" in the map sense of the word.

A skinnier silly person
As we were driving away from the trailhead, we gave a ride to two through hikers, a pair of women with the trail names "Hustler" and "In Just A Minute". We accrued valuable hiking karma points by taking them to Whitefish Campground where they resumed their impressive journey. I figure I can accrue enough karma points to withstand the considerable demerits charged when I push Dale over the edge at some future snarky remark.

X marks the spot
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

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1 comment :

  1. Congrats on your "weighty" accomplishment. Keep this up and in about twenty years you would weigh nothing.