Monday, May 16, 2022

Lost Creek Lake (weekend backpack)

It was just a small sign tacked onto a trailhead kiosk, measuring maybe a foot square but the words on it were sufficient enough to throw my plans for backpacking around Lost Creek Lake into chaos. The stern blue letters on the sign advised the bridge at Blue Grotto was closed to hikers, no reason given other than it was unsafe. Somewhat uncharacteristically, I heeded the terse message and on the fly, rearranged my itinerary.

All life should be walking in a field of daisies

Spring was in full song at Lost Creek Lake as I began hiking from the lake's dam, at the time blissfully unaware of any upcoming closures. Everything was green as the trail initially set out across a grassy field of shin-high daisies. I had never been on this part of the lakeside trail and was immediately impressed with the lushness of the vegetation growing alongside the large lake.

One of several million elegant cat's ear flowers

Life was burgeoning all along the trail but elegant cat's ear was the dominant life form on this two-day hike. Figuratively purring in the sun, the white fuzzy flowers brightened up grassy hillsides and leafy duff alike. My pace was slow as I seemingly took a photo of each and every bloom, for no two ears are ever alike.

Green was the color of the day

There was plenty of shade to be enjoyed on this sunny day, for the lake's shore was heavily wooded with firs and other conifers. A lush understory of ferns and other moisture-loving plants thrived in the shade beneath the trees. Just past Four Corners Camp, a backpackers' camp where there were no corners at all to be seen, much less four of them, the fir forest was then supplanted by oak woodland.

So nice to see Lost Creek Lake full of water

Periodically, the trail would leave the oak woods and traverse across open semi-arid patches of manzanita and dry grass, the lack of trees allowing hikers to spend some quality time with Lost Creek Lake. The lake was ringed by forested hills and mountains with distinctive Flounce Rock being the nearest and most prominent. The lake's water level had been low the last several years, thanks to an extended drought, so it was nice to see it full of water after this wet winter.

The relatively narrow Lost Creek arm

Lost Creek Lake from overhead, would resemble a pollywog were it not for the Lost Creek arm of the lake. Thanks to the aforementioned arm, the lake looks like a pollywog with a giant dorsal fin holding a flashlight. Actually it really resembles nothing more than an amorphous blob but my imagination feels the need to come up with some kind of simile.  At any rate, the trail went up and around the arm which eventually felt more like narrow fjord than significant-sized lake. 

Well, this screwed up my plans

There's a trailhead located where the route crosses burbling Lost Creek, and that was where the sign filled me up with consternation. What to do? I was about four miles into the hike and Blue Grotto was probably another four miles ahead. I dithered as I hiked some more and at roughly the six mile mark, I decided to stop and camp, if only because the trail passed through a series of amazingly beautiful meadows atop cliffs with spectacular overlooks of the lake. If I wasn't going to circumnavigate the lake, then these bucolic pastures were certainly an appealing place to spend the night at.

My home away from home

After pitching my tent in the middle of an idyllic copse of oak trees, I then stealth-cooked dinner. Stealth cooking is that technique where you cook and eat dinner on the trail and then hike another hour or so before setting up camp. This is done so as to prevent bears from getting too interested in your campsite, lured in by enticing food aromas. Bear scat had been spotted on the trail, so I hiked ahead to a scenic overlook and cooked and ate on a convenient bench while enjoying the late afternoon scenery. 

An up-close look at German knotweed

After dinner, I slapped a macro lens on my camera and began crawling through my meadow home, photographing all things small and smaller. It's amazing the things you can find at the other end of a macro lens and I noted a tiny plant with prickly green leaves that when magnified, were actually miniscule green flowers. Hello, German knotweed, I believe we haven't ever met before, pleased to make your acquaintance! 

Got an early start on the hike out

After a breezy night spent listening to the pleasant soughing of windblown oak branches, I bid the German knotweed "auf Wiedersehen", struck camp, and hit the trail somewhere around eight o'clock in the morning. Doing anything by eight o'clock is a rarity in my retirement years but I was glad I did, for the temperature was cool and the morning light slanting through the woods was most enjoyable. Although, it did feel strange to finish hiking before eleven o'clock in the morning.

Tall silvercrown was a common sight

Upon my return to home and computer, I researched the question as to whether the closure at Blue Grotto was still in effect. I had my doubts because in all honesty, the sign did look a little weatherworn, like it had been there for quite some time. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any info so I'll just have to hike at the other end and find out, or take my chances on another circumnavigation attempt. Nonetheless, I really did enjoy my meadow camp and outing so I'm not too upset at not being able to do the full hike around the lake, it was all good.

This lake patrolled by guard geese

For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

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