When I first woke up at 3:30am, the inside of the tent was covered with condensation despite my campsite being far above the creek and valley floor. I got out my towel and dried the inner ceiling and the outside of my sleeping bag, then slept through the 4am alarm to make up for it, pulling the hood off my bag up over my head and making it hard to hear.
I woke next just after 6am, before the alarm reprise. There was a wind blowing now, and it had already carried away every last bit of dampness from the inside of the tent. I hurried to pack as quickly as possible to lose as little extra time as I could. I climbed down the hill at 7, but I hadn’t made breakfast because I was out of water. I stopped where the creek was close to the trail and there was a tree providing good wind protection to collect and filter water and make breakfast. So it was nearly 8 before I was hiking in earnest.
I missed a turn at Shadow Lake, and lost more time climbing up through the woods back to the trail. This was kind of fun though, and I’m glad I got to see the creek coming down through that forest.
I lost more time to a loose bowel issue, and I was looking to do so again when Cliff and Lost caught up to me. I won’t get into it, but this issue cost me more than an hour throughout the morning, and I wondered if it had something to do with the alterations to my breakfast drink (use of a new protein powder in particular). I hoped it would not recur the next morning because it was very costly in terms of time.
Next up was the climb over Texas Pass, which wasn’t that bad. There was a trail the whole way up. It read was steep, but I have seen steeper. It took less than an hour bottom to top. It was definitely no Knapsack Col. I stopped for my first snack break on a boulder at the top of the pass.
When I got around Lonesome Lake at the bottom of the other side, I caught up to Cliff and Lost most finishing a meal. They said they intended to finish the entire alternate that day. I was pretty doubtful I could, especially with the multiple unintended diversions. Really the overall difficulty of the section should have been a reason as well. I climbed Jackass Pass right behind them, passed them on the way down to Arrowhead Lake, then stopped for lunch on a sandy beach on its shore. I didn’t catch up to them again.
After picking my way across the rocks and slowly down a steep hill with a winding trail, then up and over a nasty rocky hill that was only sometimes a proper trail, I came to the swiftly flowing North Creek, where an overnight hiker lady from Utah was already filtering water, and I needed to do the same. I was here alternately watching the hikers pass through, the trout in the creek, and the water slowly leave my dirty reservoir for an entire hour.
Just down the hill from here was Big Sandy Lake, the biggest and most accessible lake in the area. Plenty of people here, but most were coming in or going out of the wilderness along the Big Sandy River to the west. I headed around the east end of the lake then left the alternate for an alternate-alternate going up around Clear Lake then up a flat granite water slide for a mile to Deep Lake, in my opinion the most beautiful lake I had passed all day. There were plenty of people hiking this route too, and I traded pictures with one group at Clear Lake. I stopped for dinner on the shore of Deep Lake, then headed out over the little saddle back to the main alternate about 6:30.
The trail on the other side dropped down to the edge of Temple Lake/Rapid Creek. I didn’t want to lose so much elevation just so I could gain it again climbing over the pass at the south end of the lake, so I left the trail to try to stay high. I had to drop down several times when I got cliffed out on the high route, and had to do some difficult (with a pack on) bouldering in a couple of places. I don’t think I was the only one to try it, as I found a lone pink Croc among the trees way up there far from the trail.
Anyway, after a while, I came to a trail proper that slipped gently up to the “official” trail, which climbed steeply up the side of the rock slide to the pass. I could have saved a lot of time by just going down to the lake and catching that trail at its base, but I had a lot of fun trying to navigate the high route. I came over the top of the last, steepest, and most technical pass of the day about 8pm, just in time to get some incredible views with the sunset colors.
There was something of a trail coming down the other side, though it kind of disappeared near the bottom. I found my own way across the outlet of the “Frozen Lake” at the top of the Little Sandy River and out onto the plateau beyond. This was far above the trail indicated on the map, so I descended toward the river and crossed the marked trail without ever seeing it. I thought maybe I had just missed it in the twilight, but soon figured out that it was only the vaguest suggestion of a trail even when I was right on it. Just spots where the grass was slightly less trampled or the bushes didn’t quite connect.
It was pretty dark by this time, far past my usual encamping time, and I was to the point where I was just looking for a flat and level spot far from water to make camp. I thought I found such a spot, and stopped to get put on my headlamp, but it turned out to be too rocky and too steeply sloped. Eventually, I spotted a big boulder straight up the hill, and went to look behind it, thinking it might hide some level ground and give it some wind protection. It was mostly as sloped as everywhere else around, but there was a tiny nook near the edge where the bushes met the boulder that was nearly level and just big enough for my tent. Not only protected from the wind but a lot of privacy too. I made camp.
Not many miles to show for such a long day, but very little of the trail going forward would be nearly as difficult. Luckily, there was room in the schedule for a somewhat shorter day, as long as the next day went well.
Trail miles: 13.4
Distance to Lander: 32.9 miles