On the way to Duck Hole just a couple of weeks ago, Fr. Scott and I discovered a practically perfect campsite: a rather new lean-to overlooking Lake Henderson with a nice open site and a small waterfall very nearby. We knew we need to come back and camp there...and this seemed to be just the right opportunity.
It had only been two weeks since hiking to this spot, but the place looked very different: so many of the leaves we had earlier admired brilliantly glowing in the trees were now dull and wet, lying scattered on the trail. Nonetheless, the place was still beautiful.
We hiked in the 2 miles to the lean-to with our gear on our backs, but with a little something extra in our hands: firewood. We knew we wanted to have a campfire, and we also knew how hard it can be to find dead, down, and dry wood for one around a campsite--especially when it's been raining. We all agreed the extra burden was well worth it...and spent a lot of time discussing how we could improve on our transport system.
After leaving off the gear and wood, and eating lunch, we left on a 6.8 roundtrip up into Indian Pass. I had hiked into the Pass once before from the other end...but that was 20 years--half a lifetime--ago! It was the first solo hike of any significance I ever took, so it somehow seemed like a good fit on this auspicious occasion.
The trail was very wet (so wet it was actually flowing in places), and the streams were running very high and fast. In fact, at one point, finding no other way across, we took off our boots and waded through a rather chilly and swift stream. (Of course Paul had to be different: being rather sure-footed, he managed to jump across on a few stones lying just beneath the surface of the water.)
It was raining now, too, as we made our ascent in the last half mile of the trail, up to Summit Rock, near the height of the Pass. It's a scramble over and around giant rocks (many of which are the size of most folks homes), tossed all about with abandon.
At Summit Rock, you're given quite a unique perspective, as that primordial rock pile tumbles down beneath you about 1,000 feet, and the cliff face of Wallface Mountain (the northwest side of the Pass) rises another 1,000 feet above you. We also had a nice view to the southwest back toward camp.
As a visitor in the 1840's said of this wild spot:
I lay on my back filled with strange feelings of the power and grandeur of the God who had both framed and rent this mountain asunder. ...How loudly God speaks to the heart, when it lies awe-struck and subdued in the presence of His works. In the shadow of such a grand and terrible form, man seems but the plaything of a moment, to be blown away with the first breath. ...[T]hat wall of a thousand feet perpendicular, with its seams and rents and stooping cliffs, is one of the few things in the world the beholder can never forget. (Rev. J. T. Headley)We made it back to Henderson a little later than we'd hoped, but agreed the sacrifice of time and dryness was well worth it. We warmed ourselves by the fire with food and good humor...and maybe even a Birthday toast or two.
The night was windy, which gave us occasional glimpses of the nearly full moon (that had been in total eclipse just before sunrise). There were forecasts of potential snowfall, which did materialize on some nearby peaks but not where we were staying. (I don't think the temperature fell too far below 40° F.) A little sleet during Morning Prayer was all the frozen preciptation we got.
We took our morning at leisure--very leisurely, actually--before hiking back to the car, visiting the massive ruins of the blast furnace of McIntyre iron mine , and getting a hot lunch at the Adirondack Hotel in Long Lake.
I'm glad I've got such good friends who were willing to join me in such a beautiful place as I made my way "over the hill."