Thursday, July 12, 2007

Return from God's Country

For the last few days, a buddy of mine named Mike and I, having bid farewell to our wives and children, braved the mountains of the Shasta-Trinity wilderness of Northern California, and went camping on the shore of a beautiful alpine lake located about 20 miles west of Mount Shasta. The scenery was breathtaking, the lake water was refreshing, and the peaceful isolation was nourishing.

I took about a hundred pictures, so I present to you the best of the best right here. I feel so privileged that I had the opportunity to camp in the Mount Shasta area, which is one of my favorite places on the entire planet.

Mike and I stopped in Mount Shasta city to buy some coffee filters and eat some lunch, then we departed for Little Toad Lake. We drove about five miles on a paved road, then another 12 miles on a rough dirt road which ended in a little parking area. From the parking area, we had to negotiate a rather steep 1/2 mile hike to the lake. Mike looks ready to do some walkin'!

One we arrived at the lake, there was one other party camping there already, so we hiked to the opposite side of the lake and found this spot. It had a picnic table, a fire ring, and a nice open spot for a tent, and as you can see, the spot had plenty of shade and was right on the lake. It was perfect!

We had arrived at the campsite in the late afternoon, so the sun started to go down soon thereafter. As dusk was settling, I was rather startled to turn around and see a deer in the campsite. I was even more startled when the deer didn't run as I walked over to my pack to get my camera. This is a very seldom used lake, so I am at a loss to fully explain the docility of the deer.
The next morning, after a breakfast of fruit and oatmeal, Mike and I set off on a hike. The first part of the trail took us out of the basin in which the lake is located. Near the top of the first ridge, I looked back and got my first view of the lake from a distance. Past the lake, you can see Mount Shasta looming behind me in the early morning haze.

Mike and I hiked for a good four or five hours, covering about eight to ten miles by our estimation. Toad Lake lies right along the Pacific Crest Trail, so much of our hiking was done on that. Occasionally however, we left the trail and climbed to the top of ridges like this to get a better overall view.

We went back to our starting point on the ridge above the lake, then took off on the Pacific Crest Trail in the opposite direction. This hike took us along a barren ridge line that gave us breathtaking and unobstructed views of the wilderness below. The following pictures give you an idea:

It was a tough hike, and we were glad to get back to our campsite, but the funny thing is that we really didn't feel all that sore, even for a couple of out of shape men in their mid to late 30s. After returning to camp, we swam in the lake, read books, and decompressed after hiking for the previous five hours. That night, the group of people who had camped across the lake were gone, and Mike and I had the entire lake to ourselves. There wasn't a soul in sight for probably at least 8 or 10 miles. I can't remember the last time I felt that isolated:

To make things even more interesting that night, there was a major thunderstorm going on way off in the distance. The trees to our southwest were silhouetted by the constant flashing of lighting. The storm was so far away that we never heard any thunder, but just to be safe, we covered our stuff with a poncho, and put up the fly on the tent to keep out any possible rain. We never did get any rain.

The next morning, I woke up around 6am, and the lake was like a mirror. As the sun came up, I pointed my camera at the water and captured these images:

After the sun came up the rest of the way, Mike and I ate some breakfast, and I took one more dip in the lake. We then packed up and prepared to leave this little piece of heaven. As we walked away from our campsite and headed toward my car which would return us to civilization, Mike snapped this fitting picture that will end this presentation. Here I am doing one of the things that I love to do best:

And that is the story from God's Country. I can't wait to do it again!

Good Day to You, Sir


Law and Order Teacher said...

I admire your tenacity in camping in such primitive surroundings. When I was a kid my family camped in state campgrounds. Cheap vacation you know. I am at the point in my life that I am a pansy and need the creature comforts i.e., hot shower, bed, restaurant food, etc. My military buddies would be appalled. Oh well, age and all that.

bluejay said...

Absolute perfection! Even better than Bear Lake.

Darren said...

You take exceptional pictures. The mirrored lake should be entered in Sunrise Mall's photo competition next year.

In a few weeks I'll be taking off *alone* to go through central and eastern Nevada. Desert, geologic formations, ghost towns, and solitude. I expect to be more isolated than you were--and I hope my pictures are as entrancing.

Polski3 said...

WHAT? Tents, food, arriving by vehicle less than a mile from where you planned to sleep ???? Where is your sense of adventure ? ( After telling us about the TV program, MAN vs WILD )


Seriously though, I envy you for doing this.....I used to do these kinds of things too.....