July 5th, 2013 – Day 2: Cliff Lake
Jack was so excited to get on the road this morning while I was just tired. I kept ignoring his suggestions to get up. When I did though he and Erik had a breakfast of eggs & cream cheese tortillas ready (so it did pay off!).
We were on the road by eight, headed towards the little town of Ennis where we stopped and grabbed some gas and snacks (ie. a milkshake) and Erik posted a letter to his brother. For the rest of the drive we watched the tall mountains off to the left – particularly the Sphinx. Erik had previously summited it and was describing the routes to best make it to the peak. We talked about doing it together someday as well as perhaps the Three Kings which were directly beyond.
Soon we were close to our destination, we passed by some old abandoned settlement and then through the open before we started dipping down. I was anxious to see the lake, tucked down in the hills so that you would hardly even know it was there.
We pulled down to the boat launch and I stood excited on the banks while the guys unloaded the car (I did help some, but they had certain ways that they wanted the canoe loaded). I had stood by these shores one other time when the banks were covered with snow and dreamed about this moment in time.
None too soon were we settled in the canoe – me settled in the bottom on a life jacket nestled amongst all of our packs & gear. We set off at an easy pace and kept an eye out for the rope bridge that Jack had been telling us about, but when we found it all we saw were the steps leading up to the bank and the rope frayed high up in the tree. Both Jack & Erik were disappointed, but I was somewhat relieved since it looked like it went pretty high.
So instead we stopped at a fallen tree and jumped off that into the water for a swim. The water was warm and crystal clear – I could see my shadow reflecting on the bottom of the lake below me as I watched for fish that would swim around below. Not only that, but the water was a beautiful gem blue where it was deep and turquoise closer to the shore.
When we got back into the canoe I watched the gentle ripples and swells of the water, mesmerized. Jack & Erik watched the massive fish glide in droves beneath us. We passed through “the pinch” in the lake before it opened up and an tall island jutted out in front of us. We turned to the right of it and pulled off for some fishing and some granola bars & ramen noodles. That’s also where Erik threw a dead crawdad at me so that he could watch me shriek and jump backwards. Soon everyone was fishing and both guys caught fish while I continued to cast out my line with no return.
When we were back in the canoe again I trolled while the boys rowed on and soon caught my first fish – that was the only way I would catch any on this trip I soon found.
Farther up the lake turned and became narrow and shallow with tall reeds growing in it – Jack would later remark that it looked like the Dead Marshes from the Lord of the Rings, which would then prompt quotations from that scene in his best Gollum voice.
We canoed through the reeds until we came to the head of the lake where a little path led the way up to the camping place right on the edge of the tree line. We set up camp and waited out a brief hailstorm before Jack realized we were short a fishing pole which we must have left at our lunching point.
So we backtracked and left Erik to fly fish while we retrieved the rod. That is when we ended up in a thunderstorm. So we pulled over and Jack continued to fish, while I sat up the embankment a little ways and listened to the thunder crack around us while I tried to update my journal.
Erik rejoined us and we found the missing fishing pole and on the way back I sat on the bow of the boat facing Jack and filled our quota of 9 fish for the day. Which made for a delicious dinner along with some roasted potatoes, oatmeal and s’mores.
I stood and watched the gloom come around us as the tall mountains above cast there shadows onto us and admitted that this was my first trip way out in the middle of nowhere alone.
“It’s either something you hate, or something you absolutely love.” Erik told me. Thankfully, as I stretched out in our little tent that night I realized that this was something that I absolutely loved.