My invitation read, MAJOR workout! This trip is going to a real test of thighs, lungs and heart! Those joining must be really fit.
My initial fight or flight response was NO and Hell NO, I’m not in my best shape, I’ve gained some weight, climbing is not my strong suit, scrambling even less so. I was more than a little intimidated by the profile, especially after reading a trail guide that used words such as torture, grueling, steep, rough and tedious to describe the route.
This was a bucket list hike for my friend Scott, so I knew it would be epic. With a nudge from my friends and a month of preparation time, I hung the profile on my refrigerator, set the countdown timer on my phone, and started thinking a bit more seriously about this potential adventure. My inner voice chattered, “it’s only five miles to base camp, you have all day. It’ll be a sufferfest, but you can do it, YES you can!”
According to the guide book from the China Gulch Trailhead, it’s a 5,440’ 7-mile ascent to Grizzly Lake and Grizzly Falls, less than that to Grizzly Meadow our campsite destination. So here we are, mid July 2013, ready for adventure!
While burned forests are not my thing, wildflowers are my breadcrumbs, they distract me and entertain me, my brain clicks away trying to recall names, my body is happy for the stretching breaks as I pretzel myself to capture the perfect photographic angle. I find myself dancing with the butterflies, singing with the birds, guessing what’s over the next horizon, looking for shapes in the trees and the clouds. The trail to Grizzly Meadow did not disappoint.
Suffering from asthma means I really hate trails that begin with ascents, but surprisingly the first climb of the day wasn’t nearly as challenging as I had imagined during my preparatory month. However the glorious descent was clouded with worry about climbing this beast in a few days time. Grizzly Creek greeted us at the bottom and then taunted us during the climb, just out of reach, but always present by sound and more than an occasional glimpse. The unrelenting sun on this extremely hot day made this ascent much more challenging than the initial one I’d had nightmares about.
A few more scrambles and we had a stunning view of Grizzly Lake and Thompson Peak. Trout could be easily seen skittering through the sun bedazzled water. The granite basin and permanent snow fields make it picture perfect! Do you know the difference between glaciers and permanent snowfields? Did you know permanent snowfields are marked on some maps?
There is nothing quite like the joy I find spending a day luxuriating in such beauty. Invigorating dips in these clear clean waters, followed by naps on large-nature warmed chunks of granite are beyond spa worthy. My mind is occupied with daydreams of scrambling up Thompson or Grizzly Peaks or over to Lois or Mirror Lakes. A repeat trip in the future is imminent.
At the lake we found a group of four 20 somethings who had arrived a couple days earlier, but found themselves spent after lugging 60+ pound packs up that scramble. When we saw the contents of their packs (i.e. sweatshirts and full-size bath towels), we shared considerable wisdom about lightweight gear options.
Gear talk seems to be part and parcel of a hiker and backpacker’s life. Some will come away with gear envy, others will feel pride in their decisions to date; however, I have yet to meet anyone who has said they are content with their current possessions. This trip found no duplications in brand, model or style of gear among the group. I love that there are so many options and that we continue to desire improvements . . . lighter, more durable, more compact . . .
(1) See my Trail Links Page for additional information.