There is always at least one bad first sunburn of the season. The one that leaves you bright red like a lobster, the one that is painful when the water from the shower hits it and the one that makes your skin tight and super sensitive to the touch. Despite sun screen, it seems to happen every year to me and yesterday I got such a super burn during our hike. Of course you don’t really realize it until it’s too late already and the damage is done. I even had the chills once I was back home, despite my skin feeling hot as if it was burning up. And today at work, well let’s just say that it felt just a little warmer as usual, almost as if I had a space heater directly strapped to myself. Phew….so bad on so many different aspects, but like I said, what’s done is done. It was my day off yesterday and we decided to see if the Gold Lakes Highway was plowed. If it was open, we could visit our “Ruling Rock” at upper Sardine Lake, a true ruling rock by all means and one of the best with views that won’t disappoint. The road was closed and service crews were working to clear a landslide. It was the second one we encountered on the trip up and the first one had washed out half of the road, leaving nothing but a steep drop and cliff exposed. One can only hope that nobody was driving on it as it gave away. There was nowhere to park and we were advised to park at a sand station one and a half miles further down the hill. Determined to get to our spot, we found the sandlot, parked and started heading up the old service dirt road. Our journey would take us approximately three and a half miles uphill, ending where we wanted to be. The entire hike would be about seven miles round trip and initially I was a little worried since my feet, especially the left one has been killing me lately. Plantar fasciitis is no joke and it hurts to step on the heel. Partner that up with the rheumatoid arthritis and you can figure the rest. It’s a difficult balance between too much pressure on the joints and too little movement and the stiffness that can set in because of it.
My worries were soon on the back burner and I felt strong. Despite the constant uphill, I only stopped once, briefly and the climb didn’t really face me. I set my pace and pushed on, feeling good to be out and enjoying myself, even though the thought crossed my mind that I would probably have to pay the consequences later with my foot feeling like mush. But here, right now, it was the power of now that mattered and I enjoyed the pain free moments as they had been all too seldom. I felt liberated and free.
We reached the main road that was closed and continued to walk on the pavement until we reached the turn off to Sardine Lake. It was quiet and peaceful and since the road was closed, the place pretty much belonged to ourselves. The temperature was perfect as we passed the camp ground and were greeted by an abundant number of frogs. The ground was flooded with little ponds and puddles everywhere, creating a new, temporary habit for frogs and other animals. Onward, our journey went to lower Sardine Lake that was frozen over and covered with a blanket of snow. Parking lots were partially swallowed up by snow that reached halfway up the door to the bathrooms. I jokingly threw out the question if the bathrooms were open, just to get a response and a surprised look because even if they would have been, you would have had no way inside with all that snow keeping the door securely shut.
The trail continued up and away to upper Sardine Lake which would be the last leg of our destination. Streams of water were running down the trail, washing away dirt and carving deep crevices into the ground. So close, I was determined and the momentum brought new energy that almost gave me the feeling as if I was running up the trail. I was on a mission to say the least and I felt good. Ten some years later, I remembered the first time I hiked this and how I struggled. You would think that I was in better shape then, being younger, but actually I wasn’t and I have more strength and endurance now. It made me smile and the ease of tackling the trail and being unfazed by it gave me new hope about a dream I’m hoping to make reality soon.
Almost at the top, the snow started to cover the trail which made for a slower go, mainly due to me since I always have to be extra careful not to fall into any crevice. I hate that and since it has happened to me, there is always that element that remains back in my mind. That element of fear. The upper Lake was covered with snow as well and the Sierra Buttes cradled the lake in a bowl of granite and snow. Magnificent and simply stunning. The water level came all the way up to our ruling rock and it was like a little Island in the water, luckily still reachable from solid ground. Usually the water level is much lower and the snow melt hasn’t even begun yet. I will imagine that when it does, our favorite rock might be under water this year and we have to find a temporary new spot. Little ice patches were floating around on the edge of the lake, revealing some snow melt while the rest of the lake was still covered under a thick fluffy blanket. Needless to say, we stayed for hours and the level of peace and solitude I felt right there, took on a whole new level. I was relaxed and at peace, I felt accomplished to have made it and yes a nap did follow as well. Look at this place…..can you blame me? I say it was worth the sore feet this morning, the consequences I knew I would have to pay and it was worth that first burn of the season.