This backpacking campsite, for sure had one amazing view…
This backpacking campsite, for sure had one amazing view…
During most backpacking/camping trips, we woke up early, but there was no rush for anything. It was still chilly from the night before and we decided to stay tucked in for awhile. First daylight was hitting Mount Round Top as we watched the rays casting it’s crisp glow through the mesh window. Silence and a comforting peace was in the air, the one that makes you stretch your arms out wide, inhale deeply and sigh with the deepest feeling of appreciation and gratitude. What an amazing place it was and how amazing to witness this splendor in all its glory. After getting our fix, we eventually got up since someone always has to pee at some point. TMI but the truth, and I say it how it comes to mind. It was then that we discovered that the obnoxious, screeching bird was gone, but had pooped on our cook stove. One last present hopefully and we didn’t notice his loud, piercing call for the remainder of the trip. He must had given up on us and realized that we were not leaving this beautiful spot.
After breakfast, we wandered down to the water’s edge, to sit at our grassy patch and enjoy the serenity we felt. Everything was still as we skimmed the lake’s surface for drinking water. The water was clear and no filter was required. Soon the crowds would appear and as always we would watch them come and go, one group after another. Nobody could sit and stay like we did, or make it an all day event. It was usually off rushing to the next attraction in the old familiar sense of a fast paced lifestyle. A lifestyle that without trouble we were eager to put behind us by finding a beautiful spot and staying for a long, long while.
The first people arrived, some loud, even reminding me of the loud, obnoxious bird and everybody obviously came out here for different reasons. Few are quiet and most like to party and seek some sort of adrenaline rush. It’s sad to say that in popular places like these, trail etiquette often goes missing and there is little consideration for the space and privacy of others. It’s public land and one can only hope the other has enough manners to not march right through your stuff and give you a little space. Working in retail it is obvious that we come out here to escape the noise and to find solitude and peace, but you often have to get off trail or backpack deeper into the high country not everyone is willing to put in the effort, to find that kind of quiet.
This morning was no different and the noise came and went until we decided to further explore the area. We hiked to the far end of the lake, over rock piles and boulders until we sat high up on a cliff, overlooking the crowds below. We stayed as long as we could, taking it all in, while knowing that shortly we would have to break camp and make our way back down the two mile trail to where the car was parked. Once again thunderstorm clouds were moving across the sky to add drama, but just like the day before they vanished without a sprinkle. It would have been ok either way since we had the tent for shelter. There is something comforting and something I love in the sound of rain hitting the tent. I think it was only once that I wasn’t thrilled about it and that was in Canada and during a 30 degree, cold, wet miserable night, sleeping on the cold ground because we punctured the air mattress. And yet I have to smile about it now, thinking of the memories of that night that most likely I will never forget.
It was time to pack up and make our way back. We stalled and procrastinated as usual, not wanting to leave while joking that we should call in sick to work. It was a joke and we had never done anything like that. Good, dependable and responsible people we are, we weren’t about to start a new tradition, even though it was tempting haha. The packs were lighter without the food as we took our first steps away from the lake. Turning ever so often and taking another moment and another picture, it was hard to leave this place behind. I had to remind myself of the beautiful scenic descend that was ahead of us, with the lush Meadow and the stone garden, the old dead tree that always draws me in and the wildflowers that were blooming amongst the few patches of snow that remained. We turned one final time as if to wave goodbye to our adventure of wonder and natural beauty. We stole one more memory of the stunning blue of day and the golden glow under a full moon.
Here we are, and finally we have arrived at the Photo project that I’ve mentioned several weeks ago. You probably forgot all about it, but the suspense has been on my mind as I was leading up to this sequence of events and take you along for the trip. If you followed my last couple of posts, you know by now what Winnemucca Lake looks like, and I will share with you yet another view in the form of a night shot. Earlier in the day, we had backpacked up to this amazing spot to spend the night and enjoy my first full moon adventure. We woke up just in time to photograph the magic hour of golden glow and were now waiting for the full moon to rise over the ridge. The last light was fading and after it disappeared, it took with it what seemed like all the warmth of the sun. The temperatures were dropping as I layered up, preparing to enjoy the moonlit landscape. I watched the mountains to the left of the lake where the moon would rise, and even though all daylight was gone, it never got fully dark enough that I couldn’t see. Once the moon came over the crest, it would be even brighter and no flashlight was needed. I walked freely through the area around the tent, making out rocks and boulders, tree remnants and other trip hazards with ease.
With the tripod in place and all digits dialed into the camera (thank you Marcus and my boss for your help with this), I waited and watched the sky transform. As the shades of darkness intensified, more and more stars appeared. I could still see the clouds moving through, leftovers from the day that brought threatening thunderstorms that never came to be. They surely added drama to my pictures and I love the big, white, puffy clouds. And then it finally happened and like a halo, the moon broke over the ridge. Beams of light hit Mount Round Top and faintly illuminated the area. The lake was lying mostly dark and it would take hours to catch a moon reflection in the calm waters. I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay up that late. The prior nap felt good, but I was still tired and it was getting increasingly colder. I probably would have been OK hiking but instead I was standing in place and with little movement to keep warm. I took a few first shots at different exposure lengths and was excited to be doing it. I shared my successes and findings and allowed the excitement to fill me. After all, it was my first time photographing a somewhat dark night sky with nothing to focus on.
I found Polaris, the North Star that night and what better place to say hello, then out here in the wild! There it was, high up in the sky, shining bright and twinkling among st the constellations. I felt reminiscent as I stood and watched the symbol in the sky that reminded me about my “True North“. About the things that matter and the magic that is to be found in everything. Like a child I was watching in awe while standing in silence. A shooting star was streaking the dark as I closed my eyes and made a wish. I was by myself by now, alone to admire the beauty and serenity, while I let it engulf me and carry me to a place of wonder and magic. Here and there I took a picture for later review to analyze exposure time and settings. I was excited about these first pictures, the new photo project and learning a new technique. Honestly, I thought I would take many more than I did, but I forgot to consider that the ambiance and the power of the moon would capture this moon-child’s heart, mind and spirit to be completely still instead. Not a bad trade off and I’m not complaining. I can live with this being my first nighttime shot.
We woke up just in time for the magic hour. It’s my favorite and there is such an amazing ambience, a vibe and a mood that is hard to match any other time. Peeking our heads out of the tent, there was not a moment to waste and the mountain range across from Winnemucca Lake was already lit up. I grabbed the camera and hurried out of the tent to find a interesting composition that struck my eye. I wasn’t too picky and the sun was setting quickly, but I did find myself wishing that I had a little more time and had woken up earlier. The nap was great though, but it also stole my opportunity to get some different angles and a variety of photo ops. You get some, you lose some and life is a constant give and take I guess. Why should it be different in nature. In the end I couldn’t complain and believe I captured some magic. It only takes one good shot and I was ok with what I was lucky to experience during the “Solid gold”. It would only be the beginning and what was about to follow under the moon-lit sky, would have no shortage of packing its own magic. Fingers crossed I would be lucky enough to capture a fraction of what I imagined would unfold, for sure I would be a very happy person. But that, and upholding the good cliffhanger fashion, is meant to be told in another post, isn’t it? 😉
It’s been awhile since I first wrote about our backpacking trip to Winnemucca Lake and you can read the beginning of it here. There are more pictures and stories to share and tonight I will attempt to bring you another little chapter of that trip. After the boulder Meadow, you are literally a short distance away from the top and peaking over the rim. Be prepared once you reach that moment, because if you thought the two mile hike up was breathtaking already, you will be in awe once you see the lake spread out just over the ridge. Dark blue in color, with Mount Round Top dominating above it, it is nestled in granite, surviving glacier fields from last winter and a few small waterfalls that feed into the lake. It is one of those places that just never get old and we were looking forward to spending the night up there. To watch the sunset and camp out over a full moon rising into the star studded night sky, what could be better!
We reached our camp site (our favorite one out of the three) and set up the tent to store our belongings inside without having to lug it around with us. The site and the view was hard to beat and exactly how we remembered. What a night it would be. We spotted a marmot sunning on a nearby rock and I was in heaven. Little did I know that it would sadly be the only one that crossed our paths. Very unlikely compared to the other times and I’m looking forward to make up for this lack another time. We grabbed the lunch that I brought from home, consisting of hamburger bagels, fruit, and salad and our valuables. Towel in hand and camera in tow, we started heading down the short distance to a tiny grass patch right near the waters edge. We were hungry and the spot for a picnic was picture perfect. We had reached heaven for sure. We stayed for hours, cooling off in the water, exploring flowers and plants, taking pictures while watching other people that seemed to come and go without end. Nobody could stay and sit for awhile and off to the next attraction it was. It was early evening when we started to head back to camp and cooked dinner in the form of a hearty soup with saltine crackers. It was perfect and it filled the spot. The plan was to stay up to play in the moonlight, but we were tired from the early start to our day and the hike up with the heavy packs. A nap wouldn’t be a bad idea and we quickly set up the inside of the tent. Sleeping pad and sleeping bag….check. Pillow and items stored we didn’t needed….check, it felt good to just lay down. If the annoying screeching bird outside could take a break as well for a bit, that would be great. I’m not sure what bird it was and I usually love birds, but this one was so loud and obnoxious to say the least that it was hard to find something likable in the loud screaming. Despite the ruckus, we drifted off into slumber-land at some point and luckily woke up just before the golden hour.
Related Post: Heavenly Meadow
To be continued….😉
Tuesday: Day 1
Due to the “first come, first serve” permit service and only three designated backpacking camp sites, we knew that we had to plan for an early start to our day. The trail head was located 2 hours south with the office opening at 9AM. For me it was getting up at 5AM since I live on the outskirts and about 30 minutes away from Reno. It allowed plenty of time for everything without having to rush and I prefer it this way these days. By 7:30AM we were leaving town and traffic was unusually busy for a Tuesday. It seems like the population of the city keeps rising and so is it’s traffic congestion. The drive was fairly smooth and luckily we missed a coyote that ran across the road in front of us. What we did hit though, was some construction work and the dreaded flagger, but just as predicted, to the minute, we pulled up in front of the office at 9AM on the nose. The door to the gift shop / permit office was wide open already and the trail parking lot was already bustling with action. “Oh no” I thought, I hope we are not too late. I scanned the area but only saw day hikers and no other backpackers, which was good sign. Luckily we were the first to ask for a permit and therefore we were able to pick our favorite site out of the three. We got everything squared away and got the permit for two nights even though we would only stay one. This way would allow us to leave the tent up all day and have shelter in case it would rain. There was a chance of thunderstorms for both days, plus we could take our time packing up since we planned on staying until late afternoon. We always do and I wouldn’t imagine this time to be any different.
By the time the sleeping bag and my sleeping pad was attached, the pack didn’t feel unreasonably heavy, but it was enough. Especially with the arthritis. I centered and situated most weight onto my hips to put less stress onto my shoulders and legs. Off we went with our backpacks, tripod case, camera case and another little lunch bag (that everybody would comment and loved due the picture imprinted of a bulldog wearing glasses…who doesn’t love dogs, right?) with today’s snacks in tow. “Are we there yet” did cross my mind before I even got started. I love hiking but in most occasions I have to work harder with my joints to get to where I want to and strenuous is always a bit of a butt kicker. And this particular trail is always a bit of the same for me, especially doing it the first time of the year. The trailhead is at 8500 feet which is 4000 feet higher compared to where I live. It climbs 600 feet in a little bit over 2 miles. Nothing too crazy, but even walking on the moderate stretches makes me sweat when you are not used to the elevation. I have to find my pace and regulate my breathing as not to gasp for air trying to get more air into my lungs. Ok I’m slightly exaggerating, but you will definitely feel the struggle and it takes time to acclimate to higher elevations. And then carry a pack of 35-40 lbs. (at least) on top of it, is no joke my friend.
I found my pace, (I always do) but I’m not gonna lie and say I could have easily walked on forever. I was ready to get there, to pitch the tent and put the labor aside to enjoy the day. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy the journey, I was just tired from working and I was ready to rest and be lazy. The trail passed little run off water crossings here and there and snaked its way through wooded areas and along mountain ridges. The hillside was in bloom, just as suspected and dotted with a variety of wildflowers offering a rich palette. A series of meadows was ahead of us and the first one was especially rich and thick with wildflowers. A little creek ran through it, supplying plenty of moisture to the lush growth. The trail would narrow through the thick and tall plants as if you had to cross through a jungle. One more turn and it would lie directly in front of us as our excitement was building. We came around the bend and what I noticed first was all the people amidst the “jungle” and then I noticed how thick and grown in it was. I had never seen it so rich and so tall in all the years coming here. It was quite a sight to behold and I couldn’t blame anyone for stopping and pausing to take it all in. After our share of it and taking a few pictures to memorize the moment, we pushed on to the next meadow, one of my favorites. The trail finally levels out and you are minutes from the ridge with Winnemucca Lake lying at your feet in a granite bowl. The meadow is grassy and full of boulders and wildflowers. It’s simply stunning and I’m not sure if pictures can bring it justice. I hope I did bring you an idea of what this area looks like until you might see it with your own eyes. We took a few more pictures before summiting the final steps that gave away the view of Winnemucca Lake and for the first time since the start of the trail, I was able to take the deepest of breaths, followed by the deepest of sighs and the deepest appreciation of being amongst this beauty and spend the night under the moonlight.
I’m all excited as I’m getting ready for a one night backpacking trip to Winnemucca lake. I’m ready and it’s been far too long it seems. Summer is nearing it’s end and trips this year have been scarce. Not that it is all that surprising, considering that our last snow storm was in June. We have stayed close to home for the most part, wrapped up in too many obligations with too little time for longer, extended play. But the plays ahead will be some big ones and Germany is no quick side-trip. It will be grant in a nature of it’s own. Winnemucca lake is an amazing place, one of my favorite (I feel I’m beginning to say this about every place now, but this area is beautiful to say the least and I’m blessed to have it in my backyard) and it will a first for this year. It has it all, from the beautiful alpine lake, nestled in granite, to the Boulder strewn meadows, jagged mountain cliffs, signs of a volcanic history, Marmots, and on top of it, it is one of the most spectacular wildflower hikes around. I envision a variety of blooms light up the hillside, thick and colorful, while the crest above might still carry a little snow. The water is so clear that you can skim the surface and drink it without any problem. We shall not go thirsty and less weight to carry in.
The adventure begins Tuesday morning and after a super long day today, I’m exhausted but packed. Surprisingly the pack is reasonably light compared to the usual and other prior short trips. We will see what the end result is Tuesday morning and I already know I have to make up some weight because I’m bringing the tripod and the big camera. Awe yes, the sleeping bag and pad is also not attached yet which will make a difference.
As I mentioned earlier this week I had homework in the photography field and I have unfinished business when it comes to it. I hope to shoot something amazing, a style that is new to me and not fluent yet, one I never tried before and much will be up to trial, error and hopefully a few lucky shots that will blow my mind. I will push myself hard to hopefully bring back some of these images to let you experience this beauty with your own eyes through my lens.
Although a short escape, it will be a profound one that I have been looking forward to. It will be my first full moon backpacking trip and timing has never worked in my favor to enjoy such grandeur. The Sturgeon moon will rise tomorrow night and this moon-child couldn’t be any happier about that. It is time to walk the moon-lit pasture, watch the moon climb over the jagged granite crest while it is casting it’s golden glow in the still waters of the lake. Hopefully it’s not windy and if it is I might have to shoot from the inside of the tent. Either way it will be magical….
This picture was taken last year and as far as this year is concerned, it’s almost hard to believe that Winnemucca lake is still covered in ice. The hike up to lake is a popular wildflower hike we do every year and albeit you can probably get up there by now, it will be a hike to be delayed this year. I can see a backpacking adventure to spending the night up there once the wildflowers peak and a full moon lights up the granite peaks. I have unfinished business and this is the perfect place to view th Milky Way as you gaze into the universe and it’s highway lined of bright stars.