Sunset from Speckled Mountain
At least once a year a longtime friend and co-worker and I try to get away for a night in the mountains. We try to do it during the window of opportunity that comes between the snow melt and the arrival of the blackflies. This year it was iffy, but we nailed it as almost all the snow was gone and although the blackflies were present a stiff wind kept them at bay at our campsite. We had a shaky start to our journey when he arrived at my house and I had to fill my mother's oxygen tank before leaving. The valve froze open spilling liquid oxygen all over the house before I could get it shut, burning (frostbite) my left hand pretty bad in the process. The trip was in jeopardy for awhile as I tended to my hand and got things back under control, but in the end we decided to go anyway.
Looking west at sunrise
We travelled north through a downpour which subsided as we approached Evan's Notch. The clouds passed and the sky opened up to reveal a beautiful spring afternoon. We hoisted our packs and started out along the Spruce Hill Trail to the summit of Speckled Mountain. There was little mud or snow to impede our progress, but there were dozens of blowdowns ranging from an easy step-over to an inconvenient bushwhack around. With loaded packs it made for quite a bit of extra effort on a relatively easy trail. No matter, we arrived at the summit and set up camp in time to enjoy supper in the late day glow of a beautiful sunset before crawling into our tents. Despite a stiff breeze it was a relatively warm night.
Around midnight I got up to pee and was surprised that Emma didn't join me. After gawking at the myriad of stars in the moonless sky I got back in the tent and zipped up. Later I realized the moon had come up as it was casting shadows on the side of the tent. For a fleeting moment I thought I saw the outline of some creature casting its shadow, but the moon ducked behind a cloud and it was gone. I wrote it off as imagination until I heard a funny sound and turned to look again. "Is there a coyote out there?" I waited. The moon came out from behind a cloud and there was the shadow again. "Freakin' Emma! How did you get out there?" I must have left the zipper open just enough that she nosed out and forced her way through. That's twice. She's the only wildlife encounter I've ever had while backpacking.
Heading south through Kevin's Notch
I awoke before sunrise to the pre-dawn calls of Kiloweet, the White Throated Sparrow. I grabbed my gear and sleeping bag and climbed up on the bare summit to set up and try to capture the sunrise. Photos can never do it justice. It is the total experience, not just the eye-candy that makes this worth doing. The JetBoil roared as I sat in the silence taking it all in. Emma pawed at me. She wanted the rest of her beef jerky. I went and woke up the Old Man and we had Tyning's Earl Grey while we watched the sun crest the horizon and light up the clouds to our west. It's always worth a little discomfort for scenes like this.
Complete set of pictures here: