Brian Brubaker

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Saturday, August 6, 2016

Meysan Lake Wilderness


I sat up abruptly in the dark, like I had done a half hour before, and also a half hour before that. This time it was louder and closer. The rocks rolling down the mountainside were large. It was that hollow crack and thump, a ringing echo of boulder against boulder, and then the crunching sound of rocks and tinkling tone of stone debris.


It was only a few hours ago that we climbed inside the tent and zipped the fly against the cold mountain air and the thick darkness that settled upon our remote camp. We had hiked and climbed since morning, from the Whitney Portal area, passing several day hikers and deer, and ascending ever higher into the wilderness of Meysan Lake. Exhaustion turned into relief as we crested a mountain pass onto a saddle which gave way to a wooded narrow meadow of rugged terrain. Ptarmigan, big as turkeys, strutted fearlessly in our path, probably having never seen humans before, here at the final edge of timberline.


Fatigue was wearing on us, and the 11,200 foot elevation would bring on the effects of altitude sickness. Dusk signaled it was time to setup camp for the night among the granite outcrops and pines. The remote setting was beautiful, but somewhat eerie. We had trekked many miles into the wilderness, and we were the only living souls in the alpine back country.


I hiked to the other side of Camp Lake and found the spring that was feeding it from Meysan Lake, 300 feet above. As I filled our water vessel from the trickling stream, I gazed across the still lake toward our Spartan campsite, which paled in the distance. Without noticing, I had ventured further than I thought. For a moment, I felt very much alone on the far side of the lake, and we were deep in bear country. I glanced cautiously behind me as I capped the now heavy water container, and then scrambled up the marshy embankment, gingerly making my way back around the lake to camp.


Darkness was falling, and there was much to do. The night chill was upon us as we boiled water, and our freeze dried rations magically changed into chicken, rice and vegetables. We downed the mountain meal and quickly cleaned our utensils, plates and cookware, and tightly secured tomorrow’s breakfast in our bear box. Rangers warned us that this is a high activity bear habitat.


Fatigue weighed on my eyelids as I retreated deeper into my sleeping bag and dozed off again, only to spring up promptly at the noise of crashing rocks, so loud it seemed they would tumble into our camp. Bears were digging in the steep rock slides surrounding us, hunting for the moths that earlier in the day burrowed into the dark crevices away from the bright sunlight. Their clawed powerful paws are well suited to tear open the rocky hiding places of these small but fatty winged delicacies, which they can consume by the thousands in a night. Our nylon home would provide little shelter against a hungry bear wandering thru the darkness in search of food. It would be a sleepless night, and I was anxious for the first glints of sunrise.

7:28 pm pdt 

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"Carpe diem" (Horace, Rome 65 BC - 8 BC)
Santorini, Greece
"Life is an adventure"

Climbing to 11,500' elevation Meysan Lake
Climbing to 11,500' elevation "Meysan Lake"
Camp Lake at 11,200 feet elevation
"Camp Lake" at 11,200 feet elevation
Setting up camp at "Camp Lake"
Setting up camp at "Camp Lake"
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