Saturday Dexter and I made our way into the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness area for an overnight backpack trip. We had a 5k that morning and I had a nap to get in so we opted to leave around 2pm. The good news was the weather looked clear today, but Sunday’s weather was looking wet for the afternoon, and much, much cooler. Lows Saturday night called for mid-30’s and high Sunday was going to be about 55. It was an easy decision to pack the puffy jackets, gloves, and wool hats. Of course we always bring our wet weather gear after learning the hard way not to leave it behind. Ever.
We got to the trail head parking lot and after surveying the jeep road decided to park. Yes, we have a Jeep but opted to walk the mile or so instead as the “road” was very muddy and had some deep puddles. The walk wasn’t bad at all and we quickly got to Mill Creek.
It opens up for some limited views of the area. Although it didn’t prove to be an issue, it’s here we realized we forgot the bug spray. Make a note for next time, this place looks like it could be bug heaven.
It’s about 3.5 miles to the register and when we got there we signed in, checking the population of the trail for the weekend. It wasn’t busy, but two groups signed in for overnights. One went toward lean-to 5 or 6, and another went toward 2 or 3. We decided to do the loop counter-clockwise after dropping plans to camp at the summit of Pharaoh Mountain. There wasn’t a chance at a sunset, and the sunrise was iffy. We thought either lean-to #2 or #3 would be a good stop.
We passed a few people heading out, including some carrying canoes after a fruitless fishing trip. Good thing we brought our dinner! Not that I fish, but if I did I bet that would be disappointing. Ha! Okay, so on we went. We passed lean-to #1 and it was occupied by a couple of guys so we kept on toward #2. It’s about 4 total miles from the parking lot with hardly any elevation change, and we arrived pretty early. We thought about going to #3 but knew there was a group ahead of us so dropped our gear here. Great site with good views! We unpacked and gathered some wood, then headed to the water.
There was a canoe tied up with some “oars” (see photo. No, really. See it? That thing is HEAVY!!! A metal pan, heavy stick, twigs, rope, plastic pipe…).
I said to Dex “Let’s take her out and check out the little island with the cairns on it!” Henceforth called “Cairn Island”. So that’s what we did!
We got out and it wasn’t bad, but the wind was a bit pushy out there, and paddling Thor’s Paddle proved a bit tedious and I fatigued quickly. Every time we stopped to photograph something we’d float 20 meters back! Eventually we made the turn around the island and headed straight at the rocks. Dexter yelled “Look out!” Of course I retorted “ICEBERG, RIGHT AHEAD!!!” I laughed, but I couldn’t see her face so I’ll just say she did. Hope so at least.
We backed out and headed back under much effort. It was nice to be back safely on shore! We relaxed and walked around, then started our fire for dinner. It was getting cold so we pulled out our puffy jackets and gloves. Dinner was Salmon from a pouch, and we added some curry paste and cooked rice. When I tried to adjust the sticks I knocked over the pot of water, but got it situated quickly and finished boiling the rice.
Dinner was good, hot, and much needed!
Hiker’s Midnight, aka 9pm, came quickly. We tried to get some more photos and then jumped in our sleeping bags in the lean-to. No tent for tonight. About 2am I was awoken to “DIDI!” “Um, what?” Dexter replied she had to pee, and for some reason she was whispering which made me laugh. She headed out and soon I heard her yell for me to come out. I did, albeit slowly as it was FREEEEEZING!!!!
The stars were absolutely breathtaking! I tried to capture it but my star photography is still blossoming. Meaning I can’t do it yet.
We went back to sleep, and soon I was up. Soon was about 7am. I replenished the water supply into the ground from my bodily stores and took some morning photos. Dexter got up shortly after and we had our coffee, determined to get moving around the lake before the rain came. Breakfast was just a quick snack bar and pop-tart with the coffee, and we packed up. Leaving we saw the group that stayed at lean-to #3. Glad we didn’t keep going!
We passed quite few nice spots to tent, rested at #3 (great views!), and then headed north toward lean-to #4. A trail runner passed us at the next intersection, and we soon came to #4. It’s secluded and beautiful, and although still early (around 10:30am), the clouds were starting to darken and it was time to move. When it’s time to move, Dexter is the fastest hiker I know. Her legs can climb, clamber, and motor over the terrain like a gazelle! Good thing, because the next thing we knew…
It was hailing! We donned our rain gear and pack covers quickly, and the hail soon changed to a gentle rain. We didn’t really stop until we got just south of lean-to #5. The rain had slowed and allowed us time to sit and refuel, but we decided not to head up to #5 to check it out. Next time, we said. We soon blew past #6 and made the bridge over the southern terminus of Pharaoh Lake. We signed the register and made our way toward the jeep road again, this time under an ever increasing deluge. It kept the temperature cool for our hike, but it was getting messy for sure.
Even in all the rain, our trail runners never felt wet or like they would slip on the rocks, leaves, or wood. The Salomon Speedcross 4‘s are super light weight and comfortable, they felt solid with good grip the whole day.
After about 12 miles total for the weekend, with almost 7.8 just on Sunday, we made it back to the Jeep. Next stop… Stewart’s for a hot cup of coffee and for some reason, I always need that damn chicken and bacon pizza after a hike! Thanks, Stewart’s!!!