The sun was up, the sky was clear, and a hot air balloon climbed above the flats as Andy, Hobbes, Matt and I headed to the town of Fraser. We cut west on dirt roads into Fraser Experimental Forest where we parked at Dead Horse Trail Head. We threw on our packs and began hiking up the road toward the trail head toward Byers Peak.
Three miles later we arrived at the Byers Peak trail head, where we had meant to park. Another 1.8 miles up the road, under cover of wizened trees. Andy explained how forest service practices over the last seven or eight decades (don’t burn anything and prevent fires) have cultivated a forest of same-age trees. Today we hike through a geriatric woodland and that is why the Pine Beetle has so successfully plagued the population.
The trail climbed gradually for the first mile before catching a ridge and becoming much steeper. It seems sanity works like oxygen, becoming sparse the higher you go (as evidenced by the adjoining photo). According to a trail sign the climb was 1.1 miles. It was one of the longest 1.1 miles I have ever hiked. I dropped into 4WD Low and ground slowly to above tree line where clicks of pubescent Ptarmigan roamed, awkward and fluffy, camouflaged against alpine grass and rocks.
Three successive rocky rises finally under-boot and I spotted Matt’s silhouette along the rockbound rise above. He was just catching up to Andy who had perched amoung the boulders. Looking up at them, I was gratified to be in the company of such swell fellas. I also wondered how they climbed so quickly. Jerks.
We ate lunch on top of Byers (12804) and Andy pointed out neighboring Gore Range. I am proud to know those mountains intimately (all the more so for the butt-whooping delivered recently).
Andy and Hobbes returned to whence we had come, as Andy had a hot date that night. Matt and I dropped North-West into the saddle between Byers and Bill. Others had taken this route but to imply there was a “trail” would be a bold face lie. Matt was dealing with altitude induced nausea and headache so we took it slow. And by that I mean we dropped pack and took a nap in the cradle of the saddle.
Bill’s spine was was narrow and rife with lose rock and scree. We proceeded with caution. Around a late-summer snow pack, still holding strong, Bill’s summit (12703) surprised me a la ‘Blind Date with Dr. Jekyll’. Contrary to the craggy, weathered rock we had been crossing, a golden, grassy slope extended smoothly to the South-West. Also, there manifested a trail.
Cruising down along the rim we now had enough air and attention to converse. This is one of my favorite aspects of hiking. The trail passing underfoot draws forth words and thoughts which I only otherwise encounter when journaling. Whereas journaling allows flow of thought, this was an exchange and, as Bill’s geography attests, there must be a balance between the two.
We swung high around a valley where some young animal was practicing calls. The sound was both eerie and endearing. A mile or so further along and we cut between another pair of valleys. From up on the lip we looked down on Evelyn Creek, Lake, and her valley in general. We wondered at the massive rock field which had been shed into the valley floor, and recreated the story which shaped what lay before us. Then we dropped down to Evelyn Lake herself and set up camp in one of several established sites.
Knowing nothing about fishing, I am enamored by those who do. Matt squatted on his haunches at the water front and watched the fish jumping, the mosquitoes skimming and all other sort of fisherman factors. I felt inordinately savvy after he explained these things to me.
While Matt waded out to fish, I explored the area and collected firewood. He quickly caught a pretty little Rainbow Trout (I think that’s what it was) and I ran out to look, surprised at how warm the deep little lake was. Red and orange accents highlighted the shimmering silver body. The dark orb of its eye peered at us, somehow both frantic and indifferent. Matt removed the hook and released it gently. I commented on the fact that the fish hung about lazily and he explained it was worn out from the stress of being caught, reeled in, and handled. That made sense. Or maybe those moments were the most exciting in that little fish’s life and he just wanted to hang around a little bit longer. <- That is called anthropomorphizing!