Jennie Lakes Wilderness

Background

With the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) trip soon approaching, it was time to test my body’s endurance. Memorial Day weekend would be one of many tests in order to prepare, so the Jennie Lakes Wilderness trip was the plan. It was originally a 16 mile three day trip. The first day consisted of 5 miles and camping at Jennie Lake. The second day was the long 8 miles loop around to Weaver Lake. The final day would be 3 miles to the trailhead and homeward bound.

As the weekend approached, the plans changed. People were busy and only two people were able to go; my brother Jeremiah and sister-in-law Rebecca. However, they could not do the original three day trip. The plan was quickly changed to an over night trip to Jennie Lake and back. Five miles in and out? No problem, right?

Saturday – May 23rd

Starting the day off early at 730 AM, I eased my way into getting ready for the trip. I jumped online to say hi to a few friends, ate breakfast, and began to unpack some boxes. Within these boxes was all of my camping/backpacking gear. I unloaded enough gear for three people, checked my list twice, and started packing the packs. With each piece of gear I inserted into my bag, the excitement of being outside again escalating.

At 1030AM the family members arrived. I showed them their gear, helped them sort through some of the stuff they had brought, and out the door we went. I took Sheila with us and she was just as excited to go. I packed her backpack with gear as well for the overnight trip.

After 2 hours of driving, we approached the Park entrance. We had to wait there for 20 minutes! Memorial Day weekend was drawing in the crowds and we were thankful for the cool weather while waiting. Sheila I am sure was too. When it came time for me to buy a pass, I found out they no longer accepted credit cards or debit cards. Thankfully the guy was cool enough to let us pass through anyway and said to purchase one on the way out. We thanked him for letting us proceed instead of driving back down the mountain. We were on our way to the trailhead!

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Arriving at the trailhead the excitement was clearly visible on all of our faces. We all couldn’t wait to hit the trail and get started. After a few photos we were off and going by 2 PM. There was still snow in places and Sheila was excited about it. She would eat the snow as we went along. We had to pull off the trail several times to let others pass by. A lot of people were returning from the short and easier hike to Weaver Lake. As soon as we saw the turn off for Jennie Lake the amount of people dramatically decreased.

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We took a break at the Jennie Lakes Wilderness sign. We ate some snacks and hydrated for the walk ahead. We had about 3.5 miles to go to reach our final destination and soon after the photos were shot, we were on our way.

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The mid afternoon portion of the trip was great. We talked most of the time, laughing and pointing at different things around us. The views along the way were amazing. If only the haze was gone we could have seen the valley. We also crossed over several flowing creeks that were brought to life by the snowmelt still on top of the peaks nearby. As we steadily continued to climb up the trail, the topography was becoming steeper. I knew soon it would be a steep uphill march over “Poop Out Pass.”

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We took the climb slowly. It was not a race after all and we had apparently caught up to other backpackers. They were maintaining the same pace so we didn’t have to worry about “leap frogging” too much. It was getting close to dinner and we were all feeling the affects of hunger. The hike now became a slow and steady march. What seemed to be a long time really was only about a 20 minutes pull uphill. We had made it to the top of “Poop Out Pass.”

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Catching our breath, we looked around and noticed something odd up the trail. Five backpackers were all within proximity of each other and looked confused. As we approached we soon found out why. The trail was gone. The snow melt had created a marsh of flowing water along and around the trail for several yards. People were puzzled at what to do. Remembering some old trail marking techniques the forest used to do, I found blaze marks on the trees. Navigating over the waters from blaze mark to blaze mark, we came upon an opening. The opening was the edge of the mountain and the trail markers disappeared once again. The backpackers were hesitant to follow us the whole time. They went in the same direction just incase, but they were spread out looking bewildered. What I thought was a trail going down ended up being one. We spotted the blaze marks and made our way through. The other backpackers, upon hearing Rebecca and I yelling confirmation of the trails location to one another, followed.

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It was about 6PM and my brother’s lungs had enough. I was getting tired and so was Rebecca. We quickly stepped of the trail a little ways and I started preparing dinner. We couldn’t have picked a better place to stop for food. It was out on a ledge and we could see for miles. The Monarch Wilderness was in the background. Its mountain peaks were still covered in snow. Dinner was Mountain House meals of Mac and Cheese, Chili Mac with Beef, and Sweet and Sour Pork with Rice. The meals were hot, good, and filling. We also made sure Sheila had some of her food to eat too.

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Once dinner was done we marched on for a few more minutes. Jeremiah was worried about his asthma and lung situation, so we decided to quickly setup camp a little further down and off the trail. We camped near the edge of a ridge line. We built a fire ring, cleared the forest floor for the tents, and unpacked our gear. Once the tents were assembled, we started a fire and started sharing stories. Some other people arrived later and camped 100 yards away. They also had dogs. Sheila wanted to go say hi, but we tied her up to keep her in camp. Around 10 PM we all went to bed.

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I couldn’t sleep and several times that I did get to sleep, something woke me up. The first time was Sheila. I was testing out the GoLite Shangri-La shelter and floor piece. She put her nose underneath the shelter and lifted up exposing me to the elements. It was humorous looking back, but not at the time. She started licking my face and being startled I couldn’t get out of my sleeping back fast enough to get her to stop. Of course she found it amusing and continued until I was able to get her out of the tent and re-stake it. The remaining wake ups were my brain not completely shutting off for the night. I couldn’t stop thinking about anything and everything for some reason.

Sunday – May 24th

Tossing and turning with cat naps for sleep, I got out of my tent at 3 AM. Sheila had chewed her way off her leash and went to visit Jeremiah and Rebecca. As I embraced the outside air Sheila was nowhere to be found. She had wondered off into the darkness. Priority one was to revive the camp fire. It was in the 40’s (5-8 C) and smoldering coals remained within our fire ring. Within a few minutes the fire had come to life and Sheila had returned. Wagging her tail furiously she had brought me a gift. Apparently our neighbor’s campsite was not clean. Sheila had retrieved an empty can of Friskies cat food. I took the can from her and started adding more wood to the fire. Now that the fire could hold a flame for a little bit, I decided to hook my dog back up. She was gone once yet again. Based on what she brought back I figured she was off into the darkness to retrieve another trash item. Sure enough she brought back another empty Friskies can but with a bonus plastic grocery bag and zip lock bag.

After tying Sheila back up to her tree, Jeremiah unzipped his tent. Apparently he had a hard night sleeping too and like me decided to get up. Granted the campfire probably encouraged him to just get up since he would not be alone. From 3AM till sunrise we talked quietly, shared stories, observed the constellations, pointed to the Milky Way, and enjoyed the roaring of the fire. It was so peaceful and wouldn’t you know it, Sheila went back to sleep.

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As soon as the sun made its grand appearance over the mountains, our stomachs joined in letting us know it was awake. Starting up the stove, we boiled water for some miso soup and oatmeal. After Jeremiah warmed up Rebecca’s clothes by the fire so she could change into them, she was out of the tent.

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Not making it to the lake and needing to head back home, we tore down camp and got ready for the day. Sheila was let loose again to wonder around camp. With a few warning signals from the shock collar, she rapidly figured out her limit around camp where she could wonder. With our packs ready, water filtered, and bellies full, we marched back the way we came.

It was primarily down hill the entire trek back. We were moving at an average speed of 2 to 3 MPH for our trek out. Jeremiah’s lungs were still tired, so we didn’t move at full speed. A couple hours later we were back at the vehicle and heading home. Rebecca fell asleep in the back of my truck as did Sheila. Jeremiah and I chatted the whole way home as the warm sun was trying to put us to sleep. Our 4 hours of sleep was catching up to us, but we all made it back home safely.

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Epilogue

We never did make it to Jennie Lake. Upon arriving home, I quickly jumped on the computer to see just how far away we were. I couldn’t believe it when I pulled up the topo map and plotted where we slept that night. Our camp site was approximately a half a mile away from the lake. Shortly after discovering this, I called my brother to let him know. I then changed the title of the trip from the “Jennie Lake” trip to “Jennie Lakes Wilderness” trip because we never arrived at any lakes. We just played in the wilderness for a night.

I still plan on making the full loop one day, but for now I will be going to Jennie Lake in a couple of weeks. Being so close, I have to make another trip to at least say I have been to the lake. Maybe June will have to work.

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