Walking the John Wayne Pioneer Trail
Day 3: Cold Creek to Roaring Creek (3.5 Miles)
I knew the distance from Cold Creek to Roaring Creek wasn’t far – four miles at the most. Still, I planned day on purpose knowing that I needed to walk the mile or so back up to Hyak to meet my parents for a hug and some supplies before setting out. With the early morning walk up to Hyak, the day came out at around six miles. Six miles, after all, is perfectly respectable for a “light” day.
Under an unforgiving sun…
It was just after nine in the morning when I finally started walking and the high sun was already creating an almost unbearable heat. The trail led around the edge of Lake Keechelus. When there were trees, they were too far from the trail to provide any shade until late afternoon. In the west we often call the sun “unforgiving” and I know exactly what that means – no prayer or call for mercy will provide relief from the heat and the glare. There is nowhere to escape it and all one can do is try and bear it.
To make matters worse, the trail was covered in a thick layer of loose gravel that was unpleasant both for pedestrians and cyclists. Boots and tires alike slid on the unstable surface creating an experience very similar to trying to walk on loose sand. Each step took effort and before long, my muscle ached with the struggle. After only 45 minutes of walking, I needed a break and so we sought shelter in the shade of an information placard placed at the side of the trail that explained the risk of Avalanche on this stretch of trail.
Just across the trail from the avalanche information kiosk, a tiny brook splashed into a little pool before disappearing under the trail. I coaxed bonnie to the brook for a drink of water. it only took 3 days to figure out that I didn’t need to carry extra water for my dog – she is content to drink from the many streams and brooks that splash down next to the trail.
From the trail, I couldn’t see the many wonders of that little brook, but once I was down at its edge I notice that the water spilling into our pool came from a larger pool a short, rocky scramble above us, from there it was only a few more steps to an even deeper pool (deep enough for a shallow dip) fed by a small waterfall. The waterfall and pool were hidden from the trail by a bend in the rocky hillside. They were completely shaded and the water was freezing cold We splashed in the water for a few minutes reveling in our little find before returning to the information placard and my pack.
It took us nearly another hour to reach the Roaring Creek campground. Of all of the camping areas, Roaring creek was the largest with nine spots. It was also the one with the most privacy and the densest tree covering. Arranged in clusters of three, the little tent pads hid among the towering evergreens, surrounded by downed wood and patches of thicket. Some of the spots were downright spooky – the dense forest cutting off all light from the tent pads below.
While the seclusion and shade was nice, Roaring Creek had a down side: the water was hard to reach. To get down to the creek you had to descend a steep trail partially blocked by bushes and driftwood. It was by far the toughest water collection I’d seen on the trail.
Thoughts from the forest…
I chose a slightly secluded, but less spooky spot across the trail from the pit toilet and set up camp. Even though the day was young, it was too hot to do anything at all. I took a dip in the lake and then retreated to my tent for a nap. I laid in my tent, nothing between me and the forest except a thin screen. The wind blew over me just as it blew over the pine needles and the leaves and the bugs.
I wondered how long I could spend gazing at the trees. Would I still find them beautiful if I closed my eyes for a moment? Without thinking I did just that. I closed my eyes and when I opened them I caught my breath at the sight. The same trees, in the same light, were even more beautiful.
I wished I were an artist so that I could catch the exact light…the exact lines of the intersecting branches – the lives intertwined in an elegant, living dance. Some say that we see what we want to see, but really – we see what we’ve learned to see. Our brains take all of these light signals and turn them into meaning or chaos according to our own experience.