Sunday, September 9, 2007

Camping at a little Lake in the mountains under a big beautiful night sky

I feel like I'm beating myself up about not finding the time to write a summary about my Iceland trip, but another week escapes me... and there are also other things to write about.

Jeff was out of town this weekend so Skagit, Sonny and I went on an adventure of our own. We headed out to the Proposed Great Wilderness area about 70 miles west of Missoula and hiked into Pearl Lake. It was Skagit's first ever, backpacking trip. I have taken her up Sentinel a couple times - but she whined and I couldn't tell if it was because I pushed her too hard or because she just wanted attention. I guess it paid off being a paper girl for the Bangor Daily News!!

I did end up carrying Skagit a little bit - but since Sonny was running around she realized quickly that she would rather be on her own (four) feet.

It was a beautiful clear afternoon when we started out on the hike. The foliage on either side of the trail (for most of the way) was so green and alive. Much different from the trails around Missoula which are so dry and arid this time of year. The many creek crossings probably had something to do with the "green". to Trout Creek was the creek that we followed up to the lakes.

Just before we got to Heart lake (the first lake) we caught up to this couple with four dogs (two great danes, a german shephard, and a poodle). I was a bit nervous seeing that two of these dogs were the size of a small horse, and I didn't want Skagit her to rub them the wrong way without having a clue and get chomped. Anyway, the poodle snapped at her and bit her lightly. I knew it was time to pick up the pace and get out of there... I was only there long enough to ask them which lake they were going to camp since I saw they had backpacks on. They were trying to get to Dalton Lake.

All was well again and we climbed and climbed gradually through a varied forest, every turn in the trail brought another whole "look", then we got to Heart Lake. This lake is deep and clear and a shade of blueish green. We stopped for a little while and I assessed the situation. I didn't want to go too much farther up the trail with Skagit since she was starting to look a little tired, but there were no real campsites at Heart Lake that weren't already inhabited. So, after I gave them a break and fed them a few snacks we trotted up the trail since Pearl Lake didn't look too far away.

We passed a fisherman with his daughter, and his dog. Sonny was so excited to have access to the lake (at the place we stopped the shoreline was crowded with logs all jammed together from springtime when the ice comes off the lake) he jumped in and made a great big splash. I made some comment that Sonny wouldn't be great for the fishing and I gathered him up... and...just then he got a fish on! It was pretty cool.

We made it to the end of the lake just as the trail turns away from Heart lake and climbs up to Pearl and all of a sudden hear this dog fight break out in the distance. The sound was deafening and Sonny looked up at me with this scared look in his eyes. I deducted that something happened between the party with four dogs and the dog that was at the lake. I had an urge to help because someone definitely got hurt in that loud outburst. The sound carried over the lake very easily...then I heard a guy scream "just get your dogs down the trail!!!!!!!!!!!!", "get them off my dog!"

We were afraid that they would catch up with us so we had to keep going.

The climb between the two lakes was filled with some landscapes that were almost edible! (I was kind of hungry) but the colors were so amazing and I found some things to photograph on the way. Towards the top I put Skag in my News Paper Delivery bag.

At Pearl lake it was so quiet and the lake was glassy. We had dinner and Sonny took a swim, and I read a book next to some tired dogs for a few hours as the sun slinked lower and lower in the sky.

After dinner the four dogs came by us again. This time two of the three of them were leashed. I was so happy to hear that they were heading up to Dalton Lake. The couple asked me if I thought they could make it there before dark. I said "absolutely" (since I was prettty sure that they would) and I didn't want them to camp anywhere near us.

We crawled into the tent pretty early since it got chilly fast after the sun dropped behind the mountains to the west.

Once we got in the tent and settled Sonny started shivering and I was worried that I hadn't brought enough for them to sleep on. I figured a towel would be sufficient - they're dogs, right? - then I thought maybe he just hadn't dried out from his swim. So, I gave him part of my pad... That didn't do the trick. He was still shivering and this time I peeled off my down coat and put that over him. At this point it was in the wee hours of the morning and the moon had risen and the deer were out. I could have reached my hand out of the tent and tripped them - they seemed that close.

When Sonny still wouldn't stop shivering I opened my sleeping bag (which Skagit was sharing with me at the time) and he put his head in next to my stomach. That was finally when he stopped shivering. I suspect it was because he couldn't hear all the activity outside the tent, being under so many layers... I slept cold after that - but managed to sleep in 5-10 minute increments between being kicked, sat on, licked, and scratched by Sonny and my puppy thoughout the rest of the early morning hours. I don't think I was so glad to see the beginning of another day.

It was a beautiful morning in the mountains and the hike out was mostly uneventful. We followed the same trail that we had come in on and when we passed Heart lake we saw the fisherman - but this time he came over to meet me in the trail. His name was Duane Smith and he was the owner of a dog that had gotten attacked in the dog fight that we overheard the day before. "Roxy" was absolutely torn apart by these dogs! They were unable to get her out the night before since it was too late in the day and they thought it would get dark by the time they got to the trailhead. So, he patched her up and they were in the process of breaking down camp that morning to get her to the vet in Missoula.

Later on that night Duane called me to tell me that his dog suffered more than a dozen wounds that had to be stitched up and some muscle damage from how deep some of the wounds were.

It goes to show you that there are some people out there who just can't control their dogs. They shouldn't have brought all four of them on the trail, unleashed, that's for sure.

I know that it overshadowed our trip, and the dog fight completely ruined Duane and his family's trip.

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