Monday, August 11, 2008

Great Basin National Park Camping Trip - Day 2

We awoke to sunshine and clear skies the next morning, a sign of another perfect to come. We had breakfast: biscuits made in a dutch oven (John's specialty), Maggie cooked up fried eggs and bacon while I made fruit salad.

They were THE BEST biscuits we've ever had! Nice golden brown shell and moist goodness inside. Piping hot and absolutely delicious with a spread of butter and jam.

With fresh brewed, hot coffee this breakfast was enough to jump start my morning. I'm gonna need this hearty breakfast to prepare me for the day!

After breakfast, we took off for our day's hike to Johnson Lake (which turned out to be THE hike from hell) near Snake Creek. The difficulty was rated, "moderate" with incline grades averaging 30 to 45 degrees--this 3.6 mile hike was nothing short of easy. Had I known the hike was going to be so brutal, I would've stayed back at the camp to catch the warm sun's rays. But none of us had taken this trail before and so we started at 11 a.m., not knowing the seriousness of the challenge ahead we walked up the trail like sheep walking towards a lion's lair. The elevation was 8,320 feet.

Still the view of the country was gorgeous and everything was so quiet except for our voices as we chatted during our ascent, staying hydrated with cool water and eating Maggie's delicious home-made granola bars along the way. We walked and walked...and hiked and hiked never passing another soul (and now I know why). After each hike up a long, long stretch, we thought for sure we would come upon the lake but each corner led to another climb uphill and after rounding a bend, the trail led up as far as our eyes could see--to nowhere. We kept saying the lake has to be right there or the lake must be beyond this corner only to realize we weren't there yet.

We were together enjoying the afternoon so that's all that mattered. Finally we came upon a historic site, Johnson Mill, at 3.4 miles along our hike.
We stopped to have the yummy sandwich Maggie made for lunch, chicken curry sandwich with raisins. Moist and flavorful with a little kick, it was what I need to make it to the lake less than a quarter mile away now. The only thing that stood in our way was a rocky stretch of what must've been a 45 degree climb to the top. Looking up the hill...

...and looking down from where we came. If you saw this photo in full resolution, you would see that it is a loooong way down just as it is a loooooonger way up! The air got thinner and thinner with each breath I took. I felt like I couldn't get enough air into my lungs with each inhale. Every deep breath didn't satisfy my oxygen requirement.

As much as I wanted to quit at times when my lungs were burning, I was more angry than determined to finally see this freakin' lake! I thought, this lake had better be worth all this effort. I was afraid that Johnson Lake was probably just a puddle of water and not much of a sight to see...LOL!!! But we had come too far to quit. We hiked to see Johnson Lake and we're gonna see this lake if it's the LAST thing we see! Suddenly I got a burst of aggressive energy to carry me through the climb. One last assault on our climb up 2,440 feet over 3.6 miles.

We finally came upon some more cabins. The temperature drastically dropped ten or fifteen degrees; it felt like we walked into a refrigerator. There was a wall, it looked like we had reached the end and I surveyed the area around me. WTF?! Where the hell is the lake?, I thought. I was beginning to think there wasn't a lake but my husband was ahead of me and he declared the lake was within view.

There it finally was--Johnson Lake!!!

By Golly, we did it--2 hours and 45 minutes later we were at 10,760 feet elevation. What a relief! There wasn't much of the lake but it was clear. So clear we could see the rocks underneath the surface. And shallow enough for me to swim in it but it would've been too cold.

I took a video of the view.

It was close to 2'oclock and time to start our descent which was just the opposite, 99% downhill.

Every now and then I would look back up at the trail and think we were crazy to go up there. Knowing what I know now from this experience, I wouldn't go back up. At least not any time soon. (Johnson Lake is nestled in the saddle between the two peaks pictured here below.)

Finally the truck was in sight and we made our way back to camp (after driving to Ely. We were in search of a foam mattress pad and some root beer float. Like Maggie said, don't get any hopes up when you're shopping in Ely because we didn't find what we wanted. We settled for ice cream at a convenience store and drove back to camp.)

We spotted elk along the freeway and another deer near our campsite.

Dinner tonight was smoked sausage, ranch beans, corn, and coleslaw. YUM!!! We couldn't wait to put our feet up and relax with refreshing drinks.

And some more s'mores by the campfire before calling it a night. On this particular night, everyone slept like rocks after a grueling 7.2 mile hike up to and back from Johnson Lake.

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