Ancient Lakes


JUNE 14 - 15, 2008  A Mountaineers backpack.  Sun, sun, and more sun was in store for us as we hiked in to Ancient Lakes this weekend.  There was a nice breeze, but temperatures were in the 80's, and the one thing missing from this landscape is shade.  A few shrubs were tall enough to  provide some measure of relief, but the the blazing sun heats up the rocks.   The sun, though welcome, was unrelenting as we set up camp and then hiked up a ridge above one of the lakes, crossed a plateau and scrambled up a saddle to look down on nearby Dusty Lake.   Having been warned that the lake water in this basin is unsafe to drink, we each packed in about 5 liters (11 pounds!) of water; I drank nearly 4 liters the first day and wished for more. 

Although the basalt cliffs are very dramatic, the landscape seems stark, colorless, and barren at first glance.  As you begin to see with new eyes, however, the landscape comes alive with color and sound:  Bright blue skies, colorful wildflowers, green oases, deep blue lakes, and the songs of a wide variety of birds and frogs.   And tucked away at a corner of the largest lake, a waterfall in the desert.  The evening sun sets the cliffs on fire, and the night sky is full of stars.  Although the wildflowers were past prime this late in the spring, I saw  flowers that I had never seen before in addition to many old favorites:  purple loosestrife, milkweed, mariposa lily, buckwheat, blazing-star, salsify seed heads, white virgins-bower, and fleabane.  We did not see any snakes on this hike.