Attack of the killer bugs: Episode 3 of the Lake Isabel trilogy.

June 01, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

So, I've written about my first (failed) and second attempts to get to Lake Isabel. If you follow my instagram (@taylorthornephotography) you know that I hiked it again and spent the night, and explored a suspected second waterfall. Since that trip, just like my first successful excursion, was made on the foggiest day ever, I've been itching to get back to Lake Isabel on a clear, sunny day when I could actually see the opposite shore instead of a horror-movie fog. I finally got my chance, and after a relaxing stroll through the rainforest, I spent a soothing evening reading on the shore of the clear mountain lake.

Ha ha, just kidding, I got eaten by bugs.

So let's start the story of this trip with me wanting a tin coffee cup with a rolled (not stainless steel) rim, which finds me wandering three stores in two different cities, including the Redmond REI (which is always a bad idea, as now I need a new backpack). I wanted to be hiking first thing, and instead didn't get on the trail until after two. On the way up (relatively uneventful since I know the various non-trails now) I met another hiker, the first other human I've seen on this particular hike. Folks from back home in the Midwest should understand something about the forests here: they aren't like your forests back home. They will swallow you whole for the minor transgression of not paying attention to them at all times. I was 10 feet away from this guy before we saw each other, and I was making normal huffing/puffing twig-cracking hiking noises. We exchanged brief pleasantries, then he remarked: “I'm lost. I can see the orange flag but I'm off the trail somehow”. The orange tag was maybe 30 ft away, and he could have gotten back to the trail by bushwhacking his way to it, but this illustrates how impenetrable some parts of these forests are. He was six feet away from the trail and couldn't tell where it was. I pointed out that I was currently standing in the trail, and he hopped over and we continued our separate ways. After about ten steps I looked back at where I knew the trail was, and couldn't see him anymore.

After getting to the lake and taking a couple pictures, I thought about trying to hike to the other end, but there isn't a trail and the hill between me and there was impenetrable. I decided to pick a camping spot and relax. About this time I'm realizing that the bugs that were bugging me right where Lake Isabel runs into May Creek (a clogged mass of logs and stagnant water) had apparently followed me up the hill and were competing to see who could crawl furthest into my face. I quickly selected a site for my tent and broke the sound barrier setting it up, and was huddled in it just 30 minutes after arriving lakeside. I mean, these things were getting stuck in my beard, didn't respond to getting shook off (or blowing, or running and screaming), they were really tenacious. I resigned myself to spending the rest of the evening looking at the sunset through a fine mesh, and reached for my book. Which wasn't there. I forgot to pack it. So I read the first aid manual that came with my ancient first aid kit. Did you know gypsies consider touching below the waist before touching above the waist to be an insult? Thanks first aid manual, if I ever have to perform a focused survey on a gypsy, I'll be prepared.

My time in Montana taught me that every noise outside my tent at night is bear. Always. Even though I've seen no sign of them in WA yet. So after a night of something vaguely like sleep, I got up with the intention of making coffee on my little Pocket Rocket stove and having some trail mix for breakfast. Instead, I was greeted by an even thicker cloud of blood-thirsty bugs than the night before, who chased me through getting the tent down, and then chased me down the hill to the western waterfall, then chased me past that until I got back to the real trail, on the east side of May Creek. I don't normally get panicky about anything except spiders, but these malicious bugs had me running and jumping through the woods like a lunatic. I couldn't even take pictures they were so bad. The only spot they left me alone was if I stood in the spray coming off the waterfall.

I eventually got beyond their territory and got my coffee and breakfast, and got home. I didn't get as many photos as usual out of this hike, partly from the bugs and partly from the nature of the trip: rather than being a discovery of a new trail, a new place, this was all about the destination. All I wanted was to see the lake on a clear day, and now I've done that. Hopefully now I can move on to other hikes, other lakes, other bugs.  


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