We arrived at the trailhead around 12:30, and were on the trails with horses fully loaded at 1:30 on a beautifully clear afternoon.
You can hear the sound of the "bear bells" we hung on the horses in the video, over the sound of the wind.
I was glad we didn't have to go over the mesa--and I'm sure that Fiddle would be even more glad, since she was carrying all the gear (plus me!).
After Rock Mesa, we were suddenly surrounded by green: grass, shrubs, and trees. Even the water was dark green snowmelt, instead of grey-blue from glaciar runoff.
Fiddle wanted to stop and snack on some of this lovely green grass, but Cricket wanted to GO-GO-GO!!! That was a recurring theme for the trip, actually.....
(That sentence right there is an example of a literary device called foreshadowing, which is a hint to readers that, later on, the "GO-GO-GO thing" might be linked to the "Adventure-thing." Not yet, though. So far, it's just a hint, a foreshadow. So far....)
Once it started getting green, we knew we were getting close to the James Creek Shelter.
We knew that there were lots of horses camped at the meadow near the shelter, because we'd met a woman in the parking lot who was headed up there to join friends. We said hello to the horsepeople in the meadow, passed along a message from Kate in the parking lot, and then we continued moving uphill.
Soon we came to the weirdest-looking water-crossing I have seen in many years. It's a pretty poor design, and it looks like it will erode horribly in a few years.
However, it's quite new still and so quite functional. Our horses didn't seem to think it was too strange looking, and they walked right down the sand stairs, over Separation Creek, and up the stairs on the other side.
After Separation Creek, it was obvious that the Northwest Youth Corps had been busily clearing and repairing trails covered by blown-down trees and eroded rocks.
I was impressed with the huge amount of work the crews had done. Apparently, the kids were only a few days ahead of us, so the trails were all freshly cleared. What a delight!
Suddenly, we popped out of the trees and onto Racetrack Meadow.
That's the Middle Sister poking up into the sky, there in the picture. I thought it was North Sister, but Sky reminded me that it is actually the Middle Sister, also known as "Hope." I stand corrected!
First we had to pass Husband Lake, which I thought was the prettiest lake on the whole trip. It was also the buggy-est lake, so we stayed just long enough to take a few pretty pictures, and then we moved along.
The big mountain in this photo is called the South Sister--the mountain called Husband Mountain is behind me as I took this photo.
There was one more obstacle in front of us before we could reach our camp: the Rickety Bridge. After Lytha's mis-adventure with a horse and a bridge, we were loathe to cross this ugly-looking thing.
But we were slow, and careful.....
...and we crossed it safely. Whew! We actually crossed the bridge several times, but never casually. The support structure beneath the battered top boards is still very sound, but the top boards are pretty trashed. I was trying not to invite disaster by envisioning one of those rotton boards crunching away under Fiddle's foot...>>shiver<<
At last, we got to camp!
Sky wrestled with the stove (more about that in later posts, I promise) and I built a fire.
Then, we watched the sun set over Eileen Lake.
Life....well, you know. It's good.