At the conclusion of my last article, I joyfully described the relief we experienced when that huge black bear we met along the trail decided to depart over the adjoining ridge. After that experience I developed a habit of looking over my shoulder while walking along the trail for the next few hours.
After a short time we arrived at the junction to Sandpiper Lake. Our objective was to fish this lake for a few hours before continuing along the main trail. Now with the bear taking the short route across the ridge to this lake, maybe we should forget fishing today. Majority ruled and we continued hiking the main trail.
With all this excitement, which took our minds off of the mosquito population, we arrived at the East Fork River. I could physically wipe them off my jacket, they were that thick. Unfortunately we are faced with another unexpected situation; the river was higher than expected. Being late afternoon, the extreme heat caused the snow to melt at an alarming rate. The early morning depth was only inches but by late afternoon we’re talking almost waist high.
A decision had to be made; do we camp at this location and fight off the mosquitoes, or cross the river and seek a dryer and higher elevation location for a campsite. We voted for the river crossing. After tying my rope to a tree, with rope in hand I waded across and tied it to a large pine tree on the opposite side. Nancy and Christa followed, holding to the rope for stability. I made the final trip back across to untie the rope and carry my dog Smokey. Normally Smokey could have forged across, but the current was much too swift and there was a log jam directly below us. If he couldn’t master the swift moving water he would have been swept under the log jam. Happy to say we all survived this obstacle and continued to higher ground to set up our campsite on a huge flat rock above all those pasty mosquitoes.
We enjoyed the relief that evening, but they were waiting for us in swarms the following morning along the trail. Throughout the morning we could not stop to rest because of their aggressiveness. Our plans were to spend the following night at Kip Camp at the junction to the Bear Creek Trail. However under the circumstances we continued hiking to a lower elevation to avoid those pesky insects. The Bear Ridge Trail follows Bear Creek, and in my opinion is one of the forgotten spectacular sights within these mountains. Deep canyons, waterfalls and sculptured rock croppings follow this wilderness trail.
The sun was setting when we arrived at our final campsite at Bear Diversion Dam. Today was our toughest hike of this adventure. We hiked more than 13 miles in 11 hours. However the mosquitoes stayed at the higher elevations and here at 7,350 feet we could now enjoy our evening campfire.
This adventure had many surprises and hopefully Nancy and Christa will have exciting memories of their first wilderness experience.