Day 4. Out of camp at 9:30 after packing tents, first mountain goats observed high up to the left along the Chinese Wall (Swep said one was three–legged, which kept us looking). The Chinese Wall is a thousand-foot high scarp of limestone that stretches for a dozen miles – a dramatic manifestation of the Continental Divide that we paralleled on our journey. The Wall is the rocky playground for these agile goats. Leisurely lunch on Pendleton blanket Tracy wisely brought and tied daily to her saddle with rain gear, as we marveled at the long, continuous, nose to tail, pack of muscular mules calmly yet determinedly marching by us.
Further north, we come to the limestone and red shale North Wall, about 10 miles long and seemingly even more primitive. Our trail followed the foot of this towering rampart, its starkness contrasting to the wildflowers and berries and grasses in meadows at the base of the towering cliff. I really need to learn the names and more about these berries, and flowers, and their lifecycles.
Highlight was Tracy and I, after a short hike, bravely swimming (only about 10 strokes because so cold!) in gorgeous, high mountain lake, Lake Levale -- set against the backdrop of the rugged North Wall (seems like huge human faces carved into its side) and blue sky studded with journeying cumulus clouds. Arctic grayling fish were surfacing continuously, making ripples across the otherwise smooth turquoise waters. The spiritual experience is beginning to settle in. You see why the wilderness is known as Nature’s Cathedral.
Tent positioned a little too much downhill last night which continued to ball up each of us at the foot of the tent all night. Hard to scoot uphill every hour in a sleeping bag. Will be more careful in choosing a flatter spot – even a few degrees matters!
It's been four days without internet, TV, smartphone. The inner self is beginning to merge with the outer without all the clutter of oncoming! As RW Emerson wrote: “The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other.” We, now 4 days in the wilderness, begin to feel this adjustment. We need to make sure this environment of pure nature is preserved for generations to come.