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Published: October 9th 2016
Our destination was Tower Lake, referring to the tower of the distinctive Castle Mountain
. The route was simple. And always up. My wearied calculations as the goal seemed ever illusive was a 15%!g(MISSING)rade, except for the portions of 20%!g(MISSING)rade. A few dips towards the top gave relief both on the way up, and on the way down, down, down.
The best part of this hiking was walking amongst the trees and wild flowers. The dappled sunshine lit the open forest, punctuated by thin, greyed deadfall. With all the rain in the past weeks, the undergrowth was luxuriant with spring-like bright greens. Yellow cornflowers and purple fleabane popped their presence amongst the grasses. Tiny black currants, still sour, promised late feasts for the bears.
Concerns about bears and stories about encounters were a rich source of conversation for the first hour, even though the warning on the trail was about a wolf. (None of us had seen a wild wolf, so nothing to converse about.) A couple of people in our small walking group had bear spray ; the rest of us doubted we would have the presence of mind to use it. We agreed that it would be
good to have the option. But we relied on our group numbers and our noise to warn bears we were coming. No bears revealed themselves, and the only scat was from horses.
About the time I almost asked if Tower Lake had been erased by the 2013 floods, a thin layer of pale blue could be glimpsed through the spindly trees. Our thankfulness was loudly expressed, and I thought of jumping into it from joy! In a few moments, the round mirrored water brought smiles to our almost grouchy faces. We trekked across the relatively dry bog to a large rock outcrop for much anticipated lunch. Looking up from my first bite of sandwich, I realized we were directly under the high fortress walls of the Castle. Aptly named.
And the view included two buff (both meanings!) twenty-somethings cooling off in the freezing mountain water.
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