After spending last night dry but mostly awake listening to storms rolling through. I got up and contemplated not hiking at all today. It rained lightly but steadily throughout the night and until mid morning but had now tapered off. In all my time hiking in had never taken a “zero miles” day in camp. Plenty in town, but none while camped. If I did zero day here it would certainly be a long day to fill though I had my sketchbook and had not drawn since the beginning of the trip at Silver Lake.
I thought it over while contemplating the off trail travel that lay ahead. I certainly did not want to bushwhack in the rain, honestly I didn’t want to do it all. There were 2 more lean-to’s along the Cedar Lakes, the last was right were I would start the off trail section. Though it was only a little under 2 miles away I decided it would be best to head there for the day, wait till tomorrow and hopefully begin my next bushwhack in drier conditions.
As I made my way around the lake, the skies showed some signs of gradual clearing but it wasn’t exactly bright and sunny. I briefly stopped at the second lean-to so I could see the view. It was a nicer lean-to than the first but nothing special. Confident the right thing to do was move to the last I pressed on. I reached the third lean-to around noon and it was empty.
The skies were clearing and the sun breaking out. My hiking clothes were still pretty damp from the rain hiking the day before so I decided to try and build a fire. There was plenty of dry enough kindling and smaller wood but most everything else was wet. After about a hour of trying with small successes I was ready to give up. Just then someone came up to the lean-to and said “Hello”. Scared me so bad I almost jumped into my failing smoldering fire.
He asked if I had planned on staying at the lean-to for the night and I confirmed but said he was welcome to join me. He said he was with a few friends but might be back. Less than 2 minutes later him and 2 others came floating up to the lean-to in a small but quite packed boat. They introduced themselves as Dan, John and Roscoe and told me they were locals out for a couple of days in the area on a fishing trip.
As they headed out to fish and I made some lunch and set up my hammock nearby. They returned and Roscoe stayed behind as the others headed out again to fish some more and grab some driftwood for a fire.
Roscoe and I spent a good hour or two talking while the others fished. The others were closer to my age but Roscoe was a older gentleman, probably in his early 70’s. He was retired now but he had worked for the state for almost 30 years. He had built many of the dams, trails and lean-to’s in the area including the second lean-to I had visited earlier today and the now defunct dam at the head of the Cedar Lakes. I asked lots and lots of questions. I was utterly fascinated being able to talk with someone who not only had great knowledge of the area but had worked on the very lands I was using to hike. What would be the chances?
Eventually the others returned with fresh caught brook trout as well as a boat overflowing with dry driftwood. They got a nice fire going and I thought to myself how foolish the fella from NYC must have looked trying to do the same with damp wood.
It was diner time and they were gracious enough to share their fresh catch of the day. Having come by boat they were able to spare no expense with cooking gear and seasonings. I was very excited not to be eating freeze dried backpacker food. I had my fill of fresh fish which were expertly cooked by Dan.
As we were sitting around eating John was reading through the register in the lean-to. Just about every lean-to keeps a notebook which many visitors sign, post stories of their trip, advice for those who follow or just general ramblings. I read them once in while but admittedly don’t usually pay them to much mind. Well John began reading this one aloud “There are 7 beers buried in a bucket near the big rock on the side of the lean-to. Enjoy!” he added that it included a rudimentary map. “You think?” he said as we all looked up in attention. He read the date which was only 3 days earlier. He made his way to the side of the lean to and I thought to myself, no way. Even if they were actually there at some point they’d surely be gone by now.
Despite my pessimism, I decided to join John in looking. As John and I looked around there weren’t a lot of rocks but he found one and no luck. I found another and it looked like it had a lot of dug up dirt around it. I shouted and John came over. We cleared dirt and rolled the rock over. Just below the dirt I was hitting something solid and gasped. John dug up a lid, pulled it out of the ground, reached into the bucket and sure enough wrapped in a old t-shirt were 7 still fairly cold beers!
We ate fresh fish, drank beer, told fish tales, hiking tales, I dried my boots and socks by the fire as we talked till just after dark. I was also able to show them my proposed bushwhack route ahead and they gave me the low down on the best way to proceed in the morning. I now had local knowledge of the path ahead! I chuckled to myself thinking of the 8 hours in the drenching rain yesterday and what if I had pressed on today?
It has been my experience when distance hiking its almost always true if you have a really bad day one day, the next is very likely to be something special.