woke up at 6:00 a.m. to a tapping noise which seemed to be coming
from the side of the cabin. Was
the bear back? Was he
trying to break in? No,
I realized, it was George - he had accidentally locked himself
out, and was tapping on the door.
I came down and let him in, and then climbed back in my
sleeping bag to snooze. Lying
there lazily, I could follow George’s movements by the sounds,
as he turned on the propane, split wood, and started a fire.
He even made coffee and tea, and brought it upstairs to us
in the loft. What
weather was nicer this morning, with patches of blue sky among the
clouds, and a pale moon hung low in the sky.
The sun was peeking out for the first time since we had
come to Twin Lakes. The
thermometer outside the kitchen window still read 42 degrees, but
the one on the porch said it was 53.
the first time I was able to truly appreciate the view from the
outhouse. When I
booked the cabin Gary had said something about the outhouse having
Dutch doors and a view to die for, but this was the first time it
had been clear enough to see the top of the mountain.
It was very windy though; Jineen and I had hoped to take
the canoe out but the water was way too rough.
Even getting water for drinking and cooking was a
challenge; we dipped the bucket in the lake from the end of the
dock as it heaved and bucked on the waves.
Jineen feeds a jay
jays were getting bolder. We
gave them an early breakfast of lemon cookies, which they really
liked. They seemed to
be increasing in numbers; at first just a couple had been coming
to eat, but now half a dozen or more were taking turns.
They would perch on the big spruce tree not far from the
porch, and then swoop down to light on our hand, greedily
snatching pieces of cookie from our fingers.
made blueberry pancakes for breakfast, using the blueberries we
had picked above Emerson Creek the previous day.
They were amazing - just indescribably delicious.
They were the best pancakes I have ever tasted.
The jays saw us eating them through the window, and flocked
to the porch railing in eager anticipation.
We did a scientific taste comparison test with the jays,
and came to the conclusion that they definitely preferred the
blueberry pancakes to plain. So
wrote the following entry in the cabin guest book, concerning
feeding the jays and the recipe for blueberry pancakes:
On this date we conducted a scientific, double blind experiment
and determined that the ‘camp robber’ jays prefer blueberry
pancakes to the plain variety.
1. Charter a small plane, fly to Anchorage, and buy Bisquick,
milk, eggs, and vegetable oil (approx. time one day to one week
depending on weather).
2. Take the boat to the mouth of Emerson's Creek. Walk up
the creek through willows, up on the bench above the creek, follow
mostly non-existent trail to blueberry bushes. (approx. time - 2
hrs. each way) Pick blueberries and return to cabin.
3. Follow directions on Bisquick box - and add blueberries.
Make blueberry pancakes.
4. Feed Jays - they will appreciate your effort. -
wind was so strong that we were hesitant to take the boat out on
the lake, so we decided to make another attempt at hiking up to
the falls above the cabin. Hoping
to find the right trail which we had missed on the first evening,
we reviewed Gary’s directions: Follow
the game trail that begins directly behind the lower outhouse and
follow this trail until the waterfall drainage is reached.
Then follow the drainage staying on the west side until the
waterfalls are reached.
right? Well, easier
said than done. We
couldn’t find the right game trail, and we couldn’t find any
useable drainage to follow. In
fact, the only thing in the directions we did find was the outhouse! From
there, we set out on what we hoped might be the correct game
trail, but it wound around in circles and brought us back out
above the Windsong cabin, several hundred feet from where we had
started. At that
point, we just struck out uphill in the general direction of where
we thought the waterfall might be, trail or no trail.
first, we padded through a forest of spruce with deep mossy
footing underneath, clambering over downed trees and dodging
hidden pools. Climbing
steadily, we came to a belt of aspens with thick underbrush, and
fought our way up through them.
After a while we came out to an area that from a distance
had appeared to be above the treeline, but we found ourselves in a
dense thicket of willow shrubs higher than our heads, choked with
bushes and undergrowth. As
we climbed, our route became steeper and more difficult.
Slippery, too. We
crashed our way uphill through the riot of shrubbery, climbing
hand over hand, grasping willow branches for traction.
about whether to continue, we said we’d go as far as the lone
spruce tree several hundred yards up and then decide.
Upon reaching it, we rested a bit and then set our sights
on another spruce, still further up the slope.
And then yet another. In
this piecemeal fashion we continued working our way up the
mountainside. Had we
thought yesterday’s hike tough?
This was much harder. George
thought we were trying to kill him.
came to a gully, and hoping it was the drainage Gary’s
directions had mentioned, we followed it upward through dense
brush. But the slope
was so sheer that finding a foothold was treacherous; surely this
was not the way Gary had meant us to come.
Eventually the undergrowth thinned, which was a mixed
blessing because now there were no willow branches for handholds.
on legs of rubber, we came out into the open country above the
brush line and made our way up to a rocky shelf.
We decided that this viewpoint was a worthy destination,
and the heck with finding the waterfall – we had gone far
ascended the outcropping easily and George scrambled up after her
with little difficulty, but I clutched at the rock face
apprehensively, clinging to the side of the mountain and looking
down at the sheer drop-off below.
When I eventually regained my composure enough to take off
my pack and sit down, I was rewarded with a beautiful view of the
lake far below us.
Upper Twin Lake - the view from the mountainside.
the wind was strong, the sun was shining and the temperature was
mild. It was the best
weather we’d had yet, and we sat on the mountainside basking in
the sunshine and enjoying the view. A
little Cessna floatplane landed on the lake near Dick
Proenneke’s cabin, presumably bringing supplies to the ranger,
and then took off again a bit later.
back down was much less strenuous, but somewhat treacherous.
We went slipping and sliding down through the thick brush,
with no more of a trail than we had on the way up.
We came to a deep gully and slid down it like a luge run.
We weren’t exactly sure of the way back to the cabin,
other than to just keep heading downhill.
spotted a large bird in a tree; George thought it was a blue
grouse, which are not known for their intelligence.
He told us he had encountered a blue grouse once on a
hunting trip, and his hunting partner had bet that he could knock
it out of the tree with a rock.
On the first throw the rock had missed by half an inch, and
the grouse never moved. The
second throw had hit the bird in the head and killed it, and they
ate it for dinner. Testing
the theory, George threw a stick at this bird, which whizzed close
over its head, barely missing it - and the bird never moved a
definitely a blue grouse.
we made it down to the lake, and turning left, followed the
shoreline back to the cabin. We
were half hoping Barney the bear would be there to greet us, but
there was no sign of him.
looking up from the boat in the lake, we could see a big cleft
high on the mountain with a thin white stream of water; the falls
we had never found, surely a much bigger torrent during snowmelt.
We could also see the rocky shelf where we had sat, high
above the treeline. We
had actually been above the falls, but too far to the left.
There must be an easier way up to those falls, but we never
butter and honey sandwiches for lunch, and then we were ready to
go fishing. It was
still really windy. Both
Gary and the air taxi pilot had warned us not to take the boat
across the lake if the waves were rough, so we planned to stay
close to the shore where we hoped it would be more
water was choppy, but it seemed safe enough.
We followed the shoreline, trolling for lake trout, but
with no success – surely the water was too rough.
We stopped at a sheltered cove where two streams flowed
into the lake and cast from the shore.
Nothing. We had
read a website blog where the Sparrow Brothers described catching
50 fish a day while staying at Windsong the previous summer, but
we were having no such luck. A
fish jumped out of the water just a few feet in front of me, but
even though the water was quieter here, nothing was biting.
Other than the one small fish Jineen caught two days
earlier, we had not had so much as a nibble.
Good thing we brought plenty of groceries with us!
George was getting frustrated - he is not the most patient
of fisherman (Jineen is). But
I was enjoying myself; it was a beautiful spot, and I was more
interested in photography than fishing.
I got some good panoramic shots of the mountains and of
George and Jineen fishing.
headed up to the top end of the lake where two rivers flow in.
George thought it would be a good place to fish for
grayling, and I just wanted to explore the lake.
The wind was picking up and clouds were moving in, and the
lake was getting rougher. We
trolled intermittently as we went, enjoying the spectacular
scenery. Patches of
sunlight illuminated the dramatic peaks, and dozens of high
waterfalls cascaded down steep slopes.
We could catch glimpses of snow amid the mist-shrouded
heights, and glaciers were creeping down the mountainsides.
A tall snow-covered mountain dominated the view up the
valley at the top of the lake.
for grayling was out of the question by the time we made it to the
head of the lake. The
waves suddenly became so big that the boat started to buck and
heave violently, and we decided it wasn’t safe to be out there.
We turned around and headed for home.
We hugged the shoreline; we had been advised to stay within
50 yards of shore if it was windy, because if you capsize the
water is so cold you would succumb to hypothermia within minutes,
so you couldn’t swim far.
boat was hitting the waves head-on, plunging and bucking over the
swales. This was
definitely the kind of conditions that we had been told not to take the boat out in. Jineen,
as uncomfortable on rough water as I am with heights, was
clutching the sides of the boat and looking pale - but I found it
Rough waters on the lake.
of us, we could see a storm moving in.
Clouds lowered over the mountaintops, and silver rain came
slanting down. Stray
sunbeams escaped through holes in the clouds, to form God’s rays
reaching from the sky down to the lake.
The wind blew even stronger, and the boat was slamming over
huge swells; my spine would never be the same.
It seemed much longer on the way home.
Of course we shouldn’t have been surprised; Upper Twin
Lake is big - 7 miles long and 3/4 of a mile wide - so we had to
have covered about five miles each way.
But still, I didn’t remember coming this far.
We finally got back to our little
cove at Windsong, where we wrestled the boat up on to the skids
and winched it out of the water.
Our feet and hands were frozen, and it was a relief to
stand on solid ground. George
made white bean soup for dinner; he’d had the beans cooking all
day on the wood stove, like Dick Proenneke described in his book. The
soup was fabulous - we were eating like kings.
I hope the wet socks
didn't drip into George's bean soup.
birds were getting greedy. I
was feeding them on the porch when one bold jay lit on my hand and
quickly gobbled all the crumbs offered, and looked around for
more. I held out a
pancake to him, expecting him to peck a bite out of it - but
instead he snatched the whole pancake out of my hand and flew away
with it! Camp Robber
is an apt name for these audacious little birds.