And so the adventure begins…

I woke up kinda late (by backpacking standards), but there was something I needed to do. The night before I noticed that the head on my tripod was loose, so I spent the morning tracking down an Allen wrench to tighten the screws. I tried to find a set in the park store, but there were none being sold. Luckily I found a maintenance worker who had a set and was nice enough to help me out. Going three days with a loose tripod head would not have been good.

From there it was almost an hour drive to the trailhead, so I didn’t arrive until about 10AM. It took me about another hour to get everything ready for the hike. I secured my extra food in the bear bins and made sure I had everything I needed. Of course once I made it out on the trail I realized all the things I should have brought, and everything that I probably didn’t need, but my adventure began, and I was excited.

Before setting out I set goals for myself for each day. Today I wanted to finish 12 miles and end up at Buena Vista Lake for the night, but after the first half mile I knew I might be in trouble. I had already gone up 700 feet in elevation and with my overpacked backpack I was already pretty winded. But I pressed on knowing the only way I’d get anywhere is to just keep going. I’d also seen my first waterfall by this point so I was happy about that.

The next 3.5 miles were tough and took longer than I was hoping, but where I ended up was completely worth it. I made it to Chilnualna around 2 PM, and it was beautiful. My feet and back were pretty sore at this point, and I had worked up a pretty good sweat. The pools made by the river were too inviting to pass up so I took off my stinky shoes and socks and dipped my feet in for a soak. There’s not much that feels better after a tough 4 miles, but this created a dilemma for me should I continue the 8 miles to the lake I originally planned to camp at, or change my plan and just stay around here for the night. I figured if I pushed myself I could probably get to the lake around 6 and I’d still have a couple hours of daylight, but I also thought it’d be nice to just have a nice relaxing afternoon to explore this beautiful river and waterfall. So I changed into my bathing suit and instead had a full soak in the pools at the top of Chilnualna falls. And it was the best decision I made on the trip.

The water was cold, the rocks were slippery but also warm, and the drop was far, but it made for a great spot to re-energize. It was probably now about 4, I thought it would be a good idea to try to find a place to camp for the night, plus a few more people came up so there were a few too many people for my liking. Above the falls there was a whole other area to explore with even more than down below. 

I first found a spot to camp for the night. Really I just didn’t want to lug around my pack anymore. I found a tree with a nice open area around it and decided this would be where I’d camp for the night, so I leaned my pack against the tree. The nice thing about long hikes is that generally people are pretty good to each other, and how you’d hope they’d be under normal circumstances. I had no hesitation of leaving my bag unattended while I explored, even though it had everything I’d need for the next few days in it.

With it getting a little bit later I decided to scout for a good sunset spot before it got to late. From the top of Chilnualna I saw a spot that I thought might be cool for sunset, but I wasn’t sure if there was a trail over to the spot I had in mind. It took a little bush whackin’ and improvisation, but I managed to get myself to the cliff opposing the waterfall, and was actually able to see what Chilnualna falls looked like.

The hike back made up my mind that this might not be the best place for sunset, especially with more equipment and less light. This is where I first regret leaving my little day bag back in the car, it would have made for any easier scramble back up the rocks.

With a little time before sunset I went to explore a little it more. Not far from my campsite was another cascade. It was off the beaten path but ended up being my favorite spot I found all day. The nice sun soaked rocks and deep pool for when those got too hot, a few taller rocks to jump off of, plus a little music made for a relaxing and revitalizing afternoon. The only people I saw for the rest of the day were a father and daughter looking for good spots to jump from.

If the video had any audio you’d hear a bit of a yelp when I realized this rock was a little higher than I initially thought. 

As the sun went behind the trees surrounding the pool and the rocks cooled I hiked my stove and a camping dinner to a spot overlooking a large valley full of pine trees. I cooked my dinner (with too much water) and watched the sun set behind the mountains, the light move in a line across the valley floor as the mountains overtook the sun, and the 3/4 moon rise over the trees opposing the sun.

It got cold quickly after the sun went down but once I was cozy in my sleeping bag it didn’t matter anymore. I left the rain cover off my tent this night and watched the stars for as long as I could, but sleep found me quickly after a good long day.