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Highland Lakes Trip

Day 2 of 3

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Friday, July 4th
Folger Peak and Hiram Peak hikes

Originally I'd hoped to camp without the rainfly on. Before I fell asleep, though, I found myself sufficiently cold that I put the rainfly on. It dropped into the mid-40's at night. When I woke up, I sat in the tent waiting for it to warm up. Eventually I emerged around 7am, had breakfast, then went back inside the tent to wait some more.

Eventually, around 9:30am, I walked to the western edge of the camp and started off on a hike up Folger Peak.

When I returned to camp, I discovered that the large group that'd been camping across from me was gone. I surmised that they probably left to get back home in time for fireworks. That reminded me of the time I went backpacking to Jennie Lake and everyone cleared out on the morning of the Fourth of July. Something to keep in mind when planning a trip.

I rested a few minutes at camp while I debated with myself. I was toying with the idea of hiking up Hiram Peak, but the book I had (Schaffer's "Carson-Iceberg Wilderness" said that acrophobics probably should steer clear of it. I am definitely an acrophobic. But eventually I told myself that if I reached the critical section and couldn't continue, I'd just turn around. So I re-filled my Camelbak, walked to the upper campground, and started off on the hike to Hiram Peak.

After the hike, I had an early dinner and then waited. I wanted to walk up to the saddle below Folger Peak so that I could take sunset pictures. I figured I would want to get up there around 7:30pm, the sun setting around 8:15pm. It was still 6pm. So I waited and waited, finally leaving around 7:10pm.

The people at the camp next to the trail were eating dinner as I trudged up the hill. It had only taken me 13 minutes to descend from the far end of the plateau, so I figured it couldn't take me more than about 20 minutes to climb. I took my sweet time, gaining the saddle in 14 minutes, then heading south across the wide flat area. If you come here and aren't able to hike all the way up to Folger Peak, at least do yourself a favor and climb to the saddle. You'll be rewarded with excellent views for very little effort.

Lichen on rocks

The landscape was just glowing in the evening sunshine, especially the orange and yellow lichen growing on the rocks. I regretted a little leaving my macro lens and high-speed film at camp; the wildflowers looked like they were glowing, as well. Reaching the edge of the plateau, I set up my tripod and aimed my camera squarely at Airola Peak to the southwest. Hiram Peak, to the southeast, looked positively ugly in comparison. While Airola Peak had classic sloped sides with patches of snow, Hiram Peak looked like a big monolith with only gravel clinging to its sides. On the other hand, I'd like to make up a quote here: "To get great views, climb the ugliest mountain you can find." So while Hiram Peak may not look pretty, it gets kudos for the great view from the top (mostly of Airola Peak). This reminds me of climbing Brokeoff Mountain and liking the view from there better than that from Lassen Peak, partly because I could see Lassen from Brokeoff.

Lichen on rocks

While standing there, waiting for the sun to set, I was reminded of the time I stood on the West Rim at Zion, staring out into that strange mountain desert land at the same time of day. This time, I was all alone to enjoy the moment. I could see a bunch of campers next to a tent at the end of the road below me, but they were far out of earshot. They probably saw me and wondered what was I doing up there. Little did they know I was only minutes away.

Last rays of light on Airola Peak

The sun finally disappeared beneath a range of mountains and it got cool very quickly. I descended, again taking exactly 13 minutes, and didn't have to turn on my headlamp. After returning to camp, I warmed myself up with a cup of hot chocolate.


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