Sunday, August 26, 2012

Woodland Lake, Skyscraper Reservoir, Bob & Betty Lakes Loop

Thoughts on pareidolia

Ever since a slice of toast showing a "likeness" to the Virgin Mary was sold on eBay for $28,000 I knew there were no limits to human stupidity. Sadly, this stupidity is an almost uniquely American phenomenon with credulous individuals falling over themselves to look more ridiculous than everyone else with their spiritual claims and apparitions. A South Carolina woman recently claimed to have discovered Jesus on the back of a stingray. A Florida woman is convinced that Jesus appeared on the front of her power meter. A California couple discovered Jesus on their granite countertop. It seems there is no limit to the places where Jesus has been seen.

Seeing significance where there is none seems a common human response. Absent of rational explanations we simply seek patterns or just make stuff up. It is how we build narratives and attempt to make sense of the world. The fact that we know this ought to cause individuals to pause before declaring their stupidity so publicly...but it doesn't. And while we can all poke fun at them and laugh at their expense, the individuals concerned seem convinced that their "image" is the real deal. Of course it is. It's just as real as the invisible twin you see in the mirror each morning. This is more than gullibility, it is outright defiance of all logic and reason and individuals should bear some social cost for this nonsense.

I mention this in passing because the trail loop I ran this morning was absent of the usual naming convention of places in the mountains. Typically, I see lakes named after their physical appearance - Heart lake, for example, or Long Lake. But today I would visit Woodland Lake - a purely descriptive name - and Skyscraper Reservoir (I can assure you there is no skyscraper in sight), and Bob and Betty Lakes (presumably Bob and Betty were really nice people).

Back to the Hessie trailhead I made quick progress to the bridge immediately prior to the King Lake trail and crossed the South Fork of Middle Boulder Creek onto the beautiful pastures alongside Jasper Creek. It was sunny but cool and there was a hint of Fall in the air.

This was apparent as the first signs of autumn color tinged the trees and foliage next to Jasper Creek. In two weeks time this will be much more evident.

At 3 miles and 10,000 feet the Woodland Lake trail breaks left and climbs steadily to the west. For the next 2 miles or so the trail is really steep making running least for me. Although the trail goes through dense woodland it breaks out into the open every now and then affording some nice views.

I was a little disconcerted this morning to read in a newspaper that a walker had been mauled to death by a bear yesterday in Denali State Park. I reflected on my bear encounter yesterday and realized how lucky I had been. Even though I never felt in the slightest danger, being 10 yards away from these magnificent creatures is too close and I was closer than the mauled walker. As I trekked through these steep woods I was a little more attentive to the shadows and movements than I usually am and once or twice I quickly looked behind me when noises caught my attention. Fortunately, today, I only experienced a series of suicidal rodents who seemed determined to be trodden on as they shot from one side of the trail to another. One particular chipmunk ran into my knee as it darted in front of me. It left a slight scratch mark that, when looked at from a particular direction bore an uncanny resemblance to Pope John Paul II. Unfortunately, I am not the first to report this apparition but I am absolutely convinced this is a sign from above that will protect me for the rest of my life. Seriously.

Like so many mountain lakes, Woodland Lake is stunning. Benefitting from a surrounding of trees it lies just below 11,000 feet and is a popular destination for overnight campers. A couple I saw cooking breakfast seemed to be enjoying the cool morning. They had two really friendly dogs (I had no dog with me today) who ran across to greet me. One licked my hand and the other licked Pope John Paul II from my knee. Oh well, easy come, easy go. Now no-one will believe me.

It was only a short jog up the hill to Skyscraper Reservoir.

The route I followed from this point was off trail. I crossed the dam and took a rising travers to the low point on the sky line aiming to descend to Bob Lake about a mile away over the hill.

The view from the saddle was outstanding. It was getting warmer and there wasn't a breath of wind - much different to yesterday when I was cold at Red Deer Lake. Immediately below was Skyscraper Reservoir with Woodland Lake lower to the right. I was at 11,500 feet when taking this picture.

Bob Lake was ahead under Bob Knob on the Continental Divide. It is important not to descend too quickly as there is a steep cliff to avoid above the north east corner of the lake.

As I descended to Bob Lake, Betty Lake lay due east and about 200 feet lower. I would contour around and then run along the southern shore before heading south to join the King Lake trail back to Hessie.

I was tired and stopped for a break by Bob Lake. It had been a steep ascent over the saddle and I was still feeling the effects of running yesterday. It was warm sitting by the lake but I missed the company of Livvy or Otto.

Looking across Betty Lake to the depression holding Bob Lake.

One final look east across Betty Lake before turning south for the 5.5 miles back to the trailhead. All this time and I had only seen two campers. It was a perfect day.

A few weeks ago I made a navigational error when descending the King Lake trail and I lost about 15 minutes of time. I wasn't going to do that again and I made rapid progress down the valley. Before I had covered a mile I met a couple out hiking and the young woman took me by surprise when she said, "Do I know you?" This question is always a little unsettling as my brain rapidly scanned my memory banks (not as demanding a task as it used to be) and the only thing I could reasonably say was, "no, I don't think so", which I believed to be true. But I chuckled to myself as I ran off. Only 3 weeks earlier, on a flight to San Francisco, a flight attendant who had been giving me spectacular service in the first class compartment approached me towards the end of the flight and whispered in my ear, "I thought you were excellent in the Olympics opening ceremony." My similarity in appearance to the comedian and actor, Rowan Atkinson (Mr Bean) has been observed before.

Maybe one day I'll show up on a slice of toast?

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