Monday, July 07, 2008

S24O: Moolock, Nadeau and SMC Lakes

I live in a town at the base of the Cascade foothills. Riding east means riding up and if I ride north and east, turning onto old logging roads and trails, I can find the wildness Thoreau called the preservation of the world.

Mark Vande Kamp and I had a plan and a goal, a sub-24-hour overnight trip to Lake Moolock, a tiny circle of blue 3,903 feet up in the mountains. A day would be enough time to get there, a day and a night, Sunday bridging into Monday.

We don't need much, a couple of bicycles, a couple of sleeping bags. Some kind of shelter. Some kind of food. Perhaps a few comforts chosen carefully. The thermos or the stove will be weighed, comfort in camp measured against discomfort on the climbs. Each trip yields its own verdict, experience forms our personal case-law, bound not books but in our bones.

Duties keep us in town 'til 1:30 on Sunday and on familiar trails we catch each other up on bits of our lives, what kids and spouses are doing, what books we've read, what we think of the pressing matters of the day. As we leave the world of men behind, the news becomes more laconic, precise and pertinent. Single words and simple pointing is enough.

"Wow" sums up the view.

"Bear" identifies the pile of scat.

"Deer" directs the gaze toward the fleet herbivore.

"Bear" repeated does not denote the scat but the bear itself, galloping like a stocky horse, running up the road far faster than our wheels.

This is clearly bear country, lots of scat on the road. I comment to Mark that "I thought they were supposed to do that in the woods."

"Lots of folks would call this the woods," Mark wryly notes.

Moolock is one of three lakes, the highest and most remote. A crow flying from Lake Hancock would go less than a mile to reach Moolock but he'd climb more than 1700 feet to get there. And the crow wouldn't have a bicycle and camping gear. We take a longer, rockier road.

It was summer back in Issaquah but there is still snow on the banks of SMC Lake. We hope, vainly, that SMC is some polite abbreviation for some vulgar name from a rougher age but later Google, that modern killjoy of contemplation, will tell us that SMC stands for Snoqualmie Mill Company.

We press on and up. Lake Nadeau (about which Google will later prove be refreshingly ignorant) has some ice on its surface and snow on its orbital road.

Moolock, the Chinook word for elk, is wrapped in ice and fog. At 6:45 PM we've reached its bank but found no welcome. We retreat to SMC and settle in for the evening.

The small comforts are comfort enough. A stove and a kettle, a hot meal and a hot beverage. A warm sleeping bag and a shelter against the dew. Because this is bear country, what remains of the food is sealed up and stored away from where we'll sleep.

I wake at 2:00 AM. The sky has cleared, the stars blaze with a clarity that the city has forgotten. I'm reminded of a line from a poem and title of an Edward G. Robinson film I saw years ago, "the night has a thousand eyes." I rise, pee like a bear in the woods, have a bit of warm coffee from my thermos (a luxury that earns its place on every trip) and burrow back into my down nest.

The sun clears the crest of Moolock Mountain about 6:00 AM and Mark and I have our first breakfast of the day before packing up and rolling back to a lower, louder world. Descending is far quicker than climbing and even taking the time to stop at Twede's Cafe in North Bend for a big second breakfast, we're back in Issaquah a bit after 11:00 AM.
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