Our first backpacking excursion for the trip was an overnighter to Royal Lake. Since we planned to cover x miles the first day, we got an early start - noon. Well, that's three o'clock EST and, technically, we were on vacation.
At the start of most of the trails, the rangers posted a sign stating, "You are entering Cougar Country." I must admit that I felt a certain respect for the stupidity of west coasters who would hike in spite of the risk of Cougar attacks. Until I read the steps to take when encountering a cougar.
These are the same steps to take if you encounter a black bear while hiking in the East. Not to be outdone, the West has black bears as well as cougars, so you get the best dangers of both coasts. In fact, we had to stop at the ranger station to pick up a bear canister. This hard plastic container with a screw on cap is for storing food. We worried that perhaps two bears in cooperation might be able to unscrew the cap until we had difficulties even with our opposable thumbs.
One more animal had to be reckoned with. The distributed literature described one common variation as aggressive. We scoffed, until we found ourselves face to face with one on the trail. This creature, twice the size of our specimens on the East Coast, stood with its bulk blocking the trail. We stopped and stared trying hard to remember the proper safety precautions for encountering one in the wild. Our thinking clarified enough that we were able to push away our fears and step over the six-inch snail in our path. Throughout the hikes in the rain forest, these slimy guys were everywhere. The largest one we saw was a good eight inches long, but the Banana Slugs can grow up to a foot.
We reached the campsite, the overcast weather barely detracting from the beautiful spot at the edge of the lake with a view of a snow-capped mountain. We managed to set up our tents and erect the tarp before the rain started.
You may ask, how does one occupy themselves in the rain on a backpacking trip. Well, I'll tell you - hot cider (with rum), cards and then dinner. Elaine had packed a deck of cards, so we prepared for a friendly game of Basara. We were a little concerned when two 4-of-Diamonds appeared, but figured an extra one accidentally got mixed in with the deck. When the sixth 9 arrived, we panicked. However, in order to survive backpacking, you must be resourceful, so we altered the rules of the game and now have a new version of Basara, which is played with six 9's, two Jacks, one five, six aces... You get the picture.
When the rain eased, we explored the area, including a small scramble to the top of a waterfall. Marmutes, rabbit, and deer, accustomed to humans, provided a close-up view of the local wildlife, which was enjoyable - until we went to sleep.
Within our tents, the descent into dreamland was interrupted by a rustle, rustle, rustle as the local rabbits scurried around the campsite. The noise startled me out of sleep a couple times, but not as much as the bam, bam, bam of Elaine pounding on the side of her tent to chase them away. I thought this a little extreme, until we awoke the next morning to find that the furry rodents had scampered off with two of Elaine's tent stakes.
As an unexpected boon, the weather cooperated. Robyne awoke at 3:00 AM to a sky filled with stars and the morning revealed the true brilliance of our campsite with the mountain reflecting majestically in the lake.