I hiked Dumpling this evening after work. It is hard to describe the feeling that comes from walking along the top ridge of a mountain. As you walk, the scenery of the land below passes movielike on either side, as if you had all of a sudden found yourself in the midst of a Lord of the Rings film. But the pristine lakes that stretch for miles in every direction are real. The vast forests of spruce and newly blooming birch, close enough to you as they begin their descent down the mountainside to pick out individual needles but blurring into an endless green mass by the time they reach the lake shore, are real. The snow covered mountains that you now stand eye to eye with, some well over 30 miles away but seemingly near-at-hand, are real. You suddenly and keenly pick up on the scent and feeling of the air; it seems to both separate and connect you with all that is below and away. You become acutely aware of the previously unnoticed soundscape -- the whistle of the wind, the crashing of the waves far below, the calls of nesting birds. It all feels so right, like you belong and have always belonged on this lofty perch.
Why is it that we are drawn to nature in this way? Does it give us some kind of inner peace? Peaceful would hardly be the way to describe my mood as I stood on that mountain. I felt restless and alive; the wilderness below me seemed to be pulling at me. I wanted to plunge into those dark forests to see what new sounds and smells awaited, I wanted reach those distant mountains and climb them and look back on the one I was then standing on, I wanted to ride those waters out to the sea. My thoughts were as turbulent as the windswept lakes below me. I don't know what this means, but I know nature is something more than a quiet, solitudinous respite from our tedious lives, and it is hardly ever peaceful.
I have hiked Dumpling previously and I had been waiting to post this entry until I could get my film developed and share with you some of the wondrous views, both from Dumpling and the beach our camp is on. Many thanks to Steve G for getting my pictures up on the internet but as it turns out the film I used was going bad. I am going to go ahead and post these grainy shots for now; I know they are close to worthless but check it out anyway and I will retake them and get some real ones up soon. Tomorrow or the next day I will put up a post about my hike to The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, the site of the 20th century's largest volcanic eruption. For now, enjoy the view from my office:
Turn to the right and you have the beach of Naknek Lake:
The above pictures were all taken from right out in front of camp on the beach of Naknek Lake. For some perspective, here is Katolinat and Naknek Lake from nearby Mt. Dumpling:
That's Renae in the foreground. Wish her luck; right now she is tent camping in the backcountry taking genetic samples of fish. Right next to her elbow is where Brooks River feeds into Naknek Lake and the site of our camp:
You can see the tiny structures of our camp in the clearing below the mouth of the river. If you could zoom out and follow that river to the right, you would see where it flows from Lake Brooks:
That's Kelez again, and although you can't see it the famous Brooks Falls are located in one of the foremost turns of the river. Camp and Lake Naknek would be just to the left (see above). The body of water here is Lake Brooks, where I have had some luck fishing for Rainbow Trout. Until later,