Somewhere between first light @ 3AM and when Dylan started rekindling the fire I must have managed a few winks. I felt stiff and sore and beat down inside my bag, but glancing out the tent flaps removed any of those concerns.
I was *here*, now, and anything beyond that was just going to have to wait.
The view from camp.
Doom was already up and rambling about--I sensed a certain manic to his motions (more than normal I mean...) and figured he'd been amped all night too.
Roman was stirring but Eric was not, so when the thought occurred to just go for a pleasure paddle into the lagoon, I mentioned it to Doom and he blurted his response immediately--some version of 'Oh eff yes--just try to stop me!'.
So we tempered our boats and shoved off.
Paddling an unladen boat through this ethereal scene was nothing shy of delicious. Not a lick of wind, no noise other than the rasp of glacial silt against the paddle and then drops of water falling back to their rightful resting place. One of the most prized hours of the trip, for me.
Eventually we could see that the others were up and starting to tear camp down, so we made our way back, giddy inside and out.
Coffee and vittles consumed and camp broken, we battened down bikes and shoved off for real. It was awesome to see the level of giddy the others immediately rose to once out among the bergs. We probed in and out of melt pools, eased under overhangs, even posed for pics, laughing and nodding our approval all the while.
Eventually the end of the lake came, but not before challenging us with a teeny bit of an ice maze to navigate.
We weren't even fully out of the boats before the bugs descended and proceeded to feast. And it was only going to get worse for awhile.
The maps showed an outflow stream leaving the lake, headed for the coast. I think we'd even entertained the idea of being able to paddle some of it. But there'd be none of that--it wasn't really a stream anymore, more of a linear bog. And it was rarely deep enough for boats, always slimy underfoot, and usually the most direct route was choked with veg that needed to be bashed through or crawled under.
This is about as good as it got--when we'd pop out into an opening big enough to flap our arms at the bugs for a moment.
And then we'd dive back in. 'Thick' is the one word that best described it. I saw bears looming behind every stump and snag, which means I kept my cameras holstered--didn't want to risk falling behind the group.
We could hear breakers crashing into the beach long before we arrived. I think we were all daydreaming about being back out in the open when the bear charged. I was furthest from it--could feel the wave of adrenaline pass through the others on her way to me. Doom was closest, and spent the next hour awake, alert, and yammering on about every detail indelibly etched onto his retinas.
Perhaps a meal for our ursine friend not so long ago? Seemed likely to me at that moment.
One last pond to wade and then we could feel the breeze on our cheeks as we sat in the warm sand threading pedals back into cranks.
It felt so, so very sweet to get back to pedaling effortlessly along.
Mileage-wise the day hadn't been anything to speak of, but the cumulative effects of the past few days had taken a toll. I was knackered, and as the day wound down I found myself falling further behind the group. Had I been willing to holster the cameras and *just* ride I might have been able to catch up, but, I reasoned with myself, how likely is it that I'll ever get to see this place again? I figured they'd be easy enough to 'catch' when they stopped to camp. Meanwhile, too much to see to worry about hammering.
Those aren't people prints.
I caught the gang as they got busy excavating spots for the tents amidst these cobbles.
Another calm evening descended as we warmed water, rehydrated grub, then lay under intermittent stars, feeding a driftwood fire while recounting scenes from this and other memorable days of our lives.
These days were so full, so rich...
The thought that floated through my muddled brain as I fell off was this: It seemed like we'd already gotten our money's worth 100 times over, yet we hadn't even covered half of the route.
Stick with me--so much more to come.