began as another gorgeous morning, but we knew the area was holding more moisture that would be good for us. Another valiant attempt to dry our gear was followed by a gentle trip east toward the North Fork Kings. This area was deeply forested and fairly dry, but Bill warned of swampier conditions ahead. The bugs made their first serious run at us here, but our deterrents were for the most part effective. We reached the North Fork and ate lunch, then set up our cameras for group photos. From there we moved upstream, into just what Bill had promised: swampland. The recent rainfall had not improved things, and just to be sure the cumulus clouds were fully developed by noon. We crawled through the area at our best pace toward Portal Lake, admiring the beautiful North Fork while swatting dozens of mosquitoes and sinking in the muck. As we worked up the smaller stream to Portal Lake the rain began again, and as before Bill and Del found us a good site which Frank and I reached as the storm struck.|
Halfmoon Lake dawn
We had almost five minutes to select dry tentsites and nail down our gear before the hail began. Bill had stashed some relatively dry wood under the trees, but everything was soaked again very soon. As the thunder arrived for our entertainment, I checked my campsite only to discover it was not staying dry in the least, so I shifted to a less enchanting but more protected spot. I erected the poles from underneath the fly to stay drier, but when I was finished the rain had increased and my hands and gloves were thoroughly soaked. I rejoined the others by the fire ring, and we waited another half-hour before the rain, hail and thunder relented. This time the fire (with some white-gas coaxing) had plenty of work to do, as so much gear needed to dry. Clearly we could not continue the trip much longer if the cumulative dampness reached our vital gear, so I was apprehensive as the storms lingered nearby. After an excellent pasta dinner and with hands and gloves working again, I was much relieved to see sunlight return late in the day. I resolved to visit Portal Lake, but the large meadow by the camp steered me toward a rocky ridge instead. Figuring I would see the lake just as well from there, I clambered upward to an excellent view of the southern end of Blackcap Basin. While only two mountains in sight had actual names, the area is serrated with 12000-foot peaks whose impression is undiminished by their anonymity. I shot many photos and video sequences from the ridgetop, and managed to glimpse Portal Lake in its sheltered vale. As the sun set over the Three Sisters (in the Dinkey Lakes area) I took a few final shots and descended back to camp. If the trip failed, I had at least seen the high country up close; however, I wasn't ready to fail just yet.
above Camp Three|