This is the tale of my best friend and my adventure in the wilderness, fighting against the elements and coming up with a draw: We emerge from the truck in the early morning light and stand in front of a sign that read “Baree Lake”. We begin our journey on our first overnight hiking trip that wasn’t accompanied by an adult with the enthusiasm that only 16-year-olds can have.
We started venturing west along the narrow winding trail and we began to see a pattern in the direction it was taking. The trail was switchbacking to the top of the ridge, which to the knowledge of our combined minds must lead straight to the lake. So in our effort to cut our time in half, we began to hike straight up the ridge. After about an hour of a combined effort of hiking, crawling, and falling up the slope, we finally made it to the top. To our surprise there was no trail. Yet again we pulled our heads together and confirmed the lake had to be on the other side of the jagged peak in which this treacherous ridge leads to.
We set off once again, this time on a much mellower slope, to find the elusive Baree Lake. Three hours later, and well into the heat of the day we summited the sharp peak, and as we gazed off the other side we could see everything there was to see for miles and miles. We saw what we figured to be the Noxon reservoir and the small towns of Noxon, and Trout Creek. We even saw a glimpse of three Rocky Mountain elk trotting across an open face into the protection of a small patch of timber. However, the one thing missing from this otherwise breathtaking view — was a lake.
At this point in our adventure we decided to cut our losses. We knew our way back and hadn’t a clue where the elusive Baree Lake was. We decided as grown mountain men there was not a better place for us to set up camp than the top of a mountain.
We later discovered that there are many better places to set up a camp. We started to unpack; we began with the vast amount of food we packed up the mountain, enough to feed a small army, in fact. We then began to set up our tent.
The wind had its own plans for our tent and began to blow unmercifully. After a hard fought battle between us and the wind for the right to temporarily claim this peak, we managed to best the wind and get our tent up. However, the wind had one last trick up its gusting sleeve. A few dark clouds were beginning to form in the sky, so we decided it would be wise to put the rain fly over our tent. The wind finally died down, and we jokingly said it had accepted its defeat. However the wind must have heard us mocking it because just before we got the final tie staked into the ground, a huge swinging punch of wind came up and took our rain fly sailing down the mountain with it.
Lucky for us there was a savior in the form of a broken-off grey back snag a couple hundred feet off the side of the cursed mountain that caught our rain fly for us. We wandered down to the old snag and fished the final piece of our tent out of its grasp. The wind had died down and we were able to get our rain fly over our tent without any more interruptions. That was when the rain started. Unfortunately there weren’t any trees on the top of this mountain to place our packs under to keep them dry, so we were forced to put our packs in the small two-person tent along with ourselves. It is safe to say that this made for a very uncomfortable sleeping arrangement. After a mostly sleepless night, the sun finally rose.
The rain had stopped sometime during the night and the morning greeted us with crystal clear skies. After a while of marveling about our spectacular view, we decided to pack up camp and head back to the truck below. The wind gave us no objection as it must have been too busy staring at this most beautiful sight along with us. We reluctantly began our return trip down the mountain.
Braydan Thom belongs to the Libby High School Class of 2017. Voices in the Wilderness is a monthly column written for The Western News by your neighbors and friends in Lincoln County featuring memorable personal experiences in wild places. If you have a tale based in untamed country (it doesn’t have to be local), write to email@example.com for guidelines, or just send it along.