…and that’s just what I got! Necklace Valley and Tank Lakes have been on my list for a while and I was planning to go with JK, but considering the luck we’ve had with scheduled trips this year I figured we wouldn’t make it up there. When Karen and Anne invited me along on a three-day midweek trip, I was more than happy to ditch JK (moahaha) and join them.
The trail is as good as flat for the first five miles, then heads steeply up up up for a couple of miles until you reach the first lakes of the Necklace Valley. To be honest, the valley itself was a bit disappointing – I had pictured an Enchantments-like granite landscape dappled with lakes, but it was all below the timberline and not very impressive compared to the lakes I’ve become accustomed to seeing (I know, I’m spoiled). It’s still very pretty, but in my opinion not really worth it considering the b*tch of a hike in. The gorgeous stuff that makes it worth it is off-trail, up above the valley.
We hiked up on boulders and pretty granite to get to our destination, the ridiculously purdy Lower Tank Lake. By this point I had started gaining a new appreciation for my husband – this was my first backpacking trip without him and I’m used to him carrying all the heavy stuff!
All thoughts of sore legs and aching backs were forgotten when we reached the lake. This place is too pretty for its own good:
After a beautiful sunset and a huge dinner (I forgot that JK and I usually split a bag of those freeze dried meals – I had to force myself to eat a whole one so I wouldn’t have to carry all that weight back out. Ugh!), we settled down for the night and I had an excellent night’s sleep. While husbands are good for use as pack mules and general amusement, it’s definitely easier to sleep when they’re not snoring right next to you!
We spent the next day getting acquainted with the area, exploring the numerous lakes and tarns on the plateau. The girls convinced me to scramble up and along Otter Ridge, which looked terrifying to me from afar but turned out to be pure fun and with excellent views – it felt great to challenge my fear of heights just a little bit.
We moseyed on back to camp and spent a lazy afternoon swimming (ok, jumping in and immediately clawing our way back out, brrr!) in Lower Tank Lake, taking pictures and walking around on the plateau before turning in for the night.
My back was not happy about all the rock hopping I had done, so it kept me awake most of the night – I’m glad I brought a book and my Zune (and some codeine, ahem)!
The hike out on the third day felt like a bit of a death march – the sun was baking us to a crisp and the elusive woodland gnomes had been hard at work both elongating the trail and adding more ups and downs than we had on the way in. Stupid gnomes.
The hike was made easier by keeping this image in my head:
After 173 miles (or so it seemed), we finally reached the trailhead – I don’t think I have ever been so happy to see a car before! After a stop to replenish our bodies (mmm, potatoes), I went home to find poor JK still sick. He was impressed by all my badass-looking cuts and bruises (the joys of off-trail hiking!) and my mosquito bites.
I had hoped, rather naively, that the mosquitoes would have died by now, but the evil little buggers came out in full force on the second night. I HATE THEM SO MUCH. Oh well, at least I’ll have a multitude of sexy scars (it is physically impossible for me not to scratch a bite) to remind me of this trip for years to come.
Despite the death march, the heavy pack, the bloodsucking vampires, my disapproving back and some gnarly blisters, I think this was my favorite trip of the summer. We went to a beautiful place, I had great company, and I got to challenge myself by inching my way out of the protective little box where I usually live my life. I want more of that.
The official trip report is here – Karen and Anne’s photos are far superior to mine, so I recommend taking a peek!