After my day at Lake Clark I sleep better than I have for weeks, and when I awake to a new day, the adrenaline is still coursing through my body. Taking the bush pilot’s advice from yesterday I decide to do my first hike since Aravaipa and my subsequent illness, destination Carter Lake. I feel almost back to 100%.
Weaving through the Chugach wilderness, the morning sun beaming brightly through my windshield, I find the trailhead. There is only one other car in the parking lot, and it looks like it has been there for awhile. I strap on my pack, testing the weight on my back to see if any pain returns. I ready my bear spray into an outside pocket, and test to see if I can grab it quickly if the need arises. That thought causes my heart to skip a beat. I hit the trail.
After a quick ascent through some switchbacks, I find myself in a long valley. The trail becomes overrun with tall grasses that make visibility tough. I start hearing rustling and movement all around me, yet see nothing.
My mind starts playing tricks on me, and I find myself continually fidgeting with the top of the bear spray can, wondering if the moment did present itself, would I actually be brave enough to use it?
Everything is still wet with morning dew as the sun has just peaked over the mountain tops. I am drenched from head to toe, but I can’t focus on that, as my eyes are quickly darting to and fro for any strange movement that would indicate that an animal is approaching.
The silence becomes too much for my mind to take, and the rustling becomes louder. I feel that a bear is only a few feet from me even though I can’t see it. I reach back to grab the can of bear spray, only to accidentally trip the nozzle, spraying my hand with the noxious aerosol. The pain on my skin from the irritant shocks me, and instinctively I wipe at my face. I scream out as the bear spray causes my eyes to water and burn. I am temporarily blinded, and feel that if any animal wants a piece of me, now is the perfect time to attack.
No bear is seen. I douse my face in water while trying to calm my breathing and get back into control. After a spell I feel better, more relaxed and my eyes and skin are no longer burning in pain. I continue onward, as I see the tip of Carter Lake in front of me.
A wave of calm washes over me as I approach the lake. The reflections upon the still water are mesmerizing. I see a father with two young children in the distance, cooking over a small fire. They must be the owners of the car in the trailhead parking lot. No one else is around. I take the time to just watch images of clouds float across the water.
Solitary moments such as this center my being. The bear spray incident aside, I feel stronger than ever as I hike back. The morning dew has disappeared. I am ready to find a bite to eat, and see if another hike in the area might tickle my fancy.