So, that invading wildlife I mentioned that awoke me the next morning? Here's one of them:
Three deer woke up for an early breakfast and thought our campsite would be a lovely place for such a meal.
Please note that on the above map, we had an option I have colored orange. That option would take us out of the wilderness where bears eat people and to our van. I would like to let you know, I faced a serious mental struggle to not turn down that path and instead turn down the path that made me walk 8 more miles and sleep amongst the bears. But I knew
Andy would divorce me I would be disappointed if we didn't actually finish what we started. So onward we trudged.
That's apparently the only picture I took over the next few miles. For some reason, I was in a very foul mood after rejecting taking the easy way out. The following conversation took place as Andy tried to encourage me:
Andy: It's okay, I'm pretty sure all of our miles today are pretty much flat.
Me: That's a lie. The map shows we have nothing flat ahead.
Andy: Um, well . . .
Me in mocking fake Andy deep voice: I'm pretty sure it's really flat ahead. Oh, and I'm pretty sure there's a Bernese Mountain Puppy Factory at Holly Lake. You won't need your sleeping bag because you'll sleep in a bed of puppies. I'm pretty sure there's free money there too.
We continued to talk about all the things we were pretty sure Holly Lake had to offer us, and somehow that distracted me enough and we finally reached Lake Solitude.
After a lunch break, I was finally reinvigorated to tackle the straight 2 mile incline we faced towards the Paintbrush Divide.
A look back down on Lake Solitude.
Looking back on Cascade Canyon.
As we slowly hiked upwards, we passed a number of hikers coming down the other way on the trail. They gave us lots of neat tidbits of information, such as:
"Oh, you're going to want to grab a stick. The trail is really snow covered on the other side and I would have fallen down into the canyon without a stick."
Actually, we heard that tidbit from about 5 different groups. Then we heard a really super fun and neat piece of information from a hiker:
"You're staying at Holly Lake? They saw bears down there yesterday. A mama and two cubs."
I responded by plugging my ears with both fingers and saying "LA LA LA LA PUPPIES, KITTENS, RAINBOWS AND HAPPINESS I DIDN'T HEAR THAT LA LA LA."
As I tried to forget what I'd heard, we finally reached the divide.
And then came the tricky part of the trail we'd heard about. And I'll be honest in saying that this was the most treacherous trail we've ever hiked on. Loose rocks made up a good portion of the "trail."
It was very slow going to ensure that we didn't twist our ankles or create a rock slide and fall into the crevasse below. Then came the snow.
Lots of slipping, sliding and falling. But after a couple of miles we reached a more solid trail and spied our campsite ahead.