We awoke at Gem Lake to what would be our coldest morning: the thermometer read 25 degrees. Although I wore a hat and gloves for breakfast, by the time we were ready to begin hiking, the sun was higher in the sky, and I’d shed my outer layers.
On this trek from Gem Lake to Upper Wire Lake, only a 4-mile hike up and down, we encountered a family with a dog, Boy Scouts, and even a church group of youths learning to rock climb. We hiked quickly, our packs lighter each day, and arrived at Wire Lake, our next destination, for a late lunch. After eating, we surveyed the area, looking for a place to camp.
At first, Upper Wire Lake did not look promising. Much of the shoreline was rimmed by granite, the rest by woods or grassy meadows, the only group campsite already claimed.
Following the Leave No Trace principles, we searched for areas void of new life to pitch our tents and separated. Beneath a grove of pines, I found a dirt and pine needle covered, somewhat flat area abutting a boulder strewn hill. A few of us pitched our tents there while others found small crevices of dirt between rocks on the edge of the granite hill. Walking to our “kitchen” and communal area was more of a challenge at this site, as we bushwacked through pinecones, over rocks, and around fallen trees for each meal.
We hiked up the hill for the sunset, viewing the rest of the Wire Lakes and wondering at the castle looking rock formation in the distance.
We spent two nights at Upper Wire Lake, exploring the shoreline and its coves, swimming out to a boulder then warming ourselves in the sun as the breeze picked up, and hiking to nearby Long Lake. On this morning only, we were able to sleep a little longer (until 7 a.m.!), not hurrying to pack up our tents or our packs.
We woke again early on our fifth day on the trail, said good-bye to Upper Wire Lake, and headed back on the trail.