Necklace Valley
July 1984

These days I really enjoy backpacking. 10 or more miles with 3,000 to 4,000 feet or more of elevation gain per day is fun. One trip stands out in my memory. No, it was not the great weather or the views or the fields of flowers. It was all about surviving a trip we were woefully unprepared for. It may not have been funny at the time but with a quarter century of time gone by I can chuckle a little now. Twenty five years have gone by and I still have not returned to the Necklace Valley.

I had only done a few backpacking trips at that time. The description in the hiking guide sounded great. A valley of lakes one above the next. Joe Greene agreed to come along. I'm sure my pack was near 50 lbs. for two nights out. A seven pound tent, six pound pack, four pound sleeping bag... it all added up. The East Fork Foss River trail was flat and smooth. We flew down the trail. It's eight miles to the first lake of the necklace. Five are flat. Three are not. In less than two hours we were five miles along. We crossed the creek and started uphill.

The trail changed radically. No more flat. No more smooth. Now it was steps. Thousands of them. The route was wet, rocky, and never flat. Lifting all that weight up all those steps really took a toll on us. I had been doing a little day hiking but nothing like this. Did I mention it warmed up quickly? In my memory it was about 98 degrees. It was probably a lot less. It was hot enough to suck away what energy we had left. We stopped for breaks. We moved slower and slower.

At one point we were passed by a couple who were day hiking to the lakes. A little later they passed us again heading down. In the meantime they went up to the lakes, had lunch, and headed back down. Does it sound like we were moving slow? Yeah, as slow as slugs. Hours passed on by. We kept moving but barely. By late afternoon we were totally spent as we reached Jade, the first lake. There was no obvious camping spots. We needed to head up to Emerald, the next lake. We dropped our packs.

Joe was gone. Literally gone. He was groaning and not completely coherent. I was not much better. I couldn't stand up. My legs were twitching. I decided to drop my pack and head up to Emerald Lake. A few steps and I fell to my knees. I walked on all fours. It was pathetic. I have no idea how long it took to cover the 2/10ths of a mile between the lakes. I crawled in to Emerald and heard a "hi" from a couple on a rock above trail. I had no energy to move so I stopped to talk.

They were cooking dinner. They had a steel stew pot. They brought up fresh meat, potatoes, and vegetables. They were happy and smiling. I was one step above dead. After a rest I hiked back down to Jade Lake. Joe was doing better. We hoisted our packs and made a slow ascent up to Emerald. We found a nice spot and set up camp. In the far distance we could see folks on snow heading up to La Bohn Gap. The weather turned the next day and low clouds covered the valley. We were probably better off cold than overheated like the day before. I recall that the lakes were beautiful and the mosquitoes were as bad as I had seen.

The trip down was much better. We had eaten all our food and downhill steps were easier than uphill. It was still overcast and cool too. Since then I have seen out of shape backpackers who were really hurting on steep climbs. I have not seen anyone as bad off as we were that day. I guess I'm just happy that that experience did not sour me on backpacking. I now know that it's a lot more fun when you are in good shape. Going lighter helps too. Some day I will return to the Necklace Valley. I'm pretty sure I won't be crawling when I arrive.