By JOE CARTWRIGHT
Special to North Palm Beach Life
Photos by Joe Cartwright
This trail is a fun, relatively short trail leading to a beautiful back country lake. This 2-mile trail, however, leads through one of the areas that was most devastated by the 1988 fires in the area. When I first hiked to the lake in 1973, the trail led through a mix of heavy forest and meadow. Fires in 1976 and 1988 changed all this. Many of the photos showing “total devastation” from the 1988 fires were shot on this trail. Instead of forests, the trail now mainly leads through wildflower-filled meadows and hillsides.
Grizzly Lake is one of those lakes set in an indescribably beautiful settings: A long, narrow lake in a steep mountain valley. On one of my trips to this lake, I hiked in with a group of co-workers for an overnight stay. We had a permit to camp at the north end of the lake, where Straight Creek flows out of the lake. There were eight or nine of us and we planned to hike to the lake in the evening after work, spend the night, and hike out the next morning.
One of our party, Sally, was a study in contrasts: On one hand, she was a tall, thin, pale-blonde sorority girl from Alabama who was drop-dead gorgeous. On the other hand, she was a lean, mean Hiking Machine who could outpace any of the guys on any trail. Her first love was the wilderness and I know she preferred to be known as the Hiking Machine to any other category she might fit.
We all bedded down for the night around the remains of our campfire. The morning dawned icy cold, as expected. I was burrowed deep into my sleeping bag, hoping someone else would have the incentive to build up the fire. I heard a splash, followed by a Yosemite-Sam torrent of profanity. Sally had awakened first, gone over to the lake for a look, and had slipped and fallen into the freezing lake. As I pulled my head out of my sleeping bag, I saw her slosh, dripping wet, over and start building up the fire. She was mainly interested in getting her socks and boots dry before we had to hit the trail back.
As I look back on the photos from that trip, I think about the people with me: Sally, of course; Liz, who was from Houston and has been a close friend through all these decades since. Nick and Kristi were not a couple then, but the following summer, romance bloomed and I heard they were later married. Yet another Yellowstone Couple, one of many I know. There are others in the photo whose names are since lost to me, but I hope their Yellowstone Experience was as memorable as mine.