Day 3, Tuesday 5/20:
We wake up and listen to the weather radio. Weather forecast steadily worsens until after the weekend. We decide to overnight the worst of the weather at Leigh lake, which is not supposed to be as difficult of a trail from the car. Instead of following the trail from our Phelps lake campsite to get back to the car, we decide to take another trail that is not on the map. This trail can be found further down the lake-shore trail past the large boulder at Phelps lake (pic) and is marked with new signs (we think that is why it is not yet on any maps). After checking GPS and compass we head off and have a beautiful hike. Trail curves back to the west after about a mile and we decide to "bird's eye" hike through the woods back to the car. After hiking for more than an hour off-trail we arrive less than 100 yards from where we parked. Unload everything back into the car and drive over to Leigh lake trailhead.
Once getting there we see that the trail is completely snowed
in. Deciding not to hike two + miles in knee-deep snow with our boots we drive into Jackson in search of some snowshoes. We get a good deal on snowshoes (because it's May) and the guy tells us all about the unusual snow conditions this year (more than 600 inches in one season). On our way back to the trailhead Shaun notices he can't find his wallet. Calls the number on the receipt from the store we just came from and they have it at the register, but they close in 20 min. So we make a hasty drive back to Jackson, get the wallet just in time, and drive back to the park. Finally begin the hike at 6:30pm.
Thank God for snowshoes. We hike over a frozen and slushy river, along the banks of a frozen lake (pic), we struggle as we hike along a steep ridge and then the wind picks up. The clouds begin to get very dark, mountains are completely hidden from view. The storm that is supposed to come after midnight hits us about a mile from the campsite. Very windy, snow is blowing everywhere. It's a thunderstorm with snow! Getting darker. Trail begins to become indistinguishable, no more footprints to follow. I follow some moose tracks which have been following the trail for a while. I follow the moose tracks for about half a mile. Chris has the GPS and he keeps updating me on the distance left to go. I turn around to look for Shaun and I don't see him. I tell Chris to go ahead as we are really close according to the GPS. I wait for Shaun. (Shaun is an over-packer and his backpack always weighs 20lbs more than mine, I usually end up waiting for him whenever we hike together) Still waiting for Shaun. In the rushing storm I stand quietly and look out over Leigh lake as it slowly freezes over. I enjoy every minute of the solitude, it's the first time I am alone since the beginning of the trip. Snowflakes fall on the lake.
Shaun finally catches up. Chris (much further away than I expected) begins yelling. Shaun and I get out the flashlights and hike the rest of the way. When we get there we see only one small patch of dirt to pitch the tent over. Terrible tent-pitch job in the dark. Throw everything in the tent. Shove the waterproof pack-covers over the top of the tent because it is leaking. I put in some earplugs and fall right to sleep.