The 24 mile drive takes 1 1/2 hours. That’s because half of the distance is on a rough 4-wheel drive road. There are only a few other cars at the trail head. Most parties have backpacked in and are hiking out as we ascend. Smooth white rocks curve out of the earth. Wildflowers are plentiful, especially the swamp laurel. When we get to the uppermost lake, there are only a father and son fishing. It feels like paradise.