Chapter 2. Thriving at the Edge of Chaos

Cecret Lake lies in a shallow basin beneath Devil’s Castle and the 11, 051-foot Sugarloaf Peak above Alta, Utah. Renowned for skiing, Alta in the summertime displays a profusion of alpine wildflowers—mountain bluebells, Indian paintbrush, lupine, columbine, and larkspur. The trail from the campground parking lot to Cecret Lake rambles three quarters of a mile across melt-water streams and past rocky ridges, rising 420 feet before it reaches the shore of this small alpine lake. On a pretty Sunday in July or August, the trail is awash with humanity absorbing the mountain splendor.

Venturing up another 800 feet, across a half-mile of steep talus slopes, a hiker can reach the low point in the ridge between ...

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