So the weekend arrived, finally. I awoke determined to use the most of a free day. Rogers Lake was in my sights, a hike that continues resolutely upward until you reach just shy of 7500 feet. There's something about the combination of the climb, the pushing through snow, and the elevation that makes this hike seem harder than it should be for its overall distance. I've tried to run it in the past and given up at mile 2. Basically, it boils down to a slog, winter or summer, but a slog that becomes worth it when you top out in the sunny meadows near the lake.
|Looking back where I started. That's Wallowa Lake.|
There was a skiff of snow over ice for the first two miles and I stopped to put on my microspikes, realizing that despite my gear addiction, nearly everything I had on was old. I wore soft shell pants from the early 2000s, an early synthetic shirt from 1992, a fleece vest circa 1997, and an ancient Patagonia fleece from the nineties. My mittens are down ones that my mom made me in I think junior high, but they are the best ones for cold weather I have tried. Sometimes old school is best.
Chained up, I continued onward through a mess of downed trees. This winter has brought little snow but plenty of wind, and I crawled under and over dozens of trees. Because I have often been on the hard end of a crosscut saw, I know exactly what it will take to clear these. I will no doubt feel compelled to go back and help clear out these behemoths. But not today.
In two hours I had crossed the snowy bridge over the East Fork and was nearing the flatter meadows, only an hour to go to the lake. Here, untouched snow with the consistency of small flakes shimmered in the sun. In the distance, Aneroid Peak loomed over the valley, a good someday goal, but not today. There was no wind, only a breathless calm, the sense of peace I always get in the wilderness. In winter, that peace is tinged with something else unnamed, a voice inside that is constantly checking in: Hands warm? Need another layer? Boots dry? This voice keeps me from wandering off in a daydream of sun and diamond snow, so I listen.
|This is a lake. Really.|
At the lake I could not tell the border between land and water, so I paused to gnaw on a Clif Bar. The water in my Camelbak had frozen in the first mile (I will learn this lesson someday) so I scooped up handfuls of snow to melt deliciously in my mouth. Skiers had passed this way a day or so ago, bound for the private cabins a half mile higher at Aneroid Lake. But few people venture this far for a day hike. The miles, too long, the daylight, too short.
This lake gets no glory, most people barely sparing it a glance on their way to its more glamorous sister. But I like this lake's unpretentiousness. I like how it sits half-hidden and you have to climb down to really see it. Because of the cold, I can't stay long. Maybe one day I will camp here. But not today.