Sunday, November 9, 2014

The last one to Sky Lake

"I should go to Hells Canyon this weekend," I declared. Pretty soon the road to the lookout would be snowed in, and I had never hiked down into the canyon from there. Also? The temperatures would be about 60 degrees or more lower in the canyon. The poison ivy has died back. Then J had to bring something up:

"It's opening day of elk season." Also? "There won't be much snow in the mountains. The snow we were in last weekend, it's all melted. There might be 3 inches, but that will be it."

I listen to him exactly why?

However, this is my favorite place in the Eagle Cap Wilderness. It's a remote, wilder place than a lot of the heavily traveled trails, and you have to work for it. You climb steeply to these small basins and eventually over the pass you can see in the background. From there you can drop to some lakes that are rarely visited.

Nobody had been here in a long time. The snow got deeper as I reached 8,000 feet, about a foot, and I knew I wouldn't camp here. It was just too cold, the snow too deep, the forecast too uncertain. I had to descend. There's nothing like a basin completely covered in snow, with nobody else around for at least twenty miles, to make you feel small.

I had asked over six people to go hiking with me, and nobody wanted to go. Nobody is thinking about hiking anymore. After all, the lakes are frozen. You have to haul winter gear. It's hard work, and people don't want to do it.

I don't know if that makes me brave or crazy. Maybe a little bit of both.


Sky Lake is frozen!

I found a place far below that was free of snow and dove into the tent. It was five, and completely dark. Fourteen hours in the tent? I would read, I thought, and then eat dinner. I ended up falling asleep at five-thirty and never waking up until five in the morning, except to briefly turn over. I guess I needed to sleep! All in all I hiked 12 miles just to camp three miles from the trailhead! It was worth it, though, to see this magical winter world, all to myself.


14 comments:

  1. Liked your trip and the photos. Glad you got one more night in the higher country. Maybe J. owes you a trip into Hells Canyon...pack up, J!

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    1. Hmmm...
      not sure I can drag him. Maybe it will warm up a little...

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  2. Spent a very cold night at Sky Lake several years ago, 18 degrees.
    It was late September and we were doing the loop hike past Swamp Lake and Steamboat Lake and dropping down into North Minam meadows, then out the Bowman trail. That was the coldest night, the rest of the days and nights were pleasant, and your right Mary this is a gorgeous, less traveled part, even in the summer it's not bad.

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    1. It always seems colder at Sky! I've never done that whole loop...want to.

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  3. I missed not being able to make it down and hike hike with you this summer. Next summer I need to mark a weekend to come down do at least a day hike with you. It would be awesome to do a day hike with the kiddos too. I think they are old enough now to enjoy it. However I don't think you'd get me to do a snow hike. I'll enjoy your pics and stories about your awesome snow hikes.

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    1. The only problem is, as you know, all the trails are steep! So get those kid's training! Haha!

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    2. Yes...very steep! We'll make a goal of Steep proportions for this summer!

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  4. I love the snow! If I wasn't recovering from foot surgery I'd hike with you. :) (That and the fact I live on the opposite end of the state....)

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    1. Ugh...foot surgery..I hope the recovery goes quickly! I know you like to ski!

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  5. Even though it's colder, I get some of my best sleeps during camping trips in the winter. The shorter days are great for sleeping!

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Ugh...spelling. anyway, you are right, it is a great time to catch up on sleep!

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  6. Gorgeous! I've still not plunged into the world of snow/winter camping, not sure I'm ready for that. During my last trip, I was able to have a fire my first night and I was proud of myself for staying outside my tent until 8pm, after arriving in camp around 4:30pm. On my second night, no fire, but thankfully dry and no wind. I perched on my sleeping mat on the granite wrapped in my sleeping bag watching twilight fade to moonlight, but only made it until 6:30 or so . . . that was a long night in my tent as unlike you I didn't sleep a long 12. Good thing for books! But I sure enjoyed the full moon, sunset, twilight, sunrise and two lakes all to myself! So worth a long night in the tent.

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    1. Haha...I try to stay up too, usually. I love reading in a tent but find I get tired of holding up the book or kindle. Such a hard life I lead!

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