|Six Mile Meadow is in fact quite beautiful in spring.|
I had my heart set on getting into Hells Canyon. The window is closing there--soon it will be too hot, abandoned to the rattlesnakes. The friends I had planned this trip with had bailed but I was going to go solo. Because let's face it, solo can be easier. It takes only 30 seconds to make a decision instead of a debate. You can go as far or as fast as you want to go. And besides they were going to Six Mile Meadow. I had been there many times. But on the other hand, friends! I changed my plans, hastily throwing out the warm weather gear and substituting a stove and wool hat.
Six Mile Meadow, as is expected, is six miles in, a fairly easy hike. I planned to meet the others there, since I had a goal in mind: Horseshoe Lake. I wanted to see how far I could get towards the lake, although I had no expectations of getting there. Last year at this time the lake was still encased in ice and the trail was buried in snow. I got to the meadow in just over two hours and wandered around looking for the perfect campsite. Then I grabbed my pack and headed over to the river.
|Still a lot of snow in those hills.|
\But where was the snow? It was nowhere to be found. I was amazed to break out onto the lake's shore.
|The earliest the lake has been ice free? Locals say so.|
|You could camp here. If you have the patience to deal with the fallen trees.|
Icy winds reminded me that it was still spring, summer a few weeks off. I sprinted down the trail to arrive at the meadow just as my friends showed up. We sat in the meadow in the sun eating Fritos (don't judge). That night the meadow frosted and our tents were thick with dew. The sun didn't clear the ridge early enough so we stuffed wet gear in our packs and set off to deal with the 25 fallen trees on this stretch of trail. We leapt across small streams, sloshed through mud, and crawled under fallen logs. Trails here will never be easy. Wilderness rules dictate that no chainsaws will be used. But Congress allocates less and less money every year. The three seasonal workers that the agency can afford to hire for 70 days each can't keep up. Maybe like in the canyon, these trails will disappear too. I wish more people who used trails would spend a weekend a year helping to clear them instead of complaining.
My friends and I peered up the Ice Lake trail, trying to judge the snow depth. "Maybe next weekend?" I ask. We talk about calling in sick today and going for it. "I have Fig Newtons," one of us says. In the end we are responsible and head down the trail. There are plenty more days to come, at least as far as we know.