It was A's 50th birthday and she was not happy. She had planned a vacation that wasn't happening due to Covid, and even a party was off limits (nobody felt OK about being indoors. I personally have not been in anyone's house except for my parents' since February). The weather was unsettled too, so her plan of having her pilot friend fly her across the mountains wasn't happening either.
"You don't want to...backpack, do you?" I tentatively inquired. The sullen clouds didn't promise a warm evening. Any rational soul would politely say no. "I want to wake up in the mountains!" she replied, and so we packed at the speed of light.
Due to work meetings, I couldn't leave until late afternoon. This negated any attempt at the washboarded Lostine Canyon road, which takes forever to drive due to the teeth-clenching, car tire destroying surface. We settled on Bonny Lakes, fairly close in (and I am naming this lake because it is well known and not a secret; durable campsites exist).
A chilly breeze at the trailhead sent me reluctantly to pants. I hate wearing hiking pants, but it was too warm for leggings and not quite warm enough for a hiking skirt--that fall in-between time that makes you pack a ton of layers. Due to the 40% chance of rain in the forecast, I had upped my wet weather game, everything wrapped in dry bags and ziplock bags. A had brought hand warmers. We were set, and off we went.
It's only four miles to the lakes, and a pretty easy hike. It is often done as a day hike, but you work with what you have. When darkness falls at 7, it is a good choice. We made it to the upper lake in under two hours and set up in time to watch a feeble attempt at a sunset. Elk bugled from a short distance away. The night was quiet and still. Also? I was glad I had brought pants.
Water was frozen in Ruby's bowl in the morning, another sign that we are pushing the season. Another unmistakeable sign was the snow falling on us. While it wasn't accumulating, it was enough to get us moving; we had decided to tack on a day hike over the pass to a small tarn. Stashing our packs, we set out over the pass and into the teeth of a brutal wind.
The wind gusts made it difficult to remain upright, and after some appreciative gazing at the view, we quickly retreated. The hike out went quickly and we arrived at the parking lot to see two men and a boy getting ready to head in, unfortunately clad in cotton sweatshirts. "Tonight is going to be the worst night!" they exclaimed cheerfully.
I guess I've become sort of a fair weather backpacker, because I knew I wouldn't be heading out into the snow and wind. But these were the kind of tourists I don't mind. With a warning not to ascend the pass until the wind decreased, we went our separate ways. I wasn't sad to be heading back to a warm house, but I'm not ready to give up on hiking yet. Even if it has to be in pants.