I raced for Echo Lake. I had only a few hours of daylight and a steep climb ahead. A group of women stopped me. "Is the moon full tonight?" they asked.
In the years I have been on trail, I have gotten some strange questions, but I couldn't figure this one out. Either they were mistaking me for Google or I was a werewolf. Admitting ignorance, I plowed ahead.
Feeling pretty content with a 15 pound backpack, I tackled the 2200 foot climb. This was easy compared to how it was a few years ago--lots of downfall and route-finding. This lake, like all of the rest, has been discovered.
But not too much. I was the only one there when I arrived, and it looked like nobody else was coming. It was time for a victory swim. A cold victory swim.
It's hard to ignore that fall is coming. Gone are the days of recklessly packing--now I bring my puffy coat, gloves, and down pants. There is a feeling that winter is in the air and hiking will soon be over for the season. There were a lot of places I didn't get to, but this was night #27 backpacking for the year, which is a lot for the limitations I had this summer. Almost a month of staying in a wild place, with whatever I had carried in.
How to get through the winter? Luckily I like to ski, and I have a new winter hobby lined up. Making my own backpacking food! I can barely choke down any commercial food anymore, and it isn't all that good for you anyway. I watched with envy as my hiking partner consumed fancy meals that she had dehydrated. I've never done that, mostly because who has the time, and because I often don't bring a stove. But it's never good to get stuck in a rut, and maybe time to pay attention to what I'm eating (a tuna wrap doesn't always cut it).
The night was clear and cold. Stars came out. Eventually, an almost-full moon peeked out over the shoulder of the ridge. No werewolves appeared. OR DID THEY? I had to get back for a ten am conference call, so I packed in the dark and headed off by headlamp. The nights are getting noticeably longer; leaping out of the tent at 4 am no longer works as well as it did in July.
I reached the trailhead at 8:15, in enough time to make myself presentable on camera. At the meeting, people from the Washington Office talked about a project. I was the only one who knew: last night I had been wild.