It’s 5:20 when the wind picks up. It doesn’t seem to come from anywhere. More like everywhere, gusting and slamming the alicoop. Did I put the stakes in deep enough? I unzip to reach out and pull the guy-lines tighter just as the rain starts lashing down.
I lay there waiting and planning. If it crashes in, what do I do? I’m warm and dry in my sleeping bag but I really ought to put on my rain gear.
Like a child king having a tantrum, the wind seems to die only to slam again harder and more fierce. Off with their heads! And those other guys too!
But we’re lucky because it lets up just when it’s the actual time to wake up. I make a move to pack when a hand reaches in and delivers my bear bag. Lower in these trees, we tightly tied and hung our Ursacks in trees. Not high enough to ward off a bear, but to keep out mini-bears like picas.
I’m so grateful for the delivery and eat my cold cereal and drink a shake before venturing out. Today is bogs which we locate immediately in this long river valley. I see why Alan called their camp “crap” without a dry or non-lumpy spot around. We scored in our bowl.
And this bog here is amateur league. The girls hop over deep trap doors and wet pools while I splash through, highly experienced after Scotland.
It’s an odd place with mystery of its own in the slowly lightening sky, a remote wasteland with only stunted trees. More gulleys and ramps on talus take us up and over a small pass on soft grass.
Now it’s a maze of rock around Long Lake our intended camp for last night. As the sun brightens the sky, we approach a small peninsula fit for a castle – for our child tyrant maybe?
The lake leads beyond peaks appearing to drop off to nothing at the end of the horizon. I almost expect falls into space. It’s steep climbs with more ramps and gullies on rock to avoid a cliff. I lead up the final push to another grassy meadow, shallow tarns dotting the landscape.
We arrive at Europe Valley where a lake nestles in crumbling talus. It reminds me of England’s Lake District and I expect Wordsworth to meet us on the path. From above, the talus looked challenging, but we find it’s relatively easy for these experts and hop across while large fish swim up from the depths for a peak and a merganser waddles off shore. Thousands of fat black spiders build webs between the rocks and I carefully step around.
It’s another 300 foot climb on tussock to more tarns and erratics, an array of pointy mountains in the distance. Are those the Cirque of the Towers?! Katlyn find a surfboard boulder and each of climb up for our portrait.
We walk abreast now across meadows, following one set of prints through a dry pond. Mountains loom above us like ramparts as black clouds move in. Alan directs us to a lake and a tough navigation through willows at the outlet. I suggest an alternate which sends us past a basalt uplift deeply pocked and scarred.
But soon we get off course and follow elk paths up and down on repeat through trees, dry lakes, and willows. At a cliff we come out onto a view straight down to huge Middle Fork Lake and jagged Nylon, Dragonhead and Pronghorn peaks.
We navigate through lakelets and bogs, willows and pines, bright flowers still in bloom. Thunder courses through the valley, a few icy splats land on my arms and I wonder if a big pass is a good idea.
But everything changes out here and the rain passes by, leaving us looking for shade and water before climbing. A use trail makes the going fast and we find a stream to fill up while our gear dries in the sun.
The use trail continues past this lake and up to Lee nestled directly under the huge triangular monolith of Dragonhead, pointy and seemingly ready to breathe fire at a moment’s notice.
And that’s the end of any sort of trail. The direction now is up; up through willow and rock, making things up as we go. It always amazes me how fast I climb, at least in how the terrain changes with the mountains appearing to come down to my level.
Before being completely swallowed by willow, we find an opening up a nose of grass just as the wind begins to howl. At a shallow bowl filled with talus, I fear spending too much time mid air on each step that the wind will smack me down. We all stow our hats.
Above a bench, it’s loose scree to Lake Donna swallowed in gargantuan rock slabs leaning forward as if peering into her depths.
Up some more and we reach a T-intersection, the way down obscured. Again , it’s s ramp system on shelves of grass like tiny mountain terrace gardens. It’s not exactly easy walking, but we progress faster than on the XL talus surrounding the first of the Bonneville Lakes.
The wind is relentless cutting through to the bone. A short bit of grass delivers us to more giant talus and Katlyn remarks that even she, the talus skipper, is sick of it.
The outlet takes us on rock ramps and more grass terrace ramps past a waterfall pouring out of a cliff with blocky crystal structure. It’s steep on ball bearings and we’re all tired. Maybe this meadow will work, but it’s full of trap door water courses, so we climb up on granite slabs which lead to an apron directly on the lake. A wee spot opens up sheltered by pines and big enough for three.
The wind won’t let up but I sit on our rock verandah looking towards rocky islands as the sky turns orange then pink, purple and finally a deep indigo.