I collapsed in a heap at the shores of Echo Lake. How had a simple eight mile hike taken so much out of me? True, the last three miles are straight up, gaining 2300 feet in what the guidebook calls optimistically a "steep, eroded trail", but it had taken me two hours to gain those three miles. Was I finally getting slower? Was age finally catching up?

I couldn't deny that the hike was worth it. I've only been up here a handful of times, mostly because I have to wait long enough for the three miserable miles to recede into memory. This lake is only snow free for about two months, and sure enough some snow still hung on from last winter, and probably the winter before that. It feels like a long way from anywhere.

Motivation has been a little hard to come by these days. Not to get out in the wilderness, but for exercise in general. I've never lacked it, so it's puzzling why I don't feel like running or riding my bike. And today motivation failed me as well. My intent had been to set up a camp and climb the goat trail to Billy Jones Lake, and then pick a cross country route to the fabled Granite Lake, a place to where only three people I know of have been (and one is gone from us, I miss you, Ken). But because of my slothful pace, it was almost two pm. With the sun setting at seven, I knew that it would not be smart to embark on an unknown route this late. It was likely I could do it, but I didn't want to race the darkness. Granite Lake would have to wait for another year.

Ruby views the Matterhorn.

As I set up camp, I thought about how lucky I was this year. Unlike last year, when a huge snow dump closed the mountains to hiking in September, we've had mild weather through the month. A determined wind reminded me that winter is on the way, though. This year, I have been dreading it. Though it is a #firstworldproblem, I most likely don't have my mid-winter escape to the Grand Canyon, or a spring Arizona Trail hike, to look forward to. The months ahead look a little bleak. This wouldn't be so if we got good, consistent snow, but with climate change, we get cold and ice for months before a good base sets in. Those are the months where I will sit and wonder why I didn't go for Granite Lake.

Another perfect campsite

But, you have to save things for another year. Instead, I lay on a big flat rock reading a predictable romantic comedy (I can't really read serious things right now). The sun was almost warm enough to pretend it was the beginning of summer, warm golden months to come.

Ice in Granite Meadow

But I'll get through winter, I always do. Without a winter escape, I'll have to come up with something else. I already sort of feel like writing again, which I haven't during Covid times.

Gaining the trailhead the next morning, I realized that I had been wrong. Because the unmaintained trail has swerved over time to bypass downed trees, it is actually longer. A mile longer! So my pace wasn't as dreadful as I had imagined. Irrationally happy about that, I bounded to my car, leaving the mountains until next time.