Erma Bell Lakes

September 17, 1978

Snow was not what we had in mind when nineteen intrepid hikers gathered at 19th and Patterson on the partly cloudy morning of September 17. The destination was Erma Bell Lakes. The leader, being somewhat paranoid about adding five more cars to the usual traffic melee on Route 58, sent the party up McKenzie Highway to Forest Road 19 (South Fork Road), thence to Box Canyon and Skookum Creek Forest Camp. All five cars arrived at the trailhead about 10:00 a.m. and the party was on the trail by 10:30 after the usual introductions & instructions.

There was a light, steady drizzle, which, by the time we reached the lower lake, was beginning to congeal. After a short halt at the lower lake, we proceeded up to the middle lake. At this point, the rain miraculously turned to snow, which, at times, was thick enough to obscure to far shore of the lake. Some of the party wanted to eat lunch and some wanted to go on to Upper Erma Bell Lake. The leader, being deeply distrustful of democratic processes in hiking or climbing situations, did not put the matter to a vote, but unilaterally decided, very logically, that those who wanted to eat should eat and those who wanted to hike should hike. The campsite at Middle Erma Bell was designated as the meeting place for the return hike to the cars. Everyone seemed happy with the arrangement, which naturally made the leader happy, too. Everybody should be happy on hikes.

At the middle lake campsite, Art Porter, who for many years had helped teach Scouts how to light fires in blinding rainstorms, decided we should have a fire to warm our bodies and cheer our spirits. He persevered, showing tremendous determination in the face of helpful and non-helpful comments, and finally nursed some scraps into a small flame. At this point, the leader and some others decided to go to the upper lake, and on their arrival found the ground there spotted with snow up to about ½ deep. When we all came back from the upper lake, Behold! Art had a blazing inferno going which was deeply appreciated by all, although it undoubtedly caused some guilt feelings in those who had derided Art’s initial efforts.

The leader tested the air at middle lake with his trusty thermometer and found the temperature to be about 7°C (44° F). Surprise was registered by all when it was found that the water of Middle Erma Bell tested out at 11°C (52°F). The hike back to Skookum Creek was pleasant even if cool and damp. Mushrooms, toadstools, and fungi of all shapes and sizes provided added interest. The last car left Skookum Creek about 2:00 p.m. and the leader’s car arrived at 19th and Patterson about 4.30 p.m. The following participants were well & accounted for: Al Bebout, Lorayne Chapman, Laurel Carlson, Shirley Driver, Joella Hadland, Dorothy and Roger Hayes, Leona Mattson, Joyce Mitchell, Bill Mutusti, Art Porter, Parker Riddle, Natan Tal, Dorothy Turner, Paula Vehrs, Barbara Whittlesay, Jim Wood, Mike Wright, & leader Jack Ewing.

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