By Ed McMackin, biologist by profession and naturalist by nature
Bonnie Lake has been there a long time, much longer than it has had a name. The serene waters are noticed by only a few of those that hike the Rim Trail, cradled low beneath the east side of the South Peak of Mt. Thompson nestled among some tall evergreens.
The steep slope and rough terrain that has made getting to the lake very difficult. A trail down to Bonnie Lake has been a dream of many for years. Now, that dream has come to fruition with a new trail providing much easier access. Construction in the area started on July 11, by Creston Community Forest, and was completed in early September.
Further improvements are to come. There are a couple of unofficial campsites, with plans to install a picnic table and fire ring later this year. I also noticed, on one trail-ribbon, a note saying a bench is planned for the location. Signage is to come, replacing the temporary flagging.
The trail is not without some hazards. No matter how you look at it, it’s far from an easy walk, like you might experience on the Rim Trail. Besides the usual hiking gear to suit the fall temperatures, the gear necessary to maneuver this trail down to the lake includes plenty of water, sturdy hiking boots with good tread, and at least one hiking pole (two preferred) for stability to help you get back up. It’s a steep one-kilometre descent with a 25 per cent grade. The trail, with over 40 switch-backs, is very steep and slippery where there is loose dirt.
One more bit of equipment, that’s a must in the current conditions, is a breathing mask. One may start up Mt. Thompson in smoke-free conditions, but then get out on the trail and a change in wind direction brings in the ashy air.
As you can imagine, it was a very difficult trail to build, avoiding areas with extensive patches of slippery bear grass and the rough, rocky screes. There were some rocks, too large to move, that remain sticking up in the trail, that one has to step over or around. Some hikers might have to sit down and slide over.
However, in spite of the difficulty of the terrain, there are lots of bright aspects. If one takes their time on the trail, the lake can be reached safely. The beautiful scenery, including the lake below, can be seen from almost every point along the trail. The trail crews have stacked some large flat rocks, at strategic points, to sit on and enjoy the scenery. At the lake, there are also some large, downed trees to sit on and enjoy your lunch.
On my hike a few days ago, it took about 1.5 hours to cover the 2.9 km. along the Rim Trail to the Bonnie Lake trailhead, just off to the left, and then another hour to get down to the lake. It took about the same amount of time to ascend the 250 metres of elevation to the Rim Trail and back to the trailhead.
The surroundings along the Rim Trail were very dry with only one or two flowers blooming, one of which was Harebell. But down at the lake it was a totally different scene – an oasis. In the lush vegetation around the lake, there were tall bunches of rich blue flowers of Many-leaved Aster and Showy Daisy. I also saw a few Clark’s Nutcrackers, on both the Rim and Bonnie Lake trails, whose raucous calls, for a moment, startled me.
Many thanks to the Creston Community Forest, Creston Trail Society, and all those who shared a dream and made it come true! Trail crew included foreman Adam Mjolsness, Erich Endersby, Evans Daybell-Chambers, Kole Fay, Ashlyn Yanciw, and Michael Herman.
Volunteers included Jerry Bauer, Trevor Marzke, Candi Huscroft, Heather Young, Melisa Luymes, Kevin Reid, Emma Middleton, Ryder Moore, Tim Raff, Eloise Carr, Gwen Telling, Ben Nixon, Carol Anderson, Burt Huscroft, Linda Huscroft, Ashlyn Yancin, Brian Huscroft, and Dave Wigens.
The Columbia Basin Trust provided $8,533 in funding for the Bonnie Lake Trail. They have been a continued support of trail projects that are, today, enhancing people’s outdoor experience and recreation. For all of this and more we thank the Columbia Basin Trust!