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Hiking Oregon Trip report Wallowas

Bear Creek and Wallowa Homeland – 07/14/2022

Our first night in the small town of Wallowa had been great. Our room at the Mingo Motel was extremely comfortable and we’d gotten ice cream sundaes from the Little Bear Drive-In. We were also conveniently located less than 10 miles from the Bear Creek Trailhead which was our destination for Thursday’s planned hike. This meant we could get an even earlier start in order to avoid as much heat as possible. A quick check of the forecast the night before had shown that it was again going to be in the 90’s in Wallowa and it also showed that there was another slight chance for thunderstorms Friday morning when we were hoping to do our final hike of the trip at the Wallowa Homeland. As we set off from the Bear Creek Trailhead a little after 5:30am we left open the option of doing that last hike when we got back to Wallowa if we felt up to it.
IMG_7757The Bear Creek Trail at the trailhead.

This was a fairly straight forward hike following the Bear Creek Trail 4.6 miles to a junction with the Goat Creek Trail then continuing another three quarters of a mile to the Bear Creek Guard Station. The relatively level trail crosses Bear Creek a quarter mile from the trailhead.
IMG_7763

IMG_7765

IMG_7767Footbridge over Bear Creek.

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IMG_7771

IMG_7773

IMG_7776Milk-vetch

IMG_7786Mountain lady-slippers

IMG_7791Bug on a thimbleberry leaf.

IMG_7802There were a couple of ups and downs where the trail got above Bear Creek.

IMG_7820Baker Gulch

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IMG_7839

IMG_7844Cliffs on the opposite side of Bear Creek.

IMG_7847Trail sign marking the junction with the Goat Creek Trail. By this time we had crossed into the Eagle Cap Wilderness but there hadn’t been any signs
indicating that.

IMG_7850

20220714_080409Prairie smoke a.k.a. old mans whiskers

IMG_7857A fleabane

IMG_7858The Bear Creek Trail crossing Goat Creek.

IMG_7859Footbridge over Goat Creek.

IMG_7861Goat Creek

IMG_7866The unmarked but obvious spur trail to the (locked) Bear Creek Guard Station on the right.

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We took a brief break at the Guard Station and headed back. On the way back we spotted a new to us (at least we think) flower.
Moneses uniflora - one-flowered monesesMoneses uniflora – one-flowered moneses

Moneses uniflora - one-flowered moneses

We also spotted several bugs and insects.
IMG_7886Hairstreak

20220714_094414Crab spider

20220714_094512Moth

IMG_7920Swallowtail on a bog orchid

IMG_7909Lorquin’s admiral

IMG_7923A fritillary butterfly with some sort of spider on the underside of a leaf below to the right.

The 10.8 mile hike here only gained 900′ of elevation, by far the least amount of any of our hikes during the trip. The lack of elevation gain combined with the cool morning temperatures allowed us to move at a quicker pace completing the hike under 5 hours and 15 minutes.

On our way back we had decided that we would indeed do the Wallowa Homeland hike today too instead of risking having to skip it if thunderstorms did develop in the morning. As convenient as our motel had been for the Bear Creek hike it was even more so for the Wallowa Homeland which started just a couple of blocks from the Mingo Motel at the Nez Perce Visitor Center.
IMG_7925First time we’ve started a hike from a motel room.

IMG_8142Passing the Visitor Center on 2nd Street.

From the Visitor Center we turned north on Storie Street and followed it nearly 3 blocks to a dirt path that crossed rail road tracks then crossed the Wallowa River on a bridge with interpretive signs.
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The trail here is on land purchased in 1997 & 2000 but that is also the former site of the Nez Perce’s Winter camp. In one of the more shameful events in U.S. History the Army ordered the Wallowa Band of Nez Perce to leave their home and relocate. This led to a 6 month saga that saw the Nez Perce attempt to flee to safety in Canada with the Army in pursuit for over 1100 miles. Ultimately they were capture or dispersed and their homeland lost. We were visiting a week before the 30th annual Tamkaliks Celebration.
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IMG_7940Dance arbor

After crossing the bridge we turned left on a gravel road heading toward the basalt cliffs of Tick Hill (an unsettling name but we did not actually see any ticks during this hike).
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We followed the road as it bent to the right below the cliffs for half a mile where a trail pointer sent us climbing uphill via a series of switchbacks.
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IMG_7944

IMG_7947Marmot

IMG_7951Approaching the pointer uphill.

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While it was still before noon it was heating up fast and the exposed hillside allowed the Sun to beat down on us. We distracted ourselves by looking at the different wildflowers that were still blooming amid the tall grasses.
IMG_7955Scarlet gilia

IMG_7959Dustymaidens

20220714_120500Skullcap

IMG_7967Heading up Tick Hill

IMG_7968Yarrow

IMG_7971Lupine

IMG_7973Mock orange and wild rose

IMG_7975Dragon fly

20220714_120956Moth mullien

IMG_7981Blanket flower

IMG_7982Checker-mallow and vetch

IMG_7985The Wallowas from the trail.

IMG_7988Sagebrush mariposa lily

After a steep half mile climb the trail leveled out a bit. We turned left at a post and descended slightly to a viewpoint next to a scraggly juniper tree.
IMG_7991

IMG_7994A buckwheat

IMG_7995The Wallowa River and dance arbor from the viewpoint.

IMG_7996The Wallowa Mountians

We returned to the trail which continued to be level for 400 more feet before heading uphill again for a third of a mile to a junction with a spur trail to a gazebo.
IMG_7997Heading back to the post from the viewpoint.

IMG_8000About a quarter mile from the post we crossed this road leading to some radio towers.

IMG_8005Elkhorn clarkia

IMG_8006The gazebo ahead.

IMG_8007Shade!

IMG_8008Plaque near the gazebo.

IMG_8011View from the gazebo.

IMG_8019From left to right: Point Joseph, Hurricane Point, Ruby Peak, and Sawtooth Peak.

We cooled off in the shade of the gazebo before continuing on.
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From the gazebo the trail descended slowly recrossing the road after 0.2 miles and passing by the radio towers.
IMG_8022At the junction with the spur trail to the gazebo. We came up from the left and continued on to the right.

IMG_8024Recrossing the road.

IMG_8025Western meadowlark

IMG_8029Heading toward the radio tower.

IMG_8034A fleabane

IMG_8039There were several plaques along this stretch.

IMG_8041

IMG_8056Various wildflowers

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20220714_130530Cinquefoil

20220714_130533Lots of blanket flower.

20220714_130545Sticky geranium

A little over three quarters of a mile from the gazebo the trail turned steeply downhill descending via another series of switchbacks.
IMG_8085

IMG_8090Grand collomia

IMG_8091

IMG_8098

IMG_8108Scarlet gilia

IMG_8109The last line is great advice.

At the bottom of the switchbacks we turned left on a road bed following the Wallowa River.
IMG_8111

IMG_8116Swallowtail

IMG_8117Dragon fly

IMG_8124

20220714_134116Bachelor buttons

IMG_8127Swallowtail on hyssop.

IMG_8128Wallowa River

IMG_8134Goldenrod

We followed this road half a mile to the gravel road we’d been on earlier.
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We retraced our steps back to the Mingo Motel completing a 4.5 mile lollipop hike with 600′ of elevation gain.

It was now a little after 2pm so after cleaning up and cooling down we headed back to the Little Bear Drive In for burgers, tots, and milkshakes. It was a good ending to what was overall an excellent trip (abdominal pain aside). With all our planned hikes completed we got a really early start on our drive back to Salem on Friday and made it home before Noon giving us plenty of time to unpack and relax. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Bear Creek & Wallowa Homeland

Categories
Hiking Oregon Trip report Wallowas

Minam River via Rock Springs – 07/13/2022

No Summer trip to Eastern Oregon is complete without at least one thunder storm and ours came early Wednesday morning. When we awoke at 4am in La Grande one was passing overhead nearby. I pulled up the weather forecast for the hike we had planned that day and much like the forecast had been for Mt. Ireland on Saturday there was a slight chance of a thunder storm. We packed up and headed for the Rock Springs Trailhead which was between La Grande where we had been staying and Wallowa where we had reservations for the next two nights. We were following the storm as it passed over the Wallowas but it stayed ahead of us and things looked pretty good when we parked along the shoulder of FR 62 where the Rock Springs Trail headed downhill toward the confluence of the Minam and Little Minam Rivers.
IMG_7426We parked about 200′ north of the actual trailhead per a suggestion by Sullivan in his guidebook.

IMG_7431The Rock Springs Trail at FR 62.

The trail loses approximately 2500′ in the first 3.5 miles, sometimes steeply, passing viewpoints at the 0.7 and 2.0 mile marks. There were views along other stretches of trail though as the trail alternated between open wildflower filled hillsides and forest. It was the least maintained trail that we were on all week with quite a bit of grass and brush encroaching on the trail. It was also the only trail on which we encountered multiple ticks, about a half dozen, during the trip. (The only other tick we saw all week was one on my pants at Mt. Ireland on the first day (post).
IMG_7432The trail passed a large rock field just below FR 62 and then entered the Eagle Cap Wilderness.

IMG_7437

IMG_7442Lupine

20220713_063707Coralroot

IMG_7445

IMG_7452

IMG_7453The edge of the storm clouds.

IMG_7463Scarlet gilia along the trail.

IMG_7466Oregon sunshine and tapertip onion

IMG_7469Nettle-leaf giant hyssop

20220713_065127View from the trail before the first “viewpoint”.

20220713_065338Oregon checker-mallow

IMG_7480Assorted wildflowers

IMG_7481Blue sky following the storm clouds.

20220713_065503Scabland penstemon

IMG_7487Penstemon near the first “viewpoint”.

IMG_7492Yarrow

20220713_065701Douglas dustymaiden

IMG_7495Looking back from the viewpoint.

IMG_7498Buckwheat

IMG_7500The Point Prominence Lookout atop the high point to the left.

20220713_065912Ballhead sandwort

IMG_7507Heather coming down from the viewpoint.

IMG_7509Blowdown over the trail.

20220713_070820Nookta rose

20220713_070933Wood rose

IMG_7516View to the SE deeper into the Wallowas.

IMG_7519

IMG_7525Mountain parnassian?

IMG_7530Back in the trees.

IMG_7531Some pale columbine. At first we thought it might be yellow columbine but it definitely had a red tint.

IMG_7533Thimbleberry crowding the trail. The storm had left a lot of water on the vegetation which in turn wound up on our legs and shoes.

IMG_7539Heading down into the valley.

IMG_7546Elkhorn clarkia

IMG_7561Approaching the second viewpoint.

IMG_7566Backbone Ridge which separates the Minam and Little Minam Rivers. We had crossed over that ridge further south on Tuesday when we took the Horse Ranch Trail from Moss Springs to the Minam River (post).

IMG_7569Grand collomia

IMG_7572Prairie smoke

IMG_7584Mock orange along the trail.

IMG_7585Twin flower and foam flower

IMG_7597Sign marking the junction of the Rock Springs and Little Minam Trails.

IMG_7600Possibly a wasp of some sort near the junction.

We turned left at the junction and descended another tenth of a mile where we spotted the first of several structures that used to be part of a lodge.
IMG_7601The first cabin ruin.

IMG_7602Almost looks okay from this angle.

IMG_7603Not so good from this angle.

IMG_7605The lodge was at the edge of this meadow.

IMG_7606The lodge

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IMG_7610The fireplace seems to have held up well.

IMG_7615This cabin didn’t hold up.

Beyond the lodge several faint trails led off into the meadow.
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The map in Sullivan’s book appeared to show the main trail turning left after passing the lodge with a spur continuing straight to the Little Minam River and a drinking hole for horses.
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We had intended on taking the left hand fork but we wound up at the watering hole instead.
IMG_7622Wildflowers near the watering hole.

IMG_7623The Little Minam River. We couldn’t quite see the confluence of the two rivers from here despite being very close.

We headed north using our GPS units in an attempt to locate the actual trail which should take us to a dangerous ford three quarters of a mile from the old lodge. After a bit of searching we picked up the faint trail.
IMG_7626

IMG_7627

IMG_7628

IMG_7630The dangerous ford.

According to Sullivan, horses are able to cross later in the Summer but hikers should follow the Little Minam Trail south to the Horse Ranch Trail and cross the Minam on the footbridge that we had crossed on near Red’s Horse Ranch.

We sat on the rocks along the Minam for a bit before heading back.
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On the way back it was a little easier to follow the faint trail which led us to some campsites above the old lodge.
IMG_7639Here we tried looking for horse hoof prints to stick to the trail.

IMG_7644Butterfly on yarrow.

IMG_7646We think this was the trail.

IMG_7651The campsites where we picked up the Rock Springs Trail again.

We made the 2500′ climb back up, watching for things we missed (and ticks) as we went.
IMG_7654Lorquin’s admiral

IMG_7657Looking across the gully we could see the trail cut climbing up the far hillside.

IMG_7658Pincushion plant

IMG_7670Resting moth

IMG_7673A plane taking off from Minam Lodge.

IMG_7674

IMG_7688A popular thistle.

IMG_7703A skipper of some sort.

20220713_115425We both missed this yellow columbine on the way down.

IMG_7731View from the upper viewpoint on the way back up.

IMG_7747A final view from the Rock Springs Trail.

IMG_7748The cloud cover that moved in turned out to be a blessing as it kept the temperature reasonable as we made the long climb back up.

Our hike here came in just a tad over 9 miles to go with the 2500′ of elevation gain.

The ticks had been a bit of a distraction but the views had been good and there were a lot of wildflowers along the way. At the end of the day it was our least favorite hike of the trip but there was still plenty to enjoy. From the trailhead we drove to Wallow and checked into the Mingo Motel which turned out to be a surprisingly nice room. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Minam River via Rock Springs

Categories
Hiking Oregon Trip report Wallowas

Burger Pass – 07/12/2022

I’d spent all of Monday hiking with abdominal pain so I was very happy to wake up Tuesday feeling fine. On tap for today was the highest elevation hike in the Wallows for this trip (Mt. Ireland on Saturday (post) was higher but that peak is part of the Elkhorns.) and we weren’t sure how much snow we might encounter. We did have our microspikes with us just in case.

The hike to Burger Pass begins at the Buck Creek Forest Camp and Trailhead.
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The Elk Creek Trail (Trail 1944) leads from this trailhead to 7848′ Burger Pass near the 4.5 mile mark then down to Burger Meadows and eventually on to the Minam River. Sullivan’s featured hike is to Burger Pass which was our goal for the day but we had also left open the possibility of visiting the meadows if conditions were good.
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IMG_7215

IMG_7217At the 0.7 mile mark the trail briefly followed an old road bed to an old clearcut.

IMG_7218

IMG_7221Trail sign in the old clearcut.

IMG_7225Sullivan describes the second mile of this trail as one of the dustiest in Oregon but on this morning there was enough moisture in the ground to keep the dust at a minimum.

IMG_7230Rock Creek Butte (post) in the Elkhorns from the clearcut.

The trail climbed steeply following an old roadbed out of the clearcut following a ridge before leaving the ridge and bending SE near the 2 mile mark.
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IMG_7239Shortly after leaving the ridge we encountered the largest obstacle on the way to the pass.

IMG_7240The Elkhorns in the distance.

The trail made a long switchback and entered the Eagle Cap Wilderness as it rounded the same ridge that we’d been following earlier.
IMG_7243Granite at the switchback.

IMG_7406Entering the wilderness (photo from the way back).

The trail then traversed a granite hillside to a large slide below Burger Butte.
IMG_7252Valerian along the trail.

IMG_7258View from the trail.

IMG_7265Burger Butte

IMG_7269Rosy paintbrush

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IMG_7274Tributary of Middle Fork Catherine Creek.

IMG_7275Looking down the creek over the slide.

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IMG_7279Yellow columbine

After reentering the forest we began to encounter the first patches of snow.
IMG_7280The snow began around 7200′.

IMG_7282Snow over the Elk Creek Trail.

IMG_7286China Cap from the trail.

The trail crossed another tributary of Middle Fork Catherine Creek below a beautiful pair of cascades.
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IMG_7290

IMG_7292Small meadow below the trail.

Approximately 3.5 miles from the trailhead we came to an unsigned junction with the China Ridge Trail.
IMG_7295The China Ridge Trail joining from the left.

We stayed on the Elk Creek Trail as it climbed for another scenic mile to the pass below Burger Butte.
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IMG_7305The Elkhorns to the right beyond Burger Butte.

IMG_7309

IMG_7311Lyall’s Rockcress

IMG_7317The few patches of snow were just melted enough to allow us to avoid having to walk over them.

IMG_7318Burger Pass

The view from Burger Pass was great. There was a large snow patch over the trail but it was fairly level and soft so it didn’t require the microspikes.
IMG_7319Burger Butte from the pass.

IMG_7320Looking deeper into the Wallowas.

IMG_7326The snow patch below Burger Butte.

I decided to go ahead and attempt the 350′ descent to Burger Meadows while Heather opted to stay at the pass. From Burger Pass the Elk Creek Trail descends three quarters a mile to a junction with the Sand Pass Trail.
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IMG_7330

IMG_7332There were several patches of snow and some downed trees to navigate but I soon found myself at the junction.

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I turned right on the Sand Pass Trail to see more of the meadows.
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IMG_7341The Sand Pass Trail can be seen climbing out of the basin in the sandy gap to the center left.

IMG_7344Meadow lookout.

IMG_7345View from the meadow.

IMG_7346Buttercups were about the only flowers blooming in the wet meadow.

IMG_7348The rocks along the ridge were really interesting.

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IMG_7353Marmot? in the meadow.

I followed the trail about four tenths of a mile before stopping at Elk Creek where a large snow drift lingered on the far side.
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I climbed back up to Burger Pass and once Heather got my attention we started back down arriving at the car a little before 12:30pm.
IMG_7374Golden mantled ground squirrel watching us from the granite.

20220712_102723Butterfly

IMG_7381Mountain heather

IMG_7393Mushrooms near the Middle Fork Catherine Creek cascades.

IMG_7397Jacob’s ladder

IMG_7405Penstemon

IMG_7415Mushroom

IMG_7424Pacific coralroot

Including my visit to the meadows this was a 11.5 mile, 2800′ elevation gain hike which turned out to be our favorite of the trip (Mt. Ireland (post) being a close second.)

We picked up a late lunch/early dinner from Yia Yia Nikki’s which turned out to be a wonderful choice on what was the hottest day of the week. We packed up as much as possible that night in preparation of moving from La Grande to Wallowa for the next two nights. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Burger Pass

Categories
Hiking Oregon Wallowas

Minam River via Moss Springs – 07/11/2022

Following a great first two days of hikes (Mt. Ireland & Catherine Creek Meadows) on our visit to Eastern Oregon Monday’s hike was set to be the longest in the trip, a visit to the Minam River via the Moss Springs Trailhead. We’d set our alarm for 4am in order to try and get as much hiking done during the cooler morning hours as possible. We’d left our motel at 5am and I started having abdominal pain as we drove to the trailhead. We think it was a side effect of my having preemptively taken some over the counter heartburn medication the previous nights since we had been eating richer foods than we typically do. Whatever the cause the my stomach seemed constantly cramped which was affecting my lower back and hips as well. I hoped that whatever was ailing me would subside soon as we set off on the Horse Ranch Trail (Trail 1908).
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IMG_6921Entering the Eagle Cap Wilderness.

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The trail descended from the trailhead 1.4 miles to a bridge over Horseshoe Creek. Going downhill was particularly painful for me as my cramped muscles protested each time I stepped down.
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IMG_6934Scarlet gilia along the trail.

20220711_062416Tapertip onion

20220711_062430Scarlet gilia

20220711_062551Lewis flax, we were hoping to see it opened up on the way back up to the car but somehow we both completely missed it.

20220711_062750Arrowleaf groundsel

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20220711_063552Bog orchid

20220711_063854False sunflowers

IMG_6958Paintbrush

20220711_064029Sticky geranium

IMG_6968Footbridge over Horseshoe Creek.

20220711_065308Horseshoe Creek

Shortly after crossing Horseshoe Creek the trail came close to the Little Minam River.
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The trail gradually descended along the river for approximately three miles to a bridge crossing it.
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20220711_071703Spotted coralroot

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IMG_6987Mountain lady slipper

IMG_6989Little Minam River

IMG_6992Coral fungus

IMG_6995Huckleberry Creek

IMG_6997Bridge across the Little Minam River.

IMG_7000Little Minam River

I had been forced to take a number of breaks due to the abdominal discomfort including several bouts of dry heaves. Other than my core though I felt good and being just a tad stubborn we continued on from the bridge. On the far side of the bridge we stayed left at a junction with the Jim White Ridge Trail.
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The Horse Ranch Trail briefly descended then climbed to a pass a little over 2 miles from the river crossing.
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IMG_7010The only area that we encountered showing signs of having burned in the not too distant past.

20220711_093724Elkhorn clarkia

IMG_7015Junction with the Little Minam Trail (left) just below the pass.

At the pass the trail turned left and began to descend along a ridge.
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Soon the trail left the ridge and began a steep descent to a meadow along the Minam River.
IMG_7022The meadow from the trail.

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IMG_7025Arriving at the meadow.

The U.S.F.S. owned Red’s Horse Ranch is located in the meadow. This historic ranch was acquired by the Forest Service in 1994 and still has a caretaker. Due to how I was feeling we didn’t actually visit the ranch but instead continued past it to the Minam River where we crossed on another bridge and took a long break across the river from the ranch.
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IMG_7033

IMG_7034Horses at Red’s Horse Ranch.

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IMG_7037Minam River

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I was hoping the long break would finally help my stomach relax but alas it wasn’t to be; so after our break we began the 8 mile trek back up to the car. We stopped at a spring on the way up to the pass to top off our water. For whatever reason I felt way better going uphill than I had downhill or even on level trail which was nice.
IMG_7045Landing strip near Red’s Horse Ranch.

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IMG_7057A plane coming in for a landing at the nearby Minam River Lodge.

IMG_7060Lousewort

IMG_7063Diamond clarkia

20220711_115525Grand collomia

IMG_7066Millipede

The pain was back as we descended from the pass but alleviated again every time we climbed. It was the first time I was happy to be climbing on a trail. We missed the flax on the way back up to the car but we did spot several white mariposa lilies which we hadn’t noticed that morning as well as a large patch of broomrape.
IMG_7082Pink pyrola

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IMG_7089Little Minam River

IMG_7090Coral fungus

IMG_7092We saw a bunch of these black moths? but they seldom sat still long enough to get a photo.

IMG_7108

IMG_7130An Orobanche

IMG_7131

IMG_7137Penstemon

IMG_7163Butterfly

IMG_7168

IMG_7183White mariposa lily

20220711_144805

IMG_7192Large-flower triteleia

IMG_7204Arriving back at the trailhead.

We arrived back at the car around 3:15pm after the long hike. It was a nice hike but admittedly my issues were a distraction for both of us which kept us from appreciating it as much as we should have.

Heather drove us back to La Grande where I tried taking a bath and eating half a sandwich was the only thing other than water and Gatorade that I’d had all day. Neither helped immediately so I laid down in bed and soon fell asleep. We kept the alarm set in hopes that I would be feeling better in the morning but if I didn’t we’d have to delay our planned hike to Burger Pass. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Minam River via Moss Springs

Categories
Hiking Oregon Trip report Wallowas

Catherine Creek Meadows – 07/10/2022

We’d spent the night in Baker City following our hike to the Mt. Ireland Lookout (post). Our plan for the next six days was to do five more of the “featured hikes” (post) from Sullivan’s 3rd edition “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Eastern Oregon” then before heading home on Friday do the Wallowa Homeland hike which is featured in Sullivan’s most recent 2022 edition of “100 Hikes Eastern Oregon”. Because the hikes were spread out along the western and northern sides of the Wallowas we would be moving our base of operations a couple of times during the week starting with a move to La Grande for Sunday through Tuesday nights.

Sunday morning we packed everything up and headed for the North Fork Catherine Creek Trailhead. After navigating the pothole filled FR 7785 we pulled into the large trailhead parking area.
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IMG_6598A $5 fee is required here and at several other trailheads we visited during the week. (An annual NW Forest Pass can be used instead.)

The trail doesn’t start at the parking area but rather another tenth of a mile up the road so we road walked to the official trailhead.
IMG_6600

The trail initially climbs above the creek to an open hillside, that was putting on a pretty good wildflower display, before descending to a bridge a little after 1.5 miles.
IMG_6608Lots of purple venus penstemon.

IMG_6613There were also some white scabland penstemon on the hillside.

IMG_6614Buckwheat

20220710_061539Venus penstemon

IMG_6619Lupine and stonecrop

IMG_6624Paintbrush

IMG_6625North Fork Catherine Creek

20220710_062027Douglas dustymaiden

20220710_062112Spreading dogbane

IMG_6634The trail crossed several side creeks, all of which were we were able to cross dry footed.

IMG_6636A brief stretch along North Fork Catherine Creek.

IMG_6637Queen’s cup

IMG_6638Another side creek.

IMG_6640Bog orchid

IMG_6641Spotted coralroot

IMG_6642A fleabane

One of the more interesting things we’ve witnessed was watching carpenter ants removing sawdust from a dead log and dropping it in a pile below.
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IMG_6653They’re a little blurry but you can see the ants in the cracks where they would drop their sawdust. It was fascinating to watch and we paused for quite a while.

IMG_6658Columbine

20220710_064502Mountain lady slippers

20220710_065926Large-flower triteleia

IMG_6685Back above the creek.

IMG_6692The bridge over Catherine Creek.

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IMG_6695Bluebells next to the bridge.

The trail climbed gradually for the next three and a half miles before reaching Catherine Creek Meadows.
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IMG_6704

IMG_6708Crab spider

IMG_6710Another type of penstemon

20220710_073039Rosy pussytoes

IMG_6713A side creek running down the trail.

20220710_073735Yellow columbine

IMG_6720Entering the Eagle Cap Wilderness.

IMG_6726Jim Creek, this was one of the trickier crossings.

IMG_6735Hound’s tongue

IMG_6737Nettle-leaf giant hyssop

IMG_6750One of several smaller meadows along the trail.

IMG_6751Jacob’s ladder

IMG_6752California corn lily and bluebells.

20220710_082334Boot Hill Creek was also tricky as it had taken over the trail.

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IMG_6766A large patch of coralroot.

IMG_6772A few remaining balsamroot blooming above North Fork Catherine Creek.

IMG_6777Arriving at Catherine Creek Meadows.

Up until this point we had been very lucky this year with mosquitos but the meadows were very wet and the recent warm weather had the bugs out in decent numbers so we couldn’t linger in any one spot too long but we did take a short break at a campsite near a side creek.
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IMG_6786All the black dots in the blue sky were gnats flying over the stream at the trail crossing.

heart-leaved bittercressHeart-leaved bittercress

Our goal for the day lay about a half mile away, an early 1900’s log cabin at the far end of the meadow. After our break we set off across the creek following what became an increasingly wet trail to a junction where we forked left.
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IMG_6799Looking back at the sign post in the meadow marking the trail junction.

IMG_6802Another dry section of trail.

IMG_6803It wasn’t dry for long.

IMG_6806Yellow buttercups and pink elephant’s head.

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IMG_6805Elephant’s head, one of our favorites.

IMG_6810Ladybug

IMG_6814Nearing the cabin.

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IMG_6817Ground squirrel

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IMG_6820Squatter running from the cabin.

We checked out the inside of the cabin before heading back.
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It was only 9:45am when we started back so we took our time and kept an eye out for anything we’d missed on our first pass.
IMG_6831Beetle

IMG_6836Another beetle and Nevada bitterroot.

IMG_6839Brunch

IMG_6845A comma of some sort.

IMG_6848Big mushroom

IMG_6852Something from the Lycaenidae family.

IMG_6855Coneflower

IMG_6874Swallow-tail on red clover.

IMG_6882Fritilary on clover

IMG_6897Mourning cloak perched overhead.

IMG_6899Lorquin’s admiral

IMG_6900A tortoiseshell

IMG_6903Skullcap, one of the hardest flowers to get a decent picture of for some reason.

IMG_6910Tapertip onion

IMG_6915Yarrow and other wildflowers up the hillside.

Our hike came in at 11.8 miles with approximately 1450′ of elevation gain.

From the trailhead we drove to La Grande and checked into our Motel, after hanging out at a park for about an hour because we’d arrived a bit too early, and then headed to Side A Brewing for an early dinner. It was going to be a warm week so we turned in early planning on another 4am wake-up the next morning to beat as much of the heat as we could. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Catherine Creek Meadows

Categories
Hiking Oregon Trip report Wallowas

Zumwalt Prairie Preserve

For our last day of hiking on our Memorial Day weekend trip to NE Oregon we planned on visiting Zumwalt Prairie. Managed by the Nature Conservancy there are four trails open to hikers totaling approximately 9.5 miles combined. We had originally planned on doing all four but for reasons to be explained later we wound up skipping the Canyon Vista Trail this trip.

We had had a mix of weather so far during the trip with a snow shower on Friday (post) and nearly 80 degree temperatures on Saturday (post). Sunday was again up in the air as the forecast called for a 50% chance of showers and possible thunder storms after 11am. We got our typically early morning start and made the 45 minute drive from Wallowa Lake to the the preserve.

As we left Wallow Lake we were surprised to see that the Wallowas were mostly cloud free so on the way to the hikes we decided to start with the viewpoint hikes first in hopes of getting some nice looks at both the Wallowas and the Seven Devils in Idaho. Based on the trailhead locations we thought we might start with the Canyon Vista Trail but as we turned onto Duckett Road and passed Duckett Barn and the information kiosk there we noted how rough and wet the dirt road was. The map of the preserve mentioned that between the turn off for the Harsin Butte Trail and the Canyon Vista Trailhead “high clearance /4wd vehicles are recommended….This road may be impassable at times during the winter or when wet”. We decided that there was no reason to risk getting stuck, especially since there seemed to be quite a bit of fog toward the area where the trail looked to be. When we reached the spur road for the Harsin Butte Trail we turned down it and started our day there.
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Described as sort of a scramble route the Harsin Butte Trail gains just under 700′ in .8 miles to the summit viewpoint. Even before we started climbing though the views were good.
IMG_8266Looking toward the Seven Devils in Idaho

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IMG_8272Findley Buttes (You can see some of the standing water on Duckett Road on the right hand side.)

From a distance and especially while driving it’s a bit difficult to notice all the flowers but once we got onto the trail we realized there were a whole lot of different flowers present.
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IMG_8283Old man’s whiskers

IMG_8286Phlox with larkspur in the background

IMG_8279Cusick’s paintbrush

IMG_8295White-stem frasera

IMG_8290Paintbrush

IMG_8297A wild onion

IMG_8298Larkspur

IMG_8304Milk vetch

IMG_8312Chickweed

IMG_8314Woodland stars

IMG_8311An assortment of flowers

We were following a clear path and could see the continuation of the path going up the side of Harsin Butte so we were a little confused when we passed a couple of rock cairns about a quarter mile from the trailhead.
IMG_8322One of the carins and the trail going up Harsin Butte in the background.

We ignored the cairns and stayed on the clear path.
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After another quarter mile of walking we realized that this was not the trail to the butte, it was heading around the west side of the butte to what looked like a corral instead. We backtracked to the cairns and followed them to find the continuation of the correct path.
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It seemed the higher up we went the more flowers we were spotting.
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One exciting find for us were the monument plants which we don’t get to see all that often.
IMG_8329Monument plant

IMG_8332Top of the monument plant

IMG_8343Shooting star

As we were climbing we noticed that the low clouds behind us seemed to be moving our way fairly quickly. I decided to try and double time it up to the summit in an attempt to avoid being over taken by clouds before getting to see the view. Apparently 3 days of hiking had taken more of a toll on me than I had realized and I was quickly sucking wind. The 5000′ elevation probably wasn’t helping me any and I regretted my decision every time I had to stop to try and catch my breath.
IMG_8347Here comes the clouds.

One of the times that I found myself gasping for air I noticed this rockcress.
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The path led briefly into a stand of pines where game trails crisscrossed and elk sign abounded.
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A few different flowers showed up in this area.
IMG_8353Bluebells

IMG_8426Yellow bell

IMG_8410Violets

IMG_8397Ball-head waterleaf

After a brief disappointment upon realizing there was a false summit I made it up to the actual summit with its solar powered antenna.
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The cloud scare proved to be a false alarm, at least for the moment as they passed to the north of Harsin Butte between it an one of the Findley Buttes.
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There were a few clouds over the Wallowas to the southwest but also some sun shining on the northern end.
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To the southeast the Seven Devils had a similar look.
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After a nice rest (I needed it) at the summit we headed back down. The clouds over the northern end of the Seven Devils lifted a little reveling a little more of the mountains.
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By the time we were finished, with what turned into a 2.1 mile hike, our shoes were pretty well soaked from the dew on the grass but the flowers seemed to love it.
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We didn’t see any elk but we did spot a Belding’s ground squirrel who had popped up to check us out.
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We hopped back in the car and drove back to the Duckett Barn and parked at the information kiosk there.
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Those clouds we’d been watching were starting to move overhead as we set off on Patti’s Trail, a short lollipop loop which began on the opposite side of Duckett Road from the kiosk.
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There weren’t as many flowers along this trail as we had seen on Harsin Butte but there were still quite a few and some that we had not seen during the first hike.
IMG_8481Camas

IMG_8490Old man’s whiskers and white-stem frasera

We followed blue posts and pointers to a fence.
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This area was a bit rockier and had quite a bit of phlox and large head clover.
IMG_8496Lots of phlox

20190526_075112Phlox

IMG_8506Large head clover, larkspur, and wild onion

20190526_075335Large head clover

IMG_8500Wild onion

The trail descended slightly as it approached Camp Creek. Although we still had some clouds passing overhead we had a clear view of the prairie and the flowers we were passing by.
IMG_8513Duckett Barn starting to disappears as we descended.

IMG_8510Possibly hoary balsamroot

IMG_8514Hoary balsamroot?

IMG_8515Phlox

20190526_081858Diffuseflower evening-primrose

IMG_8526Camp Creek

Patti’s Trail followed along Camp Creek to a small pond where red-winged black birds were hanging out.
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Beyond the pond the trail continued following the creek passing more flowers and blackbirds along the way.
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IMG_8529Possibly a mustard

IMG_8536White-stem frasera blooming

20190526_080638Violets

20190526_081638Hairy clematis

IMG_8549Old man’s whiskers

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20190526_082540Cusick’s paintbrush

The trail veered left at a stock pond.
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We paused at the pond and Heather spotted a deer running up a nearby hillside.
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The trail continued to bend back around to the left following what was described as the swale of a dry creek but again with the recent precipitation there was water flowing creating a nice little stream.
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The trail eventually left the creek and was headed straight for Harsin Butte in the distance.
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We’d lost sight of the posts at one point and were just sticking to what appeared to be the main track and ended up veering left of the butte and coming to a small watering hole where the track petered out.
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Looking back from this higher vantage point we could see the next post we should have been aiming for so we backtracked and found another fainter track that put us back on the right course.
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The clouds were breaking up nicely as we ended this hike and the butterflies were coming out.
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After completing the loop and returning to our car we headed back toward Zumwalt-Buckhorn Road and our final hike of the day and trip on the Horned Lark Trail. While we were still on Duckett Road though we spotted a pair of elk running up the Findley Butte near the barn and stopped to get a picture.
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Shortly after turning right onto Zumwalt-Buckhorn Rd we stopped again to get a picture of a Wilson’s snipe. One had flown up from the grass while we were on Patti’s Trail but we hadn’t been able to get a picture of that one.
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When we were finally done with stopping for wildlife we parked at the Horned Lark Trailhead just over 3 miles from Duckett Road.
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This trail was described as an “easy 1.9 mile loop which sounded like a perfect way to end our trip. We began by following a clear double track through the prairie. Lupine was blooming nicely in this area and there was a view of the Wallowa Mountains beyond the Findley Buttes.
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As with Patti’s Trail the route of the Horned Lark Trail was marked by blue posts.
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The trail descended toward a pond near Pine Creek.
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Once again flowers were good supply.
IMG_8642Paintbrush and biscuitroot

IMG_8643A ragwort or groundsel (I think)

IMG_8646False sunflower?

IMG_8648Old man’s whiskers and milk vetch

20190526_094353Western stoneseed

We spotted another ground squirrel ahead in the path.
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He may have been on high alert due to the presence of a merlin nearby.
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IMG_8664I had to dip into the digital zoom to get this photo so it’s a bit blurry.

We followed the path and posts to the fenced pond but the path disappeared near a post a bit beyond the pond.
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We consulted the map that we’d printed out and it appeared to show the trail following a fenceline near Pine Creek so that’s what we did until we were able to spot another post in the distance.
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The fence was popular with the birds.
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We picked up a faint path and followed it toward the post.
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We followed the posts up a draw where the tread was often indiscernible.
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Even now we were still seeing different flowers.
IMG_8707Dwarf yellow fleabane

IMG_8711Blue dicks

Maybe it was simply due to the fact that this was our fourth staight day of hiking and it was early in our hiking season but this loop despite being only 2 miles long didn’t feel easy. The deer that we spotted bounding up and over the hill ahead of use didn’t seem to think it was too difficult though.
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IMG_8717Looking back down the draw.

Back on top we were headed ESE and could see the Seven Devils and Harsin Butte on the horizon.
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The Wallowas were still visible too behind Harsin Butte and the two Findley Buttes (from left to right).
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With the completion of the Horned Lake Trail our total milage for the three hikes came to 6.9 miles. It would have been a bit less had we not followed a couple of wrong paths. Harsin Butte was the most difficult with the 700′ elevation gain followed by the Horned Lark Trail with the easiest being Patti’s Trail. The Canyon Vista Trail which we skipped would have been about 3.6 miles round trip and possibly around 500′ of elevation gain. It was a beautiful place to visit and I guess we have a good reason to go back with one trail left undone.

As we were driving back toward Enterprise we encountered a vehicle stopped in the road. They flagged us down and let us know that they thought there was a golden eagle sitting on a rock on the hillside. Between the distance and the angle of the sun it was hard to tell but then the bird flew and it looked awfully small for a golden eagle. It landed on a telephone pole allowing us to see that it was indeed only a hawk, but it was a nice scene regardless.
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We said goodbye to the Wallowas and drove into Pendleton for the night where, after having been threatened by their possibility all weekend we finally got a thunderstorm. Luckily we had already walked back from our dinner at OMG! Burgers and Brew where we had another excellent meal. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Zumwalt Prairie

Categories
Hiking Oregon Trip report Wallowas

Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge & B.C. Creek Falls

We took an couple of days off for an extended Memorial Day Weekend in order to take a trip to NE Oregon in hopes of checking off a few more hikes of our to do list of Bill Sullivan’s 500 featured hikes (post). The plans included our fist visit to the Hells Canyon Wilderness which would leave us with just seven more wilderness areas to visit in Oregon (post).

We also recently added a third goal of hiking in each of Oregon’s 36 counties. I had recently been looking at a map and began wondering how many of the counties we had hiked in and realized that there were only 5 in which we hadn’t as of the start of May this year: Columbia, Umatilla, Union, Gilliam, and Morrow. We checked off Columbia with our visit to Sauvie Island (post) and we have hikes planned in Umatilla and Union later this year. That left Gilliam and Morrow which are adjacent to one another in the north central portion of the State with the Columbia River acting as their northern borders. Neither of these counties are home to any of the 500 featured hikes but the John Day River acts as the western border for Gilliam County. We had been in Sherman County on the west side of the John Day during our visit to Cottonwood Canyon State Park (post) and remembered that there was a trail on the other side of the river, the Lost Corral Trail, which I quickly added to our future plans. That left Morrow County.

Sullivan does have a couple of additional hikes in the back of his Eastern Oregon book that are located in Morrow County but neither seemed to fit into our future plans. I turned to the map to see if anything would turn up and noticed that the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge was located in the county just NE of Boardman just off Interstate 84. We would be driving that by on our way to Wallowa Lake so I did a little research on the refuge. The Heritage Trail is the only official trail there but other areas are open to foot traffic and we were just looking for something that would allow us to stretch our legs and would allow us to check Morrow County off our new list.

We took exit 168 from I-84 and followed Highway 730 for 3.7 miles then turned left onto Patterson Ferry Road at a sign for the refuge. We drove 2.7 miles along Patterson Ferry Road past a parking area with restrooms to left at a large sign marking the start of a short driving loop.
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We had a map of the refuge with us, but the parking areas weren’t marked which was a little confusing. We followed the gravel road around a field parking at a lot on the right just under 1.5 miles from the start of the loop. A green fence blocked what looked like an old road bed.
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We decided to follow this track thinking that it might lead us to the Heritage Trail. There were a few wildflowers amid the grasses and a pleasant scent in the air coming from the trees.
IMG_7034Yarrow

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By the sound of them there were a whole lot of birds around but we weren’t having a lot of luck spotting them aside from a red-tailed hawk screeching in the sky above and a couple of western kingbirds.
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Several signed tracks split off from what appeared to be the main track that we were following. We aren’t sure but think they were pointers for hunting blinds.
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The track led us toward McCormack Slough where a bald eagle was keeping watch.
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At the slough we tried following a fainter track to the left thinking it might hook up with the Heritage Trail but there was no discernible path around the slough so we made our way back to the main track and returned to the car. Along the way we spotted two coyotes, several deer, a great blue heron and a pair of white pelicans.
IMG_7065First coyote in the grass.

IMG_7066Second coyote racing off through the grass.

IMG_7070One of the deer running off.

IMG_7072Great blue heron flying off.

IMG_7073White pelicans circling overhead.

We continued on the driving loop and just about a half mile later spotted the parking area for the signed Heritage Trail on the right.
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The paved trail follows an old road between a portion of the slough.
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We followed this trail for about a half mile where it joined an open road and then turned around and headed back. It was a short hike but we did see some more wildlife and a few flowers.
IMG_7076Bald Eagle

IMG_7080Wild Rose

IMG_7086Butterfly

IMG_7090Killdeer

IMG_7093An egret on the other side of the slough.

IMG_7097Sagebrush lizard

IMG_7099Another butterfly

IMG_7100Deadly Nightshade

IMG_7102A goose in the reeds.

Each of our stops here consisted of 1.1 mile hikes with a nice amount of wildlife. We drove back to the Interstate and continued east onto Wallowa Lake and our second hike of the day.

We had made reservations at the Eagle Cap Chalets near Wallowa Lake, just under 3/4 of a mile from the Wallowa Lake Trailhead and the start of our next hike. We decided to see if our room was ready and it was so we unpacked the car, threw on our packs and road walked to the trailhead.
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We started a 5 day backpacking trip here in 2016 (post) so the first quarter mile of trail was familiar before turning off of the West Fork Wallowa Trail onto the Chief Joseph Trail.
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The first section of trail may have been familiar but being two months earlier in the year the flowers were different.
IMG_7111Anemone

IMG_7115Fairyslipper

IMG_7122Arnica

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Rock Clematis

We turned onto the Chief Joseph Trail at the signed junction following a hand written pointer for B.C. Creek Falls
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The trail descended through the forest to a footbridge over the West Fork Wallowa River.
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On the far side of the river the trail climbed a series of switchbacks past more wildflowers and views down to the bridge below.
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IMG_7161Bluebells

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IMG_7172Prairie stars

IMG_7173More rock clematis

IMG_7178Paintbrush

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IMG_7191Larkspur

The trail then leveled out a bit as it traversed the hillside above the river passing a viewpoint of Wallowa Lake 3/4 of a mile beyond the bridge.
IMG_7206Area near the viewpoint.

IMG_7207Looking further into the Wallowas.

IMG_7242Wallowa Lake

We arrived at B.C. Creek a tenth of a mile from the viewpoint.
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After two bridges were washed out here the Forest Service stopped replacing them.
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After admiring the falls we turned back, not being tempted at all to attempt a ford to complete a possible loop back via the abandoned portion of the Chief Joseph Trail beyond the creek.
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Sullivan describes a second possible loop option by taking a spur trail through a private Boy Scout Camp. He noted that this trail could be closed to the public at any time but we decided to check it out turning left onto the unsigned but obvious trail .4 miles from the creek.
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After just a tenth of a mile a rocky viewpoint offered another look into the mountains and some purple penstemon.
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We also spotted a sign stating that the trail beyond was closed to the public and warning of surveillance cameras. We returned to the Chief Joseph Trail and headed back down to the bridge and recrossed the river. We then noticed another well used trail and followed it left along the canyon rim above the West Fork Wallowa.
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Flowers dotted the rocky terrain here.
20190523_152152Shooting star

IMG_7292Old man’s whiskers

IMG_7298Possibly a checkermallow

IMG_7274Paintbrush

We kept following the path along the rim to a viewpoint above a small unnamed waterfall.
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The user trail kept going beyond the falls so we did too eventually hooking back up with the West Fork Wallowa Trail a little over 100 yards from the trailhead. We then road walked back past the ground squirrels patrolling Wallowa State Park to the Eagle Cap Chalets, but not before stopping at the Khao Neaow Food Cart to get some Thai food to take back to our room for dinner.
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The food was great and after dinner we walked down to Glacier Grill and General Store to pick up some food and drinks for the room. On the way back we noticed a group of deer in front of the old Edelweiss Inn.
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They were a rowdy bunch.
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Our outing to B.C. Creek Falls was a modest 5 miles and a nice reminder of how much we loved our 2016 trip to the Wallowas. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Umatilla WLFR & B.C. Creek Falls

Categories
Hiking Oregon Trip report Wallowas

Eagle Cap Wilderness Day 5 – Return to the Wallowa Lake Trailhead

All good things must come to an end and it was time for our visit to the Eagle Cap Wilderness to end on the fifth day. We were up before 5am and were rewarded with a soft alpenglow.
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We ate some breakfast, packed up, and then made our way down to Horseshoe Lake.
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We then began a 3 mile descent to Sixmile Meadow along the West Fork Wallowa River. The trail up the river to Frazier Lake had been lined with wildflower meadows but this trail passed through a forest.
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A few flowers were present as well as some ripe oval leaf blueberries.
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Prince’s pine
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We had been discussing the fact that we hadn’t seen quite as much wildlife as we thought we might. A doe and her fawn had walked right past our tent on the first night and we’d seen a pair of mountain goats on the second day while heading up to the Matterhorn, but otherwise it had been a lot of birds, chipmunks and squirrels. As we came around a switchback we spotted a snowshoe hare.
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The trail leveled out as we neared Sixmile Meadow and the temperature dropped. A light frost covered the plants along the path.
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Logs allowed us to cross 2 branches of the river.
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We passed through Sixmile Meadow before turning left on the West Fork Wallowa Trail.
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We were now on a familiar trail but despite having seen the scenery there were some new sights in the form of wildlife.
Grouse
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Buck
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All in all it had been a great trip. We had had a couple of hiccups with Heather being ill the first night and having trouble finding a campsite the second and fourth nights but the weather had been wonderful and the scenery superb. After changing and doing a little bit of cleanup at the car we stopped for lunch in Joseph at the R & R Drive-In which really hit the spot. We each had a Zeke Burger and split an order of some spectacular tater-tots.

We were able to take I84 on the way home but decided to leave the Interstate at Hood River in an attempt to avoid driving through Portland during rush-hour on a Thursday. We drove past Mt. Hood on Highway 35 to Highway 26 then took State Highways through Estacada, Mollala,and Woodburn to avoid traffic. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157671217618871

Epilogue – After spending five days in the Eagle Cap Wilderness of NE Oregon we found ourselves at the beach for our annual family reunion in Gleneden Beach, OR. For the first time we brought our camera and for the first time we spotted whales off the coast.
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In the course of a week we’d gone from seeing mountain goats on the way up a 9826′ peak to watching whales surface from sea level. Just one of the reasons why we love living in the Pacific Northwest.

Categories
Hiking Oregon Trip report Wallowas

Eagle Cap Wilderness Day 4 – Eagle Cap

The fourth day of our backpacking trip began with a nice sunrise over Moccasin Lake.
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Our plan for the day was to take our day packs and hike to the summit of Eagle Cap, then pack up camp and move to Horseshoe Lake for the final night of our trip.

It had been rather breezy the day before and we were hoping that wouldn’t be the case today so that we could get catch some reflections of Eagle Cap in the lakes. A gentle breeze kept that from happening.
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We hiked to the west end of Mirror Lake and followed signs toward Horton Pass at a 4-way trail junction.
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The trail took us past Upper Lake set in an alpine bowl surrounded by wildflowers and backed by a scenic waterfall on the far side of the valley.
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The trail climbed up from Upper Lake toward Eagle Cap.
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We knew we would be encountering some patches of snow based on recent trip reports from Van Marmot and Born2BBrad over on Oregonhikers.org. We also knew that it would be fairly easy to avoid the snow which was good given our early start because the snow was still iced from the night before.
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From the sign in the snow we had the choice of going right to Horton Pass and following the ridge from there or going left and making a steeper climb to a higher point on the same ridge. Looking at the trail up to Horton Pass it seemed to have not only more snow but it was on a steeper slope than staying left so we chose that route and climbed to the ridge where views opened up to the west.
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To the NE lay the Lakes Basin and the Matterhorn.
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The west side of the ridge was covered in short trees and we passed through this forest of miniature trees to a saddle below Eagle Cap.
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From the saddle we had a nice view down the East Lostine River valley to the east and across to Blue Lake to the west.
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Beyond the saddle the trail climbed Eagle Cap in a series of long switchbacks. A few alpine flowers dotted the landscape.
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After passing through some whitebark pines we arrived at the broad summit of Eagle Cap.
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Although Eagle Cap is a few hundred feet shorter than the Matterhorn the sky was clearer than it had been two days earlier when we had been atop the other peak. The view was so huge it was hard to take everything in.
East Lostine River, the Matterhorn, and the Lakes Basin
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Glacier Lake
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Looking SW
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Seven Devils in Idaho
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The Elkhorns
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After having second breakfast on Eagle Cap we headed back down. On the way we ran into a couple from Portland who had camped near Upper Lake. They had seen a mountain goat run by their camp the day before and spotted a pair of wolves crossing a snowfield on the ridge above the lake as well. We passed several other hikers making their way up toward Eagle Cap making us glad we had started so early.

We stopped at Upper Lake to refill our water supply and decided to follow the trail around the lake thinking it would take us over to another trail that ran between Minam Pass and the 4-way junction at Mirror Lake.
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The trail petered out at the far end of the lake near it’s inlet stream. Instead of backtracking we decided to rock hop up the creek to the other trail.
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When we arrived at the other trail we found our first western pasque flower seed-heads.
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We were also near the waterfall we had seen from across Upper Lake.
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We followed the trail back down through some lovely wildflower meadows to the 4-way junction and then returned to our campsite to pack up.
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From Mirror Lake we had the choice of going back past Moccasin Lake or taking a different trail past little Sunshine and Crescent Lake. The two routes rejoined at the NE end of Douglas Lake. Since we had already seen Moccasin Lake we decided to go by Sunshine Lake where we wound up getting our best reflection of Eagle Cap.
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We passed a junction with the Hurricane Creek Trail after 1.1 miles and arrived at Crescent Lake after approximately another three quarter miles.
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Douglas Lake was just on the other side of the trail from Crescent Lake.
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We followed a pointer for the West Fork Wallowa River when we reached the trail junction at the end of Douglas Lake.
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Shortly thereafter we came to another trail junction.
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Here we faced another choice. Both forks would bring us to Horseshoe Lake, the left in 1.3 miles and the right in 1.5 miles passing Lee and Lily Lakes. We chose the longer route past the other two lakes and began descending toward Lee Lake.
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After a brief stop at Lee Lake we continued past the aptly named Lily Lake.
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The trail passed by large Horseshoe Lake along the northern shore.
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We were hoping to find a campsite at east end of Horseshoe Lake which would would leave us with a shorter hike on our final day but we were unable to find a suitable site at that end of the lake. After reaching the junction with the other fork of the Lakes Basin Trail and failing to have found a good campsite we decided to head back up the other fork to see if there were any decent sites along that trail.
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We had been planning on visiting nearby Unit Lake after setting up camp and knew there was a campsite there, but the trail to that lake was no longer maintained and camping there would require hauling our packs down to the lake over a lot of blowdown which we preferred not to do. As luck would have it we found a suitable spot for our tent below the trail just opposite of the unmaintained trail to Unit Lake.
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After getting settled we decided to take our chairs, dinner, and water filter with us to Unit Lake and spend our evening there. The trail had definitely not been maintained from quite some time and we were glad we had chosen not to try and do the trail with our full packs.
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That being said we were glad we made the side trip down to the lake.
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We were a little surprised when a Dad and four kids came crashing down the trail to fish for a little while but they soon departed and we had a little more solitude before returning to our tent and watching the sunset on Eagle Cap for the final time.
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Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157671183919842

Categories
Hiking Oregon Trip report Wallowas

Eagle Cap Wilderness Day 3 – Into the Lakes Basin

We woke up feeling pretty good on the third day of our trip despite the long hike searching for a campsite the day before. Heather had made it through the night without getting sick and we were up at dawn getting ready to continue on.
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We were a little concerned by an influx of smoke coming up the valley behind us. We figured that the wind had shifted overnight and some of the smoke we had seen from the Matterhorn the day before had made it’s way to us but we weren’t sure. We hoped that it wouldn’t affect our visibility as we began the days hike.

The trail continued through increasingly impressive wildflower meadows to a bridgeless crossing of the West Fork Wallowa River.
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At the crossing we found a single log across the river which I started to attempt to cross on before deciding it was a little too narrow and wet for my comfort.
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Oddly enough there appeared to be an actual bridge way upstream but it was only a snow-bridge.
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The river was only calf deep so instead of trying to balance on the log we decided to simply ford the river and deal with wet feet for awhile. On the far side of the river the trail continued up the narrowing valley past a number of side streams and waterfalls.
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Once again a “Fires Prohibited Beyond This Point” sign signaled we were only quarter mile from a lake.
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The trail leveled out and quickly brought us to Frazier Lake.
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We didn’t see anyone camped here just a lot of tadpoles in the water.
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At the far end of Frazier Lake we left the West Fork Wallowa Trail and followed a pointer for Glacier Pass.
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This trail followed a branch of the river flowing down an alpine valley from Glacier Lake to Frazier Lake. Waterfalls, wildflowers and golden-mantled squirrels awaited us as we climbed ahead of the encroaching smoke that continued to make it’s way up the valley behind us.
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A final wide sweeping arc completed this 2 mile section of trail bringing us just below the basin holding Glacier Lake.
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The beauty and wonder of God’s creation is our main motivation for hiking and although we witness it every time we hit the trail there are moments where that beauty is indescribable and impossible to capture with a camera. Our first look at Glacier Lake was one such moment.
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Backed by snowy peaks including Eagle Cap and lined with wildflowers the blue-green waters of Glacier Lake were breathtaking. We set down our packs and removed our wet shoes and socks to allow them to dry while we soaked in the unbelievable scenery.
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Amazingly we only noticed one tent set up around this gem. Heather quickly decided that someday we would come back and spend at least one night here. We had more hiking to do though, so we eventually pulled ourselves away and continued past the lake and up toward Glacier Pass.
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A couple of patches of snow lingered across the trail but neither were any issue to cross.
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The view from Glacier Pass included Glacier Lake, Eagle Cap, and the Matterhorn.
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As we began to descend from the pass we spotted Moccasin Lake and our ultimate goal for the day, Mirror Lake.
Moccasin Lake
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Mirror Lake
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After seeing no one at Frazier Lake and the single tent at Glacier Lake we began running into more and more hikers as we made our way down to Moccasin Lake. The landscape here contained many alpine meadows and bubbling streams.
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We followed the trail to Moccasin Lake where we had to hop across it on rocks.
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At a trail junction near Moccasin Lake we followed a pointer toward the East Fork Lostine River.
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In another .7 miles we reached Mirror Lake and began looking for a place for our tent. After crossing the lake’s outlet creek we found a nice spot in beneath some tress near a small pond and set our packs down while we looked around a bit more.
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There were already a number of tents set up around the lake and more hikers were arriving all the time. Before we had started to set up our tent a group of teenagers chaperoned by one adult began noisily setting up tents nearby. We quickly decided to move further away to avoid the unnecessary yelling this group was already doing. We settled on a rocky cliff overlooking both Mirror and Moccasin Lakes above the creek between the two lakes.
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The noise from the creek below helped drown out some of the noise and we spent the rest of the afternoon lounging around our campsite and exploring the rocky area between the lakes. The smoke that had been coming up the valley near Frazier Lake made a brief appearance early in the evening but it eventually rolled back and was held at bay on the horizon.
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The kids wound up being quieter than expected and after watching a nice sunset we turned in for the night.
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Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157671957245226