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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.
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IMG_8426Yellow bell

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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.
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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

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IMG_8506Large head clover, larkspur, and wild onion

20190526_075335Large head clover

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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

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20190526_081858Diffuseflower evening-primrose

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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

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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.
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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

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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

Categories
Hiking Oregon Trip report Wallowas

Eagle Cap Wilderness Day 2 – The Matterhorn and West Fork Wallowa Trail

When we had gone to sleep the night before we weren’t sure if we would be continuing our trip or hiking back to the car after only one night due to Heather having gotten sick during the night. She was feeling pretty good in the morning though and was fairly certain she had just overheated the day before, so we decided to move ahead with our plans and see how she held up.

We had breakfast and watched as the morning light slowly made it’s way into the Ice Lake basin.
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The Matterhorn catching the morning sunlight.
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Our plan for the day was to take our day packs and hike up to the 9826′ summit of the Matterhorn before packing up camp and heading further up the West Fork Wallowa River. To reach the Matterhorn we would need to follow a use trail on the west side of Ice Lake up almost 2000′. We had explored some of the south side of the lake the day before so we went around the north side of the lake to reach the use trail. This proved to be a good choice as there was no wind allowing for some beautiful reflections in the lake.
Ice Lake

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The lupine was just starting to bloom along the north shore as well.
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The trail crossed an inlet creek at the west end of the lake and then grew fainter as it headed uphill.
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The scenery grew more alpine like as we climbed. A few trees dotted the rocky landscape and wildflowers added color.
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Alpine shooting star
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Alpine springbeauty
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Lewis flax and wallflowers
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Ice Lake was getting further away as we continued up.
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The path led to a marble outcrop that overlooked a basin where we spotted a pair of mountain goats.
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In addition to Ice Lake below there were a couple of snow melt tarns visible below the trail.
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The trail had been fairly easy to follow but it became more difficult after crossing a section of red rocks and starting up the marble of the Matterhorn.
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Despite the rocky terrain several different wildflowers had managed to find footholds.
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Once we were on the marble we worked our way up following cairns and whatever footprints we could find in the areas of dirt that were present. A couple of times we realized we had lost the shoe prints and were only following mountain goat hoof prints. We made our way up to a surprisingly wide ridge top and followed it south toward the summit of the Matterhorn.
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The view of the Wallowas was amazing. Smokey skies surrounded us limiting the visible distance, but we couldn’t complain.

The Elkhorns
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The Lostine Valley
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Cairn marking the summit of the Matterhorn with a smoke plume from a wildfire in Idaho in the distance.
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Eagle Cap in the center of the Eagle Cap Wilderness.
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In addition to the great views were some interesting rock features.
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We headed back down from the summit stopping along the way to chat with another hiker on his way up. After packing up we took the Ice Lake Trail back down to the West Fork Wallowa Trail. We were surprised by the number of hikers we passed heading up to Ice Lake on a Monday.

When we arrived back at the junction with the West Fork Wallowa Trail Heather was doing well so we continued with our trip and took the trail south toward Sixmile Meadow. IMG_3201

This 3.3 mile section of the West Fork Wallowa Trail wasn’t the most exciting trail we’d been on, but to be fair it was following up Ice Lake and the Matterhorn. We also had remembered the distance incorrectly thinking it was only about 1.5 miles to the meadow causing it to seem like it was taking forever to get there.

We had originally considered setting up camp at Sixmile meadow but after passing the junction with the Lakes Basin Trail at the edge of the meadow we only saw one campsite which was closer to the trail and more exposed than we wanted to be.
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We decided to continue further along the West Fork Wallowa Trail planning on stopping at the first good campsite we found. That proved to be more difficult than we had expected. The scenery along the trail improved beyond Sixmile Meadow as open wildflower meadows replaced the forest but there was a lack of noticeable campsites and the couple we saw were already occupied.
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One of the more interesting flowers we had been seeing on the trip were yellow columbine which was becoming more profuse in these higher meadows.
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After passing an unsigned junction with the trail up to Polaris Pass the West Fork Wallowa Trail passed through a narrow canyon before entering another meadow.
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It was getting close to 6pm and we were getting a little tired and anxious about finding a suitable campsite. Our worst case scenario was to push on to Frazier Lake but that would mean possibly fording the river, another climb and an additional mile plus of hiking. Luckily as we passed through this meadow we spotted a faint path to the left which led to a small campsite next to some trees. We quickly claimed the spot and set up the tent.
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We had gone quite a bit further than we’d originally planned that day ending up having covered 16.7 miles for the day, but this site turned out to be wonderful. The sounds of the nearby river was joined by the distant roar of several waterfalls cascading down the surrounding cliffs.
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Heather was starting to feel a little under the weather again as we turned in for the night and we decided that we would try and take it a little easier the next day. We had already cut down the distance we needed to go to get to our next planned stop at Mirror Lake and we decided that instead of an afternoon side trip we would just hang out around the lake. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157671954055746

Categories
Hiking Oregon Trip report Wallowas

Eagle Cap Wilderness Day 1 – Ice Lake

When I put together our hiking schedule for the year one of the most anticipated trips was our first visit to the Eagle Cap Wilderness in North Eastern Oregon. At 355,846 acres it is the largest wilderness area in Oregon and contains 31 peaks whose summits are over 8000′. A variety of wildlife is also present including wolves. Our plan was to visit during the first week of August hoping it would be early enough to see some good flowers but late enough to avoid the worst of the mosquitoes and not have issues with lingering snow. Leading up to our trip we watched the weather and fire reports making sure everything looked clear and thanks to some timely trip reports on Oregonhikers.org we knew that snow wasn’t going to be an issue.

With everything checking out we left home on July 31st and began the 6+ hour drive to the Wallowa Lake Trailhead. Our first little hiccup came as we were driving along I84 and learned that a fire had started overnight closing the interstate just beyond Pendleton, OR. We were forced to detour through the Umatilla National Forest which added a little time to our drive. Luckily we had left the house early and it was just after 11am when we finally arrived at the trailhead.
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The trailhead is located at the end of Wallowa Lake State Park and the area is a very popular recreation area which was evident by the number of people. We strapped on our packs and followed signs for the West Fork Wallowa Trail and Ice Lake.
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It wasn’t long before we entered the wilderness.
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The trail followed the West Fork Wallowa River up a valley with occasional views.
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The wildflowers were starting to fade at the lower elevations but there were still some blooming along the way.
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After 2.8 miles we arrived at the junction with the Ice Lake Trail.
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This trail led down to a crossing of the West Fork Wallowa River.
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From this area we could see the monstrous Ice Falls on Adam Creek which flowed from Ice Lake over 4.5 miles and 2000′ away.
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Ice Falls

On the far side of the river we began the long climb up to Ice Lake.
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The lower section of trail passed through grassy meadows filled with two types of mariposa lilies.
Sagebrush mariposa lily
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White mariposa lily
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The trail then passed through a section of rock fields before reaching Adam Creek.
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The climbing really started here as the trail began a series of switchbacks along the creek. After 14 of them we came to Beauty Falls.
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Ice Falls was visibly beyond Beauty Falls.
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The trail straightened out as it passed through another series of meadows where the wildflowers were blooming nicely.
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Beyond these meadows another dozen switchbacks stood between us and our goal. Although the temperature wasn’t all that high the combination of the climb and being in the sun made it seem hot. It was slow going but we knew we were getting close when we passed the sign announcing that fires were prohibited beyond that point which meant we were about a quarter mile away.
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As we came around a bend we got our first view of the marble rock of the Matterhorn in the distance.
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It wasn’t much further before the blue water of Ice Lake became visible.
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We’d read that most of the campsites were located on the SE side of the lake so we crossed Adam Creek and began searching for a spot.
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In addition to the ban on fires camping is prohibited less than 100′ from the lake or streams. It was immediately evident by the numerous fire rings and obvious prior tent locations near the lake that some people are incapable of following the rules. We picked out an appropriate spot and got settled.
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After relaxing and having dinner we did some exploring following a trail along the south side of the lake.
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We spotted a few of the locals along the way.
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We crossed a nice inlet creek and followed it up to a pretty alpine meadow with a waterfall.
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After filtering some water from the creek we returned to camp for the night.
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It had been a great first day but shortly after we turned in Heather became ill. We were up for a couple of hours as she attempted to get her stomach to settle down. When we finally were able to go back to bed we did so wondering if we would be continuing our trip.

Happy trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157669026671623