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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.

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IMG_7442Lupine

20220713_063707Coralroot

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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.

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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.
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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.

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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

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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_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.

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IMG_7130An Orobanche

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IMG_7137Penstemon

IMG_7163Butterfly

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IMG_7183White mariposa lily

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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