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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