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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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.
Beauty Falls

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