Sunday, June 5, 2011

backpacking the hells canyon wilderness

The window of Hells Canyon is closing. It usually is only a sliver, a brief slice of time where hiking is not dangerous. Before the creeks have dried up, the heat turned up so you bake in an oven of brown, waterless slopes. We made a run for it before it was too late.
The trail heads down from this high point and then winds along mid-canyon, two thousand feet above the Snake River.

Freezeout Saddle, about 4.3 miles and several thousand feet above where we parked the truck.

Just as had been predicted, summer came with the flip of a switch. It snowed Thursday. Saturday it was 80 degrees.

We set up the tent on a grassy knoll with a spectacular view. There were several cars parked on the road but we only saw one group. This wilderness is big enough to absorb multiple parties; it swallows you up.

We're in Oregon. The snowy peaks are in Idaho.

We wandered along the bench trail and finally just sat, taking it all in. I could stare into the canyon for hours.

Some pink alpenglow from our campsite.
Harsh, rugged, serious country, Hells Canyon is. It's not for everyone. We passed a group clearly unprepared and hating life. Clad in unbreathable clothes, gaiters and gloves, they toiled uphill, most certainly deluded about their final destination. When I first got here I looked at the trail mileage and thought, eleven miles to the Snake River? No problem! Elsewhere, maybe. Not here. You have to respect this landscape. You make few miles here.

Amy on the saddle, homeward bound.
 So long, Hells Canyon. See you in the fall.


  1. What a gem! I want to go there, now, before the window closes.
    I am so tempted to do what the guy I met in Yosemite does. Work part of the year and the rest of the year explore. How cool would that be!

  2. It looks beautiful! With most of your previous posts about trips in Hells Canyon, it looks like you made the most of the short spring season. :)

  3. Mary: We MUST meet sometime, okay? I think we are kindred spirits. Plus I wanna hike in 80 degree temps (it's in the 40s and raining, again).
    Cheers and great pics,


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