Monday, October 12, 2015

forty miles, two days

Back in the day, when I worked at park service visitor centers, people would always come up to ask if something was "worth it." "Is it worth it to hike to the bristlecone pines? Is it worth it to take the tour?" I never knew how to answer them. Of course it's worth it, I wanted to say, but they would look at their watches and say they only had one day to see the entire park. They had to make this day count!

I only worked 35 hours this past week and it was amazing how much time I had to do real things.
Resolutely I closed my email and grabbed my backpack. These days I keep it in a packed state so I can just go. My goal was to get over the other side of the Wallowas, that fabled southern side I rarely visit because it is a day's hike over the passes to get there. (Or a long drive, but who wants to drive three hours to backpack?) The downside of this approach is that, well, it's a long approach. You trudge up, then down, then over a pass, then way, way down into the East Eagle drainage, then you search for awhile for the turnoff to Hidden Lake, which is indeed hidden. After you puzzle for quite some time, give up and just head to the creek and find the remnants of a trail, then you trudge uphill for most of the 2000 feet you have just lost until you reach the lake.

I threw down my pack in the growing dusk. It had taken me seven hours to go perhaps 17 miles. The lake felt like a wild, unknown place, despite the fire rings scattered on its shore. Five elk ran out and into the lake, splashing and drinking. A group of ducks flew over, their wings a loud buzz in the silent woods. It was worth the effort.



The next day I picked my way down from the lake and up another pass to get to familiar country. Two guys were  heading up the pass and had missed the turnoff to Hidden Lake. I told them the landmarks as best I could. They also told me a dog had gone missing on Eagle Cap the day before. Had it fallen, been cliffed out, grabbed by a mountain lion? I tend to feel very comfortable in these mountains. It was a good reminder of what can happen.

Horton Pass
On the pass



Upper Lake

I continued through the lakes basin, encountering a few people in shorts. Shorts! In October! It was a strange time warp. I had been planning to camp out another night but before I knew it I had walked into the Hurricane Creek drainage, only a few miles from home. Might as well keep walking. At the trailhead, my car was not there. It turns out that when you tell someone you won't be out until the next morning, they believe you. No matter, it was only a three mile road walk. When you have already walked twenty miles, what's three more?
The Matterhorn
My computer glared at me from its room. I knew all sorts of work waited, and I would have to work extra to make up for playing hooky. But it was worth it.

21 comments:

  1. It makes me a bit jealous that you consider a three hour drive to a backpack to be a long drive. I've driving longer than that for a day hike.

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    1. I kind of giggled when I wrote that because I know I am lucky.

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  2. You did it Mary, what did you think of East Eagle?
    Did you take the trail past Moon lake to get to Hidden or did you take the trail just a little ways up Horton and in to the back side of Hidden? I know it can be hard to find if you've never been before but most times it is well worth it. There's been a lot of times we've had it all to ourselves and only a few times that we've seen more then a couple of people.

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  3. Sorry Mary I mant to ask if you took the backside trail just a little ways up Frazer not Horton.

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    1. I saw something that might have been that trail, but was afraid to take it. Now I know it probably was and could have saved me a lot of elevation change. Oh well. That Eagle drainage is neat though. It seemed really wild and remote, probably because it just got opened again after the fire.

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  4. I'm laughing because on my last backpacking trip I flat refused to walk the six miles to the car and insisted on hitchhiking instead. It was six hot, shadeless miles on a shoulderless road. Forget that!

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    1. I thought about hitching but nobody went by. Road walks are not the funnest thing, are they?

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  5. A new lake basin...priceless. And who knew that "someone" would believe you on the time frame? Hahahah. Great post.

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    1. He was having so much fun driving the Xterra that he guilted me into letting him take it to Missoula this weekend.

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    1. Thanks! Just a cheap camera, but you can't go wrong with the scenery.

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  7. Love your free spirit just get up and go attitude! I enjoy seeing your photos of areas I one day hope to explore.

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    1. Thanks! Sometimes I have to force myself when nobody else is available. But then I remember why I like solo travel as well.

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  8. Well worth it indeed. Great photos. Xterra eh? I'm not big on having to drive to go do outdoor stuff, but I'm kinda stuck with that at the moment.

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    1. Yep...I dislike every moment I have to drive. I even whine about going to Enterprise! And all of us whine about how dreadfully far it is to drive up Lostine Canyon. Ha..we are spoiled.

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  9. Got your comment on our blog and was excited to discover yours as a result! Seems we have a lot in common and I look forward to reading through your posts and hearing about all your adventures. Keep 'em coming!

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  10. PS - We lived in Enterprise last summer! Loved it there!!!!

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    1. Darn, would have enjoyed some outdoors companions last summer!

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  11. I am very seriously considering driving seven hours each way this weekend, just to do an overnight backpacking trip. I generally have a rule that to make that sort of a drive, it at least has to be a three day weekend -- but I really need to get out. If it were only three hours, I would definitely be making the trip. I do miss having good mountains closer!

    Great photos and words!

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    1. I've driven that far for outstandingness. I'd go that far to go to the Sawtooths, for example (Idaho) and I have. I say go for it.

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