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.
|On the pass|
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?