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Sep 10 2018

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35 male
 Joined Aug 16 2006
 Portland, OR
Eagle Cap Wilderness Area TrailsNortheast, OR
Northeast, OR
Backpack avatar Sep 10 2018
Backpack46.19 Miles 10,033 AEG
Backpack46.19 Miles3 Days         
10,033 ft AEG30 LBS Pack
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Spent 3 days exploring the Eagle Cap Wilderness in Eastern Oregon. This place is nicknamed the "Alps of Oregon" and for good reason.

Day 1, Sep 10th, Wallowa Lake TH to Aneroid Lake
Made the long drive from Portland out to the Wallowa Lake Trailhead. Started hiking right at 1600 and took the East Fork Trail up to Aneroid Lake for my first night. The first 4-5 miles are relatively boring as the trail climbs up the canyon, but once it starts to level out and pass through some stream filled meadows it got much more scenic. I was even treated to the sound of Elk Bugling as I approached the lakes.

Although the trail signs say its only 6 miles, it ended up being just over 7 miles. Normally this isn't a big deal, but when you are racing the setting sun every mile matters. Had just enough time to scope out the campsites and throw down my bivy sack before it got dark. There were 2 or 3 other small groups camped further out on the north side of the lake, but we were all far enough away from each other to have plenty of solitude.

Day 2, Sep 11th, Aneroid Lake to Glacier Lake
Overnight was mostly clear and I was able to watch the stars rotate overhead, but right before dawn clouds began to roll in again. There was a pretty sunrise with a hint of color and then a couple of minutes later the lake and surrounding hills were engulfed in fog.

I started hiking around 0700. The climb up past Aneroid Lake to Tenderfoot Pass went quickly and sent through some very pretty meadows along the way. The grasses and smaller bushes are starting to change color for the fall and were vivid shades of gold and red. I even made the off trail side trek to check out Jewett Lake just before arriving at Tenderfoot Pass.

Headed down the far side of Tenderfoot Pass the views really opened up. The Imnaha River Valley seemed to extend for miles and miles. The trail wound its way along the hillside for a bit and then I arrived at Polaris Pass- where I was literally left breathless from the view. On the far side of the pass were cloud capped granite peaks for as far as the eye could see. It was quite the transition going from volcanic hills to granite peaks, standing on the pass and looking back and forth from the east to the west it was hard to fathom that the view could be so very different. I also got to watch a lone mountain goat scramble along the scree slopes below Sentinel Peak, occasionally starting small rock slides that would echo across the valley.

Down the far side of the pass towards the West Fork trail took forever. The trail has something like 40+ switchbacks, but they are all so gradual that it takes over 5 miles to lose about 2000 feet. Being able to see the valley below, but never seeming to get any closer really starts to wear on ones patience. Upon reaching the west fork I made the momentarily decision to head back to the trailhead since I was tired from not sleeping well the night before. But 10-15 minutes later I realized how dumb of a decision that was and headed back uphill towards Glacier Lake.

The climb up to Glacier Lake went really quickly and was quite scenic. The trail passed through stream filled granite basins and up past Frazier Lake. Although I thought the lakes I had encountered up until this point were quite pretty- Glacier Lake was spectacular. Nestled in a small granite bowl above a valley, you can look across the lake and see Glacier and Eagle Cap peak rise almost 1500 feet over the lake's crystal clear waters. At the recommendation of another hiker, I set up camp on the far side of the outlet stream at what we both decided was the very best campsite on the entire lake.

After setting up camp I explored the lake shore and was treated to one of the most dramatic sunsets I have ever seen. The setting sun cut through the clouds and lit up the surrounding area as the peaks danced in and out of view behind the clouds. After it got dark, the clouds cleared out surprisingly quick and it started to get chilly.

Day 3, Sep 12th, Glacier Lake to Eagle Cap, thru the Lakes Basin, then back home

I woke up around 0600 to my sleeping bag covered in a light layer of ice. I quickly packed my stuff and was on trail by 0630. From the lake the trail quickly heads uphill to Glacier Pass where I was finally warmed up to remove my overnight base layers.

Down in the core of the Lakes basin I passed by beautiful Moccasin Lake and Mirror Lake where other campers were just beginning to wake up for the day. I made a brief stop at Upper Mirror Lake for breakfast and to refill my water and headed up to Eagle Cap. Although steep, the climb is very scenic and went by much faster than anticipated. The view from the top was magnificent. I spent about 30 minutes all by myself just taking in the view and trying to identify distant peaks with the help of my map.

Knowing that I had a long day ahead of me, I reluctantly headed back down. On my way I passed about 6 other groups of hikers who were making their way up towards the summit. Back down at the base of Eagle Cap, I decided to take the long way back to the trailhead by looping along the outer Lake Basin loop that passes a couple of extra lakes. Although they were all scenic and totally worth it- Glacier Lake is still my favorite.

Once past Horsehoe Lake, the trail still has close to 9 miles before it reaches the trailhead. Unfortunately, this section was not very appealing to me and made for a very tough last couple of hours now that I was sore and sleep deprived. In the future, I think I would rather approach the Lakes Basin through the Two Pan trailhead as it appears much shorter and passes through meadows along the way.

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Autumn Foliage Observation Light
Grasses and small bushes starting to change to gold and red. No Larch color yet.

WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.


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