Forum Index > Trip Reports > A Week in Eagle Cap Wilderness, 9/12/08 to 9/18/08
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Joined: 08 Oct 2007
Posts: 78 | TRs
Location: Issaquah

PostTue Sep 23, 2008 9:24 pm 
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1.  Diablo Mudo’s Flickr web link: to be posted later
2.  Pumarinri’s Flickr web link:

More photos to be posted later!

This was our big backpack trip for 2008.  After one month trekking and climbing in Peru last year, we decided to stay closer to home this year.  Pumarinri suggested the Eagle Cap Wilderness where he and 2 friends (Dr. Joe Schuster and Ray Hansen) had done a 45 mile loop trip in 1983.  Here is the approximate route they followed in 1983.

Diablo Mudo volunteered to drive.  Umbrella Lady volunteered to provide the dinners and we all agreed to bring our own breakfasts and lunches.  After ordering maps, studying Eagle Cap trip reports on nwhikers, and looking at various possible routes at the Issaquah Brew Pub, we had a trip planned.  The weather cooperated in a wonderful way with nary a cloud in sight for the full week.  There were no injuries, we climbed 3 peaks (Matterhorn, Sacajawea, Eagle Cap), did some cross country scrambling, and had a great time.

A quick summary:
Day 1  Wallowa Lake trailhead to Meadow below Ice Lake, 6.7 miles
Day 2  Meadow below Ice Lake to Ice Lake, Matterhorn Peak, Sacajawea Peak, and back to Ice Lake, 8.0 miles
Day 3  Ice Lake cross country to Razz Lake then Mirror Lake, 7.1 miles
Day 4  Mirror Lake to Eagle Cap to Mirror Lake to Glacier Lake, 9.4 miles
Day 5  Glacier Lake to Frazier Lake to Polaris Pass to Aneroid Lake, 10.3 miles
Day 6  Aneroid Lake to Wallowa Lake trailhead, 6.0 miles
Day 7  Day hike to Chimney Lake, 14.8 miles

Total distance = 62.3 miles

Both Diablo Mudo and Pumarinri brought Garmin GPS devices, but Pumarinri forgot to load the appropriate topo maps, so we relied on Diable Mudo’s GPS for navigation and contours.  Here is the route we followed this year.

Day 1:
We met at Diablo Mudo‘s house at 6:00 AM and began our drive to Wallowa Lake trailhead in northeastern Oregon.  Our GPS predicted an arrival time of 1:25 PM, which eventually changed to about 3:00 PM due to one stop for gas and lunch near LaGrande.  After arriving at trailhead and quickly sorting through our gear, we were “on the trail”, which turned out to be deep in fine dust due to the many pack horse trains operating out of Wallowa Lake.  However, the dust did not dampen our enthusiasm.  After a brief stop at the junction with the Ice Lake trail (2.6 mi), we decided to hike to the first good campsite with water closer to Ice Lake (5.1 mi).  We finally stopped in a meadow about 1 mile short of Ice Lake.  Umbrella Lady set up her tent but Diablo Mudo and Pumarinri decided to sleep under the stars since the sky was perfectly clear.  After a delicious East Indian vegetarian dinner and soup, the nearly full moon suddenly sprang up over the ridge east of our camp.  Before the brightness of the moon drowned out the light of the stars, Pumarinri spotted a bright northbound satellite which was “confirmed” by Umbrella Lady.  We all retired early, by about 8 or 8:30, a pattern that was repeated every night.

Day 2:
An early morning sun shining on the western ridge awoke the group so that we were up around 6:30 each day.  Each morning had frost on the plants and our sleeping bag covers when we slept outside.  We generally started hiking by 8 to 8:30 at the latest.  It was a short 1 mile hike to Ice Lake where we met the first other campers we had seen.  They said that fishing was good which didn’t help us since we had no fishing gear.  But we were ready to climb Matterhorn and Sacajawea.  After setting up 2 tents, we dumped our excess gear and were off for the day.  The Matterhorn (9845 ft) was first and also easy.  Then down the ridge to the gap between Matterhorn and the unnamed peak (9775 ft) to the north of Matterhorn.  We contoured along the west slope of this peak, gained the ridge, and then scrambled along the somewhat exposed ridge to where it finally became an easy ridge walk to Sacajawea (9833 ft).  We repeated our trip back along the ridge except that we climbed up and over the unnamed peak because it was easier than contouring along its steep western slope.  Back to camp for soup and a scalloped potato and vegetable dinner.  Again, a sudden rise of a now full moon, no satellites spotted due to the moon’s brightness, and early to bed.

Day 3:
After another early morning rise, we were off on a bootpath trail leading toward Razz Lake.  Pumarinri had done a variation of this same route in 1983, but there was some uncertainty of the exact route followed, so we chose the pass just west of Craig Peak, which was the lower pass of two choices, but was probably more difficult because it required traversing a short but steep ridge south of the pass, crossing another steep ridge, and then descending and traversing another steep slope to Razz Lake.  However, it was all fairly easy if handled carefully.  Lunch at Razz Lake, then down a fairly good bootpath to join the main trail above Horseshoe Lake.  From there it was fairly easy to Douglas, Moccasin, and Mirror Lake.  These Lakes in Eagle Cap are just incredibly beautiful!  They sure met all of our expectations and it was wonderful for me to be back there again after 25 years.  And they brought back wonderful memories of one of my hiking partners from 1983, Dr. Joe Schuster, who died March 6 of this year.  Another great dinner of soup and a cheese tortellini with garlic and sun dried tomatoes.  The moon popped up again and it’s brightness prevented our spotting any satellites, a group habit after many years outdoors.

Day 4:
Up early and off to climb Eagle Cap.  Easy climb and we saw 2 goats on top, a mommy and a baby.  Back down to Mirror Lake where we packed up then started up toward Glacier Pass.  Pumarinri remembered the beautiful trail that crosses a short land bridge across upper Moccasin Lake.  The climb to Glacier Pass was a grunt in the hot part of the day.  It was a short and easy descent into Glacier Lake.  Another great dinner of soup and macaroni and cheese with vegetables (plus chicken for the two meat eaters).  The past full moon popped up later tonight and allowed us to see a very bright satellite heading north.  “Confirmed”.

Day 5:
Up early and off toward Frazier Lake and then the junction with the Polaris Pass trail.  We filled up our water bottles at the West Fork Wallowa River, about 1 mile from the junction to Polaris Pass.  We got to the junction early enough to have some shade on the west facing slopes leading to Polaris Pass.  Hiking in the morning with a cool breeze also helped us on these open slopes.  We finally arrived at Polaris Pass after passing about 5 backpackers descending from Polaris Pass.  It was about 5 miles from Polaris Pass to Aneroid Lake in the hot part of the day, so we were all conserving water.  After arriving at Aneroid Lake, Umbrella Lady climbed close to the summit of Aneroid Peak, Pumarinri explored the YMCA camp, and Diablo Mudo relaxed and finished reading a book “The Map That Changed the World”.  Another great dinner of soup and a cheese tortellini with garlic and sun dried tomatoes.  Early to bed before the moon rose.

Diablo Mudo spotted a big horn sheep near our campsite and we saw it again the next morning as we were leaving.  There were no other campers at Aneroid Lake, and in fact the East Fork Wallowa River valley appears to be much less used than the West Fork valley, and is in my opinion every bit as beautiful with more open meadows than the West Fork Wallowa River valley.

Day 6:
Up early and off to Wallowa Lake trailhead.  We planned to do a side hike to Royal Purple Mine, but could not find the side trail after considerable searching.  After reaching our car at trailhead, we went to Wallowa Lake State Park, got a campsite, put up tents, showered, and went into town for beer and food.  After the gastric resupply, we visited the Chief Joseph burial memorial site, and then went back to town for more beer and dinner.  Back to camp and early to bed before the moon rose.

Day 7:
We were up early and boiled water for a typical trail breakfast of oatmeal, cream of wheat, cocoa, and trail bars.  Proceeded to leave Joseph and drive to Lostine Road where we were delayed by road grading.  After about 15 miles on the Lostine River Road we arrived at trailhead and hiked another very dusty and rocky trail due to the heavy use by pack horses.  Hiked to Chimney Lake, ate lunch, and returned to car to begin trip home.  We were on the road by 3:00 PM and the GPS projected our arrival home by 10:30 PM.  Again we were delayed by road grading.  The GPS took us on an odd but direct route home.  We bypassed LaGrande and Pendleton but still arrived home by 10:30 after a stop for Mexican food in Zillah.  What a great trip!
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