Years back a co-worker showed me pictures of a place I’d never even heard of before. The Wallowas. Eagles Cap Wilderness. Since then I’ve been wanting to get out there and see this place with my own eyes.
Wednesday night it was hard to sleep. Thursday morning Eric and I were leaving on a highly anticipated trip into Eastern Oregon. I picked him up in the morning and we were on the road with a long 6 hr drive in front of us. We made a few stops on the way that slowed us down, but by 5PM we were putting our packs on and heading up. The trail into Ice Lake is 9 miles with a 4k elevation gain. We pushed hard to get up to the lake by nightfall, but didn’t quite make it until after. We arrived to our camp at 10PM exhausted and hungry, so we made some dinner and called it a night.
Friday morning I was up at 5 to see the sunrise. Thankful I forced myself up. The sun hittingthe mountains across the lake was so gorgeous. To see the first light of the sun glow on snowy peaks high up in the mountains away from all your troubles is just too much to handle. I checked out the lake by myself in the morning light feeling so thankful for the beauty of this place and the opportunity to be there in that moment. We made oatmeal and coffee for breakfast and moved our camp to another spot on the other side of the lake that we liked a little more. The rest of the day was spent seeing the lake from all angles. Tried our hand at fishing. We caught several brook trout on Eric fishing pole, but tossed them back. There was already plenty of food for us to eat. Really gorgeous little fish, though. Temps got up to around 90. A poler plunge seemed necessary. It hurt at the time, but I felt great after! We made a fire that night to keep the mosquitos at bay and went to bed early to rest up for our big day.
Saturday morning came fast early. My alarm went off at 2. By 2:30 we were on the move headed around the lake on a mission to summit both Matterhorn and Sacajawea Peaks. They are the 2 tallest peaks in the Wallowas and happen to be very close to each other. For a couple hours our headlamps were the only light sources leading the way. But as we approached the top of our first climb (Matterhorn), the ambient light of the almost risen sun gave us enough to go off of. We were just below the summit of Matterhorn as the sun rose and crested a nearby mountain peak. Possibly the single most beautiful moment I’ve experienced in the outdoors. Hours and days worth of hard work climbing up up & up. To reach the top of a range and see the sunrise hitting the tip tops of the peaks you are surrounded by… it can’t be photographed or explained properly. It can only be experienced. We made our mark in the summit log and after lots of celebrating and breakfast at the top we moved on towards our next Peak - Sacajawea. The tallest in the Wallowas. It meant climbing Unnamed Peak (which was in the way), and scrambling/climbing around a gnarly exposed ridge. This was certainly the most technical section of the day. Few moments we thought we were in deep trouble. But with a little encouragement and self-confidence we made it up to Sacajawea by about 9AM. I ate gummy bears at the top. We gawked for a while. We snapped some shots and started our backtrack across the ridge we had just barely made it across and then down to our lakeside campsite. We were back a little after noon making our roundtrip a solid 5.5 miles with 2k elevation gain in 10 hours. We spent the remainder of the day in and out of sleep trying to stay cool and away from the mosquitoes.
Sunday we woke up refreshed. I was a little anxious about the hike out with giant blisters on my heels, but thanks to Doctor Eric and his handy dandy first aid kit, I was all patched up and ready to go. We pushed hard to get back into Joseph by noon to see the finals of the World Cup. With that in our minds we flew down the trail and in less than 3 hours we were back in the truck and on our way.