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  1. #1

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    Wallowa River Loop, Oregon

    It seems like Minnesota is the epicenter of the hammock camping world, so hopefully I can show you what we're up to in the West. We have big trees and big mountains, both of which can be problematic for hammocks.

    (This is a skinnied up and hammockified repost of my trip report on the Oregon Hikers forum)



    • Days: 5
    • Dates: September 22-26, 2019
    • Weather: Overcast and rainy first night, followed by several days of sun(burn). Nightly lows in high 30's. Day highs around 60. Left a day early due to forecasted storm with snow at higher elevations.
    • Route: Wallowa River Loop, as described in Lorraine's "Backpacking Oregon". Wallowa Lake Trailhead > Anaroid Lake > Polaris Pass > Frazier Lake > Glacier Lake > Mirror Lake > Eagle Cap day night hike > Horseshoe Lake > out
    • Mileage: ~34 miles RT.
    • Wildlife sightings: Bald Eagle near Mirror Lake, Douglas Fir Tussock Moth Caterpillar, Rocky Mountain Woolly Bear Caterpillar, fearless chipmunks looking for handouts, so so many crickets, giant Mormon Crickets. Another hiker reported a Black Bear sighting 1 mile from trailhead.
    • Hammock Camping: I was able to put a hammock up in every location i went to. You need to be a bit judicious in the Lakes Basin because the trees are more sparse and thin.



    Day 1: Wallowa Lake to Anaroid Lake


    Trail Time: 5 hours

    Straight forward forest hike from trailhead to the lake. Passes by beautiful high elevation meadows which would be a riot of flowers in the summer. It rained several hours right after i got into camp.




    Day 2: Anaroid Lake to Frazier Lake via Polaris Pass


    Trail Time: 8 hours (and no pussyfooting around either!)

    Hiked out from the lake after morning fog burned off. The highlands around Tenderfoot Pass look like you've been transported to Scotland. Long walk up to Polaris Pass and the disheartening thought of having to then go 2000ft down the other side:




    It's steep, no kidding:



    Be sure to check out the interesting geology on the way down.

    3 hours later, reached the bottom. A jaunt through the forest and up the river valley brought me to near Frazier Lake. You can camp a whole army here! Light drizzle overnight.




    Day 3: Frazier Lake to Mirror Lake, via Glacier Pass


    Trail Time: 6 hours

    Extremely scenic the entire way. You'll feel like you're on the John Muir Trail! Plan to have lunch at Glacier Lake:



    I met a fellow hiker by himself that wanted to hike Eagle Cap but changed his mind because he was by himself and heard reports of snow. I invited him to go with me the next morning. I camped at Mirror Lake, the closest to the Eagle Cap Trail. 3 other parties camped there. Plenty of space left.




    Of course, what you're not seeing here is a heat-robbing cold breeze. That's the downside to camping on alpine lake shores.

    Day 4: Eagle Cap and move to Horseshoe Lake


    Trail Time: 8 hours, plus an hour of picture taking on Eagle Cap.

    At 4am, me and my new trail partner met in the dark and hiked up to see the sunrise on top of Eagle Cap. (For reference, the trip takes approximately 2.5 hours to the top from Mirror Lake). 28F and very window on top. Totally worth it.




    After a snack and break, i packed up and moved through the Lakes Basin until my energy and willpower gave out at Horseshoe Lake. There was no one else camped there, or at Lee Lake, or at Douglas Lake. Warnings to avoid the Lakes Basin area because of rowdy crowds were certainly overblown (at least for September).



    I watched the sunset from the lake looking up at Eagle Cap. Just 12 hours earlier i had been watching the sunrise looking down on the lake. Interesting.




    Day 5: Horseshoe to Trailhead

    Trail time: 4.5 hours.

    At this point, i ran out of batteries even though i had taken extra (I warned you!). The hike from the lake back to the trailhead is mostly uneventful. On the way down from the lake, be sure to look out over the valley. You can see where you came over Polaris Pass and hiked South down the valley to Frazier Lake. The rest of the hike is a gentle downhill cruise back to the car.

    Final Thoughts: one of the most scenic hikes i've ever done. Worth going out of your way to see.

    Thanks for reading.


  2. #2
    Yarome's Avatar
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    Nice write-up and some magnificent photos. Mirror lakes a favorite of mine. This late warm spell is sure nice, but not too many more weeks and it's not gonna be a whole lotta fun up in those parts. They aren't going to believe us though that the PNW grows our trees big. All those are just the litt'ins in Eastern Oregon.
    “Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, cigar in one hand, whiskey in the other, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!”

  3. #3
    Senior Member mountain wanderer's Avatar
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    OOOOOOH The Eagles Caps! What a place! I was there at the end August (just working on a video). We camped at Douglas Lakes and (lower) Frazier Lake. We wanted to hike up to Glacier Lake, but we had done enough climbing when we got to the trail junction. I think this place is my new favorite. Sounds like you did it right. We shared it with many, many people. Perhaps we were the rowdy ones....

  4. #4
    ObdewlaX's Avatar
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    Wow, that looks like a great hike to do. Great photos & write up... thanks for posting.

  5. #5

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    Thanks for taking the time to take us along. Gorgeous area

  6. #6
    all secure in sector 7 Shug's Avatar
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    Awesome! Yes, I typed Awesome.
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    Whooooo Buddy)))) All Secure in Sector Seven

  7. #7
    Senior Member TallPaul's Avatar
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    Beautiful.

  8. #8

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    Thank you for sharing- the Wallowas are a special place. I spent the day and camped overnight at Lake Wallowa State Park last Tuesday. The sun was warm but the breeze chilly- got some hammock time in.

  9. #9
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    Nice report and beautiful images. Rafting the Wallowa this summer is where I ditched the tent for the trees. Amazing country and worth the drive.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by slugbait View Post
    Thank you for sharing- the Wallowas are a special place. I spent the day and camped overnight at Lake Wallowa State Park last Tuesday. The sun was warm but the breeze chilly- got some hammock time in.
    Where do you camp there? Is there a campground or just open space? That would good to know, because i hiked a full day after a 6 hour drive and it would have been nice to split those up by camping at the trailhead.

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