Eagle Cap Wilderness, Oregon, Main Eagle / Boulder Park Trailhead, 2005
The second week of September 2005, Scott and I ventured into Main Eagle in the southern Wallowa mountains. The southern portion of the Eagle Cap Wilderness area is not quite as rugged as the northern, but still holds a tremendous amount of beautiful scenery.
We took Pepper Corn and Morning Sunshine (our poster llama) on this trip. While Pepper is an experienced packer and Sunshine has some driving experience, this would be Sunshine's first real pack trip. Having been on a couple packless walks in the past, she had never worn or carried panniers before. But she has always impressed us with her willingness to try new things and this trip was no exception.
The drive there on the llama bus was relatively uneventful and included a brief visit to Richard Galloway's spread where we met his llamas. He conveniently lives near the junction to the entrance road to Main Eagle. However, the 20 mile entrance road is mostly gravel over hardpan but was is desperate need of a grader. The llama bus lost a wheel cover somewhere along that stretch and it took twice as long to travel as expected. One of the tires suffered a structural failure as well.
We arrived at the trailhead to find a horse trailer and truck and a small car in the parking lot. As we unloaded and started to saddle up Sunshine we were expecting possible trouble since she only had a saddle on once before, but she was a trooper and didn't protest at all. What a doll. Pepper as usual could hardly wait to get started. The initial trek to the campsite was only three miles in and about a thousand feet elevation, but the start was now rather late in the day.
The path starts off wide and smooth. We got our permit and noticed a sign for a lost llama. “Clark” was last seen at Summit and we hoped to spot and bring him back. We took down the phone number and off we went. After crossing a small stream we walked through a tree lined path. This part of the trail is wide and smooth with a gradual incline, and as we walked above the stream Sunshine was very interested in the new sounds that surrounded her. She kept looking towards the water which ran clear and cold, with colors of turquoise, blue and green. The pools were surrounded by granite boulders made smooth by the water over the years. The bottom of the stream bed was coated with crushed black and white granite. As the trail continued to rise I noticed bear tracks in the dusty path. Sometime recently a small bear had passed through. Scott as usual brought along pepper spray and a wrist rocket in case the need arose. As the trail meandered it became narrower and steeper. Granite rocks littered the path and I noticed that water that bubbled nearby seemed further away and Sunshine became alerted to the birds singing and insects buzzing around her. As this was around 3:30 P.M. it was still hot and with the exertion of the hike it seemed the higher we went the warmer it got. But we were able to walk in the trees of majestic firs and tall grasses still green in the shade of the mountainside. Pepper wanted to eat every time we stopped; those grasses must have been really tasty. Our first crossing of an elevated bridge was new to Sunshine so it took a bit of persuasion to get her across. She walked gingerly at first, then gained confidence. The view was impressive, with a cascading waterfall and pools of water lapping the near white granite basin, dancing down the stream bed. The sun was making the stream shine like polished crystal.
Wednesday Morning came frosty and clear. Good thing I had Scott pack the wool blanket -- it was needed. Today would continue the climb with another thousand feet to view a couple of lakes. First would be Culver Lake, it's turquoise green waters loaded with small lake trout. Not being very deep at the edge gave Sunshine a chance to cool her feet. Lush green grasses were abundant in the meadow and Pepper was content to enjoy eating away the afternoon. After a brief lunch break we were off to Bear Lake. The trail is pretty easy, but winds it’s way around the hill side. At one point you can look down and see the valley below and almost touch the sky above. Once in a while on this trail we spotted bear tracks -- not real large at about 5" across.
The sun was more intense and the warmth heated and slowed the body so you could enjoy the sites more. Why rush? But off we went -- the lake beckoned. Soon after the viewpoint we gradually descended the trail and this lovely green/blue lake was there to welcome. As we came down through the trees and meadows of lush grasses, flowers of blue and yellow greet you with peacefulness and longing, hoping you will sit and relax next to its calming waters. Here we let Pepper loose to wander on his own, but we kept Sunshine on her lead. Trout were jumping and playing in the water, birds were heard all around us. Being that Bear lake is deeper and bigger than Culver Lake we enjoyed more time here. We even had a quick swim, though it was quite brisk. We dried by the sun and a slight breeze cooled us. A juvenile eagle soared above us as if watching and waiting to see what we were doing. Soon it left and we were soothed by lapping waters stirred by the cool breeze.
After the llamas took time to graze, cool their feet
in the water and get a drink we headed back down
the trail to camp. That night Scott saw an owl soaring and bats sweeping
across the darkened velvet sky. We slept until 4:30 A.M., when we were suddenly awakened by stomping feet
running by the tent followed by quite a clatter. Jumping up and grabbing his headlamp
and pepper spray Scott climbed out of
bed to find Sunshine had spooked and pulled her stake out of the ground.
Pepper was alert and standing at attention while
Sunshine was now standing behind a tree.
The surrounding area was searched for intruders, but none were found.
After calming her down and restaking, all was back to normal.