Months of planning can feel almost uneventful when the trip finally arrives, or maybe it’s just hard to believe I’m actually here. The way 2020 has unfolded has been anything but expected, and here I am, at the start of a 500-mile, month-long hike to walk the rest of the Blue Mountains Trail and almost everything is going as expected. In fact, for an early October day, it’s warm…unseasonably warm. The extended forecast is warm and dry. I’ll take it!
We woke at first light in our car camping site at Wallowa State Park, and soon had mugs of coffee to fuel the packing up. The drive out from Bend yesterday had gone smoothly, and now it was time.
We drove to the trailhead which was perched at the mouth of the west fork of the Wallowa River. Kirk decided to hike in with me a couple miles, so we set off on the gentle climb through the lush forest. Even though the days had been warm and dry, the trees and brush had gotten the memo that it was fall, and were turning brilliant yellows and golds.
When it was finally time to say goodbye to my beau, I got a little choked up…I had all the feels, as they say, and I was overcome with the realization that I was here, I was hiking, and I wasn’t alone…metaphorically speaking. The day washed over me in a cascade as I hiked beneath towering granite mountains. I was finally here.
The first few days of the Blue Mountains Trail from the eastern terminus are quite different from the hike out of John Day 600 miles to the west. Oh I was gaining thousands of feet in elevation, but instead of hiking on hot chip-seal, I was walking on the soft dirt of a well-loved trail heading into the heart of the Eagle Cap Wilderness: the Lakes Basin.
The climb was gentle until it wasn’t. As I approached Frasier Lake the granite walls got vertical and towered over the drainage.
Simply out of this world.
I had a short lunch at Little Frasier Lake and couldn’t resist the draw of the next climb…another 1,000 feet up to Hawkins Pass. The trail switch-backed through a gauntlet of granite, and I could spy the route from my lake-side lunch spot, so I cut lunch short, eager for the views up top.
Many steps and photos later, I reached the pass at 8,570 feet and audibly gasped when I saw the other side.
I won’t ruin it for you….consider this your invitation to visit Hawkins Pass.
I slowed waaay down and positively sauntered down to the headwaters of the Imnaha River. I didn’t want to rush a moment of it.
Camp was a small nook perched high on a slope with views and sounds of rushing water.
I settled in for my first night on the trail, cowboy camping under the stars. My first meal would be a NEMO-special. Nemo is my soul-sister hiking partner (we met on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2006 and have since hiked thousands of miles together) who sent me a few goodies to take with me on the trail. In fact my breakfast this morning was a pear and tomato grown by my dear friends Brooke and Adryon. Who says this is a solo hike? My friends are feeding me already 🥰.
Thank you to all who helped get me here! The list is long, and I appreciate you all so much.
I decided to dedicate this hike to a dear friend of the family who passed away suddenly a few weeks ago, Pete Morgan. Pete and my dad worked together at the University of Wisconsin- Stephens Point for years. When our family later moved to Illinois, my parents would meet up with Pete and his wife Verona regularly. When I started writing about all of my adventures, Pete was always there with an encouraging word. He has been one of my biggest supporters as I threw myself into the unknown year after year, trail after trail. It was comforting to know he was cheering me on, and it’s my time to be thinking of him on his next journey.