What luxury to spend the second night on the trail with a trail angel! Mike and Donna Higgins rolled out the red carpet for me, and we enjoyed a delicious dinner, a berry dessert (made with two kinds of fruit grown right there in Pine Valley…they live in Halfway, Oregon), and hours of excellent conversation.
Mike has spent a lifetime exploring the Wallowas and Hells Canyon area. In fact, he was a big part of the local effort to designate the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area a few decades ago. He also joined Loren Hughes and Dick Hentze in their effort to create the Blue Mountains Trail in the 90’s, and he is absolutely thrilled that we are out here hiking it. (Blog post coming soon about the 60-year history of the BMT!).
Now that a few of us are out hiking it, the route seems closer to reality than ever before…and I have a new respect for the vision these environmentalists had decades ago to create an experience through this stunning and ecological wonderland.
I can confidently add Mike and Donna into the category of: I’m better to have met them.
Mike also hosted the Intrepid Three (his name for Whitney, Mike & Naomi), and when i started to unpack my resupply box I had sent to his house, he also brought out a giant hiker box of goodies the Intrepid Three had left. Mike ended up meeting them three times on their just completed BMT hike, and man, they leave a GOOD hiker box!!
I took a slow morning, indulging in a scrumptious breakfast and a map session. Mike and I are cooking up plans to connect the Oregon Desert Trail up to the Blue Mountains Trail, and we’ll be putting some ideas together over the winter (hint: perhaps we tie into the Desert Trail route where it deviates from the ODT at Frenchglen!)
The purpose of today’s hike would be to transition over to Hells Canyon from the Wallowa Mountains. I would walk a series of dirt roads and trails that sit high on a ridge above the Imnaha River. An alternate option in here is to stay in the Imnaha drainage…but it’s a paved road full of cars and people, so hiker’s choice. I chose the high road, and all went relatively smoothly except for losing my Steens and Alvord Desert hat in a bushwack today (check out this beautiful painting by Bend artist Shelia Dunn on this hat I lost).
Day 3 is when the blisters really start popping up, and i contended with them all day on my breaks. I’m looking forward to when these soft spots harden up soon!
Since I had gotten a later start in the day, I hadn’t set my sights on an end destination for camp, but when I saw that Hells Canyon was in reach, I made a goal to sleep on the edge of the deepest canyon in the country.
Twilight was coming on and I still hadn’t reached the canyon, but i was so close. Even more concerning was my dwindling water supply. In the transition over from the Wallowas, the plentiful water became not so plentiful anymore. The springs and drainages were dry, so when I started up the paved road to Hells Canyon Overlook, I waved down a car with my empty water bottle. A very nice woman gave me three liters, and I was rejoicing the watery trail magic. Thank you random woman!
I had spied a spot on the map just off the road where it first meets a canyon overlook, and posited that there would be a spot for my prone body to lay down for the night. And there was!!!
I watched night fall over Idaho and this magnificent canyon. The stars and Milky Way are brilliant tonight, and once again I am sleeping out in the open on this amazing adventure.