Awe won. Hands down.
Sometime in the night the rain stopped. When the first light opened the day I could see to the cliff sides across the creek; it will be a brilliant day.
I was packed and walking before 8am, excited at what I could already see. Because I took a layover day yesterday, the logistics of some of those loops and lakes were taken off the table, but it is what it is. My back is feeling better, and what I can do is climb up to Horton Pass at 8,500′ and peek over the other side to the lakes basin. I need about 25+ more backpacking trips here to see all that I want to see.
This area has a strong pull on me.
I hike up and up, the trail isn’t messing around and only has a few miles to get me to the shoulder of Eagle Cap Mountain.
Soon I can see the snow zone. About the last mile to the top will be in snow, softened just enough by the sun to make the going easy.
I’m glad I wasn’t up here yesterday.
This is simply astounding.
There are no other tracks, no other signs of humans, I have the world to myself today. Up top I am greeted by ridgelines shrouded in cloud wisps, lakes and snow and trees as far as the eye can see.
After just a few minutes I turn around and gingerly follow my footprints in the snow back down down down to Eagle Creek below.
From here I just need to decide where to camp. I am due to stay with Mike and Donna Higgins in Halfway tomorrow night, but the forecast has me a bit nervous for tomorrow. Rain is coming, snow in the high country. I drove my little Honda Fit out here, and accessing this trailhead alone had me at high elevations on gravel roads. I don’t want to get stuck, so I debate camping close to the car so I can make a mad dash if the rain/snow materializes early.
As it is, I find myself mulling over what ifs and maybes all the time, especially when I’m out by myself. Planning ahead and preparing for the worst is one of the best things you can do out here. If you are prepared for the worst, everything else will be delightful! It’s very much on my mind as I am hosting a conversation this week (October 14 on Zoom – 5pm Pacific time) about safety and risk and being prepared for a backcountry adventure. I’ll be talking with two people who were on different sides of search and rescue efforts: Stacy, who broke her knee while on the Oregon Desert Trail and needed to call for help, and Tomas who found and unconscious man and needed to provide help. Should be a good talk!
So I walk out, slowly, savoring the colors and granite and marble mountains.
I am super close to the car, and can’t find a good spot to camp, so without really thinking about it walk right back to my car. It’s car camping time! I set up diagonally across the back of my Honda fit and manage an ok night of tossing and turning.
This was a short and sweet little hike up into the heights of NE Oregon, and it only leaves me wanting more.