The Wallowas are a remote mountain range in far Southeastern Oregon, that are much more reminiscent of the Northern Cascades than the dry scrubland that is the rest of Eastern Oregon and Western Idaho. Craggy glacier carved peaks, high alpine lakes (including Oregon’s highest lake) and lush valleys are a stark difference from the plains below. I was trying to decide my route back to Texas, and my options were either northern california or eastern oregon. I had several friends tell me about the Wallowas, either from their experience or that they had heard good things about them, the hardest part is just getting there. From Bend you take HWY 26 all the way to Joseph OR, Google suggests taking the interstate but Ive heard it a much more boring drive. HWY 26 passes thru several small but well kept valley farming towns thru some rolling hills and over a pass. The entire drive is almost 7 hours, and also passes thru the John Day fossil beds National Monument, which I would say is a must stop if you have any interest in paleontology or the history of the area. Phish was playing a show in Bend the night I left, so there were an unusual amount of broken down RVs, vans, and generally crappy cars along the way. I stopped a few times to make sure people were all right, or see if it was something I could fix.
Joseph is a cool little town, if not overly touristy. Town was crowded when I got there but the ranger station was empty. I dropped in to buy a map of the wilderness area and just ask for some general suggestions. The ranger was really helpful although I didn’t end up doing any of the hikes she suggested. Leaving town I made my way down Hurricane Creek road which dead ends at the trailhead. Lots or horse trailers at the trailhead meant I was probably in for a hike full of horse poop, but at least it was dry out, it’s never fun hiking all day thru sloppy horse poop.
The Hurricane Creek trail climbs very gradually over 12 miles crossing waterfalls, meadows and passing the really impressive almost white rocked Sacagawea Peak. It terminates at the basin lakes which sit at the core of the wilderness area, a loop trail takes you around most of them. When you reach the basin area, Eagle Cap Peak itself dominates your view, its not the tallest peak in the wilderness but its very central and has a commanding view of all the surroundings. There was a normal amount of people on the trail, mostly on horses, this was definitely not an isolated wilderness experience, but I would not call it busy either.
I took the eastern half of the basin lakes loop, it was mid afternoon and lots of people were already setting up to camp, I wanted to get closer to Eagle Cap though hoping to summit in the morning. The closer I got however the easier the summit seemed to look. I pulled out the map when I got to the upper lake, only 2 miles! I thought why not do it tonight! The hike to the summit was just as simple as it looked bringing you up on a ridgeline giving good views of the Wilderness to the South of the peak, including glacier pass and the glaciers that surround it. At the summit some peaks in the distance were getting rain, and the smell of ozone was in the air. I was glad I summited tonight in case the weather was not good in the morning, but the rain made me cut my time at the top short. Back down I retraced my path close to where Hurricane ended and camped with a great view of Eagle Cap.
The next morning I had just about that original 12 miles left to get out, and was back at the Cruiser by lunch time. Town was busy and hopping as the rodeo was getting set up, I was surprised that it could get even busier than the day before!