Saturday, November 18, 2006

East Fork Lostine, Eagle Cap

Funny how a 39-pound
backpack can weigh
50-pounds.
Or feel like it.
Must have something to do
with changing weather pat
terns.
Well, I reached that hefty
conclusion early on the first
mile of the East Fork Lostine
River Trail a few days ago.
That section of trail slants
steeper than a mule's ears,
and it's studded with dusty
stones and boulders to
scramble across.
It didn't seem so formi
dable, once upon a time.
Then I crossed the bridge
over the booming Lostine to
an easier section of trail.
Not easier by much, or for
long.
For maybe a mile I trekked
parallel to the river and up a
thigh-burning 97-step tilt to
the switchbacks.
Ah, the switchbacks. Eleven
of them, if you count them the
way I do.
Some test the lungs with
huff-n-puff stress, such as
two, four, six, eight and 10.
Especially four, six and
eight. Eight, the longest, took
the medal for making me
sweat and huff-n-puff.
Nine rose like a cliff, but for
only about 20 yards.
By the way, to number
switchbacks I count ``one'' at
the first turn, ``two'' at the
second one and so on.
Finally, after the switch
backs and one final, steep100-
yard lean, the trail leveled out.
I strolled into and soaked
up the beauty of the East Fork
Lostine River Valley, with
Eagle Cap Mountain spark
ling in the distance.
It's 31/2 miles from the Two
Pan trailhead to the valley.
It's six miles from Two Pan
to Mirror Lake, at the foot of
Eagle Cap Mountain.
So, I breathed easier for
about two miles, waving at
clouds of mosquitoes when
ever I paused and indulging in
scenery that could put a lump
in a donkey's throat.
I snapped photos of stark
granite ridges and cliffs, of
bright green meadows decked
with mammoth granite blocks
left in place by ancient gla
ciers, of granite rock slides
cascading like waterfalls
down high ridges, of gleam
ing ribbons of the East Fork
Lostine and of deep blue tarns
reflecting the imposing Eagle
Cap at the head of the valley.
I snapped silver waterfalls,
red heather, blue jacob's lad
der and blue lupine.
I snapped tawny marmots
frolicking in verdant vales.
And, although I didn't know
it, I snapped blurred mos
quitoes in flight.
I heard pikas whistle
among granite rock slides, but
I never saw them.
Finally, at 4:42 p.m. and
about half a mile below Mir
ror Lake, I halted.
I dropped the burden for
the first time, jabbed at a
mosquito swarm and dug the
Jungle Juice (95-percent deet)
from the pack. I rubbed it all
over, including shirt and
pants, and it helped.
I'd lugged the load 51/2
hours, so I sat on a log, with
bugs hovering, and sipped
water from my 100-ounce
CamelBak. Ice cubes had
melted, but it was cool.
Harried by skeeters, I hur
ried 30 yards to a freshet and
filled the water bag, using the
old Pur filter, before spread
ing all the gear from the pack
onto the grass.
I set up the tent, put the
mattress, sleeping bag and
clothes bag inside.
I set the kitchen of food
bag, water, fry pan and
JetBoil stove by a log and
cooked hashbrowns and ham.
I ate on my feet to evade
mosquitoes. Then I ate two
English muffins with mayon
naise and catsup (from
squeeze packages) and sipped
hot chocolate.
Unable to sit, I strolled
toward mirror lake and saw
campers with eight goats and
two dogs across the valley.
Eventually, tired of blood
suckers, I fled to the tent and
napped.
I awoke at 10:21 p.m., went
out to look at the stars and the
moon in the 62-degree,
skeeterless temperature.
At dawn, I ate granola,
drank hot chocolate and
headed for Mirror Lake be
fore the buzzing pests awoke.
For three hours I hiked to
lakes and waterfalls to take
photos.
Once, a man and a woman
walked from their camp to
Mirror Lake's shore.
The woman pumped water
while the man stood behind
her and read. They poised
unaware by the lake, before a
granite slide and snow field.
I reached camp again a few
minutes after 10 a.m. and
packed up the gear.
I expected the hike back to
Two Pan would take three
hours. Alas, it took another
51/2. I paused often for more
photos, but that's not my ex
cuse.
My excuse: Carrying that
50-pound pack downhill took
a heavy toll on my toes and
knees.
And, yes, switchbacks No.
8, No. 6 and No. 4 (counting
backwards) were brutal.
And that first (or last) mile
between the bridge and Two
Pan: It's a true toe-bruiser.

See photos at www.tripper.smugmug.com

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