Friday, August 15, 2014

Wallowa Lake and Mount Howard

August 14, 2014

Mount Howard, via a Scenic 13.5-minute Tram Ride, at Wallowa Lake 

The aroma of warm Egg-Muffins, cinnamon rolls and steaming coffee swirled around the Frontier’s cab as we motored up Milton Hill, on the way to Wallowa Lake.
Each of us chewed contentedly, Darlene, Nora the Schnauzer and me.
I take that back.
Two of us chewed.
Nora gulped the pieces of egg handed to her from both sides without them touching a tooth. When each tidbit disappeared, she lay a paw on my arm to indicate readiness for another.
Darlene had the cinnamon roll opened by Winn Road. She forked a round, dripping brown bite toward my face. and I elbowed Nora out of the way.
The thin 7:30 a.m. cloud cover we left in the valley grew thicker and darker as we turned onto Highway 204 and cruised up Weston Mountain toward Tollgate and down toward Elgin.
By the time we headed toward Minam and followed the Wallowa River on Highway 82, we accepted that we could be in for a stormy day.
At least we could encounter wind and rain.
“This cloudy sky will be better for pictures,” I said as we approached Wallowa.  “Better than scorching August sunshine.”
Darlene, who likes scorching, sighed and looked out the window.
We drove through Wallowa and Lostine without stopping. On the outskirts of Enterprise, I detoured to the nature area on Fish Hatchery Road. A few months ago I took photos of several swans on the pond.
Nora and I walked about 30 yards to the noticeably shallower water. A few mallards floated and preened. A wren and a goldfinch flitted in the shrubs near the water.
Pesky stickers covered one of my pant legs when I stepped from the scant path toward the pond, and I quickly herded Nora back to the truck.
Those stickers can be brutal to remove from her legs and ears. I scraped them from my jeans with my Swiss Army Knife in a few minutes.
We did not pause in Enterprise or Joseph and parked at the north end of Wallowa Lake two minutes before 10 a.m.
Nora roamed the shoreline while I took the obligatory pictures of the lake, the world-renowned glacial moraine along the east side with, left to right, Mount Howard, Mount Bonneville and Chief Joseph Mountain to the south.

The clouds did add drama, or darkness, to the monochromatic scene. I pondered taking black-and-white photos, but I didn’t. Later, I pondered turning them into monochrome images, but I didn’t.

Anyway, craning our necks up at the glacial moraine looking for deer, we drove to the south end of the lake and parked near the boat launching area.
To measure my daily walks with Nora, I fastened my GPS to a belt loop, put a camera on each shoulder (one with a wide-angle lens, one with a short (250-mm zoom), and hooked Nora’s leash to my belt.
Darlene opened her book while Nora and I set out to tour the shore.
I looked for the spotted sandpipers I had seen on my last visit, but nary a one showed itself.

On the way back, heavy rain hit and we slipped beneath the eaves of a convenient toilet. A woman mowing grass parked her machine and joined us. Soon six of us, and Nora, crowded beneath the shelter. 
The rain wore itself out in 10 minutes, so I put dog-poop bags over my cameras and quick-stepped with Nora to the truck in a mild drizzle.
We had walked 0.99 miles. It seemed much shorter.
With the windshield wipers on low, we went up to the turnaround area at trailheads into the Eagle Cap Wilderness. 
On the way back, I noticed people heading for the Wallowa Lake Tramway and hinted that we should ride it to the top.
I knew Darlene would not be interested. 
She rode the tram once years ago and declines doing it again. 
Anyway, Darlene said I should go and, since pets are not allowed, she and Nora would stroll around the shops.
We decided to dine first and see if the weather turned worse. 
We lunched at the Glacier Grill. I had a yen for the Flat Tire Sandwich, but the Oregon Salad description hooked me. It was very good, with walnuts and craisens and stuff, but I’ll get the Flat Tire again next time.
Darlene had the Reuben. She gave me a chunk to stop my drooling. It filled the void.
Finally, at 12:20 p.m. with no storm in sight, I donned a pullover windbreaker, hooked the two cameras on my shoulders, stuffed plastic bags into a pocket and trudged to the ticket booth where a senior’s ticket cost $25 for the day.
Views of the lake and the mountains highlighted the 13.5 minute tram ride and sharpened my expectations.

And the view of the famous moraine lay clear and comprehensible.

I planned to walk the 2.5-mile loop in a couple of hours, depending on how many photo stops I made. So, leaving the tram, I turned left toward the Valley Overlook, just over half-a-mile away.
Rain seemed unlikely, but the pullover windbreaker dealt effectively with a stiff wind that forced me to tighten the chin strap on my wide-brimmed hat.
I took photos looking mostly north across the lake, across a faintly distinguishable Joseph and Enterprise and toward the Blue Mountains.

One Northern pocket gopher peered at me from the rocks then posed on one.

I backtracked one-eighth of a mile and turned east for ¾-mile to views across the Imnaha and Snake river canyons, all the way to the Seven Devils in Idaho.

And a marmot stood on the trail looked askance as I approached.

I recalled that years ago Sadie the Dalmatian and I hiked a 35-mile loop around the Seven Devils, which ranks as one of my best hikes ever.

Continuing the 3/4-mile section, we angled south toward Highlands Overlook and Summit Overlook with views deep into the Eagle Cap, where I have made more backpacking trips than I can recall.

From there, I turned right (west?) for a 1/3-of-a-mile jaunt to Purple Royal. I paused on the way to photograph a group outlined against the sky on the pinnacle.
I discovered that the group represented Pendleton’s Sister City in Japan. They took in the rugged views into the Eagle Cap Wilderness and watched the pocket gophers and marmots.

One man gave a gopher water with the cap from his water bottle.

Finally, from there, I hurried to the tram, took photos on the way down and found Darlene waiting patiently (after securing excellent chocolates for the ride home) while Nora snored away on the driver’s seat.
Darlene's watch said 2:59 p.m. 
In Joseph, I stopped for coffee. Then we took the back roads around Enterprise to look for deer and, perhaps, a coyote.
Lots of deer. No coyote.
After leaving the valley and climbing the hill from Minam, we drove toward almost total darkness draping over the mountains west and north of Elgin.
We soon had raindrops plopping on the windshield, and a deluge hit us near Spout Springs.
It plastered us the rest of the way home, with an occasional roll of thunder and flash of lightning.
So, all in all, we had a fine day.

To see photos of Seven Devils and the Eagle Cap go to and type Seven Devils and Eagle Cap into the search function.

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