You guys. I left a piece of my heart in the Wallowas. This August, I spent five surreal and glorious days backpacking through the Eagle Cap Wilderness and its Lakes Basin. I fell in love with that place.
The scenery out there was an 11 out of 10. It just wouldn’t quit. The wildflowers were endless, just like the views. And the landscape kept on changing, both gradually and suddenly – every day it was completely different. There were the most picturesque streams and rivers and lakes and forests and meadows and mountains and wildflowers and sweeping views and valley floors… I just can’t. The place is breathtaking, and it’s impossible to describe.
I had a moment about halfway through the second day. We’d been treated non-stop to the most amazing views all day long – a pristine, deep blue alpine lake with a backdrop of mountains, crystal clear streams weaving through alpine meadows, layers upon layers of mountain ranges in the distance, and slopes that were so thoroughly blanketed in wildflowers that it felt almost ridiculous. We’d spent the whole day in complete solitude as we hadn’t come upon a single hiker once we got on the trail. It was kind of magical.
And when I finally made my way to the top of Polaris Pass and caught view of the mountains and valleys and distant lakes and rolling green hills on the other side, it literally brought tears to my eyes. Sometimes you’re just blown away by the place in which you’ve found yourself. Sometimes you just can’t believe where you are and what you’re seeing. Pinch me. I’m in a dream world.
And then we entered the Lakes Basin. Oh my God, you guys… the lakes. I just can’t with all the lakes.
You would think that with so many lakes so close together, they would start to all look the same after a while, but that was most definitely not the case. Each lake had a completely different feel to it – a different personality. I remember reflecting on them one by one with my friend Cody on our last night out there. It’s impossible to pick a favorite – they all left a lasting impression on me, and each was uniquely breathtaking in its own way.
Aneroid Lake was stunningly picturesque and incredibly peaceful as the sun was going down behind the mountains and the fish were jumping like crazy.
Frazier Lake was a mystery of a black hole when we got there in the dark and a welcome surprise in the morning – it was bizarrely shallow for its size and absolutely teeming with more tadpoles than I’ve ever seen in my life.
Glacier Lake – oh my God, Glacier Lake makes quite the entrance and is so shockingly beautiful as you catch sight of it that it feels absolutely otherworldly with its namesake glaciers rimming the shoreline and its backdrop of granite mountains.
Moccasin Lake felt like a breath of fresh air, surrounded by so much lush green in its perfect little valley.
Mirror Lake felt open and vast and majestic.
Douglas Lake was moody and a little mysterious, unknowingly deep and rimmed by tall cliffs.
Horseshoe Lake was serene and inviting and peaceful and calm.
Lee Lake felt a bit… aloof.
And Ice Lake? Ice Lake felt like a secret, like it could have been a small ocean trapped in a little basin at the base of some rugged and massively beautiful peaks. Ice Lake felt like an oasis in the mountains, a place where you can hang up a hammock and just be for a while.
Hell, they all felt like that, like big or little oases in the wilderness. I could have spent a night and a day at each one of them and I probably still wouldn’t have felt like I’d had nearly enough time out there.
Wallowas, I’ll be back for you. I’ll be back again and again and again.
Oh hey, and guess what? I thought my backpacking trip through the Wallowas was the perfect opportunity to kick off my bucket list goal of jumping and/or swimming in 100 lakes! I didn’t get to swim in all of them, but I checked off seven, which is a pretty damn good start!
I can be such a wimp about cold, and it wasn’t easy getting into some really icy lakes. But it was always, always worth it.
Because I have to say, floating in those lakes and taking in the surrounding views from the water, physically immersing myself in something so remote and wild and pristine – those were hands down some of my most favorite experiences from my trip. And they’re memories I’ll carry with me forever.
That’s 7 down and only 93 more to go!
This post was also published on my other website, wildernecessity.com, where you can view a slideshow of ALL of the photos from this trip and find lots of other cool stuff. Check it out!
Want to experience this trip for yourself? Get all the info you need in my backpacking guide for this trip!
Or want to know more about this wilderness area and the hikes you can do within it? Check out my hiking and wilderness guide for the Eagle Cap Wilderness!