Eagle Cap Wilderness Day 3 – Into the Lakes Basin

We woke up feeling pretty good on the third day of our trip despite the long hike searching for a campsite the day before. Heather had made it through the night without getting sick and we were up at dawn getting ready to continue on.
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We were a little concerned by an influx of smoke coming up the valley behind us. We figured that the wind had shifted overnight and some of the smoke we had seen from the Matterhorn the day before had made it’s way to us but we weren’t sure. We hoped that it wouldn’t affect our visibility as we began the days hike.

The trail continued through increasingly impressive wildflower meadows to a bridgeless crossing of the West Fork Wallowa River.
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At the crossing we found a single log across the river which I started to attempt to cross on before deciding it was a little too narrow and wet for my comfort.
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Oddly enough there appeared to be an actual bridge way upstream but it was only a snow-bridge.
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The river was only calf deep so instead of trying to balance on the log we decided to simply ford the river and deal with wet feet for awhile. On the far side of the river the trail continued up the narrowing valley past a number of side streams and waterfalls.
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Once again a “Fires Prohibited Beyond This Point” sign signaled we were only quarter mile from a lake.
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The trail leveled out and quickly brought us to Frazier Lake.
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We didn’t see anyone camped here just a lot of tadpoles in the water.
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At the far end of Frazier Lake we left the West Fork Wallowa Trail and followed a pointer for Glacier Pass.
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This trail followed a branch of the river flowing down an alpine valley from Glacier Lake to Frazier Lake. Waterfalls, wildflowers and golden-mantled squirrels awaited us as we climbed ahead of the encroaching smoke that continued to make it’s way up the valley behind us.
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A final wide sweeping arc completed this 2 mile section of trail bringing us just below the basin holding Glacier Lake.
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The beauty and wonder of God’s creation is our main motivation for hiking and although we witness it every time we hit the trail there are moments where that beauty is indescribable and impossible to capture with a camera. Our first look at Glacier Lake was one such moment.
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Backed by snowy peaks including Eagle Cap and lined with wildflowers the blue-green waters of Glacier Lake were breathtaking. We set down our packs and removed our wet shoes and socks to allow them to dry while we soaked in the unbelievable scenery.
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Amazingly we only noticed one tent set up around this gem. Heather quickly decided that someday we would come back and spend at least one night here. We had more hiking to do though, so we eventually pulled ourselves away and continued past the lake and up toward Glacier Pass.
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A couple of patches of snow lingered across the trail but neither were any issue to cross.
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The view from Glacier Pass included Glacier Lake, Eagle Cap, and the Matterhorn.
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As we began to descend from the pass we spotted Moccasin Lake and our ultimate goal for the day, Mirror Lake.
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Mirror Lake
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After seeing no one at Frazier Lake and the single tent at Glacier Lake we began running into more and more hikers as we made our way down to Moccasin Lake. The landscape here contained many alpine meadows and bubbling streams.
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We followed the trail to Moccasin Lake where we had to hop across it on rocks.
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At a trail junction near Moccasin Lake we followed a pointer toward the East Fork Lostine River.
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In another .7 miles we reached Mirror Lake and began looking for a place for our tent. After crossing the lake’s outlet creek we found a nice spot in beneath some tress near a small pond and set our packs down while we looked around a bit more.
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There were already a number of tents set up around the lake and more hikers were arriving all the time. Before we had started to set up our tent a group of teenagers chaperoned by one adult began noisily setting up tents nearby. We quickly decided to move further away to avoid the unnecessary yelling this group was already doing. We settled on a rocky cliff overlooking both Mirror and Moccasin Lakes above the creek between the two lakes.
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The noise from the creek below helped drown out some of the noise and we spent the rest of the afternoon lounging around our campsite and exploring the rocky area between the lakes. The smoke that had been coming up the valley near Frazier Lake made a brief appearance early in the evening but it eventually rolled back and was held at bay on the horizon.
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The kids wound up being quieter than expected and after watching a nice sunset we turned in for the night.
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Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157671957245226

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