Wallowas Cornucopia Loop

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drm
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Wallowas Cornucopia Loop

Post by drm » August 4th, 2017, 6:39 am

Two of us did a four-day loop in the Wallowas out of Cornucopia. Hikers don't go here a lot. I had been looking at it for years as an option to avoid the miles of nasty washboarded roads that many Wallowa trailheads require. It's probably farther in mileage, being in the SE part of the mtns, but it's paved almost all the way, with maybe 6 miles of smooth gravel at the end. When I saw Bosterson's trip report I knew the trails were good enough. Only the 1.2 mile segment north of Norway Pass was in a bad way, with miserable down trees frequently requiring nasty bushwhacking to get around. Seeing sawdust next to a cut tree farther down was the sign that trail maintenance teams had made it that far up. Yay!

There are two trailheads at Cornucopia: Pine Lakes and East Fork. We used the latter to start and come out from Pine Lakes as that is only 7 miles so an easy day out. The route up the East Fork to Norway Pass is unusually steep for the Wallowas and follows an old abandoned dirt road for a long ways - something my map did not show. This road section was less aesthetic than many approaches to the Wallowas and I would probably not go there again, but it got us to our destination in one long day, allowing us to spend two nights in a gorgeous place. So that was the payoff.

As a practical note, note that if you go there, two important driving tips. You need to turn right at the sign for the Cornucopia Lodge and drive right past the lodge. Do not continue on the road past that turnoff, as I think virtually everybody does. Once you pass the lodge you will soon get to the fork in the road for the two trailheads which has trailhead signs. If you are going up the east Fork, do not turn right here. The road gets rough very quickly, has no space to park, and barely space to turn around. I had to negotiate a difficult multi-point u-turn to get out to avoid a difficult backing out. All parking and trailhead camping are on the left side past the stables on the Pine Lakes Trailhead.

Okay, enough of practicalities. As many of you know, the Wallowas are incredibly photogenic, and while this loop takes in fewer lakes than some other routes, it still met my expectations. My full trip report is at http://deanmyerson.org/wallowas-cornucopia-loop, but as I usually do, here is a sampling.

The nasty steep road
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Eventually the Norway Trail cuts right off the road and it gets better, including the flowers
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Oddly, Norway Creek flows right over Norway Pass and there is a great camp there
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The South Fork of the Imnaha River will have to be waded
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Then it really starts to get good
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Where the trail recrosses the creek
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Heading up to Hawkins Pass
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View from Hawkins Pass
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Incomparable Wallowas and Little Frazier Lake
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Looking back down to where we were camped (around the bend) on the south fork Imnaha
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Heading towards Crater Lake on Cliff Creek trail
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And on to Tuck Pass
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Pine Lakes
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Sunrise
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texasbb
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Re: Wallowas Cornucopia Loop

Post by texasbb » August 4th, 2017, 8:29 am

Nice, Dean! Great pics as usual. I've got to get over to that side.
drm wrote: Oddly, Norway Creek flows right over Norway Pass and there is a great camp there
Up one side and down the other, huh? :)

That's really interesting. If I'm reading the map right, it comes down from above west on the northish facing slope then takes a south "turn" on top of the pass? Yep, gotta get up there.

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drm
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Re: Wallowas Cornucopia Loop

Post by drm » August 4th, 2017, 8:42 am

texasbb wrote:That's really interesting. If I'm reading the map right, it comes down from above west on the northish facing slope then takes a south "turn" on top of the pass? Yep, gotta get up there.
Yes, it comes down from the west, but like you said more northwest, then crosses the pass to the south, so it is an unusual path. Normally a creek starting on the NW would head down the north side, rather than crossing over. Have to wonder if there was some human engineering involved. It kind of looks like a farmer's irrigation ditch at that point.

Norway Pass would be a great place itself to spend a night but it might be better to get there by staying on the well-traveled East Fork trail to it's high point and then crossing over on a connector trail. A little extra mileage and EG, but hopefully a better route than that miserable old road.

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texasbb
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Re: Wallowas Cornucopia Loop

Post by texasbb » August 4th, 2017, 9:02 am

drm wrote:
texasbb wrote:That's really interesting. If I'm reading the map right, it comes down from above west on the northish facing slope then takes a south "turn" on top of the pass? Yep, gotta get up there.
Yes, it comes down from the west, but like you said more northwest, then crosses the pass to the south, so it is an unusual path. Normally a creek starting on the NW would head down the north side, rather than crossing over. Have to wonder if there was some human engineering involved. It kind of looks like a farmer's irrigation ditch at that point.
My Eagle Cap field guide (Fred Barstad) seems to agree:

There is a ditch coming through the saddle that takes water from the Imnaha side and puts it on the Pine Creek side. A fairly good campsite is located to the right (east) of the trail at the saddle.
Source: Falcon Guide by Fred Barstad, 2002. "Hiking Oregon's Eagle Cap Wilderness," Second Edition.

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BurnsideBob
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Re: Wallowas Cornucopia Loop

Post by BurnsideBob » August 4th, 2017, 9:39 am

Thank you for posting another intriguing trip report.

Just gorgeous!
I keep making protein shakes but they always turn out like margaritas.

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drm
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Re: Wallowas Cornucopia Loop

Post by drm » August 4th, 2017, 10:25 am

PS to flower experts. I posted a request for help in identifying some of the flowers in the ID forum.

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bobcat
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Re: Wallowas Cornucopia Loop

Post by bobcat » August 7th, 2017, 6:16 am

Stunning! Your marble mountain is Cusick, the place I consider to be the true "heart" of the Wallowas (not some lake). Thanks for the trip report. I have this pegged for 2018 if I can't get up there this year.

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drm
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Re: Wallowas Cornucopia Loop

Post by drm » August 7th, 2017, 9:44 am

Nonetheless, the easiest way to get there is probably up from Wallowa Lake and over Hawkins Pass. Going from Cornucopia is either for variety or to avoid as many people on the way.

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Bosterson
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Re: Wallowas Cornucopia Loop

Post by Bosterson » August 7th, 2017, 11:01 am

Glad to see you enjoyed this loop, Dean. I thought it took in some really excellent alpine scenery with a remote feel and no crowds. Maybe my clockwise version (you went CCW) is preferable so you get to go down that steep road grade above Cornucopia rather than up it! :)
drm wrote:As a practical note, note that if you go there, two important driving tips. You need to turn right at the sign for the Cornucopia Lodge and drive right past the lodge. Do not continue on the road past that turnoff, as I think virtually everybody does. Once you pass the lodge you will soon get to the fork in the road for the two trailheads which has trailhead signs. If you are going up the east Fork, do not turn right here. The road gets rough very quickly, has no space to park, and barely space to turn around. I had to negotiate a difficult multi-point u-turn to get out to avoid a difficult backing out. All parking and trailhead camping are on the left side past the stables on the Pine Lakes Trailhead.
After the right turn onto the Cornucopia Lodge road, we cowboy camped on the ground just past the lodge, off the side of the road. (It was past midnight by the time we got there in 2015.) In the morning, a lodge person came by and instructed us to park in the big open parking lot (with the old sno-cat and other equipment) just south of the lodge. Then we walked up the road past the stables to the Pine Lakes TH. Whichever direction you do the loop, it's just a short road walk back from whichever TH you finish on to get back to the car without backtracking.
drm wrote:Nonetheless, the easiest way to get there is probably up from Wallowa Lake and over Hawkins Pass. Going from Cornucopia is either for variety or to avoid as many people on the way.
I'd guess the "easiest" approach to Cusick would be to start on the east side of the Wallowas at the Indian Crossing TH and walk along the S Fork Imnaha to the basin under Cusick. Probably about the same distance as W Fork Wallowa, and minimal EG and no passes to cross. W Fork Wallowa is overrun with people and horses anyway. Indian Crossing just takes a little more driving, but there's comparatively no one in that part of Eagle Cap, and you can loop around Cusick via the N Fork Imnaha and Polaris Pass to Hawkins Pass if you wanted. I still haven't done anything on that east side yet.
Will hike off trail for fun.

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drm
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Re: Wallowas Cornucopia Loop

Post by drm » August 7th, 2017, 12:34 pm

There were two reasons we went the way we did. First is that it was 15 miles to our camp on the Imnaha, which was doable in a day. Going up through Pine Lakes is more like 20 miles, too much for us. Also, I wanted our last night to be at Pine Lakes. It's a great way to finish the trip and then only 7 miles of downhill to get to the car, leaving plenty of time for the drive home. If you went out via Norway you could camp an Norway Pass for a moderate day out, though steep. But I thought I remembered from your report that you didn't find a good place to camp on that route. Maybe you couldn't get to the pass that day.

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