Old School: Wallowa Mountain Loop - September 1982

This is a forum for trip reports that pre-date the Portland Hikers forum, trail photos from pre-digital era, or any other discussions that focus on trail history.
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Splintercat
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Old School: Wallowa Mountain Loop - September 1982

Post by Splintercat » March 13th, 2011, 5:50 pm

Here we go again! This time, yours truly is prominently featured in the photos... much to my horror! :lol:

This was 3-day trip that I took with my Oregon State University friend Gary, in September 1982, about a week before fall term started. The loop went up past Aneroid Lake, over Polaris Pass, back up to Glacier Pass, then down through the Lakes Basin and the West Fork to the trailhead. I've posted a "modern" map at the bottom of the report to show the approximate route -- hope to do this again, someday, as I'll explain later...

So, we camped at the trailhead after a late arrival -- here, we're dividing up the groceries and gear for the trip. Note the highly nutritious Pop Tarts and Wheat Thins (more about those, in a moment, too...) that we'd grabbed in Joseph... I think I'm looking at cans of chili, and wondering why I didn't bring along freeze-dried (probably too broke), or worse... WHY I'd brought chili, since we were sharing my tent..! :lol:

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I'm pretty sure that's a bag of trail mix next to the Wheat Thins... and believe it or not, the yellow bag is a "carry your junk out" bag that the USFS provided at the trailhead -- along with a little plastic trowel for burying... well, you know...

So, the first day we hiked up the East Fork, away from the crowds along the lower trail, past Aneroid Lake (and the last of the hikers), and to a lonely little tarn below Tenderfoot Pass. When we woke up the next day, Sentinel Peak was lit up across the upper meadows of the Imnaha River canyon complex:

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From our campsite, the hike to Polaris Pass was relatively straightforward, as we'd done most of the climbing the first day... yet for some reason, I look like I've been run over by a herd of mountain goats! Maybe it was something I was carrying in my wineskin... ;)

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From Polaris Pass -- which I must say, remains my favorite vantage point in the Wallowas -- our route was painfully laid out before us: straight down through a long series of perfectly-graded (yet endless) switchbacks to the bottom of the West Fork canyon, and our second campsite, then over the shoulder of Eagle Cap to our third campsite (the tall peak directly above Gary in the above photo).

Our campsite along the West Fork was very peaceful -- sounds of the river all night. We got up early for the climb to Glacier Pass the next day, passing beautiful Frazier Lake in the morning sun, just above our still-shaded campsite:

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From Frazier Lake, the West Fork trail becomes increasingly spectacular as you wind up the rocky, narrow canyon below Glacier Lake and Eagle Cap. Here's a bit of heartbreak from this trip, however -- this shot, including the well-travelled Wheat Thins box -- is the very last, as the next two rolls of film were exposed at the wrong ASA (what we used to call it before it was ISO), and came out impossibly overexposed:

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Note in addition to the Wheat Thins box, I was carrying a tripod! That's the real tragedy of the ruined images, as I had carefully set up some pano shots at Glacier Lake and Glacier Pass, then some nice sunset shots from Moccassin Lake that night. The worst part is that had I noticed I was shooting at the wrong speed, I could have had the slide developed accordingly, and they would have been fine... sigh...

Here's a map of the loop, and the "lost shots" are reason enough to do it again someday! It makes for a nice, compact loop that can fit into a mid-week window, thus avoiding weekend crowds. BTW, this is also the trip where we encountered "the naked man with a rifle" running through the forest... LONG after that wineskin was dry, too! :lol:

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-Tom :)

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AlexanderSupertramp
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Re: Old School: Wallowa Mountain Loop - September 1982

Post by AlexanderSupertramp » March 13th, 2011, 6:32 pm

Wheat Thins and short shorts :lol: These get better by the report Tom ! :D

Thum

Re: Old School: Wallowa Mountain Loop - September 1982

Post by Thum » March 13th, 2011, 7:03 pm

AlexanderSupertramp wrote:Wheat Thins and short shorts :lol: These get better by the report Tom ! :D


lol at alex and the shared chili tent. I was up in the wallowas when I was a young kid but all i can remember is taking the tram up to the top of mt howard and riding our mt bikes down and around the farms back to joseph. it was so much more rugged and steep than my dad thought it was going to be lol, it was hilarious.

and being the only person swimming in the lake, i remember that too.


you should write a book, Old School Oregon.

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Splintercat
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Re: Old School: Wallowa Mountain Loop - September 1982

Post by Splintercat » March 13th, 2011, 8:20 pm

Wheat Thins and short shorts...
I have far darker secrets from my 70s youth, Adam... that shall never see this forum! :lol:

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texasbb
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Re: Old School: Wallowa Mountain Loop - September 1982

Post by texasbb » March 13th, 2011, 8:24 pm

Love it! Especially having been there just this past September, it was fun to travel back in time with you on this. Your "lonely tarn" below Tenderfoot wasn't Jewett Lake, was it?

I love how that "last shot" shows the fashions of the 80's--boots and socks covered more of the legs than the shorts! :lol:

I too love the Polaris Pass viewpoint. I will be going back someday...it's worth the switchbacks. BTW, your map understates the switchbacks by about a factor of four. There are more than 40!

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Splintercat
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Re: Old School: Wallowa Mountain Loop - September 1982

Post by Splintercat » March 14th, 2011, 6:44 pm

Yes, I got a bit lazy on the switchbacks when I was sketching the trail route -- opted for a few long versions over the dozens of actual switchbacks! Long haul down there, but you can't beat the scenery!

We weren't camped at Jewett Lake, though we had considered it (or Dollar Lake) when planning the trip. Instead, we camped at an unnamed (and unmapped) tarn just off the trail, near Tenderfoot Pass. The view of Sentinel Peak is literally from our campsite, if that helps. Jewett would have been a nicer camp, but we were frowning on losing elevation at that point, having just gained a bunch! :lol:

Tom :)

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Eric Peterson
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Re: Old School: Wallowa Mountain Loop - September 1982

Post by Eric Peterson » March 15th, 2011, 6:55 am

Cool stuff, and the view from Polaris Pass? looks awesome! :)

Something else that seems interesting is the use of your antique clothing for hiking. Reminds
me of a hike I did last year in my jeans and my hiking buddy wouldn't stop bugging me about it.
I tried explaining to him that jeans were the original outdoor activity wear! Of course back in '83
the new modern fabrics probably weren't readily available yet and if they were I bet they were
spendy! You guys must have really suffered back in the old days with all that cotton! :lol:

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Splintercat
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Re: Old School: Wallowa Mountain Loop - September 1982

Post by Splintercat » March 16th, 2011, 9:54 am

Yeah, that's certainly true. I think the main distinction was snow sports -- if you were skiing or snowshoeing, you'd wear non-cotton (often wool) clothing for those activities. But for the balance of the year, most people wore cotton t-shirts, cotton shorts and wool socks. A big part of the ethic was the low cost of entry into becoming a hiker/backpacker. You could pick up boots, a pack, sleeping bag and tent for a couple hundred bucks, and you were good to go. Nowadays, the cost of getting out on the trail is obviously much steeper!

BTW, despite reluctance in saying TOO much about those "short shorts", a lot of people in the 80s were transitioning from what I'm wearing in the Polaris Pass photo (cutoff jeans) to the "Wheat Thins" photo (nylon running shorts), since they had the advantages of synthetics and worked for swimming, too. I still see runners wearing them on the trail, but not hikers. I suppose baggy, non-cotton cargo style shorts have become the norm for hikers. I do like having pockets, so that's an advantage over "short shorts"..!

-Tom :)

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Don Nelsen
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Re: Old School: Wallowa Mountain Loop - September 1982

Post by Don Nelsen » March 16th, 2011, 6:18 pm

Tom, OMG - way too cool! Great pics and report and you are tempting me to dredge up some of my old hikes to post as well. I was in the Wallowas with a few friends exactly one year after your trip but I did Ice Lake and up to the summit of The Matterhorn and Sacagawea Peak. I think I remember a stash of Oreos, beef jerky and Top Ramen for sustenance! Great area and well worth the effort.
Don
"Everything works in the planning stage".

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mayhem
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Re: Old School: Wallowa Mountain Loop - September 1982

Post by mayhem » March 16th, 2011, 6:39 pm

Yes! post some more old Hikes...I hope to feel the same way in another 20 years :)
Shoe Shine Boy Has Left The Building!

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