Strawberry Eclipse Backpack

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sparklehorse
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Strawberry Eclipse Backpack

Post by sparklehorse » August 25th, 2017, 2:29 pm

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Thinking I might avoid the great eclipse crowds, I opted for the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness near John Day, Oregon. I had done the loop there almost thirty years ago, and was eager to see it all again. I made the drive late on Wednesday, Aug 16th, only to find the small campground next to the Strawberry Lake trailhead was already full! A nice young fellow from New Mexico took pity on me though, and offered to let me pitch my tent on his campsite. After setting up a quick car camp I drove around to the trailhead and parked my car in the last available slot there. I REALLY lucked out! I should've been here a day earlier, but how could a person possibly know?

The next morning my new pup Kola and I headed up to beautiful Strawberry Lake for our first night in the “wilderness”. I phrase it that way because it seemed as though this entire wilderness area was already packed with people. As I talked to folks along my trek it became clear that most were from California - there were very few Oregonians here. We lucked out though and found an available site next to the lake where I caught a nice little Brook Trout, and Kola enjoyed a refreshing swim.…

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The next day (Friday) we hiked over to Slide Lake. It too was packed with campers, but fortunately has a large, fairly open flat area adjacent to the lake with many places a tent can be pitched. We found a spot about 300 feet back from the lake and enjoyed a nice, quiet evening.


On Saturday we continued our trek with High Lake as our goal. This day took us over a high pass with nice views to the northeast…

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I didn’t notice the Mountain Goat in that last picture until I got home!


We passed above the Mud Lake basin, which is pretty thoroughly burned out. Not many folks camping down there I'd guess.…

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Dropping down toward High Lake...

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The Rabbit Ears come into view...

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High Lake was full to the brim with people, dogs, kids, makeshift rafts, boom boxes and lawn chairs. Yikes! it was like Timothy Lake on steroids! The closest spot to camp I could find was a quarter mile away in a semi-burned area. In the evening the wind really kicked up, making it difficult to sleep. Not my best backpacking experience ever, that's for sure.

On Sunday we continued on toward Strawberry Mountain, which is where I had planned to view the eclipse. We soon arrived at the High Lake trailhead, which was packed with cars on both shoulders...

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The line of cars continued downhill for at least a mile...

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Most of the plates were California. Makes sense. If you're coming from the south this would be a good entry point.

Continuing on toward the mountain...

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Kola's not so happy about lugging his food for miles and miles...

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I was planning on camping at Onion Creek Meadow this night, but had talked to so many folks headed there I was concerned about finding a decent place to camp. Luckily I found a small spring just below the trail on the south side of the mountain and set up camp on the hillside nearby...

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Not super comfortable, but at least it was private.

Sunset the night before the eclipse...

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At 8 a.m. on the morning of the eclipse I could see a bunch of people had already gathered on the summit...

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Having Kola with me I worried things would likely be too hectic up there to watch the dog, and the eclipse, and take pictures all at once. So I opted to hike up to the nearby saddle instead, and was glad I did. Plenty of room here, and still a great view at 8300 feet elevation...

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Plus Kola had a great spot in the shade where he napped peacefully for an hour or so...

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I chatted for a while with the nice folks here, then set up my camera and began to take shots of the partial eclipse. A minute before totality I looked off to the west to see if I could detect the shadow approaching, but I could only tell it was getting darker to the west. And man was it getting COLD!


Then suddenly it was like someone had flipped a light switch and darkness descended on the Strawberries...

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Composite image showing about a 30 minute time frame...

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And then it was all over just as quickly as it had come. Minutes later I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw a guy running with a full pack, back to the trailhead. Then another. Then another. Crazyness. Some folks just gotta beat the crowd I guess.

Kola and I went back to camp, packed up, and headed over the saddle to Onion Creek Meadow, which was nearly empty by the time we got there. We found the best campsite of the trip there, and enjoyed a nice, relaxing evening.

On Tuesday we hiked out to the car. Along the way we encountered a Forest Service cleanup crew, and I asked them if they had any idea how many people had been in the Strawberries for the eclipse. The gal said the Forest Service estimated 1200 folks! Wow! I'll bet normally there's less than a hundred.

Final shots on our very smokey last day...

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Awesome trip!

Gordon
Last edited by sparklehorse on August 25th, 2017, 10:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Webfoot
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Re: Strawberry Eclipse Backpack

Post by Webfoot » August 25th, 2017, 3:10 pm

That time-lapse composite is a great representation of this event, and yours is one of the nicest versions I've seen.

The red-magenta prominences captured in your darker exposures were unexpected (by me) and one of my favorite features, clearly visible through my 10x binoculars.

I thought about SMW but concluded I wasn't up to the distances required, so it's nice to see this report and what I missed. It's beautiful but almost unbelievably crowded compared to where I was, thirty miles north, where there were only two dozen trucks at the 8,100 foot drive-up summit.
eclipse vista.jpg

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Paul2
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Re: Strawberry Eclipse Backpack

Post by Paul2 » August 25th, 2017, 3:38 pm

Awesome report and pictures. Probably my favorite eclipse report. It was really interesting hearing about the crowds and cool you made it into a full backpacking trip. Best pictures of the strawberries I've seen. I really need to make it over there.
I saw the eclipse from Corvallis and most visitors in the makeshift campgrounds were Californians as well.
I've been wandering early and late, from New York City to the Golden Gate, and it don't look like I'll ever stop my wandering.
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texasbb
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Re: Strawberry Eclipse Backpack

Post by texasbb » August 25th, 2017, 9:19 pm

Absolutely the best photo documentary I've seen on this eclipse. Thanks for sharing it!

Edit: But I win on the crowd part! I had an entire lake to myself in the Wind Rivers. :)

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romann
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Re: Strawberry Eclipse Backpack

Post by romann » August 25th, 2017, 11:53 pm

Awesome close-up pictures with sun's corona! Even better than was looking at it with the naked eye (and I see you did each shot at different exposure, how'd you even have time for it :) ). Those crowds are something, though - if I headed to place that remote, would be up for big surprise. When I was driving west toward Madras after eclipse, met solid traffic heading east, which at first didn't make sense, until I saw that most cars were from California.

Kola is a beautiful dog!

leiavoia
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Re: Strawberry Eclipse Backpack

Post by leiavoia » August 26th, 2017, 3:35 pm

I was there too! We probably crossed paths a few times.

May i please get copies of your hi-res eclipse shots? My poor little point and shoot wasnt going to get the job done. I want something i can put in my personal photobook later.

I took a ton of hand-stitched panos, however. I'm still processing them, but here's a few.

There were upwards of 300 people gathered on the peak. And you were right, there were quite a few dogs too. And no bathrooms. I hiked up there at 4am in the dark with the milky way over my head in order to catch the sunrise with a few other adventurous souls.

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I did camp down there in the Mud Lake burn zone. It was howling wind all night long like you said. There was a solid 3ft of mud in the lake, living up to it's name. Not good for swimming. I met a scout troop making there way down the drainage hoping to connect to another trail. There isn't much of a trail down there. It's about 70% cross country bush wacking.

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Great afternoon shot looking down on High Lake from the pass:

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The next night i camped at the adorable Little Slide Lake. It was a tight squeeze, but i was hammocking, so i could just get in anywhere. I liked this lake better than the big one next door. If you ever go up there, the little trout like cheesy pasta shells. A lot.

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On Sunday, I hiked around the ridge up the north side and on up to Onion Meadow. I stopped at Strawberry, Little Strawberry, and the Falls on the way up.

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Monday morning i hiked up to the peak for the eclipse. Mostly a well behaved crowd. It's a great vantage point to see the wave of darkness rush in and then back out afterwards. On the way down, I got to see all the views i missed on the way up in the dark.

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I was originally going to stay another night, but after the holy cow event, everything else felt anti-climactic. 4 miles down the dusty south side back to the car concluded the trip. Traffic was good on the way back despite warnings to the contrary.

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I have about 30 other hi-res panos i'm still processing, but that should be enough for now.

The woman next to me on the peak posted this eclipse video. (you can hear the dogs :-)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cwSQAmN7lU

Thanks for posting!

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sparklehorse
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Re: Strawberry Eclipse Backpack

Post by sparklehorse » August 27th, 2017, 1:47 pm

Hello Webfoot, Paul2, texasbb and romann. Thank you for all the kind words on the report and photos, glad you all enjoyed it. And romann, Kola says many thanks to you for saying he's a beautiful dog. He's quite vain, that Kola is. And thanks to leiavoia for posting your panos and mini report on the Strawberries. Some of those panos are quite striking, and that movie you posted is AWESOME! Makes me wish I'd gone up to the summit that morning! Oh well, Texas in 2024 here I come!

Oh, and you can download medium res copies of whichever photos you want from my Smugmug gallery:

https://pixelhorse.smugmug.com/Backpack ... /i-Nkk4XjQ

Enjoy.
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backcracker
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Re: Strawberry Eclipse Backpack

Post by backcracker » August 27th, 2017, 4:12 pm

A few months prior to the eclipse I had planned on hiking in to Little Strawberry Lake with the wife and kids, thinking who would go to that remote destination? Had planned to summit Strawberry Mountain for the eclipse. But as the date closed in and the press articles painted a picture of mass congestion I became apprehensive and cancelled. I made the right decision based on your trip report. Your pictures of the eclipse are outstanding.

I wonder if anyone went to the southern end of the Elkhorn Crest Trail? That was my second option, but again sounded like the Baker City area was also going to be a mess.

Webfoot
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Re: Strawberry Eclipse Backpack

Post by Webfoot » August 27th, 2017, 4:27 pm

Baker City had no traffic of any significance. Frankly it was a little surreal how little traffic there was given all the prognostications for parking lot conditions. The only issue was one rude fifth wheel driver that never moved over for the line of 40 cars behind him, nearly the entire length of highway 7 into town on the afternoon of the 21st.

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BurnsideBob
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Re: Strawberry Eclipse Backpack

Post by BurnsideBob » August 27th, 2017, 9:00 pm

Sparklehorse!

Thanks for sharing your trip. Amazingly good eclipse photos!!

And I'm glad to see a lot of the Strawberries remains green and unburned after that darn Canyon Fire.

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

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