Yet another Wallowas trip!!

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sparklehorse
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Yet another Wallowas trip!!

Post by sparklehorse » August 31st, 2019, 1:28 pm

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(Opening shot of Aneroid Lake)

Wow, I can’t believe how many trip reports there have been on the Wallowas this season! It’s crazy! That's great that folks are getting out there though. It's a very special area, one of the best for backpacking in Oregon in my opinion.
Well, I’ll do my best to add something useful here if not entertaining.

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My first multi-day backpack trip was in the Wallowas in 1985. I took a good film camera with me on that trip, and for every trip since I've either had that old Nikon FA or a capable DSLR with me. This time however I left the fancy DSLR at home and used only my iPhone as my camera. I upgraded from a 6s to the Xs earlier this year and was so impressed with the image quality that it was kind of a no-brainer. Besides having a better sensor and better lens than before, the last few iterations of Apple's phone have also sported two rear-facing cameras: a wide angle and a 'tele'. There's also a lot of third party hardware and software now that really help make the phone a useful tool for photographers. Among these are a wide range of add-on lenses that greatly extend the useful range of the native iPhone lenses. Many of the photos in this report I shot with this wide angle lens made by a company called Sandmarc...

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Sandmarc also makes a tele lens for iPhone, a fisheye, and a macro. They even make an anamorphic lens for video. I have the wide and the tele. The image quality from each lens is very good. There are a number of other companies that make similar offerings.

Using third party apps you can shoot in Raw format on the newer iPhones, manually set ISO and shutter speed, shoot time exposures, shoot video in Log. And Apple has made a real effort to apply the power of their A12 processor toward solving some of the shortcomings of a phone camera, such as low dynamic range and too much depth of field. This is often referred to as computational photography. The results are not perfect by any means, but remarkably good for a small device like this. I'm not saying Apple has the market cornered on quality phone cameras, I know there are a number of very good Android phones out now that rival the iPhone's camera, and in some ways are even better. So if you're loving your Android camera good on ya!


My last trip to the Wallowas was 13 years ago, so this visit was WAY overdue! I chose Aneroid Lake because that East Fork Wallowa River basin is just about the only Eagle Cap drainage I hadn’t yet visited. Plus, when I was a kid my parents gave me a copy of Don & Roberta Lowe’s 100 Oregon Hiking Trails, 1969 edition. Aneroid Lake was hike #99 in that seminal guidebook, and it featured this intriguing photo of an old timer standing in front of a rustic old store near the lake, part of a large, private inholding within the wilderness area:

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I’ve wanted to see that old store ever since.

My original intent was a big loop: up to Aneroid Lake, then up to Jewett Lake, over Polaris Pass and then maybe hit the Lakes Basin on the way out along the West Fork Wallowa River. I had nagging concerns about how my dog might fair on the long trek down from Polaris though, so I opted to do this as an out-and-back instead. The new plan included spending at least one night at Aneroid Lake and two nights up at Jewett Lake with a day hike to Polaris Pass.

Some sights along the way to Aneroid on Tuesday, August 20...

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Roger Lake...

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While camped at Aneroid Lake on Tuesday the nearby Granite Gulch fire really blew up. It was a good 10 miles away, but its intensity was cause for concern nonetheless...

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By Wednesday morning the fire had either subsided or the wind had shifted, or perhaps both...

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While breaking camp at Aneroid Wednesday morning I picked up a NOAA weather broadcast on my little radio that called for a chance of Thunderstorms that evening. That forced a change of plans as I did not want to be caught up at exposed Jewett Lake in a lightning storm, especially with a dog that I had not been in a storm with before. So we spent a second night at Aneroid riding the storm out, and I’m glad we did! That storm was one of the worst I’ve been in while backpacking. As it turns out Kola, our four-year old German Shepherd rescue, did really well with the thunderous thunder, the pelting rain and the gusty winds that went on for hours Wednesday night.


While waiting for the storm to arrive I wandered over to see those old cabins at the south end of Aneroid Lake, now called “Camp Halton”. One of the caretakers, a friendly, burly fellow named Dennis Lund, came out to greet me. I told him of the Lowe’s old hiking guidebook, and how it had brought me here and the photo in it of the old man and the store. He said based on the time frame that photo in the Lowe's book was likely of the man that built these cabins at Aneroid back in the early 1900's. That man's name was Charlie Seeber. Folks called him "Silver Tip" because of his white hair. He made his living up in the mountains in summer working several mining claims and renting his cabins out to vistors. He'd been diagnosed with tuberculosis when he was a teenager and given only a few years to live. But breathing all that fresh mountain air must've been exceptionally therapeutic as he lived to be 102!

As I strolled around Silver Tip's lovely backcountry 'town' I felt as though I'd stepped into H.G. Well's Time Machine...

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Some of the cabins are named after big hotel chains, such as "The Sheraton", or in this case "The Hilton"...

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This one is "The Ramada Inn"...

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The store is the oldest of the buildings and is still standing, but just barely. Decrepit and condemned, it hasn't been occupied for several years. It's shored up with beams and cables now, kept standing as a tribute to a bygone era. But each new winter threatens to be its last...

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The family that now owns the camp still let visitors stay in the old cabins. They ask only for a donation (the amount of which is apparently up to the guest) and one hour of work for each night you stay. So that might be chopping or stacking wood, helping build a footbridge, maintaining a trail. Whatever needs doing.

Later we hiked around Aneroid and Kola went for a swim...

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We settled in back at camp, had some dinner and awaited the storm, which luckily didn't hit until after sunset when we were curled up in the tent.

Here's a time lapse of the weather at Aneroid Lake as it slowly deteriorated in the evening. I love the wind ripples on the lake toward the end...




And another as the weather tried to clear the next morning...




On Thursday we headed up to Jewett Lake.

Brand new vistas appear...

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Aneroid Mountain...

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Some shots near Jewett Lake...

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Jewett is a beautiful high alpine lake and I thoroughly enjoyed my short time there...

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A Pano gone horribly wrong...

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We heard an absolutely massive rock slide on a nearby peak that evening. It was kinda scary, a reminder that people can and sometimes do get hurt in the backcountry through no fault of their own.


Friday we hiked up to Polaris Pass.

Crossing Tenderfoot Pass...

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New vistas open up...

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Approaching Polaris Pass (the two hikers are walking on it)...

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The view west from Polaris, overlooking the heart of the Wallowas...

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The view east...

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Those two folks we encountered at Polaris Pass were the only people we'd see all day, and we were very lucky we did as we were running quite low on water when we arrived at the pass. They were coming down from Sentinel Peak, had quite a bit of water left between them and offered us some. I truly hated to be "that guy" that misjudges how much water is needed for a hike, but on that day I was that guy. Kola and I were very grateful for those couple of cups of water, they made the long hike back to Tenderfoot Pass pleasant rather than dreadful.

Horse packers in the meadow below as we head back...

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Back at the Tenderfoot Pass area...

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I really enjoyed this area, which reminded me a bit of the Scottish Highlands...

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We replenished our water supplies from a small snow field here and headed back down to Aneroid Lake for our final evening.


My new Zpacks Duplex Tent on the final evening...

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Love this tent! Very roomy for one person plus one large dog, yet weighs in at just over one pound! Handled that storm like a champ too.


Parting shot on the hike out...

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And a great sunset later on as we drop down out of the Blues on I-84...

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Great trip!

Gordon
Last edited by sparklehorse on September 1st, 2019, 9:33 am, edited 7 times in total.
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You have to milk the cow a lot to make a bit of cheese.
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retired jerry
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Re: Yet another Wallowas trip!!

Post by retired jerry » August 31st, 2019, 2:34 pm

now that's what I should have done, waited a few weeks. Interesting to see it without all the snow I saw earlier. Next time I'll have to check out those cabins. There was a horse train that passed us, taking in supplies.

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texasbb
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Re: Yet another Wallowas trip!!

Post by texasbb » August 31st, 2019, 5:33 pm

I for one never tire of Wallowas reports. And for sure the Wallowas can treat you to some fun storms. I had hoped to be up there this week (a bit to the west), but...work intervened. Can't wait to change my handle to retired texasbb.

Thanks for the report.

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BurnsideBob
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Re: Yet another Wallowas trip!!

Post by BurnsideBob » August 31st, 2019, 5:39 pm

Gordon:

Thanks for another yet again totally great Wallowa trip report. I can't get enough of them and hope more are coming!

Just out of curiosity, how do you book the Aneroid Lake cabins? Do you contact the caretaker on arrival? I see this, which, after your account, confuses me: http://eaglecapwildernessoutfitters.com ... roid-Lake/

Thanks for sharing your wonderful adventure.

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

SCtoPDX
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Re: Yet another Wallowas trip!!

Post by SCtoPDX » August 31st, 2019, 7:01 pm

Sweet trip report Gordon! Glad you like the zPacks tent...I grabbed a Triplex last year and couldn't be happier. I think you made the right call not going down Polaris Pass...Kola could have made it fine with booties, but without them her (his?) pads would have been trashed. Great seeing the view going the other way towards Tenderfoot Pass.

Cheers,
Ian

Aimless
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Re: Yet another Wallowas trip!!

Post by Aimless » August 31st, 2019, 7:28 pm

That storm was one of the worst I’ve been in while backpacking.

Yup. Some of those Wallowas thunderstorms can bring gusts strong enough to collapse your tent! Certainly the biggest, loudest and most ferocious thunderstorms I've ever experienced were up there. The type where fear and exhilaration get all tumbled together into one highly memorable experience.

Felipe
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Re: Yet another Wallowas trip!!

Post by Felipe » September 1st, 2019, 8:46 am

Great report with really awesome images. Sharp as a tack. I especially enjoy the images including your hiking partner packing the blue rest pad! His expression looks like he was quite enthusiastic and enjoyed the outing lots.

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sparklehorse
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Re: Yet another Wallowas trip!!

Post by sparklehorse » September 1st, 2019, 9:03 am

BurnsideBob wrote:
August 31st, 2019, 5:39 pm
<snip>
Just out of curiosity, how do you book the Aneroid Lake cabins? Do you contact the caretaker on arrival? I see this, which, after your account, confuses me: http://eaglecapwildernessoutfitters.com ... roid-Lake/
<snip>
Burnside
I think the link you posted is for an outfitter company unaffiliated with Camp Halton. Looks like the Halton cabins are one of several Wallowa trip options they offer. The caretakers of the cabins are a husband and wife team, it was the wife that told me the rate was a donation and an hour’s work per night. She said if a person is interested they need to contact them in the spring to make a reservation. They live in Joseph when not up at Aneroid, so I assume late fall through spring. I didn’t think to get contact info, but I see Aneroid Lake has its own Facebook page, and on it you will find Dennis Lund. You could contact them that way. I don’t know how often they are able to check things like Facebook while they’re up at the cabins, so it may take a while to get a reply. Hope that helps.
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You have to milk the cow a lot to make a bit of cheese.
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BurnsideBob
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Re: Yet another Wallowas trip!!

Post by BurnsideBob » September 1st, 2019, 1:45 pm

Gorfon, thanks for clearing up the Aneroid Cabin access. It sure would be wonderful to hike in without a ton of gear!!

Best,

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

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