Maxwell Lake (Eagle Cap Wilderness) - 8/11/12

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justpeachy
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Maxwell Lake (Eagle Cap Wilderness) - 8/11/12

Post by justpeachy » August 23rd, 2012, 8:26 pm

Greg and I recently spent a week on the north side of the Wallowa Mountains. Before starting our backpacking trip on Sunday we did a Saturday day hike up to Maxwell Lake (map), a beautiful gem of a lake nestled high up above the Lostine River. It's one of the few trails in the wilderness that dead-ends and doesn't connect up with other trails.

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The trail starts at the Shady Campground, where we were camped. In fact, the trail went right past our campsite, and through the trees we could see parts of the footbridge over the Lostine River.

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The trail soon crosses Maxwell Creek. There is no bridge, but this time of year it's pretty easy to cross on rocks or the logs that people have laid down.

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We hiked through a meadow, still deep in shadow since the sun hadn't gotten high enough to reach down into the canyon yet.

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But soon our elevation gain and the sun's elevation gain joined up and we were hiking in sun. The first three miles of trail are well-graded switchbacks, passing in and out of trees.

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And then at the three-mile mark it's like the trail builders apparently said, "Man, enough with this switchback nonsense, let's just get this show on the road already." And the trail starts climbing straight up the mountainside. Needless to say, that last mile is quite steep, gaining about 1,000 feet of elevation. (It's also pretty rocky, so coming back down that part was no picnic either, slipping and sliding even with our hiking poles.) The picture below shows one small non-steep part, although it's not as flat as it looks!

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And then the final stretch!

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We had the place all to ourselves. The only backpackers who had been there the night before were headed back down as we headed up, and we had beat all the other day hikers. For the hour and a half that we were here we had the place to ourselves. It was gorgeous and peaceful and awesome. Plus, there were wildflowers and practically no bugs.

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The lake has what Bill Sullivan calls a "cute little island", a phrase we chuckled at when we read the hike description beforehand. But when we got to the lake Greg yelled back to me, "It really IS a cute little island." Behold, the cute little island:

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Here's the view from the east end of the lake (from this angle the island is indistinguishable from the landscape behind it).

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Greg taking a photo.

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On the way back down we got a nice view of the surrounding mountains that had been so backlit by the morning sun on our hike up that we hadn't gotten a good look at them.

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Our timing was great. As we hiked down we passed 24 hikers and backpackers headed up to the lake. We rolled back into our campsite at 1:45 and I have to say that it's REALLY NICE to be able to do that after a hike! Done hiking and BAM there you are at your campsite with a comfy chair, shade, and ice cold beers.

While we were enjoying those ice cold beers we got a visitor from a nearby campsite. She immediately pegged Greg for an animal-lover and rolled over for a tummy rub. Cute!

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8 miles
2500 feet elevation gain
Last edited by justpeachy on April 12th, 2013, 6:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Cheryl

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Re: Maxwell Lake (Eagle Cap Wilderness) - 8/11/12

Post by mayhem » August 23rd, 2012, 9:16 pm

Bammmm! Is right!!
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Re: Maxwell Lake (Eagle Cap Wilderness) - 8/11/12

Post by hlee » August 25th, 2012, 7:42 pm

lol @ that last photo. Great TR, you always take great, well-balanced photos.

Do you do something in particular when you shoot water? Do you use like a polarizing filter, or...?

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Re: Maxwell Lake (Eagle Cap Wilderness) - 8/11/12

Post by R11 » August 26th, 2012, 11:38 am

hlee wrote:lol @ that last photo. Great TR, you always take great, well-balanced photos.

Do you do something in particular when you shoot water? Do you use like a polarizing filter, or...?
Looks like the Polarized Look to me. Which of course can be a polarizing subject :). Nice little lake!


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Re: Maxwell Lake (Eagle Cap Wilderness) - 8/11/12

Post by justpeachy » August 26th, 2012, 7:40 pm

Yup, I always use a polarizer when I'm taking pictures on sunny days. It makes for more vivid colors. This hike to Maxwell Lake was actually the first time I was using my new Nikon wide-angle lens with B+W polarizer. (I hadn't had a chance to test it out before we left on our trip.) Fortunately the pictures came out looking great. The one thing I noticed, though, was that on some of those lake shots the sky is a darker blue in the middle than on the sides. I think this might be a result of the wide-angle lens, not the polarizer. In other words, if I had used that same polarizer on my regular lens I don't think I would have gotten that darker blue. But I'm not positive.
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Re: Maxwell Lake (Eagle Cap Wilderness) - 8/11/12

Post by Splintercat » August 26th, 2012, 8:01 pm

Lovely photos, Cheryl - absolutely gorgeous lake scenes! Kudos for you and Greg cranking up that trail, too! :)

You've diagnosed the problem with a polarizer on a very wide angle lens perfectly. I struggle with that all the time on my 11-22mm lens at the low end, and rarely with my 14-54mm lens. What seems to work best for me is to pull back on the polarization a bit to reduce the differential effect, then use the burn tool on light flow (set to shadows) to manually pull the less saturated edges of the sky out a bit. The Elk Cove photos I posted from Friday use this exact method. It's not a huge deal to just live with the effect, though - one of those details that only photographers fuss sbout, I suspect..! :D

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Re: Maxwell Lake (Eagle Cap Wilderness) - 8/11/12

Post by BigBear » August 27th, 2012, 2:12 pm

I like the first photo the best. I suspect you do too since you posted it twice. Never been to that lake, but it certainly looks inviting, specially from by office cubicle.

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Re: Maxwell Lake (Eagle Cap Wilderness) - 8/11/12

Post by RobFromRedland » August 27th, 2012, 4:22 pm

My daughter and I are planning a trip to that same general vicinity in a couple of weeks. We were supposed to do it last year, but we couldn't make it work. I'm really looking forward to it! Starting at Two Pan campground, down the Lostine river to Copper Creek, over to Swamp and Steamboat lakes, up to North Minam Meadows and then back to the Lostine river near Lillyville picnic ground and then the road back to our truck. We are planning 3 days, which should be plenty of time I think.

One thing I'm curious about - are bear bags necessary in this area? When we backpack, we have not hung our food in the past. We have kept it in ziplock bags (sometimes double bagged) and kept it with us rather than hanging it at night. We've never had a problem, either with bears or with little critters. Are bears more of a problem in this area? (Eagle Cap in general)

Thanks for any input or suggestions.
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Re: Maxwell Lake (Eagle Cap Wilderness) - 8/11/12

Post by retired jerry » August 27th, 2012, 5:03 pm

There are no requirements for bear containers or anything

When I've left food on the ground, critters often get in, so I hang it

If I can, I'll hang it so it's bear-proof - 10 feet off ground

There are bears around and I think that's what they recommend

If a bear comes along and gets into your food, then they'll probably have to eventually kill it so you want to avoid this

I'll at least hang it a few feet off the ground to keep it away from critters

But if you double bag and have no critters getting in, I guess you're fine

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