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Backpacking in Oregon

I remember when I was still living at home, probably in 1967, when my dad brought home a sleeping bag that he could stuff into a little sack. He was so thrilled with this sleeping bag that he kept taking it out of the sack andstuffing it back in. He must habe done this at least 15 times. And then, you know how dads are, he got me and my sister to do it too! My parents loved to backpack and occasionally I went with them. Here's a picture of me (left) and my partents in 1972 that I found in an old photo album (what the heck is a photo album?) And on the right, backpacking with my dog, Chelsea, around the same time.

Now, Dave and i love to go backpacking. Our favorite places in Oregon are Jeff Parkand the Wallowas. Here are some pictures of our trips.




Jeff Park

Above is a picture of Russell Lake with Mt. Jefferson in the background. This is the inspiration for the cover of my music book Moon Over the Mountain which is full of tunes inspired by our backpacking trips.

We always take numerous day hikes, and this one is up, up, up the mountain to the top of the pass where you can get a look at Mt. Jefferson to the left and Mt. Hood to the right. In the distance, you can sometimes see Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens in Washington, although in this particular picture there is smoke from fire in the adjacent canyon. Some folks hiked out early because of it, but not us, and we were glad we stayed as it totally cleared up the next day.





We have found many a waterfall hidden in little canyons. Seems like every year we find a new one. In 2014, we found the ultimate in waterfalls where there are 2 waterfalls coming together at a confluence.  You might have to look carefully at the picture to see the 2 waterfalls coming together in the picture below.



This is a picture from the top of what we call "Seven Springs" feeding into what we call "Sweeten Creek". We named the creek after a place in North Carolina that we dearly love for its beauty, friendship, and fabulous BBQ! You'll find a tune called Sweeten Creek in the Moon Over the Mountain music book.


Of course, we tried to give our daughter, Rosiee, the backpacking experience which she liked, but sometimes it was just too cold, or there were too many mosquitos. She and her friend, Faye, are eating their dinner in the tent, because the mosquitos were too fierce in late July. Dave and I had mosquito net clothing to keep them away from us. Here's Dave modeling our head nets, and to the right Rosiee is showing off her bazillion mosquito bites.


Taking a friend was always a good thing to do. In the picture to the left is Faye and in the picture to the right is Zoe.




Dave is the cook on these trips. Here he is cooking our favorite meal (not) of Top Ramen which is pretty standard dinner fair in the mountains. Instant oatmeal is our standard breakfast and lunch usually consists of crackers, tuna bags (with mayo and relish packets from the condiments bar in say a Dairy Queen type of place) or smoked salmon from Emmons just outside Corvallis. Nuts, chocolate, cookies, and dried asian pears are also part of the menu. Even Sunny, the dog, carries her own food in and usually carries out all the garbage.


The Wallowas

This place is like no other. It is an incredible collection of towering mountains creating cirques in all directions. There is lots of up and down hiking, 1000 feet over the pass, and down again on the other side only to go up again.

The first couple of hours hiking is through a dusty forest with a big river flowing through, and scattered waterfalls come into view as you hike the trail. Then suddenly you see this view of Eagle Cap as you come out of forest and into the Lostine Valley. We started late in the day getting to the trail head in the afternoon and to a suitable campsite at around 5:30. Shortly after we set up our tent, the sun headed down behind the hills and created this "Alpenglow" on the top of the mountain. (This is the name of another tune in the Moon Over the Mountain book.)






If you want, you can climb Eagle Cap from Moccasin Lake which we did in 2011. Here's a picture looking down on Mirror Lake from way up there. That's Moccasin Lake just beyond Mirror to the right in the picture.








Coming and going, we always spend a night at Glacier Lake. It is one of the highest points to camp in the Wallowas. The picture on the left is where we go to filter water for cooking and drinking and we even swim in this lake. Yes, it's cold! Although you can't really see it, in the middle of the picture on the right is Frazier Lake 1000 feet below us. We can see it from our camp and we will head down there in the morning on our way over Hawkins Pass to get to what we call "Van Gogh Canyon." (This is another tune in the Moon book)


And then sometimes you wake up and it's snowing, so you go home early. And sometimes your boot gives out. Good thing we had duct tape with us!


But when the weather holds out, we hike up over to the other side of Hawkins Pass. There are no lakes there, but the geology is absolutely stunning! You might already know that Dave has a masters degree in Geology, so none of this is lost on us! We stand there for long periods of time talking about the striations, the dykes, the marble, and the granite. It's pretty unbelievable and beautiful.


Filtering water in the creek below our campsite


Sometimes you just never know what you're going to run into in the Wallowas. These pack llamas and their owners took off that afternoon, and if you look in the middle of the picture on the right, you can see them trudging across the mountain on the trail that we came down on, and will go back up in 2 days.


Now we get a layover day where we leave our camp set up and hike down the canyon. Here are some of the things we see on a 6 mile round trip "Van Gogh" hike.

Amazing wildflowers, surely a "Bride's Bouquet" (another tune in the Moon book). We have counted over 50 wild flowers that we've seen in a season.


Waterfalls and a series of 10 pools






Sharon in the "Misty Meadow*" after the mist has risen, but if you notice the sky, you can see how easy it is to make pictures "Out of the Clouds*."







One of the many faces of the Van Gogh Canyon

                                                                                                         At the end of the day, somebody's tired!









Back at the top of Hawkins Pass heading back to Glacier Lake



"Moon Over the Mountain*" (Title tune in the book) in "The Night Sky*."


Reflection of Eagle Cap in a little pond back in the Lostine Valley, our last of 6 nights out.


A parting shot: Backpacking anyone?

*still other tunes in the Moon Over the Mountain book

A 360 video of these incredible mountains



Thormahlen Harps | 1876 SW Brooklane Corvallis, Oregon 97333 | (541) 753-4334 | harps@thorharp.com