Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Emma and I had a fantastic weekend.  Really, it was very nearly perfect.  We went over the mountains and camped at the Wallowa Lake State Park for two nights, and we each picked an activity that we'd been looking forward to for a long time.

For Emma, it was a horseback trail ride.  She's been talking about doing this since May 2012, the last time we camped at the park.  We didn't have time during that trip, so I told her that when we went camping at Wallowa this summer, we would go.  I was pretty excited about it too, actually.

It was a four-hour guided trip, and we rode about three miles up along the West Fork Wallowa River.  Here's Emma riding Max, and the ears of my horse, Rebel.  She was on a lead, since she was initially nervous about controlling the horse herself.  By the second half of the ride, she was more confident and wished that the guide hadn't taken off the bridle so that she could be independent, but oh well.  Next time.

Emma on Max, me on Rebel

I didn't take too many pictures while I was riding, not because it wasn't beautiful, but because I was too busy holding on.  The horses were completely confident and knew what they were doing (better than I did...) but the trail was very steep and rocky in places, and a little scary.

When we got to the three-mile mark, we stopped for a break.  I was VERY THANKFUL for this.  Apparently, the saddle and stirrups combine to torque your knees in exactly the same way that falling down on a too-steep ski slope and getting tangled up in your own skis does.  My twisted knee from 15 years ago was not at all happy.

Also, my legs are not shaped the same as a horse's ribcage and saddles are very hard.


Thankfully, the discomfort went away quickly when I got off the horse.  We stopped to rest for half an hour at the turn around spot, where another trail branched off.  We walked up the new trail a few hundred yards, after crossing the river.

Rest stop at the West Fork Wallowa River

The trail skirted a beautiful meadow, with Craig Mountain in the background.  Beautiful.

Rest stop in a pretty meadow, with Craig Mountain

Full of flowers.  Lovely.  We had a snack and a drink, then back across the river to mount up and head down the trail.

West Fork Wallowa River

It was super fun, and I'm glad we did the ride.  Emma's already planning for next year.

When we got back to our campsite Emma had a blast running around on the playground with the swarms of kids.   I, on the other hand, spread out a blanket in the shade, tried to remember how to straighten my legs, and read a book.  There may have been a nap as well.  If we go riding again, I'm starting a stretching routine at least a month beforehand...

Later in the afternoon, we took a short drive to town to get ice cream cones and a couple geocaches, then went down to the lake beach for a while.  It was a low-key afternoon.  That night we cooked on the campfire, and Emma had a great time learning to use matches safely and build a fire.  Here she is, immensely proud of her first little practice fire out of kindling.

Emma's first fire

The next day was my activity.  I've wanted to hike the Hurricane Creek trail for several years, and had hoped to go last summer but we never got around to it.

So off we went, after a somewhat later start than we had planned due to the Junior Ranger program that Emma did in the morning.  It was about 11:00 before we left the campground.  There were two geocaches in the vicinity- one just off the road (but up a steep bank) on the way to the trailhead, and one on a short side trail right at the beginning of the main trail.  We got them both, though Emma was dragging a bit at the start, since she almost fell asleep in the car during the short drive from the campground to the trailhead, was hungry, and doesn't like steep scrambles at the best of times.

I got some food, chocolate, and water in her and we took the hike slowly to start. Once we got back onto the main Hurricane Creek trail, the chocolate had kicked in and the only rough and grumpy patch of the weekend was done.  Except for one long steep section in the first part of the trail, the hike was great.  I think we stopped four times during that long pull.  Multiple snacks supplemented her initial chocolate buzz and headed off the sugar crash, and we made it through.

Steep section

The views were amazing.  This is Deadman Meadow, with Sacajawea Peak in the background.

Sacajawea Peak and Deadman Meadow

The trail parallels Hurricane Creek, and passes through forests, meadows, and former burned and avalanche areas that are regenerating.  Quite a variety.

We saw three kinds of orchids blooming, including this beauty, a mountain lady's slipper (Cypripedium montanum).

Mountain lady's slipper (Cypripedium montanum)

I love finding these in the wild.  It's fun to go see them at the nature reserve, where they are monitored and we know where expect them to bloom, but it's so much more exciting to come across one unexpectedly in the woods.  A treasure.

We hiked up to Slick Rock Creek, a bit more than three miles from the trailhead.  When we were almost there, Hurricane Creek goes through a narrow gorge with the creek cascading from pool to pool in a series of steps.

Hurricane Creek gorge

It's amazing country.

Almost to Slick Rock Creek

We waded across Slick Rock Creek, and sat to enjoy the view for a few minutes.  This is looking up Slick Rock Creek: 
Slick Rock Creek

And this is looking down Slick Rock Creek toward Hurricane Creek, which is out of sight below the close ridge that has the lightest green vegetation.  It was a very steep streambed below where Emma was sitting!

Slick Rock Creek

The cold water felt great on our tired feet.

After fording Slick Rock Creek

By this time, though, we were ready for a more substantial meal, and we hiked along the trail just a bit more to find some shade.  This is looking back downstream along Hurricane Creek, with Slick Rock Creek joining from the left.  The narrow gorge with the pools is immediately downstream around the bend.

Confluence of Slick Rock Creek and Hurricane Creek

We found a suitable lunch rock and broke out the stove. Man, did that chicken and rice hit the spot!

Lunch stop

We hung out a while just absorbing the amazing scenery and looking at rocks by the creek, then finally had to head back.  While I refilled our water bottles, Emma went fishing with her walking stick.  However, with no fishing line, hook, or bait, she didn't have much success.

Hurricane Creek

It was mostly downhill on the way back.  One last look back across Deadman Meadow,

Sacajawea Peak and Deadman Meadow

back across a channel of Deadman Creek,

Fording Deadman Creek

and through the spruce and fir forests.  It's great that Emma still looked like this after hiking a total of 7.6 miles.  I am so proud of her.  This is the longest hike she's done.

Happy hiker girl

It was an amazing weekend.  I can't even fully express how smoothly everything went, and how much I enjoyed everything -everything- Emma and I did.  I was completely, purely happy.

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