September 11, 2013

Ice Lake and Matterhorn in the Eagle Cap Wilderness

Spoiled with beauty; that's the theme of this venture!  

As I stared across Ice Lake, I was reminded of how clean this Earth can be. This absolutely clear oligotrophic oxygen filled lake refreshes your inner being that humanity can so easily strip away.  Only adventures with a like mind and heart find themselves embracing every second of this absolutely breathtaking area.  In my efforts to show my readers the beauty of this Earth, I've realized there is no way a picture or video can suffice. The human body is miraculous in what it can sense, and therefore the euphoria it can experience with in a moment's time. Check out more pictures I found of the Ice Lake area!

The hike is 7 miles, one way, with an elevation gain of 3200 feet. Rob and I started hiking at about 7PM. As we hiked in, we saw the sunset on the Wallowa Lake valley.  I had only hiked Mt. Adams in the dark, and I was perfectly fine, but this felt different. Was it because I had hiked this trail a year ago and came across a bear? What was next, a mountain lion? As the dusky night was settling into the darkness, my senses were on edge from only having the ability to see where my headlamp was pointing. All senses depend on each other to bring in the full spectrum of their surroundings. I felt like I was in survival mode. Every rustling in the bushes alarmed my brain, and my headlamp turned quickly to the sound of the noise. My ears heard something barrel through the bushes followed by very large thumps. I knew it was a deer, but I hated not being able to see as well.

The moon peeked over the distant mountain top and shone its glorious light over the forest. A sense of peace came over me and suddenly I was able to relax a bit more, and enjoy the moonlit hike through the wilderness. Switchback after switchback, Rob and I finally made it to one of my favorite areas on this earth so far, Ice Lake. As the granite earth surrounding the mountain tops, reflected the moonlight along with the glimmering lake, we paused to appreciate the beauty of this moment in time.

The next morning, we ran over to the beachy side of the lake and dove into the pristine water. The ultimate shock of the ice cold water against our warm bodies made us gasp for air as we tried to adjust the the drastic temperature change. We took in the moment, treading water as we laughed at our craziness with huge smiles on our faces. As we walked out of the water, some early morning hikers validated our craziness by informing us it was too early and cold to be doing something like that.  No worries though; it was going to be an absolutely beautiful day and we were going to warm right up! It was a perfect way to start the day!

As we made it back to our camping area, we ate a delicious breakfast and packed up all of our gear. Our plan was to hike up to Matterhorn and Sacajawea peaks, then trek on over to Glacier Lake. To keep ourselves out of trouble, we decided to take the path up to Matterhorn that is most common. As we were assending, we ran into a slightly older couple with whom we shared some laughs and stories.  Seeing that we wanted to hike Sacajawea as well, our new friend decided to tell us about a much "better" route. We decided to take his advice and work our way up this sandy bowl of a mountain in our 40-50 pound packs.

Let me just add that solid ground is very important while climbing up a steep face such as this! The sandy ground underneath our feet made it feel much more than a stair stepping motion like the summits we have done in the past. I would step my foot up a couple feet, but as soon as I put weight on that foot, it slid right back down to my other foot. Gravity was kicking my butt! The matter underneath my foot was not sufficient in its strength to stop the force of my body from pushing too far down. This was necessary to achieve one "stair step" motion, so I had to figure out a different way. Rob decided to create his own switchbacks while I decided to increase my speed. There I was running up a sandy sloped mountain, with one goal in mind, the granite! Solid ground aimed for a much easier climb!

As we made our way up, we saw some people sliding down the sand. We quickly figured that the way we were going up, was the way down for most trekkers. All the hikers thought we were crazy for doing the hike backwards, let alone with all of our sleeping gear strapped to our backs. Once again, we found ourselves on the path least followed. As we climbed up the rough, yet slippery granite, a hiker asked, "What are you guys?" Not sure what to say, we responded that we were mountaineers. That question radiated through my brain the rest of the hike. What are we? I liked that question. Now I just needed to come up with a good answer!

As we made it to the top of Matterhorn, with thunderclouds in the distance, we knew that we weren't going to have enough time to conquer Sacajawea peak. It would be pure insanity to stay on the granite peaks in a lightning storm.  As we looked at our path to Glacier Lake, planned out on Google Earth, we had to come to the conclusion that wasn't going to happen either. I didn't mind one bit though. A couple more days of trekking, exploring, and free climbing around the breath taking Ice Lake area still sounded like paradise to me!

Climbing down from Matterhorn, we found a tiny lake to set up camp. As soon as the tent was pitched, the storm hit. We happily sat in our little shelter, eating dinner, and were finally able to relax while listening to the rain beat against our tent. As soon as the storm subsided, a beautiful pink sunset calmed the valley as we stepped out to appreciate the elegance sweeping the sky.

The next morning, Rob and I abandoned our camp and explored around our new area. This cute little lake featured a great lookout over Ice Lake. We watched new hikers try to conquer Matterhorn as we made our rounds free climbing random rock faces and enjoying the fresh morning air.

We packed up our belongings and slowly made our own way down to Ice Lake. Its peninsula looked inviting for our last nights stay. Once on the peninsula, our gear flew off our backs and there we were again, diving in the freezing water and gasping for air while it chilled our laughter filled bodies. After relaxing in the sunlight and warming up, it was time to explore again!

As we were walking through the grass next to the lake, Rob stopped me and started sniffing the air. He asked, "Do you smell that?" I said, "No." He excitingly said, "I think these are onions!" He pulled up a piece of a wild plant and started eating the small bulb at the end. Yup! They were wild onions! We roamed around our newly discovered wild onion field plucking these amazing plants from the ground and savoring their delicious flavor.

As we searched for fresh water to fill up our Ultraviolet water bottle, we came across some more bouldering activities. Then we ran into some waterfalls, and paused to embrace their magnificent beauty.

That night, we sat and enjoyed our last sunset before having to move back to reality the next morning. The sunset painted the sky with violet pink colors as the moon peaked over the mountain. Time slowed to let us capture every second of the daylight fading away, as the night settled into existence.

 As for the question, "What are we?" Well, we are "wanna-be paid adventurers". If we could be paid to explore the wonders of this world and the magnificence it holds, there would be no hesitation involved. That is exactly where we belong and where we would thrive.

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