On August 28, 2008, ten women began an amazing journey into the Eagle Cap Wilderness of the Wallowa Mountains. For four days we would hike together, freeze together, eat, sleep and be amazed together. Most of all, we would write and share that writing with each other. This trek through the wilderness unlocked stories from deep within each one of us and as we shared them, we knew ourselves and each other better.
Starting Friday morning, we hiked up the Two Pan trail for five miles, crossing the West Fork of the Lostine River and climbing 1,200 feet in elevation to camp in a glacial valley halfway to our destination. We sat around the campfire sharing stories and laughter and slept in the company of the silent mountains.
The next day we hiked the remaining four uphill miles to gaze down upon Swamp Lake, tucked in its remote valley. Hiking around the rim of the cirque at 8,600 feet we felt the elevation and the thin air but we still felt euphoric for having summited. After a lunch on top of the world, we descended the switchbacks and camped next to Swamp Lake, enjoying the time by playing in the water.
That night a cold front took up by surprise, dropping the temperature into the 20’s and giving us freezing rain and ice on our tents. Glad to get moving, we hiked out again to our glacial valley, the same place we had camped the second night. We built a roaring fire and prepared for more bad weather.
Ellen cooked a superb supper and we held our usual night-time fire circle, reading our work and chatting. The weather held off until nightfall when it began to snow! What a way to celebrate Labor Day!
As soon as the sun was well up the next morning the snow melted off, giving us lovely sunny weather for our hike out. We finally gathered at the trailhead to say our goodbyes and drive back out the miles of gravel washboards back to civilization. In town we gave in to our craving for “real” food and stopped at a Mexican place.
We had four and a half days of fantastic hiking, a great group of women, and stories as beautiful as the landscape around us. None of will forget this once-in-a-lifetime event.