May 25-27, 2013
We took a long drive this weekend out to Eastern Oregon to explore the high desert.
8 mi | 1990′ ele. gain | 4:15 hr.
First stop, Hager Mountain. I’d been up here once before, in the dead of winter, battling furious winds and crunching through snowfields. Today would be a lovely stroll in pleasant contrast to that first experience.
We arrived at the trailhead around 12:30 and put on our daypacks for the hike up. The trail passed through alternating forest and meadows. Obnoxious orange posts marked the upper sections of trail, presumably for winter hikers.
It took us exactly two hours to make it to the lookout tower, perched on top of the mountaintop. From there, we enjoyed panoramic views of the high desert’s rolling hills. Puffy, cartoonish clouds filled the skies in all directions. What a beautiful day! Pretty purple flowers poked up near the summit area. We walked to the small rock outcrop on the other side of the outhouse for a little snack and rest break, as well as to take some photos of the lookout tower.
A quick hour and a half walk brought us back to the car, ready for destination #2.
Camp at Campbell Lake
As the crow flies, the campground at Campbell Lake is not that far from Hager Mountain. However, it took a couple hours of meandering driving to get there. Located south of Summer Lake on a high elevation plateau, the roads to get out there were…engaging.
I was glad to flop out of the car and get our camp set up. We were the only ones at the lake! Anticipating some weather, we set up our tent and a pop-up canopy to put over our picnic table. The wind was blowing, making it difficult to stabilize the canopy. After camp was set, it was time to gather firewood, build a fire and cook some dinner. Tonight was chicken stir-fry.
When we awoke in the morning, the scene was very different from when we went to bed! The ground was dusted in snow and snow was coming down hard. The sky was totally gray and overcast. Time to roll back over in bed.
Later that afternoon, the weather subsided and the sun came back out. We gathered wood and explored around the lake. It was nearly 5 pm before I felt ready to venture further from camp and decided to hike up to the rim by myself while Aaron held down the fort.
Campbell Rim hike
2.5 mi | 500′ ele. gain | 1:15 hr.
The first thing I had to do was locate the trailhead. Check. Next, head to the rim. The sign said 1 3/4 miles. No problem. Almost immediately, however, I was walking across lingering snowpatches from the previous winter. The trail became more difficult to walk on and more difficult to follow. When I reached a talus slope pouring down from the rim, I decided to take a little shortcut by heading right up the boulders.
This was fun, but slow, and I still had to manage my way around snow. Not terribly committed to reaching a summit or landmark, I chose a conservative turnaround point and carefully headed back down. The views were great from up on the rocks, so I tried to commit them to memory every time I stopped to find my footing. It was a quick jaunt back to camp and time to prepare another feast.
On the menu tonight, chili mac. Mostly from scratch. SO GOOD.
We spent the evening keeping the fire raging, eating cookie s’mores (you can figure that out) and keeping warm.
After dinner we walked around the lake, photographing various spring blooms that were poking through the soft soil at the lake’s edge.
The next morning we woke up to rain, sleet and wind. It was time to go. A rest stop at Ana Reservoir included finding some really pretty birds that I’d never seen before. They must have used that place as a rest stop, too.
It was a wild weekend but a great adventure in the Oregon desert! An uncrowded holiday weekend? Yes, please!