September 6, 2023.
I made muesli with warm water and huckleberries to kick off day 2. Since I’d been enthralled by the stark contrast of the red and white rock on the mountain outside my camp, I decided to sit and paint there before moving on. The geology of the Wallowas is so insane and pretty that the idea of hiking quickly through the landscape felt terrible. Instead, I really wanted to savor my time.
The breezy, mostly downhill walk from camp to the South Fork Imnaha five miles away was a little harder than expected due to downed trees. On a dayhike, the challenge of getting around obstacles can be fun and interesting. But a massive backpack sucks all the fun out of it. Several times, I had to take off my backpack and wrestle it over, under or around a pile of debris before scrambling around myself. Then, I’d load it back up again and start walking, just to repeat the process soon after. It got tiring. On the flip side, it made me spend a bunch of time crouching in the dirt, which meant I saw plenty of cool mushrooms.
After a particularly annoying stretch of blowdown, I heard an unexpected sound: a chainsaw. First, I thought chainsaws were explicitly not allowed in wilderness and second, I didn’t care one bit about the rules in that moment. I grinned widely as a small team on horseback rode up behind the man wielding the chainsaw. I stepped to the downhill side of the trail in order to let them through without spooking the horses. “Thank you so much!” I exclaimed. They asked how many trees were down ahead and I said enough to keep them busy.
I frolicked ahead at a canter after the horse team passed through. Life was good. At the river crossing, I changed into Crocs and waded to the other side, losing one of my pole baskets in the process. On the opposite bank, I had a nice lunch with some bacon, cheese and the rest of my baguette.
Shortly after hitting the trail again, I encountered my first hikers of the trip, a young couple from Spokane. They were very chatty, so we had a good talk for 20 minutes or so before parting ways. On to Crater Lake for them, which is where I camped the night before.
I wasn’t sure how much further I wanted to hike, and my frequent stops to gawk at the stunning Cusick Mountain wasn’t helping me make miles. I found a decent enough place to camp in some trees by a stream. Then, I set my hammock up and wandered around to find a painting spot. Along the way I poked around at all the little flowers still blooming, including dwarf fireweed. This was a new one for me!
In the evening, I spent 20 minutes desperately trying to hang my food. I was just about to give up when my last throw made it. I lay in my hammock, listening to podcasts, doing crossword puzzles and dreaming of my ridge ramble attempt on Cusick Mountain in the morning.