August 9, 2020
Trip Report for Eagle Cap:
Last year I spent 8 days in the Wallowa Mountains, climbing and hiking 8 different peaks, and camping beside pristine mountain lakes. I fell in love with the beauty of this wilderness, and decided I would like to come back this year and make a trail run to the top of Eagle Cap, in an attempt to set the fastest known time, or really the only known time. I’m surprised that someone has not already done it before.
I drove in and camped near the trailhead at Arrow Campground which only has 3 designated camp sites, and luckily I got the last one. I sat by my little camp fire and had a peaceful dinner before crawling into my sleeping bag for the night.
I started my Eagle Cap run from the Two Pan Trailhead at 7:28 am on Sunday August 9th, 2020. I was running solo unsupported, carrying the 10 essentials, water, filter, energy gels, chews, and bars. It was a beautiful day, with blue skies and mild temperatures in the 50’s as I set off. I followed the East Fork Lostine River Trail #1662 for about a mile before crossing a sturdy log bridge over the river. The trail began to climb up through the forest for another couple miles before it opened up into an amazing glacial valley, and I finally got my first view of Eagle Cap in the distance.
Running through this valley was pretty spectacular. It’s mostly level with the river flowing through open green meadows full of wildflowers, lodgepole pine, spruce and fir trees, with rocky granite mountains on both sides of the valley. The moon was still visible in the morning sky.
I was feeling pretty good, but not running as fast as I had planned, but I was fine with the way it was going. I continued on with Eagle Cap getting closer. I reached the Lakes Basin area and came to a couple of large rock cairn trail junctions. I took the East Eagle Trail #1910, and followed the trail toward the summit. There were still a couple of patches of snow to cross, and the large glacial snowfield on the north side of Eagle Cap was very prominent.
The trail was steep but easy enough to follow, and the trees became more sparce near the top. I reached the summit in 3 hours 29 minutes 43 seconds from the trailhead. I only stayed on top long enough to take in the fantastic views. I took some pictures, visited with a group of hikers on the summit, and began my descent. I stopped and took out my trekking poles to help with the descent and went speeding down the mountain.
Somehow I lost the trail when coming off the summit, and ended up following footprints down a scree slope that I thought would join back up to the main trail. It wasn’t long before I knew I was off course, and I started to work my way side hill across the top of the mountain. What a costly mistake. I was now faced with climbing and scrambling back toward the summit to get back on track. Probably added a good 20 plus minutes to my day.
I finally hooked back up to the main trail and headed down the mountain. Still not sure how I ended up so off course, but things happen, and I had to deal with it. It reminded me of Jim Walmsley getting off course on his first Western States 100. I picked my way back down to the Lake Basin area where the trail leveled out and I could actually kind of run again. My new goal was not to fall. As I become more tired on these long runs, I tend to loose focus more easily, and don’t pick up my feet as high. The more tired I get, the more easy it is to trip on a root or rock. The trekking poles help a lot.
I continued on down the trail, going back along the Lostine River and through the beautiful meadows. As I descended through the switchbacks of the forest section, my quads began to cramp up bad. This happened several times on way back. I was leaning up against a rock in pain, waiting for the cramps to subside, when I heard this soft voice behind me ask “are you okay”. I turned around to find a young woman with an Ultimate Direction running vest just like mine. She asked if I had enough water and electrolytes, and I assured her I would be fine, as I did not want any assistance on my unsupported fkt attempt. She wished me well, and went speeding down the trail, leaving me feeling older than dirt. The cramps subsided and I was able to keep making my way down to the trail head.
Somehow my last mile was one of my fastest, and I finished in 7 hours, 27 minutes, and 26 seconds. It wasn’t very fast, or very clean, but I had done the best I could on the day, and I was glad to be finished. I went down to the Lostine River and soaked my aching legs. The cold water felt so amazing.
I celebrated my run by driving to Enterprise and having an Eagle Cap IPA at Terminal Gravity Brewery before the long drive home. It had been another great day in the mountains, and I felt so grateful to still be able to run the trails and climb the mountains.
High Mountain Rambler