Editor’s note: Explore contributor Gensheng Tian hiked the Wallowa River Loop Trail in August. This is the last of three installments.
Day 3: Horseshoe Lake
It was sunny and clear. The lake reflected granite mountains with slightly rising steam. Flowers were blooming profusely by the lake and along the paths. A precious fawn was having breakfast by the lake.
“Do I appreciate a masterpiece by Monet? I asked myself quietly, standing on the path to Glacier Lake. The scene made my hike rich, meaningful and worthy.
It was a hot morning as we clambered over huge boulders towards Glacier Lake. The top of the mountain was covered in snow, rolling rocks and debris along the bare slope. A stream rushed melodiously and soothed my soul.
“Can I take your picture?” Ying asked politely. She noticed that I hadn’t said a word along the path. She did not know that I was immersing myself in a magnificent environment. His words brought me back to reality.
“Oh. No, thank you,” I said without hesitation. “Take pictures of the mountain. They are so beautiful.
“You are beautiful too. I mean your mind.
She made me laugh.
We arrived at Glacier Lake at noon. The view was magnificent.
“I have visited so many lakes. It’s the best,” Vipin said. “We should have camped here last night.”
“We should just stay here and don’t need to go anywhere else,” Ying said.
The breeze was cool and gentle, the lake green, clear and still. The boundless sky was pure blue with silky white clouds. It was a fairyland.
We still had 4 miles to go and we climbed again. I was badly toasted by the dazzling sun. I limped up. Finally, I managed to enter Glacier Pass.
I felt a bit of heat exhaustion as we stumbled onto the deep blue Moccasin Lake.
“I’ll jump in,” I said, “Over there.” I pointed to a spot near some fir trees. I put on my swim shorts and water shoes and walked into the lake and stood on a large rock.
My body was on fire and the cold water refreshed my mind and soul. I washed my head and arms and jumped into the lake. I swam calmly.
My feelings floated with the water. I thought only of joy.
The mountainous climate can change quickly. It was hot at noon, but raining and hailing when we got to Horseshoe Lake. We found a campsite to set up our tents.
Do not set up on low ground on a rainy day. Pitch the tent on the leeward side on high ground.
Day 4: Return to the start of the trail
I slept and woke up naturally. I was warm in my sleeping bag. It was cold outside. I didn’t want to get up.
I crawled out of my tent and was shocked to find Vipin shivering.
“I was so cold,” Vipin said. “I couldn’t sleep all night.”
“Boil water, make coffee. Drink it to warm up,” I said.
“I’m cold too,” Ying said.
I wish they would wake me up. We were a team. If one suffered, the whole team suffered. We were in the backcountry and needed to help each other.
The mountain can give and also take. It gives us happiness and beautiful landscapes. It refreshes our minds and soothes our souls. It can also sweep us away with its floods, forest fires, wild animals, rolling rocks, snow bridges, avalanches and rapid torrents.
It was our last day and it was easy – a downhill hike, but still hot. Vipin was fast and most of the time he was gone. Ying was exhausted. She had two blisters on her feet and was in pain.
Several hikers and backpackers came up to us, panting, sweaty and tired. I stuck to one side of the trail and let them pass. I didn’t want to walk on flowers or meadows.
Towards the end of the trail we had to walk very carefully over a log bridge. It wasn’t difficult to cross but I concentrated 100%. I didn’t want to ruin my big backpacking trip. Start well and end well. Every step is solid. Caution is a virtue.
The mountains are God’s country. Backpacking is a journey of worship: finding yourself, seeking peace, enjoying beauty, revering nature, and finding the balance between human beings and nature.
West Wallowa River was a great musician. All the melodious notes played in my heart and soothed my soul. The yellow snow buttercup flapped its petals like a butterfly dancing for me in the breeze.
We did nearly 40 miles with 7500 feet of elevation gain. We were delighted, celebrating with hugs and high-fives. We asked a hiker to take a picture of us.
More than a month has passed. Our next trip will be fantastic.
In his poem “The Call of the Wild”, Robert Service wrote this:
“There is a whisper in the night wind, there is a shining star to guide us. And nature is calling, calling…let’s go.
The words echo in my head.