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Wallowa Backpacking Trip - Reflections and Invitation

July 26-31, 2019 | by Ron Klump, Wallowa trip veteran, botanist, CLT member | 

"Be still and know that I am God!" Psalm 46.10a 

This year's Wallowa backpacking trip will take the group to Echo Lake. This beautiful alpine lake is located at an elevation of 7,240 in the Eagle Cap Wilderness of the Wallowa Mountains in the northeast corner of Oregon. The annual trek is scheduled for Friday, July 26th through Wednesday the 31st. There are a few remaining openings for this hike. The adventure is a great way to get away from the busyness of life, get some fresh air and reconnect with nature, and get to know others from the Messiah community. To register or to learn more about the trip, please contact Jessica Potts, Jake Bell, or me, Ron Klump

The Itinerary
The group will leave the church parking lot bright and early on the 26th and drive to Hood River, where we have breakfast, then to La Grande, Oregon, where we have lunch. From La Grande, we drive into the south side of the Wallowa Mountains, where, that afternoon, we start at the trailhead and hike 3 miles on the trail along West Eagle Creek. The elevation gain is approximately 600 feet in this first leg.

The next morning, the group will hike 2.4 miles (1,200 feet gain) to Echo Lake and camp there until we leave for home. Our days at Echo are filled with day hikes to Traverse or Tombstone Lakes or nearby ridgetops. For the less ambitious, just lounging around camp or exploring the Echo Lake shoreline is an excellent option. The lake is crystal clear and suitable for swimming, so long as you can stand very, very cold water! Trout fishing is excellent (Oregon license required). On our final morning, we rise, have a quick breakfast, and backpack the 5.4 miles out to the cars and then return home. Often, we have a final meal (and maybe a celebratory beer or glass of wine) together in Hood River.

The Experience
Camp life is pretty laid back. We have communal breakfast and dinner meals. Each camper is responsible for her/his daily lunches. We also share common chores. Every camper is paired with another to do their daily tasks. Chores include cooking breakfast, cooking dinner, gathering firewood, getting camp water, etc. Duties change daily, and every pair gets a chance to do each of the tasks at least once.

Why do I enjoy this backpacking trip? Well, there is always the magnificent scenery and the chance to explore the meadows, shorelines, and mountainsides for new plants. I love to botanize. There is the comradery of spending six days with fellow church people. I think I felt like I got to know people at Messiah for the first time after my initial hike. Everyone has been wonderful—except maybe one summer intern, named Austin, who put rocks in my backpack.

But perhaps the best reason for going on these backpacks is that it gets everyone away from the fast pace of everyday life. Vacations to Hawaii or Disneyland are fine, but one's days can be so filled with activities, that you do not have time to reflect on what is truly important. In the Wallowas, distractions are significantly reduced—no TV or computers, though cellphone reception is sometimes available on the ridgetops). And no traffic! Jesus prepared his life by spending 40 days in the wilderness. We will only spend 6 and will have food, water, and sleeping bags. These hikes are a great time to slow down and discover what is important. 

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