They Don’t Call it Tenderfoot Pass for Nothin’

Alexis has already blogged about our time spent in Joseph, OR. In that blog she mentions a hike I did while there. Here’s a short blog about that long hike.

IMG_3882The Wallowa Mountains is one of those places I could easily go back to. It seems to be a backpacker’s paradise; for that is what it would take to get into some of the isolated beauty these mountains have to offer. The shortest day hike I could find that had a specific destination was to Aneroid Lake, a 12 mile round trip. Another three miles from the lake is Tenderfoot Pass, something I wasn’t sure I’d make and would play it by ear depending on how I felt. Did I mention there’s a 4000 foot elevation gain.

IMG_3898 I hit the trail around 8am and told Alexis I’d be back between 2-4pm. It was uphill from the start and soon I was shedding off layers. It was one of those hikes that didn’t start really rewarding you until the last third. Sure, intermingled within the spruce and fir forests were some nice vistas and small waterfalls, but I was hoping for more.

IMG_3916

IMG_3900And more I got. As I worked my way out of the real steep terrain, things began to open up. Beautiful meadows dotted the base of the rocky peaks with meandering streams carving their way around in no big hurry. A greater sense of isolation and vastness began to fill the air and I knew I was in a special place.

IMG_3906It’s nice to hike alone sometimes, and be alone while hiking. I only encountered one other person on my way up, a trail runner on her way down. As she jogged past me she said I’d have the place to myself. Hinting that I was close to Aneroid Lake, a spark of excitement ran through me. Sure enough, the lake was in sight a bit before noontime. Breaking for lunch at a scenic alpine lake is always rewarding.

IMG_3922 IMG_3935 I spent about an hour at the lake before deciding to continue on to see what laid ahead even though I was getting worn out. Soon the trail emerged into a breathtaking valley surrounded by peaks and bowls. It was a gateway I had to enter.

IMG_3947I couldn’t just stop there, I had to forge into the beauty and see what lay ahead. It was like a drug, I just couldn’t stop taking it all in. Not since Colorado had I hiked in such alpine scenery.

IMG_3953 IMG_3958 IMG_3959 Before I knew it, I was at Tenderfoot Pass. I walked around this open area, taking in the rewarding views, the peaceful silence and crisp air. Feeling alive and free, feeling lucky to be able to be there.

IMG_3966Off in the distance, I saw a fellow hiker; we waved to each other, as if bearing witness to where we each were. His small body describing the immense space around us. He continued climbing towards a peak while I turned and forced my way back down. I was beat and knew I had at least eight miles of trail before me.

IMG_3963It was a special day, one that my feet reminded me of several days after but well worth it.