Today our goal was Cornucopia Peak on the southern edge of the Eagle Cap Wilderness. This wilderness is an immensely popular summer (and to a lesser extent, winter) destination for lots of hikers, backpackers, equestrians, and (in season) hunters and fishermen. But a lot of this activity is concentrated on the north side of the wilderness, up by Enterprise, Joseph, and Wallowa Lake. The southern trailheads – those out of Halfway and Richland, for example – are usually much less jam packed during the summer season. So hiking Cornucopia was our way to getting a little introduction to the less busy side of the Eagle Cap.
After an early start from Baker City, Oregon, and what seemed like a long drive on paved and gravel roads (Cornucopia is the bump of the far right of the skyline),
we reached the trailhead near the Summit Point Lookout after driving some 16 miles of dirt roads after leaving Highway 86 just outside Richland, Oregon.
The trail starts as a road (to the lookout),
then gradually becomes a trail. There were wildfires around so we were getting some pinkish tinge in the sky.
After about 2 miles, we entered a large meadow,
almost completely carpeted in lupines (now gone to seed). We didn’t realize it at first – because they were hiding in the trees – but there were a fair number of cattle grazing in these meadows.
This is also where we got our first look at Cornucopia – the high point on the right end of the ridge. Our route went cross-country straight up the side of the ridge just to the right of the prominent gully.
It wasn’t very steep,
and about half way up the slope, we came across the remnants of the old trail that used to lead to the lookout on top of Cornucopia.
The lookout (a D-5 13-foot by 13-foot ground cab) was built in 1924 and abandoned in 1945. The trail probably dates from then too and it’s amazing that it’s still evident and usable. The closer we got to the ridge, the more visible it became.
Once we reached the ridge, we just followed it and the old trail to the summit.
Along the way, we had a great view of Truax Mountain and the clouds starting to build over the Wallowas.
Once on the summit, where the old lookout once sat,
we had a view of the Pine Lakes Basin, a popular camping and fishing spot,
of Red Mountain (the highest peak in Baker County), and the interior Wallowas, with yet more clouds brewing.
We thought there might be some electrical activity, what with all the clouds, but nothing happened – no rain, no lightning – just a slightly chilly breeze. On the way back,
we were surprised to see a small herd of cows running toward us – they stopped short and just stared at us. What they were expecting – treats, autographs, beer – remains a mystery. This was a very enjoyable hike with meadows (we were just a bit late for the lupine bloom), peaks, and sweeping vistas. The Pine Lakes look like they’d make a very worthy destination for an overnight backpack or long day dayhike.