Wallowing in Mud, Love & Mashed Potatoes
Wallowing in Mud, Love & Mashed Potatoes

Wallowing in Mud, Love & Mashed Potatoes

Monday morning meetings at KEEN are the best. Responses to the ole "Did everyone have a good weekend?" prompt can span everything from "I SUPed with baby sharks" to "I helped street dogs in Mexico."

Eventually we have to talk about work, tucking away all the newfound inspiration for next weekend's adventures in the back of our minds. 

But when Marissa on our web team came back from a recent backpacking trip from the dreamy Wallowas in eastern Oregon, we couldn't keep this one to ourselves. Read on for happy tears and tips for camping in a downpour.  

KEENer Trip Report: 4 Days Backpacking in the Wallowas

By Marissa Zebold

Miles backpacked: 30
Fave backpacking food eaten: Instant mashed potatoes
KEEN hiking boots worn: Zionic and Targhee II waterproof boots
Biggest surprise on the trip: Got engaged!

This is my fourth year backpacking through the Eagle Cap wilderness (126 miles backpacked so far!), and every year we choose a different route. I have my favorite lakes and passes, but every year is a new opportunity to explore the endless trails in this mountainous area in eastern Oregon.

We set out on this trip with the intent to complete a 30-mile loop around the inner lake basin of the Wallowas over the span of four days. We piled on some longer mileage on the first and last day so that we could enjoy more time at our two favorite lakes, Mirror Lake and Glacier Lake, which we had discovered during the previous years’ backpacking trips.

"Some of my favorite moments from this trip happened amid the hardest downpours."
Weather or Not, Here to Have Fun

We learned quickly that the weather reports we were able to generate with our Garmin were not super accurate, and that we would be backpacking through a fast-moving assortment of weather patterns. This trip was unique for me in the fact that we had to endure a TON of rain and constant thunderstorms. Our days revolved around the weather, and we hiked earlier/longer/faster miles than normal to get through the storms in the most efficient ways. Throughout our trip, our rain gear was constantly soaked through, our shoes were always wet, and our hands were consistently cold.

However, some of my favorite moments from this trip happened amid the hardest downpours. There were several times where we decided to hide out from the rain during our daily treks by setting up our batwing tarp, then heating up some instant mashed potatoes to share as a group. Cuddling up to my friends and hugging to stay warm under our shelter while passing around our titanium pot of buttery potatoes will forever live in my memory as a reminder of our group’s positive outlook and dynamic.

Little did I know, the group had a secret plan for our trip…and they were not going to allow the rain to deter them.

I've typically backpacked in heavy-duty, rugged boots, but I wanted to try something lighter this time, so I wore my new Zionic waterproof boots. Loved how comfy they were even after day 3!

Champagne Was a Must-Pack Item

Our second day consisted of only 4 miles, but almost 2,000 feet of elevation gain to get to Glacier Lake. As we hiked higher and higher up the pass, the rain started coming down harder and harder. By the time we got to the lake, our rain gear was completely soaked. A promising break in the clouds allowed us to get our tents set up, but only for a short amount of time before the rain poured down again. When we started to see lots of water running under our tents and pooling in huge puddles on the sandy/rocky surfaces, we took out our dowels and started to dig a drainage system around our tents. To our satisfaction, this worked wonderfully, and the interior and floor of our tents somehow managed to stay dry through the night. After all of that wet digging, we were in need of a hot drink and snack under the dryness of our tarp. Once again, instant mashed potatoes came to the rescue. And this time, we had delicious hot toddies to go with it!

"It's really the people you adventure with and the companions that are by your side during less-than-ideal scenarios that make a world of difference."

As we were listening to the thunder roar and echo in the basin, we joked about our previous plans for sunbathing and alpine-lake swimming. We laughed at how mother nature had other plans for our trip as we admired the beauty of the rain hitting the lake. As I was cuddled up to my partner, Alden, our friend said she wanted a picture of us with her film camera because we looked so cute. I laughed (I was wearing my rain jacket as a sort of cape and had three layers of pants on at that point) but excitingly leaned into Alden to pose. The next couple moments are a bit of a blur, but after she snapped the photo, Alden scooted back from me and started talking about how happy he was to be at this lake with me for third time…how grateful he was for our relationship…how excited he was to continue on this path with me…then…HE PROPOSED!

After some tears of joy, screams of excitement, lots of hugs and kisses, and some champagne that my friends sneakily backpacked in, the rain miraculously stopped and we were able to celebrate and take some pictures by the water’s edge. Getting engaged in wet and muddy rain gear and our KEEN hiking boots was on-brand perfect, and I’m so grateful that our friends were able to capture the essence of those heartfelt moments. I could talk about this part of the trip all day, but long-story-short, it was extremely romantic and beautiful, and I couldn’t be happier with our time at Glacier Lake.

Looking back, it's really the community you backpack with, the people you adventure with, and the companions that are by your side during less-than-ideal scenarios that make a world of difference. I am so grateful for the resiliency, positivity, and support that this group offered as well as the ability to have fun and create beautiful memories in a wet, rugged place. I am walking away from the trip ecstatic and elated that my fiancé is someone who wants to see and embrace the natural beauty of these places. I cherish my time in the outdoors, and it means even more to see it alongside people I love. This trip could have easily turned into a “bad experience” for many, but being able to see the beauty in nature’s woes and practicing acceptance made it the BEST experience.

If You Go

Come prepared for any weather! At the last second, I packed an extra tarp and pair of wool socks, and I am SO glad that I did! I would also urge others to really know the people you embark on these adventures with and how they may handle adversity. Surround yourself with people who you trust and inspire you! Also, always always always bring extra instant mashed potatoes. ;)

 

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