Strawberry Mountain Wilderness Backpacking

My sister and David are avid backpackers. David had been wanting to take me backpacking since we’d met, and Tami had been wanting to go backpacking with me for at least a decade. Not having any backpacking gear or a burning interest to carry everything on my back all day so I can sleep on the hard ground that night, I’d been putting them both off. They persisted and finally got me to agree to a 3-night trip. I had gone one other time in my life for just 2 nights in the Grand Canyon, but it was the Grand Canyon, so I didn’t really notice any discomfort.

They chose Strawberry Mountain Wilderness in eastern Oregon, because it was somewhat centrally located to all of us. We had originally wanted to go to Eagle Cap Wilderness, but a forest fire prevented us from going there. Ironically, there was also a fire in the Malheur Forest, where Strawberry Mountain Wilderness is located, but it didn’t pose a threat from where we went.

Wednesday after work, David left Spokane and picked me up in Moscow. We were to meet Tami at the trailhead, where we’d sleep in our cars the first night. We didn’t get to the parking lot until 2 am. It was a rough drive, but one good thing about arriving so exhausted was that we barely noticed how uncomfortable the back of the truck was to sleep in. Tami was already asleep in her vehicle, but she woke up briefly when she heard us park right next to her. It was cold, uncomfortable, and I was wondering if it was too late to back out.

About to embark. Don’t I look thrilled?

Thursday morning, we all woke up rather stiff and prepared to begin our trip. I was using David’s old backpack, which wasn’t able to hold nearly as much gear as Tami’s and David’s, so my backpack was by far the lightest. Not sure how my sister carried hers. It looked like it weighed as much as she did. She has since started packing lighter, but she brought lots of good meals that did weigh a lot. The first day we hiked past Strawberry Lake, a waterfall, through beautiful forests, and slept in a really cool meadow that night. I was very quickly falling in love with backpacking and was wondering why it took me so long to do it.

Strawberry Lake

The next day, we hiked on. We hiked up and down Strawberry Mountain, a rocky and somewhat steep mountain. The day was filled with varied terrain and beautiful vistas. It’s surprising how different the environment can be over a 6 hour walk in eastern Oregon, which until this point, I’d thought was just dry, barren landscape. Not at all. We eventually made it to High Lake, where we would camp our 2nd night. Our camp spot looked like a scene out of Flintstones. Rocks and logs were all placed so they were like furniture, and it wasn’t just a small spot. There was a huge area that looked like it had been setup for some prehistoric living arrangement. It was really cool. What I especially loved about it was that it was right on a lake. Tami set up her Eno hammock tent right by the water, and David and I set up our tent close by. I would’ve liked to immerse myself completely in the water to get clean, since this was now our 2nd day without a shower, but the water was way too cold. This happened to be my birthday weekend, so we had a little birthday celebration, which was awesome. It was just perfect.

My birthday dinner

Waking up the next day, I really didn’t want to leave since I figured we could totally live there for awhile, but we moved on. We continued on our loop and continued to hike through completely different terrain, eventually stopping at Slide Lake, our third camp spot. Another very cool lake. Tami set up her hammock right by the lake once again, and I was able to take a bigger role in the camp setup as I was trying hard to catch up and learn as much about backpacking as was possible in 1 weekend. One thing I’ve never really liked about car camping is that it can be pretty boring. Sitting around a campfire drinking beer is fun for about 30 minutes, but after that, I’ve always gotten a little bored. The great thing about backpacking is that there’s always something to do. Once you arrive at the place you’re going to sleep at, you need to set up camp, then you need to prepare food, get water, clean up, then by the time you’re done with all that, you’re exhausted, and you can maybe relax for 30 minutes, before you call it a night. I love that. And I love living simply and uncomplicated. And I especially loved that we didn’t have to worry about grizzly bears this trip.

The next day was our hike out. It got a little confusing, and Tami and David debated which way to take, and I was very thankful that it wasn’t up to me. I really thought the shower at the end was going to be the best part of the trip, but surprisingly it wasn’t. I thoroughly enjoyed every part of this trip. I cannot wait to go on my next backpack trip. I want to go longer next time.


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