Cornucopia Peak (Eagle Cap Wilderness) 22-Aug-2010

Cornucopia Peak Eagle Cap Wilderness Oregon

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),

Cornucopia Peak Eagle Cap Wilderness Oregon

Morning over the southern Eagle Cap Wilderness

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.

Cornucopia Peak Eagle Cap Wilderness Oregon

Ample parking at the Summit Point Trailhead

The trail starts as a road (to the lookout),

Cornucopia Peak Eagle Cap Wilderness Oregon

Leaving the Summit Point Trailhead

then gradually becomes a trail. There were wildfires around so we were getting some pinkish tinge in the sky.

Cornucopia Peak Eagle Cap Wilderness Oregon

Summit Point Lookout (arrow) and Halfway, Oregon

After about 2 miles, we entered a large meadow,

Cornucopia Peak Eagle Cap Wilderness Oregon

There are large meadows all along the south side of Cornucopia

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.

Cornucopia Peak Eagle Cap Wilderness Oregon

A meadow with invisible cows…

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.

Cornucopia Peak Eagle Cap Wilderness Oregon

Approaching the ridge to Cornucopia’s summit

It wasn’t very steep,

Cornucopia Peak Eagle Cap Wilderness Oregon

Climbing above the meadows (and the invisible cows)

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.

Cornucopia Peak Eagle Cap Wilderness Oregon

An old, faint trail appeared

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.

Cornucopia Peak Eagle Cap Wilderness Oregon

The old, faint trail climbs to the ridgecrest

Once we reached the ridge, we just followed it and the old trail to the summit.

Cornucopia Peak Eagle Cap Wilderness Oregon

The old trail follows the ridge

Along the way, we had a great view of Truax Mountain and the clouds starting to build over the Wallowas.

Cornucopia Peak Eagle Cap Wilderness Oregon

Clouds gather over Truax Mountain

Once on the summit, where the old lookout once sat,

Cornucopia Peak Eagle Cap Wilderness Oregon

The Cornucopia Peak Lookout in 1924

we had a view of the Pine Lakes Basin, a popular camping and fishing spot,

Cornucopia Peak Eagle Cap Wilderness Oregon

Pine Lakes Basin (arrow)

of Red Mountain (the highest peak in Baker County), and the interior Wallowas, with yet more clouds brewing.

Cornucopia Peak Eagle Cap Wilderness Oregon

Red Mountain amongst angry clouds

Cornucopia Peak Eagle Cap Wilderness Oregon

Seemingly angry clouds over the ridge north of Cornucopia

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,

Cornucopia Peak Eagle Cap Wilderness Oregon

Heading back across the meadow of the now visible cows

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.

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