Day two of our four day Main Eagle backpack in Oregon’s Eagle Cap Wilderness: after a scenic day one on the trail, we enjoyed a quiet campsite at Cached Lake. The only noise we had during the night was that of a doe grazing on the young grasses around our tent. The full moon shone like a spotlight on her and I enjoyed watching her well into the early morning hours. We awoke to a clear morning with a relatively warm temperature of 44 degrees. We enjoyed a couple cups of coffee and breakfast before packing up and heading out at 7:45. Our destination for the day, Bear Lake.
The day began by retracing our steps 2.8 miles and 1,200′ down to Eagle Creek Meadows. The majority of this stretch was in full sun which made the morning temperatures feel warmer than they really were. Fortunately, it was all downhill and we enjoyed complete solitude, not seeing anyone else until we arrived at the crossing of Eagle Creek.
We arrived at the large rock cairn we had seen the day before and took the narrow trail to the left. After a short descent, we reached the crossing of Eagle Creek. Here we saw one party camping and another party coming down the trail from Bear Lake. The creek crossing was easy and never more than calf deep, but there was no way to make a dry crossing (at least, not in July). We took a break on the far side, enjoying the shade and cool water before beginning our ascent to Bear Lake.
The climb from Eagle Creek (elevation 6,100’) to Bear Lake (7193’) was a stiff climb. The first mile up to the split for Lookingglass Lake was the most strenuous section, climbing 700’. Thankfully, the early morning angle of the sun provided a lot of shade. We had a few views down into Eagle Creek Meadow and out across to Copper Creek Basin as we climbed, but mostly we were in the trees.
At 1.0 mile from the creek crossing, we came to a trail junction. This junction could be easy to miss if you aren’t looking for it. The small, worn sign is relatively high up on a tree making it a little hard to see. The most obvious trail is straight ahead to Lookingglass Lake, our destination for the following today. We took the less obvious trail to the left and continued another mile to Bear Lake.
As we neared Bear Lake, we were treated to phenomenal views to the west and north. To the west were expansive views into Copper Creek Basin and to the north a different perspective of Cached Lake Basin where we had just hiked from. I was awestruck by how beautiful and magnificent the view was. It was especially impressive to think, “we were over THERE just a few hours ago!” The elevation changes and rugged terrain looked as impressive as they had felt.
We topped out above Bear Lake and made the short descent down. Arriving at the lake, we had it all to ourselves! We worked our way along the northern shore to the east side where we found the perfect campsite under some big tress and right alongside the lake. This was the only superb site we found on the lake, but there were several other places that someone could make due.
It had been just a 4.7 mile hike from Cached Lake, but nearly the entire route had been either a moderately steep descent (1,200’ loss) or a moderately steep ascent (1,200’ gain). I’d had some early season knee issues, but fortunately they held up well. We made camp and settled in to enjoy the beautiful summer afternoon. Jason did some fishing and went for a swim. I made myself comfortable on a sandy gravel bar where I enjoyed my Kindle book and soaking my hiker’s feet in the cool mountain lake. While not the most stunning Eagle Cap Lake we’ve visited, Bear was scenic and peaceful. We had it all to ourselves except for a few minutes when a day hiker passed through.
We had an enjoyable evening around camp. As the sun was setting, we watched a massive midge hatch over the lake. The bright summer sun illuminated the thousands of tiny insects. The abundant (but small) lake trout had a good feast that evening. We never would have guessed it, but we had the lake to ourselves that night. We’d only seen seven other hikers which would be unheard of on the more popular eastern side of the Eagle Cap Wilderness. Like the previous night at Cached Lake, we felt asleep with deer grazing around our tent.
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