Late spring in Wallowa County is a confusion of all the seasons. Sun-warmed reveries are often cut short by cold breezes that quickly remind you of the mountains of snow yet to thaw. Yellow grasses and bare branches are still visible over much of Wallowa country.

Trail running here in the spring can be about as varied as the conditions of the season. Warm sun evokes thoughts of summer and refreshing after-run river dips, but the occasional shoe full of cold slush or a muscle-straining slip of a foot in the mud reminds a runner that summer’s trails are not a reality just yet.

The reality, even in May, on the east side of Oregon can be wet snow, slush and mud, sketchy avalanche crossings, cold rain and snowfall, dark gray days, chill winds – and weakened, unused muscles meeting trails that seem to have steepened since winter’s start.

But on the newly melted Hurricane Creek Trail, undulating waves of pine and fir wash against the mountainside. Birds sing in budding green aspen. Afternoon light sets newly unfurled gooseberry leaves aglow. And we remember sunny summer trails soon to be revisited. //

Joe Whittle is a freelance photographer, blogger and adventurer in northeast Oregon’s Wallowa County.

A runner's breath slowly begins to match rhythm with the spring-filled river next to the Hurricane Creek Trail, which at times sounds more like an ever-breaking tide than a river. Runner Ashley Jones, who grew up in Wallowa County but now lives in Seattle, enjoys the return of the sun and warmth on a spring trail run in Hurricane Creek Canyon.

A runner’s breath slowly begins to match rhythm with the spring-filled river next to the Hurricane Creek Trail, which at times sounds more like an ever-breaking tide than a river. Runner Ashley Jones, who grew up in Wallowa County but now lives in Seattle, enjoys the return of the sun and warmth on a spring trail run in Hurricane Creek Canyon. Photo: Joe Whittle

Early Season Wallowa Trails 

 

Hurricane Creek Trail

A popular entry point for hikers and equestrians setting out on trips into the Eagle Cap Wilderness, the Hurricane Creek Trail (#1807) can also make for some adventurous, early-season trail running before the summertime trail traffic picks up. From Enterprise (on Main Street/Highway 82), turn right on Hurricane Creek Road/South River St. and go about 9 miles to the trailhead. A $5 per vehicle fee and a free, self-issue wilderness permit are required.

More info at: www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/wallowa-whitman/recreation/hiking/recarea/?recid=51485&actid=51

 

East Fork Wallowa River Trail

Starting out at an elevation of 4,646, the East Fork Wallowa River Trail (#1804) can offer some early season trail running (you may want running snowshoes if you go far enough). From Enterprise, Ore., take state highway 82 through Joseph and past Wallowa Lake. The trailhead is at the end of the road, approximately one mile past the lake. The river runs along the length of the trail. More info at: www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5417364.pdf.

By Joe Whittle