OUTDOORS - Maxwell Lake provides peaceful escape ... unless there's a vuvuzela

But Don Davis has mellowed enough not to give the horn-blowers a piece of his mind.



Granite walls loom over an island in Maxwell Lake.


A squirrel watches trespassers on its land.


A pair of young hikers demonstrates a vuvuzela in the Eagle Cap Wilderness.


Nora the Schnauzer waits along the trail to Maxwell Lake.


Nora uses fallen logs to cross a stream along the hike.

I must be mellowing.

Not so long ago I would have ached to put a boot in the kid's vuvuzela.

I let it pass, however, when it recently mangled the peacefulness of a day hike to Maxwell Lake in the Eagle Cap Wilderness.

Here's how it went.

The wagon's thermometer said 47 degrees when Nora the Schnauzer and I geared up and hit the trail at 9:34 a.m. We had sunshine with fluffy clouds, white and dark ones.

I carried a day pack with 100 ounces of ice water, a nylon sweater, a rain jacket, some first-aid stuff, four PowerBars and a small tripod.

I fastened the camera to my chest with a Cotton Carrier harness.

Nora carried her pack with a sweater, jerky treats, the car keys and four poop bags (in case she went in a campsite, beside a stream or beside the lake).

She had gone at Morning Creek Sno-Park near Tollgate, so I doubted she would.

I gripped the 6 1/2-foot bamboo walking stick, and we crossed the bridge over the Lostine River at the lower edge of Shady Campground.

A minute or so later, Nora scooted over the granite rocks and across the saplings spanning a side stream.

I followed, and we hurried along the soft, pine-needle-padded trail to the first switchback.

Then we met two hikers with two dogs, one on a leash. p>

The owner had to pull the leashed dog back hard until we passed.

Three-fourths of the four-mile hike consists of long, moderate, often rocky switchbacks through stands of larch, fir and Douglas fir trees, with occasional sun-drenched meadows.

I snapped photos along the way, with good views east across the Lostine canyon and south to Eagle Cap Mountain.

Photogenic squirrels often posed on rocks or tree branches to watch us pass.

A few sprinted across the trail to Nora's delight.

About halfway up, I heard the first blast from the vuvuzela. Sounded like a Greyhound bus.

It blasted every few minutes, growing closer and closer.

After two hours, we reached the mile-long, rocky climb straight up to the pass at 7,760 feet (2,360 feet up from the trailhead).

Then, the horn lifted my hat, and two teenagers with day packs stood on the trail behind us. One leaned back and trumpeted a jaw-tightening blast on a two-foot, yellow plastic horn.

The vuvuzela made an irritating splash at the recent World Cup soccer matches.

I waited for the lads to reach us. Nora, of course, rushed to meet them.

They greeted her with friendly petting, which loosened my jaw.

"Is that a soccer horn?" I asked.

The shorter, leaner of the two boys said, "Yes."

But they hadn't visited Africa for the World Cup. They live in Enterprise and bought the vuvuzela at a Portland Timbers match.

We talked about sports a bit (including the Enterprise Outlaws' rivalry with the Weston-McEwen TigerScots).

They were in no hurry because the rest of their party followed, so, with occasional horn blasts, the duo let us go on ahead.

They soon passed us, however, and another young man also passed us.

More followed, he said.

Nora and I labored to the pass and drifted toward the lake. The Enterprise kids had dropped packs near the water.

Two more passed us, and one told Horn Blower to cease "with the horn" because "other people want to enjoy the serenity."

He ceased, but briefly.

I carried Nora's pack as we scrambled along the rocky shore to the east end of the lake.

I dropped the packs on green grass, handed treats to Nora, sucked down ice water and chomped a PowerBar. We rested there for half an hour.

I eventually counted eight people across the way. Some fished and, according to the yelling, one hooked and lost a trout.

After half an hour, Nora and I worked our way west, around the group, for more photos.

Loud voices, mixed with the racket of boys rolling rocks down a boulder and a few vuvuzela blasts lasted way too long.

Then, utter silence! We investigated and found no packs and no kids.

A breeze riffled the lake's surface, but I heard my hat brim scrape my collar when I turned my head.

In the silence, I tested my GPS unit. It measured the coordinates for the lake at N45 15.253/W117 24.689 with a 7,731 foot altitude.

Finally, I lay the packs and camera on the grass beside Nora, sat against a chunk of granite and pondered.

I could have explained wilderness etiquette to those kids. They seemed like "good kids," as the saying goes, but who knows?

As my eyelids drooped, I simply felt too mellow for a lecture.

Editor's Note: Part 2 of this report about a hike to Maxwell Lake will appear in this spot next week.


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