OUTDOORS - Scenic changes at Wallowa Lake

Views of Wallowa Lake differ greatly depending on the season and time of day.

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Low clouds and fog swirl above the lake.

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A man and his dog walk along the famous glacial moraine at Wallowa Lake.

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Nora checks out the scents, while heavy clouds obscure the horizon and the chance for a vivid sunset from Crown Point on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge.

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The Multnomah Falls Lodge welcomes more than a million tourists a year to the well-visited falls.

The view from the north shore of Wallowa Lake changes with the seasons, the days and the times of day.

Blue skies, with boats, water-skiers, parasailers and sky-blue water, leave a lasting and colorful impression.

The opposite, however, may also be true.

As our wagon eased to a stop a few wintry days ago, Darlene, Nora the Schnauzer and I enjoyed a stark southern view: slate-gray rippling water, fog-draped, cloud-capped dark mountains (west to east, Chief Joseph, Bonneville and Howard), the wooded-dark west moraine and the world-famous, winter-brown east moraine.

The grayness of the day colored the cobbles and boulders as Nora and I strolled along the shoreline.

A man and woman walked the length of the boat dock. They seemed entranced by the view.

Otherwise we had the north shore to ourselves, and the glacier-sculpted panorama will not soon be forgotten.

I've read estimates that the most recent advance of the Wallowa Lake glaciers occurred 17,000 years ago (www.eou.edu/geology/wallowalake.html).

After that, "The Wallowa glacier retreated uphill to the area of the Glacier Lake cirque, where there is evidence of a series of younger glacial advances that did not reach the Wallowa Lake area."

One geologist suggests that a glacier may have remained in the lake, covered by the water.

Other notable, but less obvious, Eagle Cap glacial activity occurred in the Lostine River drainage.

I took a ton of photos at Wallowa Lake with wide ribbons of fog on the mountains and gray clouds overhead.

Once, I heard a voice and a dog barking in the distance and eventually spotted a man and a dog high atop the eastern moraine.

Geologist from far-and-near visit that moraine because it represents a near-perfect example of a lake dammed by glacial action. The moraines, by the way, rise about 900 feet above the lake, which was measured at 283 feet deep in 1965.

Well, enough of such padding (er, Internet research), although plenty of it exists for the curious.

We had meandered from Walla Walla well before noon, intending a brief survey of the snow in the Tollgate area.

We didn't find much snow, actually, and the foggy conditions followed us all the way to the turnoff at Summit Road. I poked along that road for about three miles to Horse Camp Pond, with camera ready and frequent glances into the woods for deer, elk or bear.

Twice, we saw deer nearly hidden among the trees as we passed.

Then, ice partly covered the pond's surface, and a foggy curtain hung over the trees.

Nora and I explored among the damp, dripping firs long enough for her to get a mist-dampened back and mud-spattered belly.

From the pond, we followed the fog to the east on 204. We drove the Valley Scenic Road loop near Elgin and looked for grazing elk down from the high country and for the clutch of buffalo I'd seen before.

Alas, no elk and no buffalo.

So, we continued to travel eastward from Elgin on Highway 82.

We enjoyed the pleasant drive along the Wallowa River. Steelhead apparently haven't made the trip from the Snake River yet, however. We didn't see a single angler.

We refreshed our coffee supply at the Blue Banana in Lostine. At the edge of Enterprise we noted the charred remains of the once-eminent log building that housed the Eagle Cap Wilderness Headquarters.

Then we made a 3-mile side trip along Highway 3 to the Stengel Buffalo Ranch. I took photos of the few buffalo visible from the roadside.

Then we continued through Joseph, where sleek deer grazed beside houses in town and where the town looked toward Chief Joseph, Bonneville and Howard mountains.

Finally, daylight faded at Wallowa Lake. Nora and I climbed back into the wagon. We headed to Joseph and Mad Mary's Soda Shop to eat and relax.

I had the Turkey Lurkey sandwich with coffee, and Darlene had the waffle with a Coca Cola. We took saucer-sized chocolate-chip cookies with us.

Nora munched her dinner in seconds and curled up to nap, again, on the drive home in the dark.

Persistent fog buffeted us in wind-blown waves as we crossed the mountain.

Contact Don Davis at dondavis@wwub.com.

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