Hoofin' it to Hoffer Lakes

A trip to Hoffer Lakes on the west side of Anthony Lake provides cooler weather for a pleasant hike with Nora the Schnauzer.

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A breeze ripples across Hoffer Lake on a bright afternoon.

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The trailhead to Hoffer Lakes shows its a half-mile hike.

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Nora the Schnauzer takes in the scenery around Hoffer Lakes.

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Nora pauses on a boulder to watch a small waterfall along the trail to Hoffer Lakes.

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A fishing boat bobs on Anthony Lake.

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Flowers bloom beside the stream running from Hoffer Lake to Anthony Lake.

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Hoffer Lake reflects the mountains on its south side.

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Patches of snow remain near Hoffer Lake into August.

Four-year-old Nora the Schnauzer cavorted like an excited puppy in spring time during our late July hike to the Hoffer Lakes.

Her antics made me smile. I enjoyed seeing her have fun.

Nora, like many (most?) dogs, tends toward sluggishness or lethargy, if not indolence, during the blistering low-country days of July and August. Even early morning or late afternoon walks along Mill Creek find her shying from the sunshine and dawdling in the shadows. She breathes with her tongue dangling and slips down the stream's bank to stand on a weir and lick the passing riffles at every opportunity.

So, to escape the valley heat, we nosed into a parking spot on the west side of Anthony Lake on the cloudless Sunday at mid-afternoon.

Nora wriggled with excitement.

And why not?

Anthony Lake, at 7,140 feet altitude and 6,000 feet higher than Walla Walla, probably felt 25 degrees cooler than it would along Mill Creek.

At least.

Anyway, with ears flapping as her feet hit the ground, she zipped in a wide, erratic circle among the pine trees on the lake shore.

Darlene rolled down the truck's windows and opened her book while I attached a water bottle to my belt and a camera to my shoulder.

A black lab cavorted with a shirtless man at the lake's edge as Nora and I headed down the wide path to the Hoffer Lakes trail. We turned up the hill along a high-flowing stream and passed a man and woman with two children and two wiry dogs. All eight of us made the usual sociable gestures.

I followed Nora at an easy pace as she raced ahead and back. Three or four times I stepped away from the trail to lie on my stomach to snap low-growing blossoms against the stream's rushing current.

Nora waited when I stopped, or bounded among nearby boulders like a small black goat.

Eventually I lost track of the number of people with dogs that we passed on the trail.

We did meet one man with fishing gear. He had caught "a few" small brook trout at the second (south) Hoffer lake.

Also, a woman passed with a beagle on a leash, the only leashed dog we saw.

Despite the pauses, we reached the first lake in 42 minutes and turned south toward the other one. We soon faced wobbly logs lying across narrow, knee deep channels.

I followed Nora across the first bridge OK. But I backed off when I nearly fell from the second.

I feared dunking the camera.

So, I zigzagged through the marsh to the north shore of the second lake. Three young men tossed bait on a bobber into the shallow water from atop a massive rock.

When we turned back, we met another man and woman with a dog. We talked about the scenery and the nice day.

Finally, 50 yards down the Anthony Lake trail again, an 80-pound tan mutt with whiskers loped toward us. He sniffed Nora for two seconds, sniffed me briefly and charged back the way he had come.

Nora followed, of course. Seconds later I saw the big dog hovering near a man and a woman. Nora hurried to the woman, who sat on a rock with her back to us. The woman petted Nora briefly and stood with a child.

"Changing a diaper," ran through my mind.

We exchanged salutations as we passed.

Forty minutes later we roused Darlene, who insisted that she wasn't napping. She had finished her book, however, because we had been gone for two hours. Or more.

At the bottom of the mountain, and 10 minutes from Haines, we pondered dining at the world famous steakhouse there.

Alas, waves of heat rose from the black highway.

We couldn't dine while Nora sweltered in the steamy truck.

Besides, we didn't want to wake her.

We settled for chicken nuggets to go in La Grande and headed for the scenic route home through Imbler, Summerville and over Tollgate.

Contact Don Davis at dondavis@wwub.com. More of Don's photos can be found online at www.tripper.smugmug.com.

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