Wildflower Extravaganza, Eagle Cap Wilderness, Oregon

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14284A, Service/ Volunteer


  • Help repair trails in a remote Pacific Northwest wilderness area
  • Enjoy high peaks, clear lakes, vibrant wildflowers


  • All meals and snacks
  • Instruction in a variety of trail maintenance skills
  • Pack support for all food and commissary equipment


DatesAug 2–9, 2014
StaffFred Tanis

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Trip Overview

The Sharon Churchwell Fund is offering youth 18-25 years old a discount on this trip. Visit the Sharon Churchwell Fund page for more details.

The Trip

Eagle Cap is Oregon’s largest wilderness area, perched in the stunning Wallowa Mountains. Our service trip, focusing on trail restoration and repair, enhances access to this remarkable and remote area in the state’s northeastern corner. Participants can expect satisfying work, a couple days off to explore this impressive area, great food, and camaraderie with other wilderness adventurers. We volunteers play crucial roles in helping to preserve the essential qualities of our wilderness lands. Today only 20 percent of the wilderness areas managed by the Forest Service meet the minimum goals for stewardship. Come help us to achieve these goals for Eagle Cap and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. Eagle Cap Wilderness offers the powerful combination of beautiful scenery and remoteness reminiscent of the European Alps and the Sierra. Granite peaks, punctuated by alpine lakes, reach elevations between 8,000 and 9,700 feet. Eagle Cap's 361,446 acres of wilderness feature 534 miles of trails, allowing exploration of diverse terrain, and varied flora and fauna; wildflowers abound in high alpine meadows. During our stay we may see black bear, deer, elk, mountain goats, big horn sheep, and eagles (there are no poisonous snakes or grizzly bears). 

The Project

Trails are our primary focus. We will reconstruct and brush trails and, where necessary, build water bars and steps. Each day begins with a short hike, with minor elevation gain, to our work sites. We will use hand tools to move and place rock and large pruning clippers to remove brush. The work will be strenuous and physically demanding, but also very rewarding. The Forest Service trails staff will provide training on safety and equipment use.  Our tentative project will be located along the West Fork of the Wallowa River near the beautiful Frazier Lake.



We will meet at 6:00 p.m. on the Friday evening (August 1st) at the Wallowa Lake State Park Campground on HWY 82 just south of Joseph, Oregon. This evening and the next morning, over potluck meals, we will get to know one another before hiking into the backcountry. Arrangements will be made with the Forest Service for safe parking of our vehicles before entering the backcountry.

Our trip officially begins on Saturday morning after we carpool to the Wallowa Lake trailhead. The seven-mile backpack into our Eagle Cap Wilderness base camp will be punctuated by Sunday lunch, our first official meal. While the Forest Service provides pack animals to carry our food, tools, and group equipment, each of us must carry personal gear, including tents, to the camp. We gain about 2,200 feet in elevation as the group advances through the day, pacing ourselves for everyone's safety and comfort.

Arriving at the campsite by early afternoon, we will spend the rest of the afternoon organizing the camp and kitchen, digging a latrine, and setting up the water system. The next six days will involve four days of work with two days off dedicated to resting and exploring this scenic area. Destinations include spectacular alpine lakes and perhaps a nearby peak.

After a final celebratory night, we’ll break camp and hike back to civilization on Saturday morning, August 9th, arriving dirtier and more spirited than when we left. Although the trip officially ends at the trailhead, everyone is encouraged to share dinner at the famous Terminal Gravity Brewpub in the town of Enterprise to mark the finish to our shared wilderness adventure. 



Getting There

The Eagle Cap Wilderness is about five hours east of Portland, Oregon, four hours south of Spokane, Washington, four hours northwest of Boise, Idaho, and about four hours south of Lewiston, Idaho, all of which are served by commercial airlines.

From all these locations, you can easily drive to La Grande via I-84 before proceeding east on HWY 82. Driving directions and trip rosters (to coordinate carpooling) will be provided. 

Accommodations and Food

Come with the attitude that food is part of the adventure. Food is plentiful, tasty, and healthy. We provide nutritious, vegetarian-friendly meals with a small amount of meat, along with dairy and soy products for additional protein. Participants contribute to food preparation in a backcountry kitchen without refrigeration. Before applying for the trip, people with food allergies, strong food preferences, or serious medical conditions must contact the leader and cook to explore possible accommodations. Food and personal items, including toothpaste, are stored overnight away from camp to safeguard against animals. 

Trip Difficulty

The hike into our base camp is considered moderate. Participants should have had some past experience in hiking, camping, and backpacking and be in good physical shape. Most of the trail work will be strenuous and performed above 6,000 feet. Other than possibly climbing the Eagle Cap Peak (9,572 feet elevation), we will not experience altitudes much above 7,500 feet. While this isn’t high enough to cause problems for the average person, the air is definitely a little thinner and your body will be working a little harder. Our trail work will tax our muscles, particularly for those of us who hold more sedentary jobs. Therefore, we recommend including both cardiovascular and muscular workouts in your training. Regular bicycling, hiking, swimming, and backpacking are some of the best ways to prepare. To make sure your trip is both safe and fun, prepare! 

Equipment and Clothing

In addition to your backpacking gear, bring at least one pair of leather work gloves and a day pack to carry lunch, water, work gloves, rain gear, sunscreen, and other personal items to the work site. Food and cooking equipment are provided as well a first-aid kit for emergencies. There will be purified water available for camp and commissary use, but you will need to bring water purification equipment for personal use when away from camp.  A final detailed equipment list will be provided to you at a later time.



You should have a detailed topographic map with you when you go into any wilderness. In addition, if you plan on excursions before or after the trip in the surrounding area, the trip leader suggests that you purchase a comprehensive area map. The "Eagle Cap Wilderness" and "Wallowa Whitman National Forest" can be purchased for $6.00 each by sending a check, including return postage, to:

Wallowa Mountains Visitor Center
115 Tejaka /PO Box 427
Enterprise, OR 97828
(541) 426-4978


  • Barstad, Fred, Hiking Oregon's Eagle Cap Wilderness.
  • Nez Perce Chief Joseph, That All People May Be One People, Send Rain to Wash the Face of the Earth.

Also see http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/w-w/about/forest_facts.shtml and

Backpacker magazine article: http://www.backpacker.com/article/0,2646,1058,00.html for further information on this area.


We plan to have a wilderness ranger from the U.S. Forest Service address the group on conservation issues, including wolf management problems. We will also set aside one evening for an informal discussion involving conservation issues as they pertain to the participants' home areas.

In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. Sierra Club Outings is a vital part of the celebrations for wilderness.
While the Act was far in the future when our outings program started, we were already promoting the principle behind it: to forever set aside from human developments certain special places, by civic agreement. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role—in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving more designated wilderness since then.



Fred Tanis is an avid outdoor enthusiast, who has led and participated on several service backcountry trips. He lives in Bend, Oregon, and is a frequent hiker in the Oregon Cascades and enjoys wonderful solitude of the backcountry. He has hiked and backpacked in the Eagle Cap Wilderness on several occasions. He led the 2007, 2009, 2011, and 2012 service trips to Eagle Cap. His objective is to get you to enjoy the backcountry. Fred is happy to individually answer any questions you may have about the trip or the area, and will send bulletins prior to the trip with further details and names of other participants.


Laurel Bradley loves to cook and spend time outdoors in sublime natural locations. Working with Sierra Club service trips for over five years, she orchestrates vegetarian menus with meat options added. When not traveling or cooking for others, Laurel is a curator and art gallery director at a small college in the Midwest.

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