September 13, 2001 11:00 pm
A TRIP TO REMEMBER: Bob Coulter of La Grande leads Ice Lake venturers along the edge of the 8,744-feet high lake. (Photo/ERIC VALENTINE).
A TRIP TO REMEMBER: Bob Coulter of La Grande leads Ice Lake venturers along the edge of the 8,744-feet high lake. (Photo/ERIC VALENTINE).

By John R. Groupe

No coaxing was necessary.

Hawkeye Snook, proprietor of the Sports Corral in Joseph, and I were invited to help pack a camp into Ice Lake Aug. 9.

We threw our cowboy hats into the ring without any encouragement. We wanted to support this Grande Ronde Hospital Foundation fundraiser.

The highest bidder for the August weekend trip was Grande Ronde Hospital Administrator Jim Mattes. He was thrilled to have the opportunity to ride horses to a beautiful place like Ice Lake along with his wife, Jan, and their children, Janelle and Jonathan. An extra donated benefit was the personal photographic services of La Grande photographer Eric Valentine.

Dr. Jim Kopp, a La Grande orthopedic surgeon, has helped organize the trip for six years. He and his father, John Kopp, a retired Eastern Oregon physician, provided horses for the trip.

Jim Kopp has been assisted by La Grande pharmacist Bob Coulter in organizing the trip. Both accompanied us on our way to the camp.

Our trek into Ice Lake from the trailhead just above Wallowa Lake was enjoyable. Our group setting up the camp had eight pack horses and mules. We rode three miles up the west fork of the Wallowa before crossing the river on the Ice Lake trail bridge. The next five miles are a series of switchbacks up the granite mountain.

We rode through several lime-green aspen groves growing in granite rock slides accented with tall bright orange Indian paint-brush flowers.

Several switchbacks overlooked beautiful waterfalls as Adam Creek cascaded down the steep ravine just north of the trail. The only scary section was about 200 feet of trail where we rode around the north end of Ice Lake looking down into very deep dark blue crystal clear water. This section of trail elicited Judge Valentines only complaint: Kopp forgot to tell me if my horse could swim or not.

Hawkeye awakened me about 1 a.m. to inform me that my mare was sick. She had developed a case of spasmodic colic from eating grass which her system was not accustomed to. I walked her vigorously for half an hour with no success. I then got into my mountain doctor kit and drew up 10 milliliters of banamine. With my flashlight in my mouth, I was able to hit her jugular vein with a needle and give her the life-saving dose.

The next morning, after packing in camp supplies for the Mattes family, we rode back to the trailhead. There we met the Matteses. Kopp and Coulter converted pack animals into riding animals for the excited family.

The ride back into Ice Lake went nicely although the guests were asked to get off and walk the bad section of trail around the lake.

The Matteses enjoyed the solitude and pristine beauty of the Ice Lake area. At an elevation of 8,744 feet, the lake is one of the highest and is considered to be one of the most beautiful ones in the Wallowa Mountains.

On Saturday our group climbed the nearby Matterhorn. This two-mile trek took about two hours. At 9,845 feet many believe it is the highest peak in the Eagle Cap Wilderness while others claim the neighboring Sacajawea peak is slightly higher. Matterhorn is composed of white limestone which is compressed skeletal remains of tiny marine animals that were deposited on the ocean floor many millions of years ago.

The west face is a 3,500-foot wall of white limestone which makes it a very distinct landmark. The view from the summit is spectacular with Hurricane Divide being straight across, Eagle Cap to the south and a panorama of the entire wilderness. This was a true mountain-top experience.

A prime component of the weekend package was the culinary services of Bob Coulter. He began the day with sourdough hotcakes and served the group such entrees as chicken cacciatore in the evening.

Most of Coulters main dishes are prepared at home and frozen in vacuum bags. In camp the bags are immersed in boiling water while a tossed salad and fruit or vegetable dish is prepared. While hearty and tasty, his meals are always prepared with the right nutrition in mind.

John R. Groupe is a freelance outdoor writer and a small animal veterinarian in Pendleton. Groupe was born and raised in La Grande.


ISLAND CITY A trip similar to the one taken to Ice Lake by the Jim Mattes family in August will be auctioned at the annual Grande Ronde Hospital Foundation golf tournament this weekend.

The tournament will be held Saturday and Sunday at the La Grande Country Club.

The auction will take place Saturday after a dinner at the country club. The dinner begins at 7 p.m.

For information call Kathy Weber at 963-8421.