WALLOWAS ON THE QUICK

May 04, 2001 12:00 am
SEVEN YEARS IN THE MAKING: Louise Rea hiked hundreds of miles over a seven-year period collecting informattion for her book. In her early 70s, Rea is youthful and fit. She attributes her health to good genetics  her mother is 94  a lifetime of exercixe and a good diet. Rea has been a vegetarian since 1952. (The Observer/PHIL BULLOCK).
SEVEN YEARS IN THE MAKING: Louise Rea hiked hundreds of miles over a seven-year period collecting informattion for her book. In her early 70s, Rea is youthful and fit. She attributes her health to good genetics her mother is 94 a lifetime of exercixe and a good diet. Rea has been a vegetarian since 1952. (The Observer/PHIL BULLOCK).

A few people hiking in the Wallowa Mountains over the past seven years may have heard it.

It is a sound as rare as the call of a common loon at Wallowa Lake the clanging of a typewriter.

The sound was produced by the fingers of Louise Rea, a hiker and writer from College Place, Wash.

Rea brought a Royal typewriter with her during trips to the Wallowas to gather information for her book, Quick Trips to the Wallowas.

The book, her first, provides readers with concise and easy-to-read directions to 33 trailheads on the boundary of the Eagle Cap Wilderness. The paperback volume contains detailed information on the trails.

Rea, 73, hiked hundreds of miles over a seven-year period collecting information for her book. She took notes with pencil and paper while hiking. When she returned to her vehicle, Rea typed her notes. She opened the tailgate of her vehicle, put her typewriter on it and pounded away.

It was a natural thing for me to do. I have been around typewriters most of my life, said Rea, who taught typing as a high school business teacher.

Rea wrote the text of her book with a word processor at her home.

Quick Trips to the Wallowas not only tells readers how to reach trailheads and what to expect, it gives colorful accounts of what Rea encountered while doing her research.

Case in point: Reas experience along Washboard Ridge Trail.

Near Sandy Saddle in late summer a muddy spot and a side trail invited us to inspect a creek bed, and we found a trickle of water. An elk scolded us off and on all night for invading his water hole, wrote Rea, who was with a former college roommate.

She was a little scared. The elk kept bellowing. But I knew it wouldnt hurt us, Rea said.

Rea was not alone at Sandy Saddle, but collected most of her information while hiking solo. She would have welcomed a partner but rarely could find one.

The people who do this (hiking) are young, working and busy. It is infrequent that you find someone who is old enough to be retired who can go hiking in the wilderness, Rea said.

As a woman alone, Rea had reason to fear for her safety several times.

Once she saw a group of men riding motorcycles on a forest road. The men wore black jackets and were rough looking.

I took this as a signal that I didnt need to be seen by them. I hid in a thicket until they were gone, Rea said.

Another hair-raising experience took place July 4 several years ago in Wallowa Countys Bench Canyon. Rea encountered a forest fire caused by careless campers. It ignited a fir tree.

The tree seemed to explode, Rea said, explaining that this happens during fires when the resin in a tree heats up.

She quickly left the area. The next day, July 5, a snowstorm extinguished the blaze.

One of the things Rea likes best about the Wallowas is their wide range of elevations. This provides for a varied topography and spectacular views.

Rea cited the Stanley Ridge trail as an example. On one side a hiker can see the old Reds Horse Ranch site 4,000 to 5,000 feet below, and on another side one can look down several thousand feet to Bear Creek Canyon.

On canyon trails like this, you feel like you are on top of the world tripping over clouds, Rea said.

She also has extensive hiking experience in many areas outside of the Wallowas. She has climbed Mount Hood about 12 times, and Mount St. Helens six or seven times. Reas St. Helens hikes were made before and after the 1980 eruption. She is impressed with how well the area has recovered from the eruption that blew away part of the mountain.

Rea grew up on a farm near McMinnville and has been involved in outdoor activities most of her life.

Ive always liked to be outside. There isnt any housework to do out there, she said.

In her early 70s, Rea is youthful and fit. She attributes her health to good genetics her mother is 94 a lifetime of exercise and a good diet. Rea has been a vegetarian since 1952.

Quick Trips to the Wallowas is available at many places in Union County including Sunflower Books, Earth n Book and the La Grande Ranger District office.

In Wallowa County Reas book is available at the Bookloft in Enterprise and other locations.