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MailTribune.com
  • Eastern Oregon: Scenic views, bears and solace

    From Moss Springs Campground east of La Grande, it's not hard to find a quiet escape from your regular life
  • COVE — Less than half a tank of gas will get you from Pendleton to a little-used trail network in the corner of the sprawling Eagle Cap Wilderness where black bears and fast-falling creeks abound.
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  • COVE — Less than half a tank of gas will get you from Pendleton to a little-used trail network in the corner of the sprawling Eagle Cap Wilderness where black bears and fast-falling creeks abound.
    Just eight miles above the city of Cove, east of La Grande, Moss Springs Campground provides the starting point to a trail complex that runs along, above and around the Little Minam River.
    The routes are ideal for traveling with stock, and many do make the trek on horseback. But backpackers and day hikers have plenty of reason to check out this remarkable country, too.
    The options begin right at the campground, with the Lower Minam, Upper Minam and Lodgepole trails all heading off in different directions.
    Go north to follow the Little Minam as it rushes downstream, gathering volume from creeks and springs along the way, to its confluence with the Minam River. Small pockets hold small fish before hikers and fishermen reach the better-known Minam, which is home to good-sized trout and even steelhead during selective seasons. (The Minam is closed during spawning).
    On a recent scorching weekend, however, I took a 3-weight fly rod in the opposite direction, to the far upper reaches of the Little Minam and the striking ridgelines above it.
    That Upper Little Minam route heads downhill for about two miles from the campground (elev. 5,800) to the riverbed. On the way, it runs through lush vegetation and often the big omnivores that feed on it: black bear. Bruin sightings are quite common here and precautions, such as bells and spray, should be taken.
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