Alpine Play

Strawberry Mountain Wilderness Area, Oregon

Strawberry Mountain Wilderness

Strawberry Mountain Wilderness, Oregon     Photo: U.S. Forest Service/Wikimedia

“It came from Outside,” wrote my friend Jason. “I remember that specifically.” I had e-mailed him to see what he recalled about a certain article that prompted our spontaneous backpacking trip to Strawberry Mountain Wilderness Area in 1993. We both grew up in Portland and had been amazed to discover a nearby mountain range we’d never heard of. So with a week to kill before summer jobs took away our freedom, we threw the issue in question on the dashboard and used the cartoon map that accompanied the article to navigate six hours to a 69,000-acre pocket of craggy peaks and trout-stocked alpine lakes outside Prairie City. The place was stunning, which is probably why, 18 years later, Jason’s e-mailed memory of that three-day trip was as vivid as mine: “There were two lakes, and we camped at the upper one.” (Little Strawberry Lake, three miles up the trailhead from Strawberry Camp.) “We definitely saw some elk.” (And at least a dozen bighorn sheep.) “We hiked to the top of Strawberry Peak.” (It’s a mellow climb up talus slopes to 9,038 feet.) “I think you caught a fish, and we ate it for dinner.” (A bunch of fish, actually.) “I remember the sun creeping into and out of that lake basin—it was spectacular.” (Nothing to add here.)

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