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A Day in the Sky with Willie McBride

Trail Butter Pro, Willie McBride, details his experience attempting a traverse of the Hurwal Divide in the summer of 2020. 

Caution: Reader may immediately plan big adventure days after reading this inspiring account of time well spent in the mountains. Read at your own risk. 

The year 2020 was like no other; in that, at very least, everyone can agree. Due to pandemic-caused cancellations of numerous weekend work obligations, I took advantage of more flexibility in my schedule and road-tripped often to wide-open spaces to use movement in mountains and nature as my therapy—and because it’s what I love to do. Midsummer I finally made plans to traverse the Hurwal Divide in the Wallowas of Oregon, a truly jaw-dropping ridgeline connecting Sacajawea & Matterhorn Peak to Chief Joseph Mountain in Oregon’s most prized range of mountainous terrain.

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The striking, sculptured knife-edge of the Hurwal had absolutely mesmerized me on a trip to the nearby summit of Matterhorn years prior and I’d dreamed of doing it ever since. It’s easy to keep putting off “bucket list” items until next year…and then the next, until it seems like the world is ending and possibly this year is the only one you’ve got left. Morbid maybe, but real. Regardless, I decided no more “next year”; it was time to do the Hurwal. I pulled out my calendar, found a free weekend, and contacted adventurous friends who would be up to the task.

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The day was upon us, July 25th, 2020; Matt Campbell, Jeff Boggess and his dog Jumbo and myself, set off from Hurricane Creek Trailhead ready for A Day in the Sky. We were fortunate with electric blue weather, the company and energy of a good dog and good friends, and the sort of scenery that leaves you constantly shaking your head in disbelief. We hiked and moved steadily but felt relaxed and unhurried, taking our time on the more exposed and rocky sections and naturally leapfrogging as individual paces ebbed and flowed. We paused at points to talk and snack and soak it in, looking forward and plotting our path to the next obstacle while reflecting back on just how far we’d come. There we were in the late July sunshine and immaculate blue sky, doing it, step by step. It was like a dream, to finally make a reality of something previously only envisioned for so long.

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If the uncertainty and heartbreak of 2020 taught us anything, it’s don’t wait. Life is fragile and we can’t predict the future, so dream, scheme, plot and plan. Make your “bucket list” your “NOW list.” Remember that adventure is everywhere, from the Hurwal to your hometown, the distant peak to the local park.

It’s 2021…Time to Get After It!

Hurwal Traverse

Start/end—Hurricane Creek Trailhead (could also start/end from Wallowa Lake Trailhead, or go point-to-point)

~20 miles long, traverses nine high points above 9,000 ft.

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