written by Jen Stevenson
Whether dropping into the Minam River Lodge via foot, horseback, or chartered flight, there are two things you’ll do immediately after being warmly greeted by manager and jack-of-all-trades Isaac Trout—sign a waiver detailing the potential wilderness perils you’ll face (snakes, bears, overheating in the wood-fired sauna), and write your name on a mason jar. After all, when you’re an 8.5-mile hike or 20-minute flight from the nearest sign of civilization, dishwashers aren’t exactly de rigueur.
EAGLE CAP WILDERNESS
photography by Evan Schneider
Nestled deep in the ruggedly beautiful 360,000-acre Eagle Cap Wilderness, this unique property is the result of a painstaking six-year buildout by Portland-based owner Barnes Ellis, who first stumbled upon the lodge while attending a childhood family reunion. Carefully constructing the main lodge and adjacent cabins from felled logs, reclaimed wood from former structures and building materials delivered via helicopter, Ellis reopened the lodge in 2017, instantly attracting a diverse collection of intrepid guests willing to go the extra mile (or eight) for a one-of-a-kind backcountry experience.
A hearty appetite is mandatory ’round these parts—with the help of a rotating crew of live-in staff members who pitch in to chop vegetables, pour wine and wash dishes, executive chef Carl Krause turns out epic ranch breakfasts like house-cured pastrami hash with thick wedges of buttery German pancake, and show-stopping family-style suppers that might involve smoked Carman Ranch rib-eyes and dark chocolate brownies smothered in smoked cherry compote one night, and juicy roast Hawkins Sisters Ranch chickens with homemade brown butter spaetzle and charred Walla Walla onion salsa the next. Lured by the ring of an old-fashioned dinner bell, guests gather to feast in the high- ceilinged dining room overlooking the meadow, forging new friendships over Minam Margaritas, bottles of Willamette Valley pinot noir and pints of the lodge’s signature IPA, brewed by Enterprise- based Terminal Gravity.
With no cell service or internet to speak of, days are filled with whatever wilderness activity suits your frontier fantasy—horseback riding along the wild-trout-packed Minam River, hiking the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest’s 535 miles of trail, or paying a visit to nearby Red’s Horse Ranch, a National Forest Service-owned former dude ranch frozen in time. Come nightfall, sit on the deck with a single malt scotch and trade tales with fellow cabin dwellers, or tramp through the forest to the wood-fired hot tub for a soak under the stars—zero light interference means a dazzling celestial display—contemplating life, love and what delights tomorrow’s breakfast menu might bring.