On 9/24, Roo and I pushed off from Joseph, OR. I decided to take the section of the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway that extends from Joseph to Halfway, OR, which follows Forest Road 39. The road is winding and steep and narrow at times. It cuts through the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest and provides access to some pretty wild and woolly country. I was hoping we’d find some quiet and secluded camping and I found just that at the Indian Crossing campground at the end of a forest service road along the Imnaha River.
We found a spot right along the river. I saw a handful of other campers and hikers. Most of the campers had horses at this campground and were using the campground as their launching off point for back country pack trips. It looked like a wonderful way to travel and experience the mountains. I was rather jealous.
We stayed at Indian Crossing campgrounds for two nights. Roo and I hiked up the Imnaha River the first afternoon after attempting to give a hand to a hunting party that was coming down out of the mountains after several days up at a hunting camp to find that both of their trucks would not start. They had packed in via horse 10 miles up in to the mountains and had seen wolf, coyote, bear and 4 herds of elk. News of wolves in an area always unnerves me. We were about 2 mins into our hike when I spotted something running around in the woods and I saw a pair of black canine ears poking out over the top of log. WOLF!!! I thought and I high tailed it down to the trail head and sat with Roo to see what materialized. Shortly a black border collie, followed by a brown border collie and then a couple of hikers and a cattle dog emerged. Ahhh… false alarm. So I took a deep breath and calmed down and again headed up the trail. Roo and I had a great afternoon hike and found some wonderful views of the river and surrounding mountains and Roo took a dip in the river.
The second day, after lollygagging around the campground all morning, I hiked up to Duck Lake. Roo and I saw no-one on the trail. We startled one mule deer along the way but besides that, it was pure solitude. I enjoyed being serenaded by nothing other than the sound of the wind in the trees.
It being late September, autumn was starting to color the landscape and I was thrilled to find the larches turning their brilliant shade of yellow.
After 2 nights of camping, on 9/26, we pushed off to proceed along Forest Service Rd 39. We stopped to take in the view from the Hells Canyon Overlook. Whoa!
As I wound down the steep and winding road, I came around a corner to see three cowboys and their horses on the side of the road, one guy with his thumb out appearing to be hitch hiking. I pulled over and he asked if I could give him a lift down to his truck. I was happy to oblige and he jumped in, chaps and spurs and hat and all, while I tried to make sure Roo didn’t try to take at a nip at him. I asked if they had been up camping but no, they were in the process of driving cattle down out of the hills to lower pastures for the winter. Ah ha… they were in the middle of their work day! The cows had gotten ahead of them and taken off down the road and he was hoping to get a ride to get ahead of the cows and cut them off before they got passed the point where their trucks and trailer were parked. So we took off down the road and shortly passed the cows trotting down the road. They gave us the hairy eyeball as we passed… I don’t think they knew what to make of Greta… and when we got to where the trucks and trailers were parked, he jumped out of the van with a ‘Thank you, maam.’ and tip of his hat.
Roo and I proceeded on, passing through the town of Halfway and Baker City. From Baker City, we hit Rte 7 and then Rte 26 and experienced easy driving with exceptional views. Signs for the John Day Fossil Beds and Painted Hills caught my eye and I diverted off to check them out and was not disappointed!
It was a long day of driving and it was getting dark by the time I found a camping spot in the Ochoco National Forest at the Ochoco Divide Campground.
I hit the road early the morning of 9/27. Roo and I were headed for Tumalo, OR, outside of Bend to spend a few days with friends and to have some issues with Greta worked out. On the way, I decided to check out something called ‘Steins Pillar’ that was called out in the Unique Natural Features section of my Oregon gazetteer. We were treated to a very scenic drive up a valley and then a wonderful hike through pine and juniper forests. Steins Pillar is a stone pillar that reaches 350 feet straight up, towering above the surrounding forest, a reminder of the volcanic activity that created this landscape. Along the hike, I got my first glimpses of the mountains to the west in the Cascade Range.
After the hike, Roo and I pushed on, making a stop in Prineville to have lunch and a brew at the Ochoco Brewing Company.
We arrived at my friend’s in Tumalo, OR that afternoon. Tumalo rocks! It’s an adorable small town, just outside of Bend, OR… country living with the convenience and amenities of Bend a quick drive away.
It was SO great to be with friends and I had a FUN few days. Good times, good conversations, good laughs, good food! And Roo was in heaven. She was a happy happy camper, collapsing in content exhaustion at the end of each day.
The recreational options in the Bend area of Oregon are outstanding. Days often started with a quick walk with the dogs on BLM land, through sage brush and gnarly old Junipers. One day I tagged along on a quick fly fishing outing and enjoyed an hour chilling out along the banks of the Crooked River.
On Sunday, 10/1, we headed up to the Mt. Bachelor area to do some mushroom hunting. The mushroom hunting was a bust but we had a lovely little hike to Fall River Falls and lunch along river where the water runs ‘clear as gin’. (I have to credit Corky for that great description. I love it.)
Now I’m off to explore the SE corner of Oregon and the Malheur Wildlife Refuge and the Steen Mountains. Stay tuned!