North Fork John Day River Backpack

26 08 2016
River Evening Peaceful

The peaceful nirvana of early evening at the Oriental Springs Campground

In July, Laura and I planned to backpack a 10-mile section of the North Fork John Day River in central eastern Oregon’s Blue Mountains. The entire river is a nationally designated wild and scenic river, so we were very excited! I had hiked the eastern portion back in 2014. This time, the plan was to try hiking from the western end. The whole trail, some 50 miles, is steeped in gold-rush history. Back in the 1870’s gold was struck in the area, and thousands braved the wilds to strike it rich. Today, although the big mines are mostly gone, there are still active mining claims with people panning for gold! I’ll post a blog about that next. But for now, it’s about the backpacking.

This hard-to-reach trailhead and backpack had been on my list for many years. It took about 5 hours from Portland. Even when you get off the state road, the dirt road/4WD track to the last campground and trailhead is many miles. Due to the long drive, we just planned to car camp the first night at Oriental Springs Campground. Arriving about 5:00 p.m., the heat of the day had passed. The river sits in a tight valley, and the shadows were already beginning to lengthen.

Oriental Campground We had the whole place to ourselves. There were lots of puddles on the road – and blow down. There must have been a recent thunderstorm. Though most of the area was dry and dusty, the evidence of rain was there. Despite the standing water, there were no mosquitoes. Lucky us.

Laura found the campfire to her liking! Laura Fire Oriental Campground

In the morning, we sipped coffee, ate breakfast and packed up.

It was a moderately cool morning. Very pleasant!

Not in a hurry, we didn’t plan on hitting the trail until maybe 11:00. Big mistake.

Laura packed for backpack

Packed up and ready!

With the car locked and packs filled, we hit the trail. My research revealed that this is bear and cougar country. So, we both wore jingle bells on our wrists and used trekking poles, which made us very noisy to any hungry or motherly creatures out there! And merry makers to others.

Bear Bells

Bear bells highly suggested!

The trail lies on the northern (i.e. sunniest) side of the river. The forest here is amber-colored bark Ponderosa pine. If you’ve never been in a Ponderosa pine forest – I need to describe. Instead of tightly laced tree branches typical of Douglas fir forests – which are shady and therefore offer a cooling effect, Ponderosa pines are spread farther apart, with not nearly as many branches between trees touching. Hikes in Pondersoa forests are more vulnerable to hot sun. This one is no exception.

The valley slopes reached skyward immediately from the northern side of the trail. Soon,  the place became a convection oven! We had no relief from the sun or the broiler-like hillside next to us. But there was more. There was winter blowdown. Packs on, we climbed over or slithered under fallen trees.

It didn’t take long for signs of large wildlife to appear. The recent rain and puddles left some flat, muddy areas. Anything walking over would leave footprints, betraying its presence. We noticed deer, elk, and then – bear and cougar prints!

Bear Track

No doubt about what left these prints!

Not long after, and right smack in the middle of the trail, we saw a pile of poop. Not just any pile of poop. Because whatever this creature ate it was full of seeds! Bear scat. Between the trail and the river at this particular point is an area full of blackberries. No doubt this bear was feasting.

Heat aside, it’s a very beautiful river. It winds lazily along, and except for some deeper pools, it’s about 2-3 feet deep. But the heat quickly got to us. We found an open place for lunch and discovered it was a camping spot. It didn’t look like it had been used recently because growth was starting to cover the fire ring. As hard as it was to accept, we actually decided to base camp here. It was a place that offered shade!

 

Feeling guilty and pretty annoyed about the heat and the fact that we’d only covered 2.5 miles, we decided to hike further up the river. What we discovered unexpectedly justified stopping to camp were we did.

We didn’t find anywhere suitable to camp. And grass plus brush had assertively grown across the trail, about knee high. We wore shorts. And I’d heard stories about lots of ticks from other hikers recently. So we pressed on, but were constantly checking our legs for critters.

Eventually we’d had enough and, frustrated, we started back. Just when we began to get cranky, I saw a possible wading spot. We walked down there and waded out into the river. This was the respite we needed. More, we realized, this what this day was all about. Sitting in the river, with it flowing over our overheated souls, we cooled down enough and it became almost meditative. Impossible to get out.

Laura on rock in river

We spent time here, and then back at camp, spent more time just enjoying the water! Well, what to do with the rest of our time out here? We decided to get on the trail early the next day, before the heat picked up, hike out, and then drive over to Anthony Lakes and car camp.

Laura on Anthony Lake

An end-of-day happy hour at Anthony Lakes!

Anthony Lakes is a year-round recreational area. In summer there is camping, hiking, boating, and fishing. And even some sailing. It’s elevation is over 7,000 feet, so it’s got dry powder snow in the winter. The Anthony Lakes Ski Area is popular with locals all winter long. Plus, there are lovely Cross-Country trails all around. The stars were really spectacular. All together, we had a nice trip!

 





Hiking Amongst Siouxon Creek’s Emerald Waters and Waterfalls

6 05 2016

siouxon creek

Siouxon Creek trail is one of the most beautiful places to hike near Vancouver, Washington. Located in a deep valley, it rarely gets hot even during summer heat waves. April, Tatsuro, Monica and I spent a perfect afternoon hiking there last weekend.

Monica Tatsuro Rod

Monica, Tatsuro and myself.

Hiking Siouxon Creek leads you past flumes, towering moss-covered firs and maples, clear green pools and ends with a 45-foot waterfall. It’s about 4.3 miles to the waterfall, making for a full 8+ mile day. The trail continues past the waterfall. And you can connect with a trail leading to Huffman Peak, which would make for 14 miles total.

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There are perhaps ten backpacking campsites along this stretch. And on our hike it seemed most filled up. It would be a Lord of the Rings type experience, I think. I could imagine Orcs coming in the night – perhaps fighting with Cave Trolls. We had expected the area to be muddy because it had rained the day before. But we found only a few spots with mud. Completely delightful. The trail comes almost down to creek level, then climbs sometimes 40 feet above, whilst crossing tributaries. There are lots of small waterfalls and pools to glimpse.

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It might be tempting to jump in that water, but it was May. The temperature is probably 40 degrees! I have seen people swimming in the middle of summer here, though.

Siouxon Creek is also popular for mountain biking. I originally discovered this trail through a mountain biking guidebook. On our hike this time we only saw two bikers.

Although fast-hiking or fast-packing is trendy these days, I find sometimes going extra slow, or even pausing, yields beautiful rewards.

This area is packed with life. But if you are rushing along, you’ll miss the wonder. There are countless species of plants. Every inch is occupied by a form of life competing for food and sunlight.

 

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Moss clinging to a maple.

There were countless “nurse logs.” A nurse log is a fallen tree that has decomposed to the point that it becomes nutrients for new trees. We saw a toppled old-growth tree, with over 100 feet of new trees growing along it.

 

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Super clear water!

The water is impossibly pure and clear. The rocks are gray, brown, rose, green, and speckled colors. In some places the water is so clear you cannot even see it.

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April

Our turnaround point on the hike was the 45-ft waterfall. Also a nice spot to stop for lunch. We lingered quite a while to soak up the tranquility. Then it was another refreshing hike back to the trailhead.20160430_141735_HDR





MSR’s Hubba Hubba NX Tent – Review

15 03 2015
msr hubba hubba nx,gear shed,camping,camping oregon

The Hubba Hubba NX with the Gear Shed

I’m the proud owner of a brand new Mountain Safety Research – MSR Hubba Hubba NX ultralightweight backpacking tent! With 27-year-low snowpack in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, I couldn’t wait to try out my new tent. I also bought the “Gear Shed” attachment for the tent. So, I headed up to Clear Lake near Mount Hood, Oregon to set up and sleep in my new tent.

The MSR Hubba Hubba NX is a super light two-person tent – only 3.7 pounds! But any tent I’m going to be pleased using has to be easy to set up and durable. And on warm summer nights I like to set up the tent without the fly. This allows for star gazing and cooler sleeping. But some tents have a very shallow “bathtub” around the bottom, allowing breezes to get through, and onlookers to see you when you’re dressing. I like tents where the “bathtub” is a bit higher.

As a backpacker and kayak camper, I also want a tent that’s easy to set up in the dark. No complicated setups. I also like tents with reflectors so at night I can shine a light on them and see it from far away. Gear vestibules are also super important. I want my shoes and gear to stay dry even if it’s outside my mosquito-lined sleeping area. For windy days tents need to be guyed out. There must be ways to secure the tent to the ground, so it doesn’t blow away.

So with these needs / wants in mind I set about testing and setting up the MSR Hubba Hubba NX. Unpacking it from the bag, I immediately noticed thoughtful touches. The bag kind of cinches up like a cradle. The bag has outside straps enabling it to be scrunched down like a compression sack.

I set out the tent footprint and then laid the tent on top of it. I staked out the corners. Right away I noticed a clever detail where the attachment of the tent to the stakes takes place. A sturdy cinchable strap-to-stake attachment point. Nice!

msr hubba hubba nx

The tent pole goes thu this grommet. But you can tighten the strap to the stake. Thoughtful!

I unpacked the tent frame. On the MSR Hubba Hubba NX there is only one frameset where all the pieces are connected via shock cord. It’s made of DAC Pressfit aluminum. Light and durable. But you need to be careful and deliberate about connecting. I fear splitting a pole end if I am in a hurry.

msr hubba hubba nxI laid the frame on top of the staked-out tent.

The next step is to connect all four corners and the top center piece to the frame. It’s a little challenging do do alone but with practice it will be easy.

msr hubba hubba nx

Frame connected and ready for clips

OK. So now, the next step will be snapping the clips to the frame.

It’s here I notice another thoughtful and durable touch.

The clips are shaped to fit snugly around the poles, but there is more. The load of the clip is spread between two attachment points on the tent. This reduces stress points on the stitching on the tent.

msr hubba hubba nxSo far, I’m delighted with the thoughtful, clever details of this tent. And all for 3.7 pounds! Next step is to connect the clips. Once done I’ll have the full volume of the inside.

msr hubba hubba nxThis is how nights under the stars will be. This is how I like things – there is a good view of the sky above, and ample ventilation – but the bathtub walls are high enough to shield occupants from wind and from onlookers.

Next, the fly. A fly should be able to keep rain out but also allow for ventilation – and especially bonus points are awarded for flies that can be unzipped without rain dripping into the tent.

msr hubba hubba nxVoila. with the fly attached, and the vestibules stakes out, there is actually a lot of acreage to store packs and shoes out of rain’s way. Two tent mates each have a vestibule and exit for themselves. Inside the tent, on each end, there are tent-wide gear pockets. Enough for most any backpacker’s needs. Up above, there are attachment points so you can sling strings – from which you can dry your stanky socks. Unfortunately two things are lacking – Firstly, a distinct shortage of attachment points for guy lines and secondly, no reflective piping.

But let’s say you have need for even more room. You have a disagreement with your tent mate. Or perhaps there is a 3rd soul needing a place to rest for the night. Or you’re car camping with executive camping gear and you’re needing extra storage space. For that, the MSR Hubba Hubba NX offers a solution: The Gear Shed.

The Gear Shed doubles the available storage space. Or can be used to accommodate another camper – or a Man’s Best Friend? If you have the MSR Gear Shed, you have options.

20150312_153922What’s the verdict? Well, although I love this tent and gear shed setup, it’s not 100% perfect. Somehow designers left out reflective materials. At night I bumped the corners more than once. And I have to wonder about its ability to hold up in the wind without lots of guy line attachment points. Still, I love the MSR Hubba Hubba NX and it’s a keeper. I can recommend it!





The “Teton Convergence” in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park Region

11 03 2015
grand teton national park,xc,cross country

Bluebird day! Cross country skiing with April below the Tetons!

I just spent a week skiing and visiting friends in the stunning region around Grand Teton National Park. This was a confluence of friends from different parts of my life. Friends from Portland were there to ski. But Dave Adams lives there and is a friend who moved there from Portland. Ed Parigian, a Boston housemate living in Park City, Utah, drove up. And Mary Woolen, a college friend who I’ve not seen since 1984 also lives there. Whilst my Portland friends stayed in a condo in Teton Village at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Ed and I stayed with Dave Adams on the Idaho side in Tetonia, Idaho.

We alpine skied, cross-country skied, looked at moose and reveled in the views. So beautiful!

mt moran,jackson hole national park

Mt Moran

The craggy Teton Range dominates every view, with 13,777ft Grand Teton soaring above it all. In an unusual geologic action, the Teton Range soared whilst the valley below dropped. Park literature says the vertical drop from the top of Grand Teton to the original valley floor exceeds 25,000 feet! Today, you won’t see that. This is because glaciers from several ice ages scoured material from the peaks and deposited it on the valley below. In the valley, it’s completely flat except for a few glacial morianes. A moraine is a pile of rock left over from the snout of a glacier. They can be hundreds of feet high. If you think of a glacier as a 5,000-ft high conveyor belt with the end depositing rocks and boulders, you have a moraine building machine. As the glacier retreats, it builds that moraine. Today, the flat valley floor is about 6,000-ft below Grand Teton.

dornan's jackson hole

View from Dornan’s Bar. An apres ski beverage at Dornan’s is a must!

It is 12 hours of almost non-stop driving from Portland, OR to get there. I arrived at Dave’s house late Saturday and after a meal at a local pub fell dead asleep. Sunday I headed up to Grand Targhee Ski Resort to meet the Portland folks.

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The base at Grand Targhee!

It had not snowed for weeks, but at least the weather was good. I had a great time skiing with Valerie and Scott as well as meeting everyone for beers at happy hour. And, the views were great. But with no new snow, and $120 lift tickets at Jackson Hole, I made up my mind the conditions did not merit spending a fortune on alpine skiing that week. Instead, I decided to cross country ski – mostly with April!

grand targhee

Valerie, Scott, Lisa and myself.

Monday and Tuesday I cross-country skied in Grand Teton National Park. Monday Valerie, April and I went up above Moran Junction near Jackson Lake and skied southward past Mt. Moran toward Grand Teton.

cross country skiing,grand teton national park Although I have cross country skied for years, I still consider myself a novice. It always seems I need to get used to it all over again. Of course you can “walk fast” in cross country gear. But there definitely is a rhythm you pick up – and when you get it, you can ski along fast and efficient for a long time. This day I finally got the rhythm after 90 minutes. The breathtaking views made me forget I was tiring.

Valerie and April at lunch

Valerie and April at lunch

Cross country skiing elevates your body temperature quickly, and we all found ourselves dropping layers. But it was still cold. When we stopped for lunch we had to add layers all over again, only to peel them off.

grand teton national park ansel adams

Famous Ansel Adams view

On the return we stopped by to see view of the bend in the Snake River made immortal when photographed by Ansel Adams. Gorgeous!

jenny lake trail,cross country skiing,grand teton national park

April along the Jenny Lake Trail

Tuesday April and I tackled the Jenny Lake trail. It’s mostly easy and flat with the Tetons right on top of you the whole time. The trail is well groomed – it’s actually a road in the summer. One side is for traditional cross country gear. The other is for skate skiing, snow shoeing and pets.

The rest of the crew tackled Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. This mountain is HARD. I have skied it several times. It has taken lives. It has areas with long cliffs, and on foggy days it’s possible to accidentally find one.

Lisa is Jackson Hole's newest victim!

Lisa is Jackson Hole’s newest victim!

And on this day, it claimed one of us! Lisa had been dealing with a problem knee cross country skiing Sunday at Grand Targhee, and took Monday off to rest. On the 3rd run Tuesday at Jackson Hole, the mountain struck just as a predator picks upon the frail. Somehow coming off a bump her leg broke just at the knee! She was done for the trip. The ski resort was very accommodating, refunding her three-day lift ticket. She even received a hand written note at home from the ski patrol! I admired her good attitude about everything.

Earlier in the day, April and I met up with Mary Woolen – a college friend I hadn’t seen since 1984! It was so nice to meet up again! I want to visit again next time I’m there.

Rod and Mary

Rod and Mary

The Teton region is famous for its wildlife. Bison, wolf, bighorn sheep, elk, bald eagle, moose, coyote and more are all here. We saw thousands of elk wintering out in the valley. And traveling to the cross country trails, we saw a bunch of moose! moose

They are unmistakeable and are incredibly big, standing 9 feet tall. When they want to, they can move swiftly!

Ed, Rod, Dave

Ed, Rod, Dave

Wednesday Ed was to arrive from Park City. So Thursday and Friday Dave, Ed and I visited and did some cross country skiing. We tried a different less-groomed trail near Jenny Lake, and also a really pretty railroad converted to trail over on the Idaho side. 2015-02-19 16.03.46

Snowfield and sky, Tetonia, Idaho.

Snowfield and sky, Tetonia, Idaho.

Another ex-Portlander is Ed’s very cute border collie Turbo! He joined us for our skiing.Turbo!

It was a good week and I made the best of the old snow by mostly cross country skiing. And so great to visit with long-lost friends Ed, Dave and Mary Woolen!

I’m going back.





I Love Camping and Hiking in the Metolius River Region

7 01 2015
metolius river,camping in oregon,camp sherman,camping camp sherman,trout fishing oregon,allen springs campground

The Metolius River from our campsite!

Bubbling up from the ground fully-formed, the Metolius River, at Camp Sherman, Oregon, is one of the state’s most magical outdoor gems. The Metolius River Valley stretches 13 miles from the mouth. Because it lies just to the east of Santiam Pass, it is solidly in the Central Oregon ecosystem. Blessed in a rain shadow, the valley is dry most of the year – and dry-climate-friendly Ponderosa Pines dominate the forest.

There is a lot going on in the Metolius River Valley – but it’s subtle. It’s not widely advertised. First and foremost, it’s all about the river. At the head of the valley the Metolius emerges from the ground as a fully formed river. It’s not a little spring. It is urgently rushing out at its headwaters. The water is glacier snow melt coming directly from glaciers in the Three Sisters, where it disappears underground and flows for many miles in underground lava tubes, only to emerge in the Metolius River Valley. That means it’s extremely cold and pure.

metolius river,camp sherman,fly fishing,metolius river fishing,camping in oregon

Fly fisherman on the Metolius

This river, wending its way through snags and bends, is perfect habitat for trout and salmon. The Metolius River is a national blue ribbon trout fishing stream. When visiting the area you always glimpse fly fishermen trying their luck along its banks.

metolius river,allen springs campground,camping in oregon,camp sherman

Nothing like a multistory fire!

There are several campgrounds sprinkled along the Metolius River, plus there are lodging opportunities in Camp Sherman. My personal favorite is Allen Springs Campground because it sits along a U-shaped bend in the river. There are three walk-in campsites on the U-shaped peninsula. If you score the campsite at the end of the peninsula, you have guaranteed privacy and simulated back country camping. You just need to walk your gear to it. This guarantees no RVs parked next door. No generators grumbling during the night. All you hear is the glorious burbling of the Metolius!

Forget to bring everything? Fear not. You can get what you need at the Camp Sherman General Store. Even better, the store has delectable made to order sandwiches! It’s worth not bothering to pack your lunch because you can get a scrumptious fresh hand made sandwich at the store! If you order a club sandwich they’ll be cooking the bacon right in front of you.

There’s much more. There is a hiking trail running for at least 10 miles – down one side of the river and back up the other. A visit to the Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery is well worth the stopover. For swimming and boating, Suttle Lake is just a few miles west of the exit for Camp Sherman off the highway. And in July, if you are up for an alpine hike through spectacular wildflowers, Three Finger Jack beckons.

rod richards,roderick richards,three fingered jack,hiking oregon

Rod pauses in front of Three Fingered Jack

On this trip my old college buddy Tully accompanied. For dinner, we used the tried-and-true Wok cooking method. Wokking is a great alternative to traditional camping meals. First and foremost it’s delicious! And fresh. It’s great for group cooking because the ingredients are all laid out and then each camper cooks their own. Some may be intimidated at first, but it’s virtually impossible to screw up a Wok meal!

wok cooking,camp cooking

But prior to dinner there is the obligatory post-hike and pre-dinner happy hour. That requires a campfire. We violated all dietary guidelines by having a bag of Fritos. A camping secret is that Fritos and Doritos are excellent fire starters!

fritos, frito-lay,fritos fire starters

Fritos are super fire starters!

No kindling??? No problem, IF you have a bag of Frito-Lay products on hand. The next thing is music. Tully provided plenty of songs from The Grateful Dead, The Eagles, and Eric Clapton. All good blended with the burbling of the Metolius River.

metolius river,allen springs campground,camp sherman,camping in oregon

Tully pickin’ on the guitar

Next day we glimpsed an unusual sight walking along the river. Turkeys!

turkeys in oregon,turkeys,camping in oregon,camp sherman,metolius river

Turkeys!

There were 8 – 10 of them. Who knew! During a lunchtime visit to Camp Sherman we learned there are a lot of turkeys in the valley and they are a nuisance to some homeowners! The ones we saw looked innocent enough.

If you are in Central Oregon you should consider a visit to the Metolius Region!





Clear Lake and Clear Lake Resort, Oregon – The Submerged Forest

13 11 2014
Laura rowing Rod

I take the back seat as Laura navigates. Two of the Three Sisters rise in the background.

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No photoshopping here. There really was fog to Laura’s right and sun to her left!

The 2nd weekend in November my friends and I traditionally rent cabins at Lake Billy Chinook and kayak. This year we threw tradition out the window. Instead, we rented cabins on Clear Lake at Clear Lake Resort. Clear Lake is famous for its clear water and submerged forest. Thousands of years ago, a lava flow moved across the McKenzie River at this location, blocking its flow and creating a lake.

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A tree trunk in the submerged forest.

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The “seascape” at Clear Lake.

South End Clear Green Water

In the shallows, sometimes the water was emerald green.

But there was more. The river ran through a forested valley, and the trees were submerged in the lake that formed. Today, at the head of the lake, water emerges through fast-flowing springs, and the water is crazy clear. At the foot of the lake, a waterfall spills to form the headwaters of the McKenzie River.

Clear Lake Oregon is popular for canoeing, kayaking, rowing and scuba diving. Those plying the surface can peer down into the sapphire and emerald waters, and scuba divers can see the submerged forest up close and personal.

While most November days in this part of Oregon are rainy and cold, this day was calm and sunny. We lucked out!

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Our cabin. Sorry about the focus…some moisture on the outside of the lens!

Today, Laura and I arrived first. Our group had booked two sides of a tandem cabin. Each side has two bedrooms with double beds and a double futon in the living room. A propane-fueled pot bellied stove heats each side, and there are kitchens on each side. Cost? $99 for two nights per side. Heck if you have some friends along it’s super cheap! Other facts to know…A hiking trail runs around the lake, and there are hiking options nearby along the McKenzie River. Hoodoo Ski Resort is 30 minutes distant. And there’s cross-country skiing at Ray Benson Snow Park. For mountain bikers the nationally famous McKenzie River trail awaits.

The Clear Lake Resort provides a fire pit for the cabins and we took advantage of that.

Group camping/cabin cooking presents some interesting possibilities. What to eat? What’s easy? In this situation we settled on Wok cooking. It’s practically impossible to screw up wok cooking no matter what. Plus it’s FUN. So we brought the woks, each member bringing along a different wok ingredient. Mini carrots and corn, water chestnuts, pineapple, nuts, jasmine rice, mushrooms, bok choy, broccoli,  shrimp, chicken, peppers, etc. plus a myriad sauces. YUM!Jim and Becky sapphire pool Woking

Sunday, we picked a 4.5 mile hike which ended at a really beautiful pool on the McKenzie river. Sunday it started to rain, but it didn’t matter. We got a picture of Jim Hashimoto and Becki above a sapphire pool!

All in all, the cabins at Clear Lake Resort Oregon are worth a visit!

 

 





North Fork John Day River and Granite Oregon – Gold Country!

31 10 2014

north fork john day river, camping, oregon, hikingHiking on the North Fork John Day River Wilderness Trail has been on my bucket list. So I made plans with my friend Tully to head out there and explore the river, and to check out the central northeast Oregon area – also known for its place as Oregon’s Gold Rush region.

The North Fork John Day River is a National Wild and Scenic River for good reason. It’s remote, it’s to-die-for beautiful, and it’s got historical gold miner’s cabins sprinkled along the way. One can do out and back hikes, or circular routes, or even through hikes where one car sits at the beginning and the other at the end.

An ideal spot for exploring the area is the North Fork John Day Campground. It’s on Forest Service Road 52 and is right at the intersection of the Elkhorn Scenic Byway and the Blue Mountain Scenic Byway.

When we arrived, there were only three campsites occupied of the twenty available. Instead of camping at a drive-in site, we picked a walk in site right on the river. It had plenty of real estate and we couldn’t see anyone from the site. Our first dinner was a skewer bbq – chicken with veggies on skewers and some rice.

Next morning it was time to hike the trail by the river. The trail wends its way sometimes right along the river and often climbing 100ft above. But always it’s really beautiful.

north fork john day river, columbine, wildflowers

Columbine

indian paintbrush

Indian Paintbrush

We saw a lot of wildflowers along the way.

Lupine, Indian Paintbrush, Columbine, and others I can’t positively identify.

There were popcorn clouds, so the lighting in the river valley varied as we walked along.

The breeze was refreshing.

We came upon some strange things in the trail. It looked like hair. Lots and lots of hair. Or fur. Light brown fur. But no skin. What could it mean ? And then, not long after, we saw the remains of a large animal down upon the bank of the river.

DSCF1577 Was it a horse? Or an elk? Its head was nowhere to be seen. What killed it? It might have been a cougar. Hunting season was back in the fall.

In any event, the carcass had been picked clean. Nothing left but bleached bones.

So along the trail we walked. Further down the river we glimpsed some history we’d heard about.

This region, which includes the towns of Sumpter, Bourne, Greenhorn and Granite, was a Gold Rush area in the late 1800’s and even into the early 1900’s. Even today, there are claims along some of the creeks.

The first thing we encountered was a miner’s cabin. It looked like it had just been abandoned.

DSCF1573DSCF1575There was still some structure to it. It even had a kitchen counter and rusty remains of beds.

I sure wouldn’t want to stay in it!

One has to wonder what was going through the minds of the people that built these places.

The windows definitely were not from 1890. They looked like they were 1970’s vintage.

It must have been a rat and bug infested sleeping experience for sure.

The place had an outhouse not too distant. Peering into that structure gave me the creeps, as if Hannibal Lechter from “The Silence of the Lambs” lurked somewhere down below.

DSCF1566The North Fork John Day River Trail is a beautiful experience. I did not backpack it this time – as Tully doesn’t backpack. But I will return here and do a backpack for sure. It’s got to be the best way to experience the area.

The following day we decided to drive out to Granite, Sumpter and even Bourne. This is the heart of Oregon’s Gold Rush Territory.

Leaving the campground, Granite, Oregon is only seven miles away. It has a population less than 50 and struggles to survive as a recognized town. But it does have a gas station and a store. Only not open when we were there! Interestingly it has a free Internet wireless antennae right in the midst of the 30 or so homes littering thee hill it lies on.

We drove on to Sumpter, Oregon. There are countless mining claims lining the road. We never saw an

ybody mining but there were hundreds of piles of “tailings” where people had piled rocks and sand in their efforts to find the gold.

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On the way we decided to explore a dot on the map called Bourne. Driving up its little side valley, one wends through countless 15-ft high piles of tailings from past mining endeavors. Almost when you think it’s time to turn back, you find Bourne. Sitting at the end of the road, in a valley, are maybe two dozen homes some of which have actual mine shafts on their property.

Not much going on there these days. We got out of there pretty quick.

After Sumpter we decided to head over to Anthony Lakes, on the other side of the Elkhorns. The road climbs to 7,450 feet before descending to the lakes. The Anthony Lakes Ski Area was long closed for the season, but I just had to drive my car up to the ski lift to see if I could catch a ride!

All in all we had a good trip up there. It’s quiet, remote and there’s quite a bit to see if you make the effort! You will not find Disneyland crowds for sure.

anthony lakes ski area

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