The Blue Mountain Oregon Scenic Byway – Ought to be Renamed “Skyway”

10 09 2013

Blue Mtn BywayToday I took my time and ate a leisurely breakfast at Anthony Lakes. I’d check out Oregon Route 52, the Blue Mountain Oregon Scenic Byway – on my way to the Columbia River! I’d planned to spend more time out here, but a previous injury cut my trip short. I had to head back home.

I confess to starting the trip with a mending back and leg strain problem – I typically like to hike when camping, but I knew I’d just have to spend a lot of time driving. Last week, I camped, and had no problem with my mending back. But the night at Anthony Lakes was horrific. I had lots of leg pain, and getting up caused stabbing pain. These would ease with walking a bit, but remaining still, including driving for hours, or sleeping, worsened a strain in my leg. With no access to ice out here, I made up my mind to head home right away and get some attention.

The injury was caused at work lifting a heavy kayak. It caused a lower right back strain. The back strain was mending well, but somehow favoring it caused a strain in my right leg. What I learned was that inactivity like driving and then arriving at camp, just having a fire and sleeping (more inactivity) was a recipe for disaster. I decided to cut the trip short so that I could spend the night at home icing my injury in Portland.

Nevertheless, I’d travel the scenic routes on the way back to the Columbia River. Oregon Route 52 meanders along the top of Oregon’s Blue Mountains, before reaching Ukiah, Oregon, and following Oregon Route 53 along agricultural valleys and past vast wind turbine farms before connecting with the Columbia River. I decided I would have to stop every so often and walk 20 minutes to keep my leg loose.

After packing up, I headed up and over the Elkhorn Mountains, once again climbing to about 7,300ft. Once I reached the North Fork John Day River Campground, I would be at the intersection withe Route 52. There was an information kiosk. I noticed right behind some walk-in campsites and checked them out. Oh Man….! For easy walk in sites these were to die for. With the North Fork John Day River burbling right behind, and even with pre built tent staking sites. And NOBODY around. Gorgeous.

Oh well. Next time! On to the Blue Mountains. Today I was to discover something something totally unexpected. Unlike other scenic byways, most in valleys or with big mountains above, this one goes right along the tops of high altitude meandering meadows. Not only that – there are gates all along the byway where you can literally just go out and drive out there and camp. ANYWHERE.

Blue Mtn Meadow

Wow! Just go and camp anywhere.

I couldn’t resist. With my new higher ground clearance car, no problem. These went from horizon to horizon! There were islands of evergreens amongst the meadow, a couple with people camping there. But no established campgrounds.

I am an avid star gazer. With no city lights around, and dry, and such horizon to horizon views, I had to come back to check out the stars out here! OMG. AND, best part: There is absolutely NO ONE out here. Seems everyone is in the Wallowas, or down by the Three Sisters?

If it weren’t for my back / thigh strain, I would definitely spend the night out here.

But I must push on.

The scenic byway has many points with views west, or northwest. With nothing obstruting all the way to the horizon. The North Fork John Day River cuts through this area. Its valley seems to dominate the area.

Blue Mtns ViewSometimes I felt like I could see all the way to the Pacific. I stopped at a wildlife preserve with a short interpretive hike – a great place for lunch.

The hike was only a quarter mile to a shady island with two picnic tables and limitless view. All along the way I saw coyote, elk, and deer scat. It must be busy!

When done, I descended to Ukiah.

Ukiah is another Eastern Oregon town – crazy small, with its own vibe. Clearly expressed by the welcoming committee!

Ukiah Horse

Twice on the outskirts I had to navigate folks on horseback…but that is the way things are done in Ukiah!

Continuing on, through forest / ranch lands…and river valleys, and past vast horizon-to-horizon wind farms, I found the Columbia Gorge.

Wind Farm PanoramaIt seems from these vantage points, green energy is going limitless!

Only I can hope. Till next time!

 

 

xxx