The bluebird family in my parent's garden is back with another clutch. Caught this photo the weekend I was home for my sister's college graduation.
Two slideshows below tell you a visual story of my first two hikes this season. First, a solo trip up Salmon Butte, near ZigZag, Oregon. Great stretch of the legs, but no view on the day I did it--a week ago, today.
Today, on the other hand, we would have had a view, but Lemei (old woman, in Chinook jargon, according to Sullivan's guide book) foiled us again. A couple of years ago, my significant other and I hiked in on the Lemei Trail in the discordant sounding Indian Heaven Wilderness (SW Washington). On that occasion, all the old woman gave us was fog. Today we hiked all the way in to Wapiki Lake, albeit on some hefty chunks of unmelted snow. Just that, the snow eventually turned us back. We met a gentleman on our way out that was on his way up, and seemed ready for the elements--with a pair of snowshoes strapped to his backpack. For us, it wasn't so much about the white slushies peppering the hillside, is was more...where the heck is the trail under all the slushies?! I am an armchair woods-woman at best, or I would have whipped out the compass. Even if I had, we decided standing in a snow drift at the base of Lemei wouldn't be as fun as basking in the huckleberry and heather later on in the season. We'll be back old woman...
Having worked in the Columbia River Gorge last summer I couldn't resist the opportunity to go back and volunteer for a few hours at the end of July. The occasion was to celebrate the Craigmore Creations book, Terra Tempo: Ice Age Cataclysm. Told in graphic format, it explains how the ice age floods (aka Bretz Floods) shaped the Columbia River Gorge. Every library in Portland should make sure they have one or two in their respective collections. There's a second volume out in the Terra Tempo series now as well.
The brilliant Ranger Lisa uses the snorkel and fins as a prop to entice the curious public. It's like fishing. Walking around at Vista House with a snorkel on will inevitably hook a tourist who comes up and asks, "Okay, tell me what it's all about." Music to the Interpretive Ranger's ear.
For more on the Ice Age Floods there's a whole Institute.
My last major adventure of the summer entailed a week long foray into the John Day area of Eastern Oregon. After a stop at the wonderfully eclectic Maryhill Museum and a swim in Cottonwood Canyon, we passed a night with Phil and several expat Brits at the Wilson Ranches Retreat. There, we saw a herd of deer and the remains of a roadkill rattlesnake. Bummer, we were hoping to hear a real rattle. A trip into Fossil came up with...not a whole lot. All that was missing was a tumbleweed rolling across the street.
From there we worked our way to Priest Hole and camped along the shore of the John Day River (after some discussion as to the ethics of camping in an area with no designated campsites). An isolated spot to be sure, however, there was a bouquet of locals in pontoons and floaties festooning the waterway. The research and the signs all indicated that camping was okay, so that was a bit of a surprise. "Primitive" in this case, meant, "wherever." A sign indicated that the BLM has plans for developing the area. I liked it how it was. We were the only ones who passed the night there. Just us and the Milky Way.
The Painted Hills came on Day Three. I believe we were the first ones at the Monument. The trash-pulling Ranger wasn't too far behind us. Trash-pulling is of course a time honored cover to check out what tourists are up to. For the record, we didn't walk on any of the hills, but it was obvious where people had. This is a case where leaving only footprints is really bad. By the way, what's with the shoe tree on the Ochoco Hwy (Rt. 26)? If you Google, "shoe tree Mitchell, OR," you'll see what I mean. Whimsy for the traveler. Toward the end of the day we ended up outside Prairie City at the edge of the Strawberry Wilderness.
You'll see a catalog of the subsequent two nights and three day backpack trip in the slideshow. Apparently Ranger Gary passed us on our hike out the final day. Salute to the retired Ranger! Our pilgrimage to your side of the state was simply stunning. It's good to let the moss growing behind my ears dry out from time to time. We hope to return soon for Hells Canyon, Eagle Cap (in the Wallowas), and Steens Mountain.
For the traveler: one of the best sections of road as far as scenic mystery, was Twickenham Road along Girds Creek. Best where-the-hell-are-we-going adventure was the part where Xena (my car's name--hey, it's a way to remember the license plate) conquered the section of road into Priest Hole labeled on the map as "The swimming there is remarkable by the way, several degrees warmer than the lakes of Strawberry country.
This one was a workout on the calves and glutes! Misty skies made the wildflowers pop on a grey canvas. Mollusks, insects, and birds abound. Kept wishing for a furry mammal sighting in the treeline. Alas, I had only my memories of Wednesday's visit to the Oregon Zoo.
The fourth Sunday in June, Andrew and I drove east of Molalla to the somewhat hard-to-find Table Mountain Trailhead. The trail begins where one of those winding gravel roads abruptly ends in a smallish turnout. You aren't sure you have arrived until you get out and walk down the trail several feet. We didn't do this the first time. Sullivan's descriptions are always accurate. It's just that things don't always look as you expect. Vegetation and road burms camouflage evidence of human construction. Just as well. Adds to the mystery and adventure.
First serious hike of the season was a long one...at least for this citified softie. Eagle Creek Trailhead to Tunnel Falls was a 12 mile round trip venture. Cheese and crackers never tasted so good.
Hacia el final, me dolido los pies, entonces, remojar los perros era obligatorio.
Exploring Oregon's stately neighbor to the North brought about some unexpected delights. Example: earnest retired person who gave me the spiel on the plankhouse. Listening to your elders begets insight into the land we thoughtlessly trod day-to-day. Yesterday there was no erection scrawled on the pillar of the stone bridge near my apartment. Yesterday, there was no bridge. Tomorrow may find the erection whitewashed. Tomorrow may find no bridge. The elders know.
Helping you find
Jenny Gapp, has sixteen years experience as a teacher librarian, four seasons as a seasonal state park ranger assistant, and two summers adventuring with National Parks in an official capacity.