2014-04 WA/OR/NV/CA 5/6
Day 17/Wednesday/April 23:
Another cold morning but we were anticipating the great agate hunt so we prepared to head out onto 31 going south toward Paisley. We were finishing up the details when we saw a herd of cows heading north on 31 right past the rest area. We have seen a few in Oregon and Utah but still find it fascinating how the dogs herd the cows who obviously are not thrilled about interrupting their breakfast to be hurried to greener pastures. They seemed to be yearlings, last year’s babies which we more than likely be destined for market in the fall??? I am not sure about this so will ask for clarification. The ranchers all rode horses, no ATVs, but the dogs did most of the work.
We were headed south again when we encountered another larger herd heading north. A truck with a big yellow sign proclaiming “Livestock” was in the lead and the herd followed down the road and on the shoulders. I am embarrassed to admit this but I played tourist with my iPhone and shot a few images of the ranchers, one of whom was female. I did ask first. And, btw I am a vegetarian.
We scouted around and omg, I found a fist sized agate that I had to dig out of the packed gravel with my foot. I almost passed it by. They are hard to spot as it seldom rains and they are dusty, not like the tide washed ones on the coast. The jasper was agatized and there were a few small rounds of obsidian. A call to ODoT was not returned although I left a message. During a previous call to the Lake a County Road a Department, the person I talked to wasn’t sure of the shoulder gravel’s origin and said that probably no one would bother us if we snooped around the gravel lot that was gated.
I did shoot some images as the light was hitting the buttes and the lake. Unfortunately, the scenes were usually marred by new fencing and telephone poles. Even content aware fill in Photoshop may not eliminate these problems.
As we were tired, hungry and cold, we returned to the rest area to remedy our discomforts. The strong winds that were beginning to build awoke us at 2:00 am. They gusted around us although we were somewhat sheltered. I thought surely the pop top roof would blow off. We were still intact the next morning so our camper was tougher that we thought. The winds still made for a sleepless and worrisome night.
Day 18/Thursday/April 24:
The winds continued to howl gusting at high speeds so we braved the winds to pack up head north on 31 to connect with 97 and northward bound to home. After Silver Springs the winds did subside as we were out of the Summer Lake Valley. There was little traffic and the scenery was still scenic on Oregon’s Outback Scenic Byway. The pines glowed almost orange in the morning sun.
We passed by the road to Fort Rock and soon arrived at the signed road to Hole in the Ground. I had heard it was difficult to find but our Oregon Benchmark Atlas showed it to be just off the road. The road was gravel led but badly wash boarded from the speeders. We tried one small dirt road thinking it might be the one but it turned out to an access road for the power lines. We looked at the map again and noticed that the lines went across the gravel road before the road that appeared to be the one nearest the Hole.
We drove on this dry dirt road until a fallen tree blocked any further advances. It fell diagonally across our path as it was hung up on neighboring trees so a lower vehicle could have gone underneath. We turned around but I wanted to take a few pics of the pine trees and Toller needed walking. After Toller was walked and the fotos shot, Tony decided to change clothes. As I sat in the truck, an amazing event happened in front of me. A whole group of some type of grosbeak bird began to appear on the hood and all around the truck. I actually got a few close ups of a few brave ones who came right up to the windshield. One even perched on the outside mirrors. Tony saw them on the roof of the camper and noticed that they were eating all the bugs that stuck to the camper and truck. They even cleaned off all the bugs on the front of the camper cab over where they were plastered thickly. It was as if we were just in time for their morning break. We never did find the fabled Hole in the Ground. With a large pine forest surrounding it, it may be the Lost Hole in the Ground. Or Hidden.
Since we needed fuel and a few groceries we stopped at the Redmond Fred Meyer. Small towns with growing pains on busy highways are not my favorite places to be but since we were passing through, it was convenient. The people were not as friendly or helpful as they were along Summer Lake. Even the store personnel’s greetings were forced. It was quite a contrast.
Our escape route was to head east to Prineville via 126 to camp at the Prineville Reservoir State Park. We had met a nice ranger from there at Cascadia State Park last Fall so we wanted to see if she was right about it being a nice park. Just outside of Prineville we drove up to a vantage point for lunch called the Ochoco Wayside State Park. No bathrooms but a beautiful 360 degree view of the Prineville area.
After passing through Prineville, we turned south on highway 380. Another turn onto S E Juniper Canyon Highway led us to the state park. It had the amenities you don’t have when boondocking like flush toilets, recycling bins, hot and free showers, and a splurge for us: 30 amp power connection. Tony could have his microwave popcorn. A loop for tents was closed or we would have taken a site in there and foregone the power.
We chose site 10 C as it had a view of the lake. It was $22 for our site but we had been boondocking most of our trip and a nice hot shower was really welcome. The campground was starting to fill up with weekenders and a few sites and cabins were reserved. There is also a marina and one couple we met said they fish for catfish.
We walked around for awhile, had supper and went to bed early to make up for last night’s lack of sleep.
Day 19/Friday/April 25:
We talked to the ranger we had met last fall and she said she and her husband found Hole in the Ground but it was difficult to find. She actually remembered us. Another walk around the park and we were ready to depart. It actually snowed in the hills surrounding the reservoir.
One of my preflight jobs is to add more air to the Firestone Ride Rite Airbags, not because I am good at pushing buttons bit because it is on my side. Poof, nothing, no growling noise or any movement on the gauge. Tony thought it may have been the relay switch so he cleaned it off and checked for leaks, deflated bags and blown fuses. Nothing. So I found a NAPA store in The Dalles which was on our way so off we went.
Back to Prineville, 17 miles away, the way we came. The plan was to follow 26 north then swing east on 216 to meet up with 197 to The Dalles. 26 eventually leads to Portland but we didn’t want to even get close. When 26 meets up with 97 they become the same highway splitting in Madras. We split to head up 26. In Warm Springs we spoke with a nice a Native gal of the Warm Springs tribe whose reservation we were on. I had noticed another route up through the reservation which was shorter and looked more scenic. Place names followed by canyon always intrigue me. She said it was a nice highway, winding with ascents/descents but scenic and to watch for wild horses.
We took the E. 100 Road or BIA Road 3 through the reservation. Not much traffic which allowed us to view our surroundings at a slower pace. We saw horses, wild and domestic or maybe some of both. We did go through canyons and saw hillsides of coltsfoot and lupine. In one canyon, we saw some amazing purple blooms on a shrub clinging to a rocky wall. We even saw several hummingbirds foraging on the blooms.
There were several overlooks so we stopped at those to look for the horses which we did spot. Just outside of the reservation on a power line access road, we stopped for lunch amidst fields of lupine, coltsfoot and a few I didn’t know. We walked around and found several horse skeletons. This puzzled us as why would they be scattered here? Did they stumble on the rocky terrain or muddy areas? Or were they shot? This also saddened us.
After lunch, we traveled up to 216 then took a left onto 197 just before Maupin. Before we left to turn onto 216, we went through Wapinitia which had many old vehicles and buildings.
197 reminded both of us of the Palouse in Southwestern Washington. Rounded hills of patchwork colors in green tan and light green. This is farm country, the Tygh Valley. Off in the distance to the east we could see the giant windmills taking advantage of the wind that blows up the Columbia Gorge. The Tygh area gets the transmission lines. The road was very curvy and had it roller coaster ups and downs.
Soon we came down a grade and we arrived in The Dalles. The NAPA store was easy to find and luckily the relay switch was the issue with the air bags. I guess we need to keep a spare on hand as it failed on us in October 2012.
Interstate 84 or any interstate are not my favorite way to get anywhere but we were tired and our campground for the night was around 20 miles away right off 84. We could have taken 30 but it weaves it’s way all over so we chose the shortest line between two points. The rains started and we slowed down but everyone else sped by. On 84, the speed limit is 55 mph vs 65 for cars. This makes for lots of passing the big rigs which don’t handle the winds well.
The drive is beautiful as you can see the Columbia River and the green bluffs along both sides (Washington and Oregon). There were a few brave windsurfers on the River.
Our chosen campground, USFS Wyeth was closed. The website said May and I thought it was close enough. Wrong. So, we travelled along the Wyeth Road until we found an old road that had not been in use for some time. There was gravel under the grasses so we were able to pull in to get off the road. All the other roads in this area were closed to vehicle traffic. It is a beautiful forest with some large evergreens up to four feet in diameter at the base. I found some trilliums, many ferns, a wild orchid, Solomon’s seal and twin leaf among others.
We set up camp, ate supper and walked Toller up the road. He was mostly looking for green grass as we had been around rabbit brush and sage brush for most of our trip. It is good to see the greens of home again. All the new growth comes in all the shades and tints of green. It is refreshing.