Travelin Tiger Archive

June 10, Ochoco Mountain OR to Home

Today we completed the trip by way of Smith Rock State Park. This is the only one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon we had not visited. Ron was hoping that this was the one he could knock off the list in favor of Leslie Gulch. And while it was close we decided that it would have to stay on the list.

June 9, Wallowa Lake SP to Ochoco Mountain OR

Today we began heading west with a plan to visit the Painted Hills National Monument. Oregon is running a tourism promotion touting the seven natural wonders of Oregon. The Painted Hills are one of the seven wonders, as is the Wallowa Mountains, The Columbia Gorge, the Coast, Crater Lake, Smith Rock, and Mt. Hood. We are having a debate with Ron saying that Leslie Gulch needs to be in the list, but Ton saying that of the six we have seen none of them should be dropped. Tomorrow we are going to visit Smith Rock which will need to be spectacular or Ron is going to drop it in favor of Leslie Gulch!

We arrived in the evening at Painted Hills and the light was quite nice for pictures and for viewing of the colors. We have been here many times and the colors and the formations are quite beautiful.

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Tonight we are spending the night in a Forest Service Campground on the crest of Ochoco Mountain. Nice and quiet surrounded by 100 foot plus Ponderosa Pines.

June 8, Union OR to Wallowa Lake SP

Today we headed over to Joseph. Our plan for the day was to do as much of the Hells Canyon Loop as we can. We knew part of the road was closed for construction and the detour was closed due to snow, but we knew we could make it to the Hells Canyon overlook. When we stopped to fill up the guy at the gas station got our hopes up when he told us the road was open. We had our doubts but we were going to head that way anyway. The drive up the mountain is on a Forest Service Road which has pavement about one step ahead of gravel.

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As usual the scenary was spectacular and quite different than the terrain we had been driving thru earlier in the week. The Wallowa Mountains get quite a bit more moisture than the Hart and Steens Mountain, and the Owyhee’s so this had a much more of an Alpine feel with evergreens up to the tree line as opposed to the high desert feel of the other mountains. Also, the wildflowers were out which is always a treat for Ton who really loves the mountain wildflowers.

We stopped at the Hells Canyon overlook for lunch and a view of the canyon. Hells Canyon is on the border of Idaho and Oregon. The canyon was carved by the Snake River and is actually deeper than the Grand Canyon. It is not as beautiful because the sides of the gorge are not quite as steep so the views into the Canyon while spectacular do not match up with the Grand Canyon.

After lunch we headed on to the loop, and as we guessed the guy at the gas station was wrong and the road was closed just past the turnoff. We headed back to spend the night at Wallowa Lake State Park near Joseph Oregon. It is a well developed State Park on the lake which is also the grave site of Chief Joseph of the Nez Pierce Tribe.

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June 7, Lake Owyhee SP, OR to Union OR

Today we spent the day at the Eastern Oregon Livestock Show. It is a combination of a 4H fair, horse racing, and Rodeo. I have always wanted to visit a small town Rodeo. Union with a population of 2120 meets the small town criteria. It seemed like the whole town was out for the Rodeo and everyone looked like they were having fun.

There was quite a bit of action with horse races mixed in with the rodeo events. The rodeo is a kind of minor league for the big time rodeos you see on TV.

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After the rodeo we payed a visit to Barley Brown’s Brewery to fill up the growler. We also bought a nice half-growler to use for water, but first we will have to finish the beer that was included.

June 6, Steens Mountain, OR to Lake Owyhee SP, OR

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Today we started up Steens Mountain thinking that the loop to the top of the mountain. But when we got to the next gate above our campground we discovered it was still closed. So fortunately we headed towards the Owyhee’s early. It was about 150 miles to the beginning of the road that would lead us into the Owyhee’s. This drive is one of the most lonely we have been on. I commented yesterday about the empty roads, but todays road OR-78 is even more empty. There was about a 50 mile stretch of this road with no buildings at all, and maybe only two crossroads to indicate there may be people around.

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We arrived at Succor Creek Highway about noon which is the beginning of the Succor Creek-Leslie Gulch Backcountry Byway. Calling the Succor Creek Highway is a bit optimistic, it is actually a mix of 1.5 lanes of good gravel, and 1 lane of dirt for the 50 plus miles. When you include the 30 mile roundtrip into Leslie Gulch it makes for a pretty good dirt road drive. However, it is worth every bit of the effort.

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Ton was very excited about going to Leslie Gulch, I did not know really what to expect. In a word Leslie Gulch is fantastic. The rock is volcanic and has been shaped by water and wind into fantastic shapes. Ton took a bunch of pictures that she does not think does the place justice.

We took a chance and drove to the other end of the road to Lake Owyhee State Park, thinking it would be empty like the other parks this trip. We were wrong! There were two fishing tournaments going on and it looked like we were going to have to drive back out, but at the last minute someone said that at 7pm the handicapped spots were available if they had not been claimed, since it was 6:50 we ended up spending the night in a nice flat space with all of the amenities.


June 5, LaPine OR to Steens Mountain OR

Today was a busy day. We drove from LaPine to Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge. The title is interesting as it is set up to protect the Pronghorn, but Pronghorn are not Antelope, though they are frequently refered to as Pronghorn Antelope. We arrived at the refuge about noon and drove the roads hoping to spot some Pronghorns. After driving for about two hours we spotted three single Pronghorns and a couple of Grouse.

After several hours and only three Pronghorn to show for our efforts we decided to drive over to Frenchglen for the night. As we were leaving the Refuge we suddenly came upon about 50 or 60 Pronghorn. Ton took some nice pictures.

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Southeast Oregon is really amazing to me for how empty it is. There are miles and miles with great vistas. Sometimes you can go 45 minutes without seeing another car on the roads. Despite the emptiness, the roads are really good whether they are paved or gravel. Everyone tends to stress the risk of driving in these empty lands, but it does not take much common sense to stay out of trouble out here.

June 4, Home to LaPine OR

Not much to talk about today. We drove over to Redmond to Larry’s RV to pick Scout up after some warranty work was complete. After a quick trip to Costco to stock up on food we headed over to Crux Brewery to check out some beers and then to LaPine State Park for the night.

Tomorrow we are off to Southeast Oregon to Hart National Antelope Refuge.

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