Archive for April, 2009

Spring Break Part II: Owyhee Country

Day 4

Leaving the comfort of our cozy yurt at Wallowa Lake, we hit the road. Destination – the middle of nowhere. Based on looking at maps and some light googling, I decided we should head to Leslie Gulch, a BLM wilderness study area near the Owyhee Reservoir. The Benchmark Atlas description of “unique rock formations, some towering more than 2000 feet above the canyon floor” sounded intriguing. Apparently the rocks are filled with holes formed by escaping volcanic gasses. Raindrops started to fall as we got closer to the area. We set off on a 25 mile long dirt road to the area and hoped for the best.

Succor Creek

The whole area we are passing through is open rangeland. If I were a cow, this would be a mighty fine place to be. At least now, in the lushness of spring. They looked pretty happy, and there were tons of cute little calves, often on the road. The land usually doesn’t fare as well. Thankfully, this area didn’t seem overgrazed, as is so often the case.

The pronunciation of Owyhee is interesting.The name of the river

is from the older spelling of “Hawaii”. It was named for three Hawaiian trappers, in the employ of the North West Company, who were sent to explore the uncharted river. They failed to return to the rendezvous near the Boise River and were never seen again. Due to this the river and its region was named “Owyhee”.


A sign informed us upon entry to the gulch that camping was allowed only at one designated campground at Slocum Creek. Once we got there we were pleasantly surprised. The campground was perfect, even relatively luxurious. Completely empty, located in an enchanting area, a brand new bathroom, garbage collection (!), and free!!

Slocum Cr Campground

Each site even had a (certainly for sun protection) shelter, so we could camp comfortably in the rain. Yay! Here I am glassing the hillsides for bighorn sheep (no luck) The herd is over 200 animals.


Day 5
The next day we took a hike up a side canyon called Juniper Gulch. If you are a 9 year old boy this is the ideal kind of trail.

D in Jgulch

This is the view back toward where we came.

Juniper Gulch

Later, back at camp, the boy displays his shell collection which has been growing since he started it in Hell’s Canyon.


Cool news! A new 517,000 acre wilderness area was just created on the Owyhee River as part of Obama’s omnibus bill March 30th, 2009. Right on!

That’s all for now, more to come.

    End of part 2

In the next installment: A place to die: The world of graves and fossils
Go to Part 1


Spring Break – Far Eastern Oregon

Day 1:
Only departed seven hours later than we planned. Woo hoo! We had reservations for 3 nights in a yurt at Wallowa Lake State Park in NE Oregon, which is about 9 hours away from home. It was a beautiful day for a drive and the snow was perfect for throwing at Snoqualmie.

We decided we couldn’t make it the whole way the first day and stopped in Yakima. It was the boy’s 9th birthday and he wanted to celebrate by eating “dinner” at McDonalds. Amazingly, we couldn’t find one (!!!!!!!) except the one inside WalMart. Ugh. He mainly wanted the play area so instead we went to (ick) Burger King. I wanted to try to get us a good hotel deal using the magic of the internet, but where does one find wifi in Yakima? There was a very fancy hotel next door to BK so I strolled into the lobby, made a beeline for the business center, got onto priceline, bid 45 bucks for a 3 star hotel, printed out the confirmation, and we had a room at the Red Lion for the night. Over at the hotel I checked us in, then smiled inside as the folks behind me in line were quoted $90. Booya! We are unpacking our stuff when we realized the boy had no suitcase. Uh oh. I think that was my booboo. I had spent way too much time at home carefully packing it for our 8 day trip. It’s 8:00 and Hubster was about to pass out. He pulled an all nighter the night before our departure finishing a map submittal. So, happy birthday my son, lets go shopping at WalMart and get you an 8 day wardrobe. We said goodnight to daddy and got to hang out a hot crowded Walmart (as close to heaven on earth as I can think of) for a couple hours (one hour shopping and playing wii and one hour in line – or at least it felt like that long.) Thankfully we had shoes and outerwear packed separately so we didn’t have to buy that.

Day 2:
Made it to our new home away from home. Super nice, with beds, couch, lights, heat and electricity. In fact, I think this thing has more outlets that our whole house.

inside the yurt

The lake was formed when a glacier receded and left these massive moraines. I’ve never seen anything like it.

wallowa lake
frozen lake

While daddy napped, the boy and I had some fun throwing rocks onto the frozen lake. At one point, boy threw a huge rock which busted through the ice, releasing a bunch of brown slime. It would be better described as an explosion than a release actually. Gunk shot out in all directions. eeww. Shortly after this the boy wanted to go swimming. It was probably no more than 60 degrees out. Oh, yeah, and the lake was, uh, frozen.
Me: “What, are you crazy?”
Boy: “I’m a Bellinghamster, mom, I’m not from California like you and dad”

Day 3:


The Wallowas are this amazing range that kinda sits off by itself, and has peaks in the 8000-9000 ft range, and supposedly kicks ass (in a good way) according to books I’ve read. The Eagle Cap Wilderness is up there, and I want to come back in the summer and check it out. It is really out there: nowhere near a city and not on the way anywhere, either. If you try to drive any farther east your way is blocked by the Hells Canyon on the Snake River.

cool barn

This is cattle country. this trip was all about the cow. We saw them every day, everywhere we went. Grazing away. I’m amazed I only got one picture.

We got out in the snow at Salt Creek summit. I got my skis out and got a great workout in some marked (but not groomed) nordic routes. Hub and boy didn’t make it very far past the parking lot. There wasn’t really a snowboard slope. Here I am posing at the biggest hill around after I worked up a sweat kicking and gliding.

salt creek summit

It was a warm day, according to the forecast the warmest and sunniest we could expect for the rest of our trip, so we decided to lose some elevation and try to interact with a body of water. We were drawn down to the Imnaha River. What I didn’t anticipate was that unlike where we live, there are private cattle ranches inside or adjacent to most of the the public lands, and those barbed wire fences everywhere effectively cut off public access to the rivers. There’s the Imnaha way down there.


We are near the boundary of Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. The road started to get really sketchy after a while so we decided not to go too far into these canyons. We had to get home to our yurt and make dinner. Sadly we did not get to put our feet in the water.

To be Continued

[See a whole bunch of pics at my (cough) facebook page (cough)]

The internet is not a race

More details about the minutia of my life to come, when I can get motivated. In the meantime, here is something else.