Monday, June 22, 2009

Through Hells Canyon to Home

We said goodbye to the RV park and it's pastoral setting ...

... and headed up the mountain toward Hells Canyon. On the way we passed a beautiful creek...

...with fast moving waters.

The Musemobile looked happy in the cool green of the mountain.

We finally reached the overlook of Hells Canyon.

Hells Canyon is a ten-mile wide canyon located along the border of eastern Oregon and western Idaho in the United States. It is North America's deepest river gorge at 7,993 feet and the most important feature of Hells Canyon National Recreation Area.

The canyon was carved by the waters of the Snake River, which plunges more than a mile below the canyon's west rim on the Oregon side and 8,000 feet below the peaks of Idaho's Seven Devils Mountains range to the east. The area is inaccessible by road.

I had to climb down a little to get this shot of survivor foliage growing from the side of a rock cliff but it was worth the shot after almost sliding down a 500 yard rock slope.

About a mile farther up the road we reached the official overlook of Hells Canyon.

The earliest known settlers in Hells Canyon were the Nez Percé tribe. Others tribes visiting the area were the Shoshone-Bannock, northern Paiute and Cayuse Indians. The mild winters, and ample plant and wildlife attracted human habitation. Pictographs and petroglyphs on the walls of the canyon are a record of the Indian settlements.

In 1806, three members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition entered Hells Canyon along the Salmon River. They turned back without seeing the canyon. It was not until 1811 that the Wilson Price Hunt expedition explored Hells Canyon while seeking a shortcut to the Columbia River. Hunger and cold forced them to turn back, as did many explorers who were defeated by the canyon's inaccessibility. There remains no evidence in the canyon of their attempts; their expedition journals are the only documentation.

The overlook was like something out of The Sound of Music with a field of flowers. I will have a special blog next of the flowers we encountered on this trip because there were just too many to include and keep the blog at a workable size.

The canyon is a beautiful example of the power of water to carve these beautiful contours in the rock. I've seen the Grand Canyon's majesty and it's hard to believe the grand canyon at 6,000 feet deep is 2,000 feet shorter than the drop at Hells Canyon.

In the distance is the Seven Devils Mountains of Idaho.

The Seven Devils are notable peaks in west central Idaho in the Hells Canyon Wilderness. They are above the east bank of the the Snake River, which forms the Idaho-Oregon border. The mountains are part of the Rocky Mountains, and the tallest peaks are 7900 vertical feet above the adjacent Snake River, with few trees in between.

The main difference between Hells Canyon and Grand Canyon is that Grand Canyon is a sheer drop while Hells Canyon, from this vantage point seems more gentle and sloping with many areas of foliage.

The view is unsurpassed for the vastness of the gorge.

Great open areas of wilderness are abundant with wildlife in Hells Canyon Wilderness. Black bear, cougar, elk, deer, mountain goat, chukar, and bighorn sheep are common. There have been reports, though unverified, of grizzly bear in the Wilderness. Reintroduced wolves in Idaho have at least passed through the area, and Peregrine falcon, bald and golden eagles can also be seen.

The over look is accessible from Joseph, Oregon to the north and the town of Halfway to the south... you can see the drive is worth it for the views.

There were plenty of bikers out the day we drove to the overlook and it's worth noting that on the way to the overlook we saw 8 cars 2 camper trucks 4 motorcyclists. At the overlook we saw a maximum of 15 people. It was hard to believe such a magnificent place was not crowded. Its a reminder of how crowded most of the places we go really are and how much that distracts from the placid feelings we really should have in nature.

Between The overlook and Halfway we ended up in the middle of a cattle drive on the two lane highway. The cowboy waved and smiled as her passed our Musemobile where I was scrambling to get a picture... I got that picture and this one in the rear view mirror. I think they may have been from Pine Valley Ranch.

Much of the heritage of this valley is based on ranching. The Pine Valley Ranch stretches from the Snake River to Richland, Oregon on approximately 27,000 deeded acres and over 100,000 acres of leased lands.

We are a commercial Angus Ranch and run 1200 cows with an expected calf crop of over 1100 per year.

Later I got a shot of a corral with two head cattle (that's cowboy speak for two cows in a pen) along the road.

Then a nice surprise was the town of Whitney. Whitney was named for a pioneer in the county, C.H. Whitney. The community of Whitney had a post office from 1901-1943, the year I was born.

I like barbed wire and fence posts so this shot was a foregone conclusion.

Whitney is an unincorporated community, also considered a ghost town, located in Baker County, Oregon, United States, on Oregon Route 7 southwest of Sumpter. It is on the North Fork Burnt River, near the Blue Mountains and Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

Rails of the Sumpter Valley R. R. reached Whitney Valley June 1. 1901. Originally a lumber company town, Whitney grew to become the main head of the Stage Lines to mining and cattle towns such as Unity, Bridgeport and Malheur City.

Logging railroads were built in all directions out of Whitney during the next 20 years. Nibley Lumber Company set up a large sawmill south of town in 1911... loggers "Daylighted" the large stands of yellow pine nearby.

I just love the shots possible in ghost towns...

... and wonder how these houses are still standing after all these years.

The swallows must love building nests under the eaves of this old house.

The sign to the left of the door says "Garage Sale" upside down. I wonder if this piece of wood was purchased at a garage sale.

Someone does live here, probably to watch the herd of cattle. They are hard to see in this reduced size picture but there are solar panels and a satellite dish next to the house.

What a beautiful cow, it reminded Sharyn of Elsie the cow from the old commercials.

At one time over 150 people called Whitney their home. When the railway was abandoned in 1947, the town closed its doors.

The sign under the yellow "Slow" says speed enforced with a 30-30. You can bet I was going about 3 mph through here.

As we approached the town of John Day we had a great view of the Strawberry Mountain Range.

There was a rest area/information kiosk in the form of a Conestoga Wagon so I got a shot of the old and new style wagons together.

They did provide steps for climbing up for pictures. Being the saps that we are we set up the tripod and a 10 second timer and got a picture.

After passing through John Day we were approaching the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument and stopped at the Mascall Formation Overlook. In the distance was "Picture Gorge", named for Native American pictographs painted on the canyon walls, is 6 miles northwest of Dayville at the intersection of Route 26 and Oregon Route 19. The Sheep Rock Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, including the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center and the James Cant Ranch Historic District and museum are jut through this gorge. The peak in the distance is Sheep Rock.

This is part of the Mascall Formation.

These deposits were subsequently covered by successive falls of ash from volcanoes to the west and from the much closer Strawberry volcanics to the east. Alternating between the tuffs – consolidated volcanic ash – are layers of ancient soils and stream deposits that provide evidence of a dynamic floodplain. Many of the vertebrate fossils from the Mascall are found in close association with a prominent layer, the 15 million-year-old “Mascall Tuff.”

The deposits of the Mascall strata began when the flows of lava, known as the Picture Gorge Basalts, ceased.

The John Day river flows through the gorge and is a fast moving river.

Sharyn sat in the Musemobile as I walked around taking pictures in picture gorge.

I loved the layers of color marking time and events forever.

There was a blast from the past as we approached highway 97. It was an Arctic Circle fast food place like the one we used to go to all the ime when we lived in Ogden Utah.

After we passed through Bend Oregon we had this sight. It looked like a volcano venting. Of course it was only a cloud passinf by but I loved the shot.

No Scrabble

Quote of the Day ~
“I would rather wake up in the middle of nowhere than in any city on earth.” ~ Steve McQueen quotes (American Actor, 1930-1980)


Anonymous said...

"The community of Whitney had a post office from 1901-1943, the year I was born."
So, you were born in 1901 then?

Anonymous said...

I love your site. i live in Asotin, WA which sits at the gates of Hells canyon. So I am blessed enought to enjoys it beauty everyday as do my children. U ahve to say though sometimes we take it for granted. Looking at it through your eyes reminds me of how blessed we are. Next time you should try driving up in the canyon for our side. Literally you are at the bottom an looking up. Take care. Kmpalazzo, Asotin, WA


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