Another year passes and The LovedOne remains unconvinced as to her photogenicity. Her attempts to out-hike the camera were working…until…I bought a telephoto lens! Ha! Another (probably temporary) victory for technology!
Spence Mountain hosts an evolving trail system on a 7,400 acre parcel of land on the west side of Upper Klamath Lake. It’s located 60 miles east of Medford and 15 miles west of Klamath Falls, making it readily accessible for a dayhike when trails in the High Cascades are still filled with snow. Although the trails are designed to accommodate mountain bikers, hikers, and trail runners, the emphasis is clearly on biking. The trail maps we found online (and at the trailhead) show both the built trails and (more faintly) some of the old logging roads that criss-cross the mountain. Some of these old roads are named and signed parts of the trail system.
Day 5: “Andy’s” Camp to Birch Creek Take-out (5,030 cfs)
The last day on the river is always bittersweet – sad to be leaving such a beautiful and peaceful place but looking forward (perhaps secretly) to a hot shower (particularly enticing after these colder weather trips). Since we’d camped farther downstream than planned, we got a later start than usual for the short run to the take-out at Birch Creek [RM 51].
Day 4: Upper Whistling Bird Camp to “Andy’s” Camp (6,820 cfs)
Some high clouds came in overnight, but brought no rain, so the day got off to an easy start. This was good, because today would be our longest and busiest one on the river. We started by passing through the towering cliffs of Iron Point Canyon, which are formed from erosion-resistant rhyolite.
Day 3: Pruitt’s Castle Camp to Upper Whistling Bird Camp (6,740 cfs)
The rain ceased in the night and we awoke to a day of gloriously dry clarity. 😎 The colors and shapes that form Pruitt’s Castle, which had looked drab under yesterday’s cloudy skies, lit up exuberantly in the morning light. After the baggage rafts left, we did a short hike over to view the Chalk Basin and Lambert Dome.
Day 2: Lower Fletcher Camp to Pruitt’s Castle Camp (4,850 cfs)
The rain ceased in the night, so today started out overcast but dry. We need the rain but life outdoors is just easier when you’re not perpetually moist. The day stayed mostly overcast, with occasional spots of almost clearing. Teaser sucker-holes. Happily, it didn’t rain again, and then only briefly, until we’d reached camp at Pruitt’s Castle [RM 24.5]. After breakfast, we floated down to Weeping Wall Springs to take on fresh, clear water (the river water is pretty silty), have lunch, and take a short hike.
The Owyhee River and its tributaries incise dramatic and awe-inspiring canyons in the sagebrush and grass-covered plains of northeastern Nevada, southwestern Idaho, and southeastern Oregon. These expansive plains and deep canyons represent some of the most stunningly scenic terrain on offer in Oregon.
In late 2015, as we were assembling our hiking to do list for 2016, it occurred to us that we had yet to at least visit all of Oregon’s 48 established and open federal wilderness areas. Two of the 48 (Oregon Islands and Three Arch Rocks) are closed to public entry (and would require amphibious operations even if they were open). Of the remaining 46, we had, as of 2015, hiked or visited all but 18. So we planned some trips to visit these. [Update: When we started this project in 2015, there were 47 wilderness areas in Oregon. One more, the Devils Staircase Wilderness was established in 2019 and we did a drive-by visit to it in 2020.]
Our quest to visit all of Oregon’s federally designated wilderness areas eventually brought us to the Hells Canyon Wilderness, which encompasses a total of 217,497 acres: approximately 83,811 acres on the Idaho side of the Snake River and approximately 133,686 acres on the Oregon side. Hells Canyon is the deepest river gorge in North America: approximately 8,000 feet deep measured from He Devil Peak (in Idaho’s Seven Devils Mountains) to the Snake River (in comparison, the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River is “only” 6,000 feet deep). This wilderness is a subset of the much larger (652,488 acre) Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, which straddles the border of northeastern Oregon and western Idaho and is split into two distinct halves by the Wild & Scenic Snake River. Recreational activities in Hells Canyon include fishing, jet boat tours, hunting, hiking, camping and whitewater sports (like rafting!). Much of these activities rely on the Snake River, whose pre-dam erosive capabilities essentially created Hells Canyon. The river is home to numerous fish species, an abundance of class II-IV rapids (some of largest in the Pacific Northwest), diverse wildlife, and miles of trail systems.
As we’ve noted in previous posts, we have a project underway to at least visit all of Oregon’s 47 established federal wilderness areas that we’d missed visiting in years past (less the two – Oregon Islands and Three Arch Rocks – that are closed to public entry). This time, in conjunction with a rafting trip through Hells Canyon (and, coincidentally, the Hells Canyon Wilderness), we went for short hikes in the North Fork Umatilla River Wilderness and in the Oregon side of the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness.
Yamsay Mountain is a huge, sprawling (and fortunately now dormant) shield volcano with a glacier-carved crater on its northeast side. It sits 35 miles due east of Crater Lake National Park, at the border of Klamath and Lake Counties. Yet, despite its height and size (it covers 75 square miles), Yamsay is barely visible above the surrounding hills and forests. What makes it interesting as a hike is its size: it’s #73 on the list of Oregon’s highest peaks, #15 of the peaks that share a history of Cascade Range volcanism, and #14 on the list of Oregon’s most prominent peaks (where prominence is the elevation of a summit relative to the surrounding terrain). All this listing makes the peak attractive to peakbaggers and view-obsessed hikers (like us). It’s also a popular winter cross-country ski route. And the recent placement of a geocache near the summit has attracted yet another group of visitors (Yamsay geocache). So it’s a bit obscure but not unpopular.