Columbia Plateau Route – Day 1: 12 miles

Getting to the trail will be relaxing.

My speed of operation this week has been hovering near overdrive, but the promise of meadowlark serenades and long deep days of not talking are on the horizon, and I keep going. All the hustle is a very good and welcome state given that I’m less than two months into my life as a self-employed expert in a very small niche of the world (woohoo!). I’m following my own lead, and that took me to the banks of the John Day River, and I’m so grateful.

Getting to the start of the Columbia Plateau Route at Cottonwood Canyon State Park was aided by my longtime friend Cindy. I drove up to her place in Portland the night before last, and we caught up over tacos and margaritas. In the morning, she drove me to the park, and I was delighted when she ended up hiking in four miles with me… even 1,000′ up the first climb. You rock Cindy! Thanks for your help!

The weather was due to be consistently warm and sunny the next week or so, and the river had already started shedding some of the snow from its upper extremities. It was flooding baby, the question would be how much? I was hopeful that a swollen river wouldn’t affect my plans too much, I had a parkraft for crossing that river, no matter how much extra water was coursing through. The riverside walking though…how would that be impacted?

No matter, it was happening, and I would deal with it when I had to.

Cindy left me high on a rocky outcropping after we enjoyed snacks… or rather I left her….walking away into the tall green grasses. There were flowers! Oh yes! These warm days would be a boon to the blooms, and I had them as my steady companions as I contoured around the fingers and folds of the river basin.

When I was walking high above the water, the wind turbines could be seen along the horizon. When I dipped to the river, it was rimrock and hot, rocky slopes. And brown flood water.

Things got a little spicy when I traversed over pillars of basalt on a scree/grassy game-trail bench 50′ above a roiling eddy of snow melt. I was thankful that I wasn’t too nervous about this kind of exposure. It was an acceptable level, and aided by the fact that Scott had been here before and told me the line goes. I probably wouldn’t have done it otherwise.

At the bottom of the Ruggles Grade I found myself in the land of unusually large sagebrush. The knarled ancients towered over me and I proceed to scratch my knees and thighs real good. Pants would be the better choice here, but I’m a devotee to my purple rain adventure skirt and tall snow gaiters. That left my knees to the mercy of the sun and poky sagebrush, but that’s how I roll.

The dirt roads I’m following out here are really more like hints of dirt roads. The vegetation, though deserty and scrubby, is thick and has done a good job of filling in the grades…all except for the man-made constructed rock berms that lined the tread as it steady climbed or descended a ridgeline. Those were a permanent reminder of industry, even if only until the next rockslide took them out. I was grateful for them. The animals were too. These roads were now wildlife through-fairs, and the plentiful tracks and poop were soild evidence of that.

As this was my first day and I was feeling a bit soft and out of “hiking all day every day shape, ” I took things slowly with the following mantra ticker-tape tracking through my mind:

Go slow to go fast.

This was a hike of intention, and I needed to be intentional with each step on the rocky, remote terrain.

When there were still a few hours of daylight left, I stopped for camp high on a ridge, nestled in a little grove of waist-high sagebrush. It was a good spot…all the cow poop confirmed that.

While my hiker hunger can be minimal on some first days of a hike as my body adjusts to the sudden change from all day computer sitting to all day desert bushwacking, I ate gleefully and with gusto on day one.


4 thoughts on “Columbia Plateau Route – Day 1: 12 miles

  1. Beautiful country, She-ra! It’s neat that you didn’t need a rain fly on day 1. Enjoy the flowers and hike safe. Have you seen any ticks?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s