Columbia Plateau Route- Day 7: 12.9 miles (56.9 total)

It was a full day.

I had it all: incredible views, easy walking, cliffed out river-side navigating, three packraft ferry trips, and thousands of feet cross country hiking to my next Wilderness Study Area: Pat’s Cabin…a little known piece of land just down the road from the Painted Hills and across the street from Sutton Mountain (last big climb of the trip).

The weather held off for the morning, and luckily enough, I was ridgewalking on top of the world.


But by early afternoon, the heavy clouds that were sitting just over my head let loose with a little rain, then some thunder. It made the walking a gooey mess of 10 pound mud boots, but the rain felt good. I ducked down under my umbrella for one particularly heavy shower.

So, we covered the weather…lets talk about the river.

It was lovely to walk down to the water again. These are long dry spells without reliable water sources! And it would be again after this next stretch. After my last crossing today, I wouldn’t meet the John Day River again, only Bridge Creek, an important tributary, and – you guessed it – beaver habitat.

Today, my river adventure looked like a three-mile walk along the north shore, then a ferry across to Burnt Ranch boat launch. The dry-land portion of the day involved a 2,400′ climb and another afternoon of heavy hiking with a dry camp.

Ok, the river.

I started my walk and soon came to the first of the cliffed-out-puzzle sections. I followed game trails with success…I’m getting better at these, I thought.

The next one was not so easy. I made it halfway through and looked at the next bend in the river with dismay. It looked daunting. I looked at my map. I knew exactly where I was. I have camped on the other side of the bend many times…it’s only 2ish miles from the Burnt Ranch boat launch, and is a good first camp on the water if you make it out for a quick weekend float of the Wild and Scenic section.

So, I decided in the spirit of a route, that I would go my own way again, and packraft across the river to a nice calm eddy and exit, walk across a flat along the public/private fenceline, and launch on the other side for said camp I had just mentioned. From there, I would cut across the flat to my last launch of the trip and across to the boat launch.

The river was fast and flowing. And wide!!! Oh, so wide now. I had no idea about the cfs, but the rain certainly had it going up.

I launched all three times, and even with an upcurrent bit of eddy, it still deposited me about 200 yards downriver despite my best paddling efforts. My breakdown whitewater paddle is so much more efficient but heavy.

So it was: inflate boat, float, pack up, walk, inflate boat, float, pack up, walk, inflate boat, float, packup, walk, lunch.

I took advantage of the picnic table at the deserted boat launch to recoup and try out the skippy squeeze tube of peanut butter I had been carrying. Not bad! Of course, I’m a week into an arduous hiking adventure, and I can feel the generator of my body buzzing and burning off some of my extra “fuel.”

Last time packing up the packraft

Then hiking uphill in the rain with mud boots. It’s all good though, the landscape seems incredibly healthy…after the mud section, the ground was covered in microscopic succulent plant life, the bunch grass was very bunchie, and the big picture was one of life and growth…the mud boots were short lived, thank goodness… the ground was too rocky for mud in many places.

I stopped short of the last big climb, another 1,000′ up in less than a mile. I’ll save that for the morning when I have used up more of my water and the food bag weighs a bit less…

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