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Flora
Enjoying the Sun!



Joined: 25 Mar 2007
Posts: 1037 | TRs
Location: Land of many waters
Flora
Enjoying the Sun!
PostSun May 16, 2010 2:56 pm 
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Strawberry Mountain - This 9,000 foot peak looms up above the headwaters of the John Day River, near Prairie City, OR
Strawberry Mountain - This 9,000 foot peak looms up above the headwaters of the John Day River, near Prairie City, OR

On our return to Walla Walla, we decided to drive through the Southern Blue Mountains of Oregon, along part of the Blue Mountain Scenic Byway.  We followed Highway 26 to its intersecition with Hwy 7 at Austin Junction.  Then we climbed over a pass and dropped down into the valley holding Sumpter.  We were greeted by the hazy light gray smoke of a prescribed burn by the Forest Service.  Disheartened by the overwhelming air pollution, we skipped a long visit to Sumpter, which is an interesting old gold mining town.  There is a huge old dredge that mined gold out of the gravel beds of the Powder River.

Bridge on the beginning of the North Fork John Day River Trail that penetrates into the wilderness area for 23 miles.
Bridge on the beginning of the North Fork John Day River Trail that penetrates into the wilderness area for 23 miles.

Proceeding up Road 73, we passed another old mining town, Granite, and entered into the National Forest.  The Blues are have long ridges and deep valleys.  These Southern Blues are more gentle than the northern ones with the notable exception of the Elkhorns, a small granitic range, which would not look out of place in Montana.  Unfortunately the smoke prevented me from taking any photos of the Elkhorns.  We drove on, finally escaping the smoke by driving over another pass and into the drainage of the North Fork.

North Fork John Day River Trail follows the river for 23 miles through a wilderness area.
North Fork John Day River Trail follows the river for 23 miles through a wilderness area.
Glacier Lilies on the N. Fork John Day River Trail
Glacier Lilies on the N. Fork John Day River Trail

The North Fork John Day River has its headwaters in the western Elkhorns and flows in an easterly direction towards the main river.  A wilderness area of the same name has about 100 miles of trails in it, traveling through densely forested and rocky canyons and open summits.  Today, we were going to sample the North Fork Trail, which follows the river for 23 miles.

The chilly waters of the North Fork start in the mountains above Granite, OR and join the John Day River near Dayville, OR
The chilly waters of the North Fork start in the mountains above Granite, OR and join the John Day River near Dayville, OR
The North Fork John Day River country was an active mining area in the 1800's.  There are still mining claims in the Umatilla National Forest that are still being worked.
The North Fork John Day River country was an active mining area in the 1800's.  There are still mining claims in the Umatilla National Forest that are still being worked.

We hiked down this well-kept trail, following the lively young river through lodgepole pine, Ponderosa pine, Douglas Fir, Silver fir, and Engleman Spruce forest.  The Blues are well-watered and get quite heavy snows in contrast to the drier more arid regions of the lower John Day country near Dayville and Mitchell.

Deep drainage canyons and rugged country of the North Fork John Day River
Deep drainage canyons and rugged country of the North Fork John Day River

While this area was still in the process of melting out, we were able to go about two miles in, passing a few old cabins and rock walls built by Chinese miners during the gold rush in the late 1800's.  Many mining claims still are being worked throughout these mountains.

Glacier Lilies blooming in May, the Southern Blue Mountains, near Ukiah, OR, off the Blue Mountain Scenic Byway, Road 52, Umatilla National Forest.
Glacier Lilies blooming in May, the Southern Blue Mountains, near Ukiah, OR, off the Blue Mountain Scenic Byway, Road 52, Umatilla National Forest.
Meadow filled with Blue-Eyed Grass on the Blue Mountain Scenic Byway, Road 52, above Ukiah, OR
Meadow filled with Blue-Eyed Grass on the Blue Mountain Scenic Byway, Road 52, above Ukiah, OR

After the hike, we turned onto Road 52, which is part of the Blue Mountain Scenic Byway.  The road had not yet been cleared.  There was plenty of rocks, some lingering snow and other debris littering this narrow paved road.  We drove over high and yet higher passes before dropping down into the green meadows near Ukiah.  The Blues contain miles upon miles of burned over lodgepole pine, with the young trees coming up like tall grass.  The rounded ridges are punctuated by occasional rocky summits.  A web of secondary gravel and dirt roads criss-crosses these mountains.  Primitive campsites and trails are available for a variety of users.  The Byway follows the northern edge of the North Fork John Day Wilderness and provides access to its trails and streams.  It is an area of surprises, huge flower-filled meadows, vast vistas, miles of trees and few people.

One of the first spring wildflowers to bloom after snow melt, Blue-Eyed Grass favors damp meadows.
One of the first spring wildflowers to bloom after snow melt, Blue-Eyed Grass favors damp meadows.
Carey's Balsamroot brightens the stony meadows of the Blue Mountains near Ukiah, OR
Carey's Balsamroot brightens the stony meadows of the Blue Mountains near Ukiah, OR

This was an exploration trip.  We'll go back to the North Fork and to visit the nearby Elkhorns, Strawberry Mountain (near John Day) and other tantalizing destinations in this vast, underpopulated region of NE Oregon.

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Flora
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Quark
Niece of Alvy Moore



Joined: 15 May 2003
Posts: 14139 | TRs

Quark
Niece of Alvy Moore
PostMon May 17, 2010 7:19 pm 
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Flora -

What a great report and pictures.  Thanks, lady...

Love the field of blue flowers at Ukiah...

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"...Other than that, the post was more or less accurate."

Bernardo, NW Hikers' Bureau Chief of Reporting
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Flora
Enjoying the Sun!



Joined: 25 Mar 2007
Posts: 1037 | TRs
Location: Land of many waters
Flora
Enjoying the Sun!
PostMon May 17, 2010 7:28 pm 
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Thanks, Quark,

The best flower fields I saw were the huge meadows above Ukiah, near Drift Fence Campground, a primitive Forest Service CG on Road 52.  As you can see, the Blue-eyed Grass was blooming vigorously in the damp meadow.  And nearby, Desert Parsley and Carey's Balsamroot were decorating more rocky fields.  Such sights are a little hard to capture on camera so I just took it in.

BTW, I think I saw a Mountain Peony just coming into bud above the trail on the North Fork.  It sure looked like a small peony, with cut leaves.  Very pretty plant.  Here's a link for the fully developed plant:

http://www.siskiyous.edu/Shasta/env/flora/fp.htm

Great area to explore.

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Flora
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Quark
Niece of Alvy Moore



Joined: 15 May 2003
Posts: 14139 | TRs

Quark
Niece of Alvy Moore
PostMon May 17, 2010 7:34 pm 
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I would like to take a long, long road trip next spring and visit this area.  I've only driven around there once or twice, and didn't have much time to explore.

Seeing reports like this are the only time(s) I wish I were fairly wealthy or was able to endure an excrutiatingly boring job like at Boeing and had lots of vacation time on my hands to explore.

In short, Flora - you've ruined my evening and all my regrets are looming in front of me.

Thanks.

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"...Other than that, the post was more or less accurate."

Bernardo, NW Hikers' Bureau Chief of Reporting
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Flora
Enjoying the Sun!



Joined: 25 Mar 2007
Posts: 1037 | TRs
Location: Land of many waters
Flora
Enjoying the Sun!
PostMon May 17, 2010 7:36 pm 
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embarassedlaugh.gif

Urr...I would rather be in John Day than working at my job!

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Flora
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mike
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mike
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PostMon May 17, 2010 8:19 pm 
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Check out the South Fk JDR sometime.
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Flora
Enjoying the Sun!



Joined: 25 Mar 2007
Posts: 1037 | TRs
Location: Land of many waters
Flora
Enjoying the Sun!
PostTue May 18, 2010 5:44 am 
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Thanks, Mike.

I did look longingly up that valley leading away from Dayville and glanced at the map a time or two, but, alas, there wasn't enough time to explore this fork, too.  Maybe later!

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Flora
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Forum Index > Trip Reports > North Fork John Day River - Umatilla National Forest, NE OR
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