I’ve broken this report up into 3 different posts. Part 1 is of my hike at Munra Point in the Gorge and for me is symbolically the beginning of my trip even though the Gorge is like 3 hours from where I live in Silverdale Washington. Part 2 is all about the road trip. The route I took and places I stopped at along the way. This part, part 3 will be about my hike at Juniper Gulch in the Owyhee Reservoir area and the subsequent drive home.
This third and last day of my trip, I packed up from my excellent camp site at Succor Creek and headed over to Leslie Gulch to do some hiking. Not sure where exactly to go or what to expect, and after driving the length of Leslie Gulch looking for a place to hike, I finally stopped at the Juniper Gulch Trail. There were lots of cars at the trailhead and I had to park alongside the road since the lot was full. There were a couple of big families piling out of their cars getting ready to hike in. I stopped a couple of older gentlemen that were getting ready for their hike and asked them if they knew how long of a hike Juniper Gulch was. The one guy replied he had never been here before, while the other said it was as far as you wanted to take it. He also said he usually went as far as where it opens up into a big sort of amphitheater. With this newly acquired knowledge, I was on my way.
There were lots of folks out on the trail. Lots of families with kids in backpacks walking slowly up the trail, taking in the views. I made pretty short work of the first mile. The scenery on the trail reminded me very much of the Thunder Mountain Railroad attraction at Disneyland. I eventually found my way to the big amphitheater the old guy told me about. I didn’t find it to be an amphitheatre, but the closed in canyon walls parted into a larger opening of the gulch itself. If you look at the map below, the amphitheater is pretty much in the center of the map.
Hiking beyond the amphitheater, the trail becomes narrower. I passed some folks that said there was a beautiful meadow ahead and inquired if I was intending on hiking to it. They said they had hiked to it years before but now with young children in tow, including a baby in a backpack that they had gone as far as they felt comfortable for the day. They felt that I should push on the see the meadow, so I did just that. Well, the meadow which wasn’t too far uphill was just a bunch af these dried up flower stalks that I’m sure were pretty in season, but right now being dead and dried up, they were kind of ugly. I kept going on the trail through this little meadow that I didn’t deem worthy of a single picture. The trail got narrower still. Up ahead I heard voices and saw a couple of folks coming down. These guys looked like seasoned hikers compared to the rest of the people I saw. I asked them what was ahead and they said, “oh don’t stop! If you can make it to the top of the gulch there is a saddle up there with a fantastic view”. They mentioned that it was a little steep and not much of a trail but you could follow the trampled down grass in a few places to find your way up. Challenge accepted!
The going was steep in a few spots but nothing too extreme. Frankly I was more worried about ticks and snakes than anything else. I finally made it to the top and man, what a view! I could see from where I was standing that there was another saddle on a ridge to the right, directly NE of where I was standing. I decided to check it out because “I need to see what is on the other side” I muttered to myself. Another 10 minutes or so and I was at the other saddle. Once I gained this saddle, and yes the views here were amazing as well, I saw that the little peak to the north was easily attainable. From the other saddle it looked daunting but from here it looked like a walk up. In five more minutes I was standing at the top. The view included seemingly all of SE Oregon. OK, maybe not all, but a very large chunk of it for sure.
The Owyhee Reservoir was also visible in the distance. I heard a sound in the distance and upon investigation I spotted a band of wild horses on a peak to the SE. They weren’t much more than specks on the hillside but I could here them whinnying from here. The wind must have carried the sound further than normal. God! What amazing country! I sure was getting a lot more out of this short hike than I expected. I was getting even more out of the whole SE Oregon Road trip in general. After taking several pictures and Just enjoying the view, I decided it was time to call it a day and head back to the car.
This 365 degree video view starts from a look at the saddle I came from which was the top and end of Juniper Gulch. Juniper Gulch itself dropped down to the left of the saddle. For best results, watch in fullscreen and high-def.
The way back down was uneventful except for a snake that decided to cross the path in front of me. It looked to be about 3 1/2 feet long but had no rattles. Sure startled me though. I ran into the family that I passed on the way up whom I was now refering to as the “meadowlarkers” and chatted them up a bit. There were excited to hear that I went all the way up to the top and they vowed when their kids were older they would make the journey themselves someday.
Soon I was back at my car and enjoying a tunafish sandwich courtesy of the Starkist tunafish company. Just rip open the pouch and squeeze it on to the bread. OK, they didn’t supply the tunafish but they sure make it easy, tasty too. 3 or 4 pouches and a loaf of bread and your lunches are all figured out for an extended weekend of being a road warrior. After my sandwich, it was “hit the road jack”. I was out of room on my CF card in my camera and had no desire to hang out any longer to see shots I couldn’t take. The drive home was a long one and I had to fill my car up twice to make the journey. My first fill-up was in Ontario Idaho for $3.76 per gallon. The day before, I forked over $4.76 per gallon in Frenchglen Oregon, a whole buck per gallon more. Do you think the NW needs to work on its refining capabilities? I arrived home that night around 12:30 am. The drive was thankfully un-eventful except for a couple thunder-showers in Oregon. I really enjoyed this trip and hope to get back to SE Oregon Again soon. Would love to see more of the Steens Mountain area and visit and explore more of the Owyhee.