01-Oct-2000 -- The Surroundings
This confluence is located in the area of the Umatilla National
Forest, near the North Fork John Day
River Wilderness not far from US 395, in the Western foothills of
the Blue Mountains. The area was once a gold and silver mining area in
the mid 1800s, and was established as a wilderness area in 1984 by the
Oregon Wilderness Act of 1984. The confluence itself is located on a
steep hillside less than half a kilometer from a forest road.
I left Portland on a Saturday for eastern Oregon amidst rainy
conditions that I hoped I would leave behind as I went east. But I was
in and out of moderate to heavy rain as far east as Pendleton, where I
turned south and began climbing into the mountains. Along US Highway
395 heading south I found long stretches of grazing lands and rolling
hills, some steep enough to have snow fences, and then the forested
mountains at the three to four thousand foot level. A short detour down
a gravel road along the river showed me that the confluence was
definitely going to be in the high country, and another stop at USFS
road 3963 about 1km from the confluence showed without a doubt the
confluence was on a steep hillside well above the river and road.
A Night Alone
It was late afternoon now, and I was not going to be able to easily
climb up to the confluence and back down before the cloudy skies became
too dark for comfort -- I really dislike hiking in the gloom.
Fortunately I found a map of the Forest Service roads that showed a
clear and easy, if roundabout, drive up into the area to a road above
the confluence. So I would drive in, check out the area, camp overnight
and attempt the confluence the next morning. Parked out on the hilltop
at 4000 feet that night in the complete darkness I experienced
alternating heavy showers and spectacular star-filled clear skies.
The next morning I drove the dirt road towards the confluence and
began my hike with clouds so low I was looking horizontally at them.
But then, I was at just over 1200 meters. The rest was all downhill,
300 meters east and 200 meters down. In the sunlight and broken low
clouds the views of the river valley and the surrounding forest were
spectacular. I reached the confluence, perched on a sunlit grassy open
area, after a meandering hike around rock outcroppings and dense brush.
I loitered, knowing that the hike back up would be a killer, so I took
lots of pictures, drank a lot of water and rested.
Of course, as I started back up the intermittent showers returned,
hiking on an exposed hillside. I zigzagged carefully up the and
occasionally took shelter and rested in small copses. I was soaked from
rain and sweat when I crested the hill and saw my truck, tremendously
relieved. Once I got in, stripped off my wet, muddy top layer and
turned on the heat I was in heaven, having reached my goal and ready to
head back into town for lunch.