Tuesday, August 9, 2011

1300 miles

Here in Mount Shasta we don't lack for mountain scenery. And there's much more to be had within 3 or 4 hours' drive. Nevertheless, 1300 miles is the distance we covered (round trip) on our 4-night camping trip last month. Bubba loves a road trip above all else, so for his birthday I told him he could take one--5 days only, fit tightly between our work commitments. He had the destination picked almost immediately: Steens Mountain. Now, Steens is on his short list of places in the West that are gorgeous and little-traveled and that he has yet to see. And it's only 6 or 7 hours away, so it was perfect for a short trip.

Only problem: this was a record snow year. The week before our slated departure date in late July, Bub called to check on trail conditions at Steens. No go. He was disappointed but started checking into other options, only to have repeated conversations with Forest Service personnel along the same lines: No, you can't get up there yet. Any other year.... After inquiring as to just how many hours I could stand to drive in a day, he almost decided on the Wasatch above Salt Lake City, but then discovered it was to be the weekend of Pioneer Day, the biggest outdoor recreation holiday in Utah. Too crowded.

So, after much map-reading and more phone calls, he settled on the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho. Neither of us had seen much of that state before, and we surely didn't do more than scratch the surface on this trip! But it was enough to give us a healthy respect for Idaho's beauty and huge areas of wilderness. Bubba is excited to think all that is only 11 or so hours away.

We left the boy in the care of his generous Grandma Suess, and I'm sure he had even more fun than we did. Meanwhile we snuck out early on Saturday morning and headed north to Bend. Bubba wanted to make the most of his road trip by covering different roads on the way there and back. So after hitting Costco and REI, we turned east....

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Painted Hills, John Day NM. Terrible midday light...

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...but still fantastic.

We spent the first night in the Strawberry Mountains, near John Day. We hope to come back for a longer stay so that we can do more hiking and see these larch trees turn golden:

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Strawberry Lake. There are mountain goats up on that rock!

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Varicolored penstemon

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The Strawberries from Prairie City--the prettiest part of Eastern Oregon I've seen.

We arrived in Stanley, ID the following afternoon and were wowed. The Sawtooths were strongly considered for National Park status, and it's not hard to see why, with its jagged, precipitous granite rising above huge lakes:

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Redfish Lake

We camped...

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Minimalist (but free!) campsite right on the Salmon River. (Bub made that stove table.)

we hiked....

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El Cap Alice Lake

we picnicked...

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We spent early mornings shivering and waiting for the light...

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mt mcgown trees
Mount McGown from Stanley Lake

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The Northern Front

sawtooths gate

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Can you tell I'm undecided when it comes to composition? Please help!
Which of the three above do you like best?

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Stanley has a reputation as the coldest spot in the lower 48,
with winter lows reaching 40 below, and chilly summers too.
We were lucky it was just a little frosty.

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It's my belief that cows improve every landscape. Unfortunately these were on the
wrong side of the road. They were unfazed by the chill.

Of course, I spent much of my photographic energy on the flowers:

wildflower collage 1

wildflower collage 2

It was a lovely time. Hope to see you again soon, Idaho!

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