As far as I could tell from the times when I woke up, it rained all night, and there was still hail on the ground in the morning – it hadn’t all melted. I broke camp and continued on Rt. 42. After a few miles, I stopped and cooked some oatmeal right along the edge of the road, added apples and yogurt and milk, and then some coffee mixed with cocoa and cream. I hadn't seen any cars or hunters. (It was bow season for deer. Rifle season would open in 10 days.)
The vast, empty land
Eventually I was back on good blacktop. The condition of the blacktop was much better. There were no other cars on the road. At a T intersection about 3 miles east of Paulina, I turned left toward the towns of Supplee and Izee, but I saw no towns.
Before Izee, I stopped and climbed a fence (don’t tell anyone) and cut a perfect walking stick from a clump of willows that grew along a creek bottom.
A little further along, I turned south and then saw what must be the headquarters of the Izee Ranch. There are several buildings that look well built and well maintained. They all have new looking red metal roofing. The fencing and corrals look top notch also. I hope the latest trend toward meatless burgers doesn’t hurt their business.
More miles before a pit stop
A few miles south of the ranch, the road (FS 47) turned to gravel, even though the map indicates it’s paved. The road is marked FS 47 and it goes through a section of Malheur NF. Along this section, there seemed to be a lot more little unmarked side roads than in the Ochoco NF, and plenty of places for hunting camps, but I didn’t see anyone. After perhaps 10 miles of gravel, I was on blacktop to Hines and Burns, where I topped off the gas tank and had some stew for lunch at the Thriftway store.
From Burns I headed south on Rt. 205, which is a good road with passing lanes on the hills. It’s 59 miles from Burns to Frenchglen. The general store was closed. The old hotel was open, and I had a cup of coffee and got a free map. There is a gravel loop road from Frenchglen that goes up to the 9400’ level on Steens Mt.
The first 8 miles or so are managed range land. The habitat is mostly sagebrush, but there are also thousands of quaking aspen trees. This surprised me, because a few years ago, when driving through the Umatilla NF to the north, the aspens were fenced off and there were signs saying they were protected and endangered and being close to wiped out by deer browsing them.
The aspens were starting to turn fall colors. They grow in clumps or groves because they propagate by sending out runners from their root systems, similar to alder. Aspen thrive at high elevations, and their bright yellow and orange colors are a beautiful contrast against the dark green firs that also do well at altitude.
Camping at Fish Lake C.G.
Light rain kept the dust down on the gravel road. It is a solid roadbed, but like most gravel roads, there is quite a washerboard effect in places. That can be a teeth-rattling experience, and it’s twice as bad when pulling a trailer.
I found a nice campsite at Fish Lake. The charge was usually $16, but had been reduced to $8 at this late time, and half price again with a Golden Age Card. There were only two other occupants, and they were luxuriating in RVs.
Time for a hike; no trail
There were a couple hours of daylight left. The rain had stopped for a while, so I got the tent set up, and then went for a hike. I wanted to get a taste of the country. I carefully used my compass to head on a south-southwest course overland up through a tangle of aspen to a steep lava rock ridge and then across open sage rangeland. I love the scent of the sage, especially if you take a pinch and crush it in your fingers.
Setting a return course to Fish Lake, I went all the way around the lake and back to my tent. On the north side of the lake I saw a couple beaver lodges.
It was none too warm, so I built a fire. There's just something about a fire. The warmth and light cheers the soul. There was some more light rain, but not heavy enough to get wet until about 8 PM, at which time I crawled into the tent and read until 8:30.
Day three coming soon...high desert, dipping into Nevada and then on to the southern Oregon Cascades and the PCT.
In the meantime, it's time to order your Altai Skis (skishoes). Winter's coming. Go to our Store Page.