Sunday, November 11, 2018

Signs of Winter

It's too early...for winter, that is. We've had snow on Halloween various years, but this year it was rain that stopped right in time for trick-or-treaters to begin their fun evening.  The following week, the weather turned cold with lows in the 20's at night and highs in the 40's during the day.  We knew that elevations above 4000 feet had snow, but it wasn't on the valley floor yet.  It was my idea to take a drive at 2 in the afternoon, thinking we would drive into the mountains a short distance and then go back home.  Just 13 miles west and then north from home on Hwy 204 over the Blue Mountains is Summit Road, #31--"National Forest Primary Road (suitable for passenger cars)", according to the Umatilla National Forest map.  The road runs south in the mountains ...the range that includes Mt. Emily, a 6000+ mountain that dominates the west side of the Grande Ronde Valley. Eventually, the road turns southwest and finally exits at I-84, several miles out of La Grande.

"Suitable for passenger cars" is a little generous; I've seen cars up on Mt. Emily, but we always drive a pickup.  It didn't take long to find snow; in fact, we were in snow on Tollgate before we turned off of 204.  But it's also the end of elk season, so the main road and the spur roads have all been traveled.  There were campers and tents in various locations that are in view of the road.  Our "short drive" turned into "the whole enchilada."  Above 4000 feet, there was snow and it was cold.  Our "short drive" turned into 3 hours, extended partially by stops for photos.  At the end, I was really happy that we had made the trip.  No doubt, it won't be long before the Summit Road will be snowed in, and will be accessible only to snowmobiles.

 Summit Road at the intersection with Hwy 204
 The scenery was immediately wintry, although there were still fall leaves on some of the trees.

  The yellow in the landscape are the tamarack trees

 At one point, the Grande Ronde Valley is in view...seeming so far away.  Mount Harris is across the valley.
 Much of the road is "interior," but here it is close to the edge with the Grande Ronde Valley below.
 This tree is one of my favorite landmarks, in any season, but this was my first view of it in snow.
Descending from the "summit" and the snow, the road winds through fall-like landscape and down to the valley.

Monday, October 29, 2018

A Different Direction

Although I live in NE Oregon, I'm not in "the corner."  Wallowa County, on the other hand, IS in the corner...I grew up there.   What we consider the real "corner" of the county is actually to the Wallowa Lake.  We always say "up," but I guess south should be "down." Anyway,  Wallowa Lake is an absolute jewel tucked up against the amazing Wallowa Mountains aka the Eagle Caps. The Wallowa River comes out of the mountains, runs through the state park, and into the lake. It runs for more than 50 more miles northwest through Wallowa County until it joins the Grande Ronde River on the Wallowa-Union county line.  Back to the origin:  Wallowa Lake.
 View of the lake from the foot (north) end

 The Wallowa Lake Highway runs along the east moraine, the remains of a massive glacier.  (I had a college professor tell my class more than 50 years ago that it's "the most perfect moraine in the world."  Over the years, the moraine has been the subject of preservation discussions, and so far, has been protected from development.
 At the south end of Wallowa Lake is the Oregon State Park.  Entrance to the high mountains is obvious here.

 The south end of the lake (north end of the park) features a forest of deciduous trees. The park itself is forested with evergreens.
 View from the south end of the lake.
The Wallowa River runs through the Wallowa State Park and into the Lake where it starts its journey.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Orange (with some yellow) is the New Black

Wow!  Orange was everywhere out north this year!  Aspens that have always been yellow were bright orange. I had never seen them that color before.  These photos were taken on private land and land within the Umatilla National Forest.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Traveling North Again

Just north of where I live is part of the Umatilla National Forest; roads wander here and there, crossing county lines.  Recently, my husband and I took a drive which was essentially a "loop" into some territory I hadn't seen before.  (I've lived here almost 45 years, but there are still places I haven't been.) Although the temperatures have cooled considerably, it is still very dry.  But there is something special about being able to drive "into the woods."

This canyon must have a name, but I couldn't find it on the map.  It's fairly deep. 

I love the look of young Tamarack (Western Larch) trees; they are bright green in the fall landscape. Soon, they will turn yellow and drop their needles, unlike any other conifer. 

The road looks smooth...but it's gravel and and it's rough in many places. 

A terrific view to the south: Mt. Harris (5000+ feet) on the left, Mt. Emily (6000+ feet) on the right, and Pumpkin Ridge in the right center.  This land formation separates Indian Valley, where I live, 
from the huge Grande Ronde Valley to the south. 

Lookingglass Creek is the home of the Lookingglass Fish Hatchery

 The Grande Ronde River, which is very low at this time of year. 

From the river to Cricket Flat is a gradual climb.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Hot and Dry...Sunflowers are Blooming

I don't remember exactly when our last measurable rain was, but it was long ago!  We had a cold, wet spring , a late snow, and then it ended.  Area rivers are historically low, most likely caused by spring rains that melted mountain snows early.  And now it's and dry.  Like much of Oregon, we're having days of temperatures in the 90's and even 100 degrees.  Photography is a challenge, but I keep trying to find something to capture.  To keep this blog active, I'm featuring what I saw on a recent evening in the Grande Ronde Valley next door.  (Notice:  I'm obsessed with sunflowers this time of year; the flower is grown for its seed, and this year there are huge fields on the east side of the valley.)

    Sunflower field under smoke-filled skies....fortunately, the fires aren't in our area this year, yet!

    Gray's Corner Road runs north-south on the east side of the Grande Ronde Valley.
    Basalt formations near Mt. Harris