My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Exploring Malheur National Forest

One of the neatest benefits of the western states is the amount of land that is in the public domain. Here in Harney/Grant counties, the government owns the majority of the land.  The Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service, and Fish and Wildlife all have huge parcels of land here.

Last weekend, the original plan I had with two of the interns was for me to go up SteensMountain, where I'm collecting wildflowers to dry for my bee display, on Friday and pay for a site for all of us. Then the interns would to up that evening and I would join them after I finished work on Saturday.  They would go back to the Refuge Sunday night and I'd come back on Monday night.

But plans changed and only Eric was able to go camping. So we decided to go explore Malheur National Forest. We did a little research and knew where some official camping sites were and also were some identified trails were.  I had to rush to get my clothes clean and my food box repacked.  It was tough, only having two working days between camping trips.

I decided to take off on Saturday - which means I'll work at least part of Monday and Tuesday instead. Eric and I got off about 7:30 A.M. and we drove to Burns and then started north. We headed to the eastern part of the forest. I put in the GPS locations of one of the sites we wanted to visit and and we were soon going from little road to another. We stopped for a little hike and for lots of wildflowers. Then we saw a sign to a fire tower and decided to got to it. The road soon became too rutted for the little Honda Fit and I had to back down the hill with Eric directing me around the washouts I couldn't see behind me. As soon as we go turned around, we noticed a field of wildflowers that were hosting a huge butterfly party. Even though the light was too bright, we couldn't resist taking lots of pictures.

One of the fantastic rock formations along Hwy 395
A  beautiful tiny tussy mussy made out of rosy everlasting, then abandoned on a bench along a trail
The first columbines I've seen in Oregon
Two pollinators

We stopped for a lunch of Mississippi Caviar in pita pockets that we ate while sitting on a shady log.  Soon after that our GPS directed us down a tiny road.  We soon decided that this was not going to go well for us and turned around and started back.  I checked my GPS settings and found that I had the "avoid unpaved roads" selected. Eric who is a computer expert, thought the computer didn't have data on the little unpaved roads so was taking us off the unpaved roads that were in its database.

A tiger swallowtail lapping up columbine nector
Finally after a very fun journey, we got to some of the campgrounds we had researched. We thought we could do better and kept driving.  At about an hour after hammock time, we came across a hunting camp on a little gurgling creek that went through a little meadow. We had plenty of trees for shade and a place to hang my hammock, so we quickly stopped and I hung the hammock and got a late start on my hammock time.

Our free camp site
This creek was a few feet downhill from my hammock and provided water music to the entire camp

We had to take each other's picture in this wonderful tall chair carved from a stump in the camp across the street from ours - it was a really comfortable seat

I could take a nap here
Then I set up my tent and we had a supper of redband trout, which had been given to us by Refuge researchers, and tabbouleh salad made ahead of time by me. By this time, the light was beautiful so we went off exploring again. We missed the unmarked turn to the Malheur River but finally found it.  On the other side were several people in tents and trailers.  There were also horses there. We started to cross the low water crossing but decided it was too deep for our car.  We saw the light would be beautiful in the morning so returned the following morning for pictures.

Oregon checkered mallow, Sidalcea oregana
A high view of the Malheur River
The next morning we packed up our camp, then had buckwheat pancakes and sausage before leaving for another day of exploring.  We both wanted to hike so we kept turning down smaller and smaller roads until we found a pretty place to hike.  I suggested that Eric go ahead as a tall, young guy is going to need to walk a lot faster than on old, short lady to have the same aerobic benefit. We ended up going to different places. He to a high, wet meadow where he found bog orchids and I to a meadow on a mountain top where I could look into the neighboring valley and watch the storm clouds filling it.
 We continued  home by a different route but still came through Burns where we picked up a few groceries.  Another great weekend.

On the current home front, the fire that started last weekend is still burning and is only about 30% contained. The temperatures are dropping and we have a twenty per cent chance of rain so I think the humidity is up a little as well.  But just as I was starting supper, the electricity went off so I got my camp stove out.  Just then Eric came over to tell me the electricity was out.  Apparently I have the only stove in town, so I ended up cooking supper for him and Barry, who is staying up here tonight. I had just precooked one sweet potato and had it sliced to bake.  I started by sauteing it and we each had a few pieces as a first course. Eric was about to make a frittata and had carrots and onions chopped.  So I sauteed them and then added a few frozen stir-fried vegetables and leftover rice plus an egg and seasonings. That turned out really good. Then I cooked one piece of redfin trout and three pieces of carp.  The wind came up and blew the frying pan off the stove twice while I was cooking the last two pieces. We scraped them off the deck and finished cooking them and they were delicious as well.  The electricity came back on as I was cooking the fish.

The boys will be back in the morning to eat buckwheat pancakes that have yeast in them along with breakfast sausages.

I've worked all day on processing bees and have two full boxes plus a pile of tiny bees that will take me about two hours to process in the morning.  I'm also hoping to collect more flowers and get them drying for the pollinator display and possibly to catch some butterflies and bees for the display as well.  There is a slight possibility that   I can get to the top of Steens Mountain tomorrow or Monday.  The last coyote willow is blooming up there but the fire has prevented me from getting up there. Willow blooms are extremely important to all the fly and bee pollinators and these in turn, feed the migrating warblers and vireos. So we really want it in the display.