My stay in Payette now past, I headed into eastern Oregon with my eye on the prize of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). The two lane highway (US-20) parallels the North Fork of the Malheur River for much of this trip (“Malheur” is pronounced mal-HUE-r and is from the French meaning misfortune).
I made a stop near the top of Stinking Water Pass to stretch my legs and noticed a dirt road heading south. The map calls this route “BLM Access Road” and showed it heading very near where I hoped to end up on this trip some 22 miles south down this road.I drove a short distance south on this road and saw some potential storm clouds in the region. I almost had myself talked out of trying my luck, but in the end I thought “why not?” and continued south. The country was wild and beautiful and did not disappoint.
Halfway to my destination I encountered signs of previous passages during wet weather with deep ruts in the road, but being now at the point of no return, I continued south. As I moved further southward, the vistas continued to impress. There were several light rains that had me a bit nervous, but I soldiered on. Then at about mile 20 the skies opened up and it began to rain in earnest. My worst fears realized, I now had to struggle to stay on the road. The road surface now turned into a slick snotty mess. Locking the drive into 4WD it was still a challenge to keep it between the ditches. Move too fast and momentum might not keep you on the road, too slow and you risk bogging down. One mile later the storm passed and I was now descending off the mountain. It was a great adventure, but Sami was now carrying a heavy layer of mud. There was another coin-op car wash in our future.
Images I collected on this day were Belding’s Ground Squirrel, Brown-Headed Cowbird, Common Nighthawk, Horse, Rose-Breasted Grosbeak, Vesper Sparrow, Yellow-Headed Blackbird and scenery can be seen below: