Long Creek - Northwest passages: riding out the storm - CycleBlaze

April 24, 2020

Long Creek

The day begins with a trip back to the home care center for a chat with my favorite wound nurse, Angie.  She’s all smiles when she unwraps my leg this morning.  It’s continuing to look better - the wound is shallower and narrower across, and the tissue looks healthy.  She scrapes off a few bits of unwanted dead flesh, wraps me up again, and schedules me for another visit in three days.  She also discusses our upcoming move to Pullman and has no concerns with it.  She says they can just electronically transfer our records to a clinic up there if follow-up is still needed.

It’s great that we’ve bent the curve and I’m steadily improving now, but I’m impatient by nature.  Citing a well-known treatment currently in vogue, I ask her if it might speed things up to just pour bleach on the wound or inject some, but she advises against it.

Today we’re driving north to Long Creek, the small town we passed through on our way to the Middle Fork ride to Galena we took a few days back.  That was such a beautiful drive, and I came away wanting to return and explore some of it by bike.  The town of Long Creek is situated at the bottom of a high elevation basin, surrounded by ridges and buttes on all sides.  I’ve come up with another strange shaped route for today - an inverted T, with three out and backs north, east, and west from Long Creek.  The idea is to explore the territory and get our miles in without straying too far beyond the basin into higher or steeper country.

In Long Creek, ready to roll. Cool and windy today.
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We park the car at the highway crossroads in the center of town, stare down a pair of yipping Pomeranians threatening us from safely behind their low mesh fence, and then start biking north.  We’re going this direction first, I tell Rachael, because it’s the hardest of the three legs.  Let’s get it out of the way while we’re feeling fresh.  She agrees that this is good thinking.

Actually though, it isn’t a particularly difficult ride at all.  For nine miles we cross a series of rollers and gradually gain elevation as we climb toward the summit of Ritter Butte, but it’s never steep.  We have a bit of a tail wind, which of course helps.  Until the end when we near Ritter Butte and enter its thinned out juniper woods, the ride is mostly through very wide open, treeless country that in places reminds me of the broad wheat fields further to the north above the Columbia River.

Northbound on US 395. Doesn’t look like an interstate highway, does it?
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The ride to Ritter Butte is a bit of a roller coaster, crossing a series of low summits and then dropping to the next creek as we slowly gain altitude.
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Looking behind us toward Long Creek before it disappears from view. The wooded ridge behind is Long Creek Ridge, unsurprisingly.
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Near the summit of Ritter Butte, the views open up and we can see the Blue Mountains to the east.
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We conquer another mighty summit. Rachael’s turn to shine.
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It’s too cold and windy at the top to stop for lunch, so Rachael decides to wait until someplace lower and more sheltered.  She drops off the ridge and heads back toward Long Creek while I lag behind with the camera for a bit.   A few miles later I find her huddled low to the earth by the side of the road, quickly downing her lunch.

If we continued on, it’s a sharp drop down to the Middle North Fork. We’re not going there, but we can at least peek over the edge.
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It’s a yellow bellied marmot! This is the only one I saw, but we heard them several places biking along rocky formations like this. Their call is a single chirp, almost bird-like.
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Rachael stopped for a snack so I biked to the summit of the next roller and then waited until she was on the road again before dropping off the other side. Here she comes now.
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The bank swallows have returned. It reminds me that we need to bike out Prairie Summit Road before we leave John Day to see if its roadside colony is occupied yet.
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Returning to Long Creek.
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Back in Long Creek again, I tell Rachael that I erred in not bringing a lunch for myself today.  In spite of my protein-heavy sausage and egg breakfast, I’m starting to feel low on gas.  I dash in to the surprisingly well stocked country store and re-emerge with a large bag of mixed nuts and a banana.  While inside, I wait in line behind another shaggy, gruff-looking character and listen as he alerts the cashier to some threatening activity in town.  Be careful, he said.  There’s a biker gang in town.  Two of them, pretty fierce looking crowd, just outside the door.  And then he flashes me a gapped-tooth grin and leaves the store.

Leaving town to the west now, we bike along Route 402 - the road to Monument, Kimberly and beyond.  We’ve ridden a lower stretch of this road before where it follows the John Day, but up here it’s much more contoured.  We’re going as far as the last divide before the road drops steeply toward Hamilton, the next settlement to the west.  

As we leave town, I look at the ride profile and realize I erred earlier today.  This is the most challenging section, and the one we should have ridden first.   We’ve got a five or six hundred foot climb ahead, into a headwind.  I relate this sad news to Rachael, who is not amused.  You get an F, she unkindly shouts at me.  Ingrate.  Let her pick the routes next time!

Leaving Long Creek again, this time westbound toward Monument and Kimberly.
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Pretty empty country, but there’s a ranch here and there.
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After about a five hundred foot climb, we level out on a high plateau. Nothing to impede the wind here.
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We’re starting to see wildflowers here and there, but they’re still fairly isolated. There was a string of these scattered beside about a hundred yards of the road today, but I don’t recall seeing them anywhere else.
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Bill ShaneyfeltMight be bitter root/balsam root?
http://biology.burke.washington.edu/herbarium/imagecollection/taxon.php?Taxon=Balsamorhiza%20serrata
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1 month ago
Horseshoe calligraphy.
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At the top, I stop to break out my bag of mixed nuts and take in the views, while Rachael heads back toward Long Creek again.  Her plan is to get ahead a ways and then double back again to pick up a few extra miles.  I sit long enough to give her a good head start and then follow her downhill and downwind. 

The ride back goes quickly, and gives us maybe the best miles of the day.  It’s finally feeling warmer - the wind is with us now, and the sun is finally starting to break through.  We’re out of time though - when we get back to town it’s after four already, and we’ve had enough.  Even though we’re shy of 42 miles, Rachael’s thoughts are drifting toward dinner now.  We drop the third leg of our inverted T, settling for a reverse L instead, and load the bikes back in the car for the long drive back.

We experience an alarming moment on the way home, descending from Beech Creek Summit.rounding a corner, we’re shocked to see a family of four mule deer standing still in the middle of the road.  I barely have time to brake for them, and we’re lucky that no one was coming behind us.  They quickly exit stage left, leaping over a low fence one at a time - hop, hop, hop, hop. A near catastrophe that resolved as just a charming scene.

Not really a lunch stop, but I break for a few minutes here at the high point and sit on that rock on the right for a brief snack.
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Another isolated species. I wouldn’t have noticed this delphinium at all if it wasn’t growing next to that rock I was about to sit down on for a roadside snack. I nearly stepped on it.
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Bill ShaneyfeltLarkspur? Several species in the area.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delphinium
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltAgreed. Thanks. I forgot about them. Surprisingly, I didn’t see them included in my reference to Oregon wildflowers, but obviously we have them.
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1 month ago
Rail fence with lichen.
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Jen GrumbyReminds me of Oscar the Grouch.
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1 month ago
Bill ShaneyfeltLichen. My image search turned up wolf lichen as a fair match.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letharia_vulpina
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltThanks. I needed that.
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1 month ago
Dropping back to Long Creek again. From this high up we can see far east into the valley. Dixie Butte is the snowy blotch far ahead.
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Now the sun comes out! And, Rachael seems to have made a new friend. This little yipper was pretty agitated when we started out this morning, but is much calmer now.
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Video sound track: Bolero Sonambulo, by Ry Cooder and Manuel Galban

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Ride stats today: 40 miles, 2,900’

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Jen GrumbyMaybe next time you see Angie you could ask her to open up the wound a little and then give you 20 minutes of UV therapy in the tanning bed.

Being a wound care center, I'm sure they have a few tanning beds.

Just be sure to spray the wound with Lysol before you lie down.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyOr if Governor Brown would just declare tanning salons an essential service I could see to it myself.
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1 month ago