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

April 12, 2020

Pine Creek

Easter!  Rachael startled me a few days ago by reminding me of how we spent Easter last year: by observing a small procession and enjoying a fine dinner at the only restaurant we could make a reservation for in Caltanissetta, Sicily.  It seems so long ago now, and I find it hard to believe how much we’ve seen and experienced in this last year.

Today is much less dramatic.  The big news from John Day today, such as it is, is the weather.  After a few days of beautiful warm days, we’re back on the edge of winter.  It’s still sunny but the temperature has dropped twenty degrees.  It’s back to freezing at night, and by midday it’s not even breaking 50 and with the wind it feels much colder than that.

Given that, we don’t have much of a ride planned.  We consider driving an hour downriver to Spray where it’s a thousand feet lower and several degrees warmer, but decide to just stay close to home.  I come up with a half ride: we’ll bike east of town a few miles to Pine Creek, and take the turnoff up Pine Creek Road to the end of the pavement; then back to the highway, and further east to Indian Creek; up and back its short paved section; and then home again.  28 miles, a bit of relaxed climbing.  I’ll take the lock in case we decide we want to take a hike at the end of the pavement on one of these side roads.

We celebrate Easter morning with a fine breakfast - French toast and scrambled eggs - and then loaf around the cottage until noon, giving the day time to thaw out a bit.  It’s still chilly when we start biking east on Highway 26, but we have the wind with us to moderate it.  Six miles later, about halfway to Prairie City, we reach the Pine Creek turnoff.

Eastbound on Route 26 at the foot of Pine Creek Road.
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Pine Creek is a small tributary that originates in the Strawberry Range and drains into the John Day.  There are three creeks and Creek side roads in a row, a mile or two apart: Dog Creek, Pine Creek, Indian Creek.  Each is paved for the first few miles, roughly to the margin of the pastureland before the road disappears into the Malheur Forest.  There’s enough distance on each that it’s worth biking up to the tree line and back.  Add a few miles, get up off the valley floor for a better view, see what there is to see.

The prevailing wind today is from the north.  It’s controlled by the contour of the canyons,  but once you rise up a bit there’s nothing blocking it.  We’re going straight south on Pine Creek Road, so we hardly notice the climb at all.  It’s perfect, thinks I, congratulating myself on my cleverness in crafting today’s ride.  We’ll get blown up this gradual climb, and then coast back down when we turn back.  Indian Creek should be just the same.

Climbing up Pine Creek Road, blasted uphill by the strong north wind.
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Up off the valley floor a bit, we get impressive views down the John Day toward the Aldrich Mountains.
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He’s really getting into his Easter breakfast.
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The pavement continues for another mile and a half, ending right about the tree line.
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Rachael never did see these deer. Six of them, lying around beneath the junipers not far from the road.
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They decide they need to keep their distance when I approach, and melt off into the junipers. I like this and the previous photos together - look at their ears! They’re all pointed in my direction, whether the deer are facing me or prancing away.
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Jen GrumbyThose are some big ears!

Are you sure they're not jackelopes?
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3 months ago
I’m sorry I didn’t get a side view of this lamb. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that was mottled tan like this. I wonder if it’s a different breed.
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Steve Miller/GrampiesThere are some specific breeds with mottled fleece (Jacob sheep being a notable one) but this mother is not one of those. Maybe the father?
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3 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Steve Miller/GrampiesOh, my gosh. I’ve never heard of Jacob Sheep, but from the photos this looks like one. More amazing though to me is that they may have four or even six horns. I’m going to have to I’ve back up there to get a better look and see if dad is around.
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3 months ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Scott AndersonJacobs are a heritage breed. Years ago when we raised sheep we had some Jacobs. The multiple horn thing is so weird and wonderful.
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3 months ago

Rachael is eating her lunch and waiting for me in the trees when I catch up.  We look at the coarse gravel beyond the end of the pavement, and quickly agree we aren’t riding further.  We turn back, and enjoy the two and a half mile coast back to the highway.  Before we start, I remind Rachael to keep an eye out for the deer, on the right side about half way down.

Except we don’t.  It’s cold!  The wind that was such a friend on the way up freezes our bones on the way back down.  Rachael doesn’t see the deer in this direction either, or much else - her eyes are streaming tears from the cold. 

When we get back to the highway, we quickly agree that we need a new plan.  Indian Creek is out for today.  We’ll just bike back toward town.  Rachael still holds out the thought that we’ll turn off on Dog Creek Road for a few more miles, but when we get there I nix the idea.  We’re fighting a headwind the whole way, and I can feel the heat streaming away with each mile we bike into it.  I’m getting cold, and if I’m cold I worry for Rachael.  She’s prone to hypothermia, and we really should just keep heading for shelter.

So, not even a half-ride today.  Just 18 miles.  Good enough for both of us though.  We put the teapot on the stove the instant we step in the door, and settle in for a relaxed afternoon sitting around reading our books, keeping warm, waiting for the right moment to break open that second growler.  We consider going out again for a short walk, but think better of it.

Down Pine Creek. We’re right at the pavement’s edge here. The highway and river are right at the base of the cliffs, a cold two and a half miles away.
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