Prairie Summit Road: the next eight miles - Northwest passages: riding out the storm - CycleBlaze

April 7, 2020

Prairie Summit Road: the next eight miles

If you’re like me, you must have been sorely disappointed to have the ride stop so soon.  What about those other miles still ahead?  Why did Rocky get to see them, but not ourselves?

Well, we came back resolved to repeat this ride someday, and continue on further.  My short-term memory isn’t what it used to be though, so let’s do it now before I forget.  OK?  We’re doing an exact repeat of yesterday: drive to Prairie City, bike out Prairie Summit Road a way, return to the car; after which Rachael will bike another 13 miles back home while I drive back.  The same, except I plan on biking further today.  I’ll zip through the miles you’ve haven’t seen yet, and then slow down for a look at the next eight miles.

Actually, that’s all a lie.  Our real plan for today was to start biking from home, heading west to Mount Vernon and then north on Highway 395 along Beech Creek.  We were all set to go - my bike unloaded from the car, gear assembled, ready to roll - when we realized I’m missing a bike glove.  After hunting everywhere we could think of, we concluded that it must have been left behind in Prairie City when I loaded Rodrigues back in the car at the end of my short ride.

Gloves are important, and Prairie City is close enough that it’s worth driving back for it; and we may as well go today to improve the odds of it still being where I presumably dropped it.  So, load everything back into the car and drive back to Prairie City, hoping for the best.  We’re in luck:

It’s still here! Yippee!
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As expected, and as Rachael reported yesterday, Prairie Summit Road continues to be a beautiful ride far beyond where I stopped yesterday.  Today I make fairly fast work of the miles I rode yesterday, stopping only a couple of times.  Five miles from the car Rachael is still in sight but then finally disappears around a bend in the road as the valley starts to narrow.

Here we go again!
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Another view of the Strawberry Range, under a bluer sky. It will be interesting to see how fast the snow recedes - we have nothing but sun in the forecast for the next ten days.
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I’m not sure of this one, especially because it’s such a poor shot. A Grasshopper Sparrow?
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Bill ShaneyfeltDid a bunch of searches, and it most closely matches grasshopper sparrow. But it has that dark streak under its bill, which was in no photos I found.
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4 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltI think it must be too. The only similar ones aren’t really in range here.
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4 months ago
One last look at the range, from the same spot I stopped yesterday.
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We’re about seven miles into the ride now, and just past where I turned back yesterday. The valley is narrowing and Rachael is no longer in view.
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Some old out buildings, along the upper John Day.
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About ten miles south of Prairie City the valley narrows still further. In a few miles we’ll leave the pasture lands and enter Malheur National Forest. Also, we’ve lost our blue sky as we approach the mountains.
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First snake of the year! Surprising, this high up - we’re above 4,000’ and there’s snow on the ground just a few hundred feet higher. We’d better rescue it from the road.
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Bill ShaneyfeltCommon garter snake. Your area they are more colorful than here in southwest Ohio.

https://www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/living_with/docs/LivingWSnakes.pdf
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4 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltYup. Quite common in the northwest, at least as far as snakes go any more. When I was a kid I used to collect them and keep the poor things as pets in a fruit crate with a mesh screen.
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4 months ago
frank jellisonIt is great to see you back on the bike but please NO MORE SNAKE PHOTOS. And when you see one don't pick them up. If they are stupid enough to lie in the road and get hit by a car then let them do so and decrease the population. I'm not a snake lover as you can tell. :) How big was the one in the photo?
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4 months ago
Scott AndersonTo frank jellisonOh, Frank. I’m so sorry. I think the last time I found a snake in the road I promised to post a warning at the top of the page. I’ll try to remember next time as a courtesy to folks with ophoidophobia.

As far as this little guy is concerned though, it’s a totally harmless garter snake. As I was telling Bill, I kept them as pets as a child. We’re really fortunate in the Pacific Northwest, as our only poisonous snake is the western rattlesnake. You can’t mistake them.

And as prudent as your advice might be, I’m sure I’ll keep trying to rescue any living snake I find in the road, even rattlesnakes (though I’d find a very long stick to nudge it off). There are too few snakes left, and they need our help.
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4 months ago
Scott AndersonTo True. I’d stay away from crocs and gaters for sure; likewise iguanas and lizards in general - as if lizards would ever let you get close enough to touch one. They’re naturals at social distancing.

And, I’ll stay away from rattlers now too. Rachael read my comment, threw a fit, and made me promise not to scoot rattlesnakes off the road. An easy promise anyway - I’ve never seen a live rattlesnake in the road.

Without context, you haven’t got any way of judging how big this snake was. I always zoom in to fill the frame so that those that care to look can get the best view of them.
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4 months ago
frank jellisonTo Scott AndersonOphoidophobia? I don't know anything about that. I'm just afraid of reptiles in general. I'll bet that if you were biking in th the Flordia Keys and saw an alligator in the middle fo the road you woudn't pick it up by the tail. :) Actually I once touched a garger snake at a petting zoo. One of my daughters was with me and I didn't want to pass on my fear to her. Unfortunately she was very young and she woudn't remember it so my show of bravery was for nothing. BTW that snake looked a lot bigger in the photos.
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3 months ago
At first I thought he might be dead, he was so inert. He came to life though when I picked him up by the tail and set him down on the gravel shoulder. Maybe he was just in a cold-induced torpor. Tour stats so far: live snakes, 1; dead snakes, 0.
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Bruce LellmanGlad to see you have finally started counting snakes on your tours.
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3 months ago
We’re in Malheur National Forest now. I stopped to look at the John Day, now no larger than a modest mountain stream, when this Belding’s Ground Squirrel stirred just below me. This is turning into a pretty decent day for wildlife. Three vertebrate subphyla: birds, reptiles, and now mammals!
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Interesting cliffs across the river. We’re up at about 4,300’ now and starting to see patches of snow beside the road.
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Fourteen miles into the ride, and I’ve started watching for Rachael around every bend in the road.  I knew she would go on further than this, but I always breathe a bit easier when I see her up ahead.  Biking through a mixed conifer forest the last few miles, I’ve started wondering if cougars are ever a problem out here.

She looks fine though and will be doing really great once we find a spot to pull off the road and commune with the trees for a minute.  That done, we head back for Prairie City.  It’s a fast ride, gently downhill the whole way and a bit chilly until we lose elevation, get out of the woods and back under the sun again.  It’s remarkably quiet - I don’t think a single car passes me for at least the next ten miles.  Annoyingly, one passes right as I’m trying to take a photo of a shrike and it scares the bird off before I’m quite done with it.

Rachael stays in sight for quite a ways, but of course eventually disappears when I stop with the camera.  I won’t see her again until I’m halfway back to John Day in the car, when I pass her and pull off ahead on the shoulder to wait to confirm she’s OK.  She is, and almost doesn’t recognize me or the Jetta.  It’s Rodriguez that first gets her attention, and then me shouting out the window.

Such a beautiful road, and worth a yet another pass.  There’s still another eight miles of pavement to explore before it dead ends in the mountains.  And, I still want to come back when the bank swallows have returned from the south.  Always something to look forward to.

So, pretty good!  28 miles, twice what I rode yesterday, and starting to edge into a real ride.  I’m in for removal of my stitches tomorrow and an assessment of my condition.  Hopefully I’ll get a green light to continue on as I’m doing.

The day’s one disappointment comes at the end.  My growler from 1188 Brewing Company is empty so I’m forced back to the commercial fare available here until the brewery reopens for a few hours of growler sales Thursday afternoon.

About fourteen miles into the ride, Rachael returns. She went another two miles beyond me and turned back at elevation 5,000’. Nice to know that the road is clear this high up.
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Nature break beside the John Day River.
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Same spot, different wheels.
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Dropping out of Malheur National Forest, we have a nice look at Dixie Butte in the Blue Mountains up ahead.
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A different take on the same buildings we looked over on the way up.
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In the nursery.
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A California Quail! This is turning into a really special day.
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And a shrike! A Loggerhead, I think. We’re too far south for it to be a Northern Shrike in this season.
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Driving back to John Day, I can’t resist pulling over for a last look at the Strawberry Range from a different angle.
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