The South Fork - Northwest passages: riding out the storm - CycleBlaze

April 29, 2020

The South Fork

Today is our last riding day here in John Day.  Last night I proposed to Rachael an out and back ride east of Seneca along the southern edge of the Strawberry Range.  She wasn’t enthusiastic about it though, and suggested that I just go alone while she biked up and down the highway again.  I went to sleep with that on my mind, and woke up again around midnight with a much better idea: a ride west along Izee-Paulina Lane, the road we followed on our beautiful ride up to the source of the Silvies River a few weeks ago.

I can’t believe I almost forgot about this ride.  It’s one I’d scoped out a couple of weeks ago, right after we got back from that first Silvies River outing.  Somewhere along the way it fell off the mental map, but I’m glad it came back - it looks like it should be great.  We’ll drive just past the divide at the head of the Silvies River, park the car on the shoulder somewhere, and head west.

The weather is interesting today.  It’s already nearly sixty degrees when we get up, and mostly overcast.  It is supposed to just keep heating up during the day with the threat of scattered thunderstorms beginning mid-afternoon.  We get an earlier start than usual to improve our chances of getting our ride in without being felled by a lightning bolt.

We should be fine here on the shoulder of this empty road far from town, but who ever knows? Hopefully that creep from Mount Vernon hasn’t tailed us here with mischief on his mind.
Heart 1 Comment 0

We park the car and start biking west, dropping at first along pretty Lewis Creek.  We’re following another T-shaped route today, with the three branches coming together at Izee, about seven miles west of here. After following Lewis Creek for a couple of miles we diverge from it, cross over a low rise, and continue dropping along Antelope Creek to Izee.  These hilly miles are beautiful ranch country, and mostly the property of the vast Inshallah Ranch.  There are the usual cattle grazing around, but also many beautiful, multi-hued quarter horses milling around.  I see that Inshallah Ranch, with its 12,000+ acres, 55+ miles of springs, elegant ranch house and assorted other structures, private airstrip, big game hunting opportunities - is for sale, all offered for just over $9 million.  So there’s an opportunity for the CycleBlaze community - we could pool our resources and start a world class cycling destination.  We could even add a golf course or two and bring in goat caddies!  We could compete with both the Silvies Valley Ranch and Missoula at the same time!

Starting out west along Izee-Paulina Lane, we begin by descending beside Lewis Creek for a few miles.
Heart 2 Comment 0
Most of the ranch gates on Inshallah Ranch look like this - rough hewn and notched juniper trunks.
Heart 4 Comment 0
Some of the beautiful quarter horses at Inshallah Ranch.
Heart 3 Comment 0
Still biking through Inshallah Ranch, we pass a small pond on Antelope Creek.
Heart 1 Comment 0
Descending toward Izee along Antelope Creek.
Heart 1 Comment 0

We arrive at Izee, the Junction point in our T-shaped ride.  One of the features I especially liked in planning this route was the fact that for much of the way we’ll be following the South Fork of the John Day.  Turning left here, we’ll follow the river south toward its source and then double back to this point before continuing west downstream along the river.  The South Fork is the only named branch of the river we haven’t explored, and I’m happy to bring it in.

So what and why is Izee, anyway?  As we were biking along the road I was speculating on this and how to pronounce it, when it occurred to me - I’ll bet it’s pronounced I-Z, and was once used as a cattle brand.

And, I was right.  Izee is a former community, with a post office that closed down only 75 years ago.  The old one room schoolhouse  apparently still stands here somewhere, but I didn’t spot it - but then I didn’t know it existed and wasn’t watching out for it either.  If we ever bike this great road again,I’ll keep my eyes peeled.

Today, Izee is mostly represented by large, sprawling Izee Ranch that owns the land along both sides of a good stretch of the South Fork.  We bike south through their holdings for several miles, with Rachael as usual getting far ahead of me.  I’ve mapped us to the point where the paint-striped road ends, but she comes back at me sooner than I’d expected.  About a mile from the end she saw three largish, free-range dogs ahead and decided it was best to turn back.

At the junction. And no, I’m not having trouble with camera angle - the signpost just has the leans.
Heart 2 Comment 0
Izee Ranch, and the South Fork of the John Day.
Heart 2 Comment 0
Biking south along the South Fork.
Heart 2 Comment 1
Susan CarpenterLove this shot!
Reply to this comment
3 months ago
We’re high up in the South Fork, not far from its headwaters. Not much water flowing here.
Heart 1 Comment 0
Along the South Fork: mystery plant #1.
Heart 1 Comment 1
Bill ShaneyfeltMystery to me too... Closest image search seems to be western wallflower.

http://biology.burke.washington.edu/herbarium/imagecollection/taxon.php?Taxon=Erysimum%20occidentale
Reply to this comment
3 months ago
Along the South Fork: mystery plant #2.
Heart 1 Comment 1
Bill ShaneyfeltSome kind of onion (Allium species).

Possibly Olympic onion...

http://biology.burke.washington.edu/herbarium/imagecollection/taxon.php?Taxon=Allium%20crenulatum

or Tolmie's onion...

http://www.botany.hawaii.edu/faculty/carr/ofp/all_ple.htm

But neither strikes me as being a really good match.
Reply to this comment
3 months ago
Along the South Fork.
Heart 1 Comment 0
Along the South Fork.
Heart 1 Comment 0
I like these two trees in front of the ranch buildings of Izee Ranch. They’re so vertical and symmetrical.
Heart 1 Comment 0
Any idea what they are? Some variety of poplar?
Heart 2 Comment 2
Bill ShaneyfeltPerhaps an alder?
http://biology.burke.washington.edu/herbarium/imagecollection/taxon.php?Taxon=Alnus%20rhombifolia
Reply to this comment
3 months ago
Bill ShaneyfeltPerhaps an alder?
http://biology.burke.washington.edu/herbarium/imagecollection/taxon.php?Taxon=Alnus%20rhombifolia
Reply to this comment
3 months ago

Back on Izee-Paulina Road gain, we continue west along the South Fork, slowly descending.  The road is more of the same, which is great.  Some day if we could figure out the logistics I’d like to ride the whole road from Prineville to John Day, but it’s all many miles from nowhere.  At our speed and stamina we’d probably need three days, but I don’t think there’s any accommodation anywhere. Maybe we could hire a sag wagon.  

Video sound track: Miles from Nowhere, by Cat Stevens

Along the South Fork.
Heart 2 Comment 0
Along the South Fork. There is some interesting roadside geology here - dipped and fractured sedimentary formations, mostly. I wonder what this one is in particular, since it’s being quarried.
Heart 2 Comment 0
Along the South Fork.
Heart 1 Comment 0
A close-up of the road cut above.
Heart 2 Comment 0
Rachael of course went farther on this leg too, and was rewarded by another livestock drive. I feel envious.
Heart 1 Comment 0

Video sound track: In the Garden of Edie, by Paul Simon

When we meet up again and turn back to the car thirteen miles away, Rachael asks if I plan to take any more photos.  Her main concern is that she didn’t bring along a real lunch today, just a few snacks, and doesn’t want to pass out on the road and get eaten by wolves.  I do my best - after all, I just finished riding this same stretch - but as always it’s surprising how many new things you see going the opposite direction.

I do just well enough, and even though Rachael has to double back a mile to pick me up at the end, we make it to the car before her tank hits empty.  Actually, mine is quite low too - we’ll both enjoy a day off tomorrow.   When we get back, we’re happy to see that our tires and windshield are intact, and that we’ve arrived before the first thunder storm rolls in.

Along the South Fork.
Heart 1 Comment 0
The Izee Cemetery. Worth a look I’m sure, but not now - we don’t want Rachael expiring on us.
Heart 2 Comment 2
Jen GrumbyIt would make for a good headline .. "Cyclist Expires at Izee Cemetery" ...

But I'm glad you opted for lunch instead.
Reply to this comment
3 months ago
Ron SuchanekFor your future ride between John Day and Prineville, there's the Dayville Church and of course the awesome Spoke'n Hostel on Mitchell for lodging.
Reply to this comment
3 months ago
A cinnamon teal, on that pond on Antelope Creek we saw earlier.
Heart 1 Comment 0
A mesquite post corral, Inshallah Ranch.
Heart 1 Comment 1
Jen GrumbyPerfect for the goat caddies!
Reply to this comment
3 months ago
Sculpture above the gate to the corral.
Heart 1 Comment 2
Jen GrumbyJust replace it with a goat head ...
Reply to this comment
3 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyGreat idea. We’ll put this one on the Grumby todo list, since you’re getting so much construction practice now. You’ll obviously be best at it. You’re probably a great goat whisperer too.
Reply to this comment
3 months ago
I took this photo for our son Shawn. He was just complaining that he has a leak in his basement, presumably from the root system of a juniper planted too close to his house. I see what he means about those roots.
Heart 3 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0

Ride stats today: Scott, 36 miles, 1,800’; Rachael, 45 miles, 1,900’

Rate this entry's writing Heart 8
Comment on this entry Comment 1
Jen GrumbyCycleBlaze Ranch (formerly known as Inshallah) is a great idea!! We're in for $125.

I'm not sure about a golf course, but we could put goat caddies to work toting panniers for weary travelers.

Rachael .. I hope you told those goats that you'll be back for them later. I'm sure they'll be thrilled with an opportunity to work at CycleBlaze Ranch.
Reply to this comment
3 months ago