Typically the last days of October are reserved for fishing, fishing and fishing. Until this year October 31 was the last day to wet a line in most water bodies I frequent. The combination of no more close to the season, a chest freezer full to the brim with kokanee, salmon, halibut and tuna, along with a weather forecast that wasn’t conducive to being in a boat on a high mountain lake led us in a different direction. We headed to northeast Oregon for an extended weekend of exploring with a couple of potential hikes on our minds.
In 19 years bouncing around Oregon I’ve been a few places, one place I hadn’t been is the area around Granite. It’s one of those places you go to, not pass through. We made a quick stop and wandered around the Sumpter Dredge. I have been to a similar dredge in Idaho on the Yankee Fork. Basically this thing is a boat that digs itself a pond as it moves up a stream bed turning things upside down as it goes in the name of finding a few ounces of gold.
The dredge is now part of a state park.
We moved on quickly as the day was already getting short of daylight and we still needed to get a hike in. We found a camp and headed down the North Fork of the John Day into the wilderness area.
It was a great 5 mile jaunt that followed the river and passed several historic mining cabins.
Soon it was getting dark and we settled in around a fire for the night. The next morning we were off to explore the little town of Granite.
Granite was likely a bit more vibrant in the past, having been founded during a mining boom in 1873, there are about 24 current residents. For a while in the 60’s there was a lone resident, Mayor Otis Ford who kept the town alive. Today it seems like much of the town is for sale. Looking for an investment?
It’s an interesting spot to wander around and wonder about the past. Living in a place where development continues to engulf new land on a daily basis I think I’m OK with a few places headed in the opposite direction.
A few minutes into our day and look, it seems as though it is already getting dark! Time to get on the trail for the afternoon.
Part of the darkness today isn’t due to the short days, it is the dark storm cloud hanging over our head. A couple of miles down the trail it unleashed on us. It was a slow rain at first, enough to convince us to keep going to our turn around point at the confluence of Granite Creek and the North Fork John Day.
We headed back and that’s when the soaking began. I’m still glad we went. Two hikes and 12 miles later we ran across exactly zero people and countless mountain and river views. Here it is the height of elk season, I suppose the “hunters” were driving roads or in camp drinking a frosty beverage from a cammo can.
We finished up our hike thoroughly soaked. Onward through the Blue Mountains towards Olive Lake we went. We found an empty campground at the lake and set up there for the night. The rain didn’t let up so no campfire for our last night. We woke to a dusting of snow on the peaks. Out of the high country we rambled, maybe for the final visit to the mountains until we can strap on some skis or snowshoes….