Clarno Unit - John Day Fossil Beds & Spring Basin 4/22/17

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derwoodynck
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Clarno Unit - John Day Fossil Beds & Spring Basin 4/22/17

Post by derwoodynck » April 26th, 2017, 5:34 pm

On 4/22 we headed for the Clarno area for a pair of hikes. We started at the Clarno Unit Picnic area and did all three short trails there.

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All three trails only added up to 1.4 miles so when we finished we headed over to the Spring Basin Wilderness and basically followed the route described in the Third Edition of William L. Sullivan's "100 Hikes/Travel Guide Eastern Oregon" (Hike #18).

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A faint but clear path led into the wilderness toward a draw on the horizon.

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The path led us up into the draw passing a number of different types of wildflowers.
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Anyone know what these are? There were lots of them around 1500' elevation but none were blooming, this one was the closest.
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After 1.3 miles the path reached a ridge top junction with an old jeep track marked by a rock cairn.
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Near the junction we spotted the first of many hedgehog cactus.
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We followed a jeep track around the side of the green knoll described by Sullivan then turned uphill and went cross country to the summit marked by another cairn.
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Our goal, Horse Mountain, was slightly southeast of the knoll.
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To reach the summit of that mountain without having to lose and regain too much elevation Sullivan's route called for a .9 mile cross country route due east through a juniper grove then up a draw to find the jeep track once again on the ridge line.
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We followed the jeep track north a short distance to a low point then descended into a draw and headed for the grove. The initial descent was a little steeper than it had appeared from the knoll but it was not a problem and we made it to the junipers without any difficulty.
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From the grove we climbed up the draw we'd seen to the jeep track and turned right toward Horse Mountain.
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On the ridge we found more hedgehog cactus amid other many other wildflowers.
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We stuck to the jeep track for approximately 3/4 of a mile then veered off toward Horse Mountain when the track turned left amid more junipers.Image

Our initial plan was to sidehill up to a saddle along Horse Mountain but we found it was actually easier to head directly uphill so we wound up gaining the ridge near it's western end which was dotted with balsamroot.
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We then followed the ridge up to the summit of Horse Mountain.
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A small rock cairn marked the summit of Horse Mountain.
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To the far south the snowy Ochoco Mountains lined the horizon.
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We had seen quite a few caterpillars on the ground all morning but now there seemed to be more and they were moving about.
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On the way back we noticed the Palisades of the Clarno Unit to the north.
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We had been on the alert for rattlesnakes all day but had not seen nor heard any. That changed on our drive back to the highway. We spotted at least 4 rattlers sunning themselves on Clarno Road.

arieshiker
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Re: Clarno Unit - John Day Fossil Beds & Spring Basin 4/22/1

Post by arieshiker » April 27th, 2017, 7:01 am

Epic post!!! I spend a lot of time in the high desert areas (since it's all so close to home) and never tire of (or cease to be amazed by) the ever-changing environment and the vistas.....ohhh, the vistas. Clarno is such a gem, yet so seldom visited. Hedgehog Cactus in bloom - what a treat. As you point out, Clarno isn't much as a single hiking destination, but anyone passing through with a an extra hour to spend should stop and check it all out. I've combined Clarno with the other two John Day Fossil Beds areas and really enjoyed a full day. Tack on some drive throughs of a couple ghost and near-ghost towns, a burger in the town of Fossil, and it's a day. Maybe spend the night at Cottonwood Canyon if the drive needs to be broken up. Just sayin'....

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dcammack
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Re: Clarno Unit - John Day Fossil Beds & Spring Basin 4/22/1

Post by dcammack » April 27th, 2017, 2:54 pm

Thanks for posting. That's one of my favorite places to go hiking. I have photos from hiking there in 2011, May 24 - and the cactus are in bloom. Global warming? It's been a wet winter out there.

Did you camp?

That's a great area to do some off trail hiking. But be sure to take a GPS and extra batteries!

Again, thanks. You have me wanting to get out there for a hike.

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retired jerry
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Re: Clarno Unit - John Day Fossil Beds & Spring Basin 4/22/1

Post by retired jerry » April 27th, 2017, 3:35 pm

I camped at Spring Basin once. I went up more from the South. Circled around towards Horse Mountain. I saw no drinking water. There's supposed to be a spring southwest of Horse Mountain.

Nice area. Quite small but possible for a night or two. I like the desolation.

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derwoodynck
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Re: Clarno Unit - John Day Fossil Beds & Spring Basin 4/22/1

Post by derwoodynck » April 27th, 2017, 4:23 pm

dcammack wrote:Thanks for posting. That's one of my favorite places to go hiking. I have photos from hiking there in 2011, May 24 - and the cactus are in bloom. Global warming? It's been a wet winter out there.

Did you camp?

That's a great area to do some off trail hiking. But be sure to take a GPS and extra batteries!

Again, thanks. You have me wanting to get out there for a hike.
We didn't camp as we were staying in Bend with family.
retired jerry wrote:I camped at Spring Basin once. I went up more from the South. Circled around towards Horse Mountain. I saw no drinking water. There's supposed to be a spring southwest of Horse Mountain.

Nice area. Quite small but possible for a night or two. I like the desolation.
It'd be interesting to do some more exploring there and check out that spring. We also didn't see any water.

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sgyoung
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Re: Clarno Unit - John Day Fossil Beds & Spring Basin 4/22/1

Post by sgyoung » April 28th, 2017, 9:35 am

Absolutely beautiful report. I really love high desert areas. How far is this from Bend? I've only been to the area a few times and haven't really been farther east then Smith Rock. This looks super cool though and worth adding to the long term list of places to check out (although it may be a while before my next trip out).

Thanks for posting.

arieshiker
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Re: Clarno Unit - John Day Fossil Beds & Spring Basin 4/22/1

Post by arieshiker » April 28th, 2017, 10:07 am

sgyoung wrote:How far is this from Bend?
sgyoung: from bend it's about 90 miles NE to Clarno. Hiway 97 to the base of Cow Canyon, then the shortcut to Antelope to pick up the hiway to Fossil. Clarno is maybe 15 miles east of Antelope, which is almost a ghost town these days. To make a full day of it, given Clarno isn't extreme with hikes, you could go on to Fossil (ehhh on the interest scale), go south to Mitchell through Spray or Twickenham (about 40 miles either way) to explore Painted Hills, if you haven't been there - or again if you have. Return to Bend would be about 85 miles west though Prineville. A 250 +/- day, which could be expanded if you haven't been to the Sheep Rock Unit of the Fossil Beds about 30 miles east of Mitchell. A couple of neat hikes at Blue Basin north of the Sheep Rock visitors center, which is fascinating in its own right.

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sgyoung
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Re: Clarno Unit - John Day Fossil Beds & Spring Basin 4/22/1

Post by sgyoung » April 28th, 2017, 10:44 am

arieshiker wrote:
sgyoung: from bend it's about 90 miles NE to Clarno. Hiway 97 to the base of Cow Canyon, then the shortcut to Antelope to pick up the hiway to Fossil. Clarno is maybe 15 miles east of Antelope, which is almost a ghost town these days. To make a full day of it, given Clarno isn't extreme with hikes, you could go on to Fossil (ehhh on the interest scale), go south to Mitchell through Spray or Twickenham (about 40 miles either way) to explore Painted Hills, if you haven't been there - or again if you have. Return to Bend would be about 85 miles west though Prineville. A 250 +/- day, which could be expanded if you haven't been to the Sheep Rock Unit of the Fossil Beds about 30 miles east of Mitchell. A couple of neat hikes at Blue Basin north of the Sheep Rock visitors center, which is fascinating in its own right.
Cool. Thanks! That is really helpful and sounds like a doable itinerary, perhaps splitting it up with an overnight somewhere along the way. Natural beauty, near ghost-towns, and lack of crowds all sound pretty great. Plus, if I let my wife drive we could easily cover the 90 miles from Bend to Clarno is about 85 minutes, so that's not bad :)

arieshiker
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Re: Clarno Unit - John Day Fossil Beds & Spring Basin 4/22/1

Post by arieshiker » April 28th, 2017, 11:42 am

[quote=Cool. Thanks! That is really helpful and sounds like a doable itinerary, perhaps splitting it up with an overnight somewhere along the way. Natural beauty, near ghost-towns, and lack of crowds all sound pretty great. Plus, if I let my wife drive we could easily cover the 90 miles from Bend to Clarno is about 85 minutes, so that's not bad :)[/quote]

No worries - Mitchell has a really cool historic hotel that's worth checking out. Mitchell is also borderline ghost town, but functioning like it doesn't care. One excellent restaurant and the funkiest old general store that sells pretty everything from aprons to zippers. Mitchell is only about five miles from Painted Hills and on the route to Sheep Rock Visitors Center, which is about seven miles from Blue Basin. The drive is landscape ecstasy, as are the hiking views. Oh, and Oregon has increased the speed limits on some of the backroads, so she might make the 90 miles in 80 minutes!!!

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Chase
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Re: Clarno Unit - John Day Fossil Beds & Spring Basin 4/22/1

Post by Chase » April 28th, 2017, 4:04 pm

Excellent TR. thanks for putting this together!

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