Hart Mountain NAR 05/29-31/10

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fettster
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Hart Mountain NAR 05/29-31/10

Post by fettster » June 4th, 2010, 9:28 pm

I was really itching to get out over the three day holiday weekend. Wanting to get another off my to-do list, with one friend unable to go busy organizing the house and another friend busy moving, my dog Kodi and I went off for our own adventure to south-central Oregon, my first time down that way. Destination: Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge (NAR). We drove most of the way Friday afternoon/evening to Lakeview, OR, following highway 31 past some strikingly open scenery.

The next morning we found this brave, or perhaps fearless, robin steadfast on its nest. I really gotta commend the little lady; she was really sticking firm to her task even with the hotel patrons gawking so close by. There were a couple tempting eateries across the street which certainly need a visit sometime, but we got a hitch in our get-along and moseyed out of town.


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Fearless robin

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From Lakeview we took Warner Highway 140 east which would’ve eventually taken us to Nevada, but our route veered north onto Plush Cutoff Road through the small ranching town of Plush and on to the refuge. The terrain was wide open, Hart Mountain rising to the east. You just can’t get enough of this.


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On the way to the refuge

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Hart Mountain ahead


We stopped by the shores of Hart Lake with blow-out views of Hart Mountain’s craggy west side, numerous birds feeding, all mildly pestered as we passed on by. Off to the southwest we got a straight on view of the Warner Range which we had swung around on the way from Lakeview.


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Hart Mountain & Lake

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Warner Mountain Range


We followed Hart Mountain road up onto the refuge plateau, past the refuge headquarters, and on to the hot springs camp ground where I setup camp and lounged for a bit.


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Entrance

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Park headquarters

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Hart Mountain nearing camp


That afternoon we drove off for our first hike, but along the way something caught my eye…yep, my first pronghorn antelope. It was pretty cool to get that off the list so quickly. I’m guessing the two were a male/female pair, but didn’t see any fawns. You may have not known female pronghorn give birth to twins in May or early June; I hadn’t before this trip. On the way back later I saw another pronghorn, perhaps one of the same.


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Pronghorn!

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Kodi and I hiked out to the rim of Poker Jim Ridge, striking off cross-country through the sagebrush covered terrain. I’d really expected to find the alkali Warner Lakes with water given it was still spring, but the lake beds were completely dry. I guess it must take a really wet year to fill them, I really don’t know.


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Poker Jim "trailhead"

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Cross-country Kodi

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Hart Mountain road and Warner Valley

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The oh so dry Warner Lakes


From there we headed a mile due north to another knoll overlook. Along the way the sage green and rocks were intermixed with yellow flowers, Balsamroot perhaps? The knoll gave a great view of Poker Jim Ridge’s cliffs. I could easily see why California Bighorn choose that area to dwell, though a scan with the binoculars did not reveal any findings.


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Heading to the knoll overlook (left)


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Poker Jim Ridge


We headed east to Petroglyph Lake. One might think that’s kind of an interesting name, does it really mean anything? Indeed, near the lake’s west side stand 20 foot cliffs where ancient artwork can be found created by a people unknown. It was definitely fun going from rock to rock to see what surprises might be found. I highly recommend this little side trip if you ever visit the refuge.


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Petroglyph Lake

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What's going on here?

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The Lizard


As we headed back to the south my car came into view, a dot in the distance. Even nicer the sun finally broke out and really popped the landscape alive. There were beautiful open views to be had all around. Even the bunch-grass looked happy.



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Beatys Butte

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Happy bunch-grass

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As we arrived back to camp, Hart Mountain basked under the deep blue early evening sky. Hanging around camp was fun in itself with all the birds busy about their day. I saw several firsts for the life list, including a male Harrier that circled by several times. Apparently 264 varieties of birds have been observed in the refuge boundaries.


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Back to camp

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Camp

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Bullock's Oriole

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Busy male Harrier

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Yellow Warbler

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That first night I also enjoyed having a camp fire as the night quickly cooled off with the clear overhead skies.


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With an early dawn it didn’t take the late spring sun long to heat up the tent to almost 70 degrees, so I didn’t slumber too late before heading off to tackle the highest point in the area, Warner Peak.

The “trail” actually follows a closed road for a couple miles. The boisterous chipmunks and ground squirrels kept Kodi’s attention, busy chippering as we passed by their homes. Even a few deer were out and were much more concerned with Kodi than they were with me.


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Barnhardi Road

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What's going on over there?

Barnhardi Road led us to Barnhardi Basin with a full on view of Hart Mountain


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Approaching the basin

As we approached our turn from the road to our ascent ridgeline something red caught my eye. At first I thought spied someone walking around with a jacket on, but as I got closer I was stumped by the structure I saw. I really have no idea what this was marking, some kind of red post with a zig-zag of Z’s.


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Mystery post


Nestled in the basin among a grove of aspen still stood an old sheepherder’s cabin. The exterior was in quite good shape, though it surprised me how low the ceiling was. In a pinch the structure could certainly still offer some needed shelter.


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The old cabin

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Most of the area near the cabin was actually quite boggy, with numerous shoots of green soaking in the sun and the moisture.


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Mighty boggy


I quickly skirted out of the mess as best I could and tasseled my way up the drainage through the sagebrush undergrowth, gaining some views of the basin behind us.


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Sagewhackin'

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Barnhardi basin


As we picked off more elevation Kodi was back in his element lounging in the patches of snow still coating the mountain’s flanks.


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"Back where I belong"


Slow and steady we made our way up the couple miles and final 1000 feet to the radio-tower capped summit. Unlike earlier that morning, a dull gray had taken over the sky and really muted the landscape.


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Summit push

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Kodi surveying our route


Looking south to the plateau adjunct to the summit an eerie sense of desolation crept over me with no living creatures or plants visible and a dreary sky overhead. I didn’t linger long and we were soon on our way again to finish the loop.


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Plateau south of Warner Peak

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Summit nap, Steens Mntn in the background


I tried taking a short cut down to the saddle at Degarmo Notch, but had to sidetrack a little bit again when I was cliffed out.


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Cliffs by Degarmo Notch

The loop took us up one final 500 foot ascent along an old road bed just barely discernible. In fact I lost it before hitting the main jeep road that led us back to Barnhardi Road.


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Up the old roadbed


Nearby I spotted a couple hikers who turned out to also be from the Portland area. They were taking a break by an ancient hunting blind. Definitely made me wonder what it must have been like for the original residents who used the structure, waiting to capture their next meal.


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Old hunting blind


To the south the clouds were parting again and lit up the snowfields on Hart Mountain. (Note the heavy cornicing on the east face of the western ridge.)


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As we descended, a periscoped form caught my eye. A deer? No, again, another pronghorn keeping tabs on me. She let me get a little better view before throttling up her engine and daftly leaving me behind.


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I feel like I'm being watched...

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What a beauty


We continued down to the final road junction before camp. It was a treat to pass more aspen as we finished off the last mile.


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To the final junction

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Aspen


It felt amazing to dip my feet in Rock Creek after the hike. I couldn’t help doing it five or six times.

SCROLL DOWN AT YOUR OWN RISK. THESE PEARLY WHITES CAN BE BLINDING!












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Ahhhhhhhh yeahhhhh


A little later that evening a Belding ground squirrel ventured from its burrow, but it didn’t have much to fear with Kodi about dead to the world.


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Out for the count


After dinner Kodi and I scrambled up the ~100 foot hill next to our camp to get a better view of the area.


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Camp overlook


As a great bonus I found these interesting rock formations. I’m not sure if these are volcanic in some fashion?


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Rock formation

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Even out in the desert we couldn’t escape this wet spring as it rained lightly that night and on into the next morning. I stopped by the hot springs on the drive out to feel the water.


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Hot springs

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One last little story I want to share before closing on this little adventure. I was making steady progress on the long drive home until I joined what seemed to be the rest of Portland in a traffic jam nearing Sisters and Santiam Pass. In this moment I was given a stark example on how life unknowingly passes us by as we hurry along in our own worlds. I am not making this one up…as I waited in the 5 mph stop-and-go line-up an Osprey flew over the highway tightly clasping a freshly caught fish. Not half a minute later a jealous bald eagle rocketed by in pursuit, intent in swiping away the meal. Little did this eagle know where it was heading, as quickly two red-tail hawks let loose on this intruder who had apparently ventured too close to their nest. The hawks did not back down as they targetted the larger bird even as the eagle threw its whole body upside down into the air, talons extended in defense. Definitely a cool moment that left me in awe of life and melted away any stress in being stuck in slow traffic.


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Traffic jam fun

Another fun and memorable trip! It did indeed handily beat three days lounging around home.


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Poker Jim loop

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Warner Peak summit

-Fettster

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Splintercat
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Re: Hart Mountain NAR 05/29-31/10

Post by Splintercat » June 4th, 2010, 10:13 pm

GREAT report! Brings back a lot of good memories, one bad (the night we were chased off the mountain in a frightening thunderstorm). I love all the panos -- they perfectly capture the big-country feel of the basin and range country. It looks like you travelled over Warner Summit -- did you happen to look at Deep Creek Falls on the descent into Adel? You kinda have to be looking behind you to see it, and there's not a lot of room to pull over, either... I've only seen it with small amounts of water trickling over, roughly like this web image:

Deep Creek Falls

...but I suspect it's a bit more dramatic this year..!

I agree that the rock outcrop looks like eroded flood basalts -- most of the uplifted stuff in that region volcanic, as I recall.

Tom

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AlexanderSupertramp
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Re: Hart Mountain NAR 05/29-31/10

Post by AlexanderSupertramp » June 4th, 2010, 10:15 pm

Wow, amazing trip, report, and photos. Thanks!

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mattisnotfrench
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Re: Hart Mountain NAR 05/29-31/10

Post by mattisnotfrench » June 4th, 2010, 10:49 pm

AlexanderSupertramp wrote:Wow, amazing trip, report, and photos. Thanks!
Agreed! I can't wait to get back to this side of Oregon. The panoramas are outstanding!
Author of Off the Beaten Trail, 101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region and PDX Hiking 365. Website: www.offthebeatentrailpdx.com

cfm
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Re: Hart Mountain NAR 05/29-31/10

Post by cfm » June 5th, 2010, 6:34 am

What a wonderful trip report David.

It's hard to capture how beautiful that stark landscape is and bring out the subtle coloring in the desert, but you were quite successful in bringing it to life for us lucky readers!

I love that picture of the cabin in the aspens below the ridge, and that view of the plateau from Warner Mountain.

After all that mileage you covered on foot in that remote country, it's ironic that you get the best bird sightings while in camp and in your car.

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obladi
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Re: Hart Mountain NAR 05/29-31/10

Post by obladi » June 5th, 2010, 8:52 am

South Central Oregon is the last bastion of Oregon on my to do list and your pictures have really inspired me to do it soon. Great trip report and the pictures really do a good job painting the vast openness of the basin mountains.
Luke

Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen."
-- Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

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pablo
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Re: Hart Mountain NAR 05/29-31/10

Post by pablo » June 5th, 2010, 8:56 am

Great report, 10 years ago I lived in Lakeview for about a year and I miss the wide open spaces you've captured so well in your photos. This area is where I started hiking - brings back some very pleasant memories.

Thx,

--Paul
The future's uncertain and the end is always near.

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baker9903
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Re: Hart Mountain NAR 05/29-31/10

Post by baker9903 » June 5th, 2010, 9:12 am

fabulous report!! thank you for sharing.

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fettster
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Re: Hart Mountain NAR 05/29-31/10

Post by fettster » June 5th, 2010, 9:02 pm

Splintercat wrote:It looks like you travelled over Warner Summit -- did you happen to look at Deep Creek Falls on the descent into Adel? You kinda have to be looking behind you to see it, and there's not a lot of room to pull over, either...
Actually by taking the Plush Cutoff Road I never did go through Adel, though I did see the turn off for it right before Plush. Those look like some nice falls! I could easily have spent more time down that way, and I wish I could've explored the Christmas Valley area as well but on this trip I could only wave as I passed on by. Fort Rock definitely left a tempting impression as seen from highway 31.
cfm wrote:After all that mileage you covered on foot in that remote country, it's ironic that you get the best bird sightings while in camp and in your car.
Agreed! A dedicated birder I met there from Bend made a remark very similar to that, that it was almost better to stay around camp then head anywhere else.

Thanks too for all the great comments. I definitely can see taking another trip to that part of the state. I think this time of year worked out well for a visit, or else late summer or fall to avoid the summer heat.

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awildman
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Re: Hart Mountain NAR 05/29-31/10

Post by awildman » June 5th, 2010, 9:20 pm

Love it and I'm inspired (and jealous...I sat at home and watched the rain all weekend)! I like that you were able to see a little snow on Hart Mountain for added drama (and Kodi cooling) in your photographs.

Roughly how long was the Warner Peak summit hike? If you had an extra day, could you have cobbled another hike together in the NAR?

Allison
Rambling on at Allison Outside

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