May 1, 2018
We woke to cloudy chilly weather this morning so we bundled up in our down jackets for the morning excursion.
The headquarters for the Summer Lake Wildlife Area were right across the highway from our hotel and it’s the start of the eight mile driving loop. (Here is a nice article that talks about birding at Summer Lake.)
Winter Ridge loomed above us to the west:
Deb spotted a great horned owl in this tree:
Just a short ways into our loop drive we parked at the Windbreak Campground for a hike:
There’s a gated road that goes along Windbreak Dike and that’s what we started walking down:
There were a whole bunch of birds:
Two Canada Geese flew out of the vegetation next to the road, acting agitated. We discovered that they had babies there! The little guys were only a day or two old and were super adorable.
The parents were hanging out nearby, agitated by our presence, so after a few quick photos we hiked on. We turned around and saw that the babies had joined their parents in the water (you can see this in the video). Pretty cute!
Winter Ridge was now thoroughly shrouded in clouds:
Those are pelicans in the distance:
We saw few scattered trees:
We hiked out two miles then turned around. By the time we got back to the car we were starting to see some blue sky!
We continued on our driving loop. This is Link Canal:
We drove past this building labeled the Schoolhouse Lake Wildlife Viewing Station so we got out to see what was what:
Inside there were window panels you could remove to see out to the lake. Here’s Deb recording the bird sounds:
More blue sky…this is more like it!
After Summer Lake we drove south to the town of Paisley. On the way we stopped at the Harris Schoolhouse, which is right along the highway. It was built in 1890 and operated until 1919. It was briefly used again for three years starting in 1926, but then closed for good, so it’s amazing that it still stands. You can see burned trees in the background from a 2002 wildfire that came a little too close for comfort:
Crazy, but we think we saw a marmot on the front porch:
We looked around the tiny town of Paisley a bit:
Then we visited the ranger station. We had thought about trying to drive up Road 29, which winds up the face of Winter Ridge, but they told told us that the road would be too muddy. We were told that the road up to Hager Mountain would also be too muddy. But they said we should be fine if we drove out Road 33, so we did. We drove as far as the Chewaucan Crossing Trailhead where a very sturdy footbridge crosses the Chewaucan River.
There’s a really pretty little campground here, which is in the trees on the left:
Too cold for camping here at this time, but I would totally come back here in summer:
We had seen something on the map called Paisley Caves and we had asked about it at the ranger station. They told us how to get there so we drove out there. 14,000 years ago these caves in Five Mile Point were home to humans. One of the caves contained archaeological evidence of the oldest definitely-dated human presence in North America. This was kind of crazy to me. The oldest known human habitation in North America was right here in Oregon and I had never heard of this place before today! The Oregon Encyclopedia has a good summary if you want to read more.
According to information at the ranger station, the area around Five Mile Point used to be Lake Chewaucan. It’s dry desert now, but 14,000 years ago it was a source of water and teemed with life.
We saw several lizards:
We also saw an agitated pigeon that was hanging around. It was weird to see a pigeon out here in the desert. Turns out it had a nest in one of the caves we were in:
After the caves we visited Summer Lake Hot Springs. This place has camping and also cabins, if you ever want to stay here:
There is a big indoor soaking pool:
But we chose to soak outside:
After making dinner at the hotel we waited for darkness then we drove due east from the little town of Summer Lake on Thousand Springs Lane until we were away from the few lights of that little hamlet. It was about 9:45 and we knew the moon was coming up soon so we enjoyed the stars while we could before the bright moon made them less visible. Soon we started to see a glow on the western horizon and then the moon popped up. Neato! In the video you can see a short moonrise timelapse that I tried.