Saturday, April 23, 2022
Today we did a hike up to Horse Mountain in the Spring Basin Wilderness.
After a very cold night with temps in the low 30s, we awoke to a beautiful sunny morning at our John Day River campsite:
The birds were singing their hearts out all around us as we made breakfast and got ready. Then we drove over to the trailhead for our hike. Deb spotted this skeleton near the parking area with it’s antlers cut off:
Heading up the trail:
We saw some balsamroot in bloom:
Winding our way up the canyon:
Deb spotted this rock wren:
We reached the top of the canyon and turned left on the old jeep track:
Then we started seeing our first hedgehog cactus in bloom. When Greg and I came here last year (one week later than this year) we were too late for the blooms:
Continuing along the old jeep track:
We got up to a spot where we could look down on the John Day River to the north:
We dropped down in a basin to head cross-country. Lomatium in bloom:
And still more cactus!
Looking back at Deb on the cross-country portion:
We rejoined the jeep track and headed toward Horse Mountain. We saw – you guessed it – more cactus!
Last year we saw LOTS of phlox. This year it was far less profuse, but still in bloom:
We left the old road and headed cross-country towards Horse Mountain. Deb photographing wildflowers:
We reached the summit! Looking northwest:
The distant bump to the southeast is Jennies Peak, the foreground peak just right of center is Sheep Mountain, and the peak at far right is Black Top.
South to the snowy Ochocos:
Looking down on what was once known as Big Muddy Ranch, the famous former home of the Rajneeshees in the 1980s (now it’s a sprawling Young Life Camp known as Washington Family Ranch):
After hanging out on the summit for an hour we headed back down. We couldn’t help continuing to photograph the brilliant cactus blooms:
Descending from Horse Mountain:
Looking back at Horse Mountain:
Heading back along the jeep track:
Deb and Greg frequently whipped out their ID apps during this hike. Botanists at work!
These were Deb’s observations on this hike: chukar, mourning dove, sandhill crane, turkey vulture, common ravens, rock wrens, mountain bluebirds, white-crowned sparrows, possibly a savanna sparrow, lots of western meadowlarks!
Gaia stats: 6.5 miles, 1,600′ elevation gain
At camp that night we watched the osprey building a nest on the utility pole across the river. Last year when we were here a week later the nest was already built, so it was cool to see the beginnings!