MITCHELL — A flurry of hail-slamming thunderstorms caught and followed me through Dayville to Baker City. That storm, it turned out, was a premonition of several of this vacation's setbacks.
The next day, Wednesday, while I was driving the narrow gravel road through Burnt River Canyon, a series of earthmovers dusted up half the 25-mile stretch. Few photographs there. Then Thursday in Bear Valley, several controlled burns limited visibility and photography.
Friday, as Mitchell’s gas pumps were out of service, I drove 48 miles to Prineville for fuel then backtracked to Crook County’s 6,816-foot Mount Pisgah, where I hoped to see the forest’s blooming ground covers and the firewatch tower at the peak. But the blooms were still two weeks away and my AWD rig refused to make the final climb to the top.
Regardless, there is nothing like the walloping thunderstorm over a ghost town. Nothing like sitting on the banks of the Powder River, once the site of heavy trapping and gold panning. Nothing like gaining an appreciation for the emigrants who needed five days to get their wagons through Burnt River Canyon. Nothing like being the only person within miles of several Crooked River tributaries. Nothing like a sunset casting long shadows over the silent Painted Hills. And nothing like feeling the power of Mount Pisgah, whose headwaters flow north into the John Day River, south into Crooked River, east into the Snake, and west into the Deschutes.
So those first few setbacks, in retrospect, made all this vacation’s other experiences even more gratifying.