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Steins Pillar towers over the countryside on the southwestern slopes of the Ochoco Mountains in Crook County. The pillar measures 350 feet tall and 120 feet in diameter. Part of a Shoshone legend tells of a slender Shoshone girl who, unlike all the men who tried, successfully climbed to the top of the pillar, which earned her the favor of the Sun God who commanded Coyote to protect her through eternity.
The Powder River several miles west of Richland, Oregon. The river’s source is at the confluence of McNully Fork and Cracker Creek. From there, it flows 153 miles, mostly through Baker County, and empties into the Snake.
River. The Powder River is so-named for the powdery and sandy soil along its shores.
Under an early summer storm is one of the many abandoned buildings in the unincorporated town of Whitney, Oregon (located in Baker County), which is also considered a ghost town. Whitney was founded as a logging town in 1900 and named for a local pioneer, C. H. Whitney. In the 1940s the logging industry faded, and in 1947 the town closed its doors.
Burnt River flowing through Burnt River Canyon (Baker County). The River begins at Unity Reservoir and flows 98 miles to its mouth, the Snake River. Burnt River Canyon is located between Durkee and Bridgeport, and is about 25 miles in length. For early emigrants, the canyon’s steep walls and narrow bottom meant five to six days before the wagons emerged at the west end. As far back as 1825, the River was referred to by its current name, likely because of periodic fires which blackened trees and rock.
Painted Hills, nine miles northwest of Mitchell (Wheeler County). The park has over 300 acres and is named for colorful layers formed in a fiery cloud of ash about 33 million years ago. Today the features are a series of clay hills striped in bands of black, red, orange, lavendar, and green. The hills’ colors are most vivid in full sunlight after a rainstorm.
North Fork of the Crooked Rover toward the southern border of Big Summit Prairie, which occupies several thousand acres in the middle of the Ochoco Mountain in Crook County. The North Fork travels primarily southwest and, before joining the Crooked River, passes through volcanic canyons, ponderosa pine, and riparian meadows.
Hereford Union High. The unincorporated town of Hereford is located on Oregon on route 245 twelve miles northwest of Unity. It is believed the name ‘Hereford’ was given by T. B. Cook who brought the first Herefords to the area. Though unincorporated, Hereford has a post office which was established in 1902.
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.