March 15, 2017.
I was ready to get out of the snow. I grabbed my friend Sarah and we drove east in search of new places and dry ground.
Dry River Channel
Sullivan’s Eastern Oregon hiking book mentions a short hike in the Badlands that follows an old river bed. I hadn’t seen it before, so we decided to make this our starting place. Following the directions we walked on a trail that took us to a narrow channel of short rock walls where we searched for Native American petroglyphs. Sarah and I investigated the rocks and looked for animal signs while her dog Ruby explored the top of the cliffs.
We looped back to the car and piled in to drive to our next stop.
The Juniper Woodlands Recreation Area is managed by the BLM and is located just north of the Oregon Badlands WIlderness. When we arrived at the trailhead we were greeted by a signboard with a map. Based on the map we put together a roughly 5.7 mile loop and started walking.
The trails were named and color coded on the map. Once we started hiking we noticed that the trail junctions were marked, however, with numbers. We did our best to stay on our route.
The terrain was terribly monotonous. It was flat and dry, with sage and juniper dominating the vegetation. The sky overhead was thick and gray. We were not inspired. Occasionally we’d stumble across an interesting sight. A large pile of old, rusted cans. Three attached vertebrae. Hundreds of purple juniper berries strewn beneath a large tree.
We couldn’t have reached the trailhead soon enough. It was time for one more hike.
As luck would have it, we saved the best for last.
Reynolds Pond was stunning. We could hardly believe our eyes. Underneath moody clouds we saw bright yellow and orange leaves that seemed to defy the desert’s color palette. Beneath the water we could look down to the bottom of the pond. There was something to look at in all directions. My only disappointment was that the trail looping the pond was only a mile long. We wouldn’t have much of a walk here.
But, it felt great to walk on dry ground and feel that cool desert air on my face. I really enjoyed checking out some new places at a time where I thought I’d seen it all. No matter how much I explore there is always something new to discover.