The Carnivorous Plant FAQ Field Trip Report -

Eastern Oregon carnivores in 2006

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Lake #1:
The trip to this lake was eventful. First, driving out of the Idaho mountains involved a long descent and, perhaps because I am used to a manual transmission, I applied my auto's brakes a bit excessively. By the time I reached the valley floor, my brakes were smoking. I don't know if this is due to my ineptness or the cheap nature of my rental car's braking system. You might want to blame me, but I have done a lot of mountain driving in many different cars, sometimes pulling trailers, and never had smoking brake before. Even more alarming, the brakes starting feeling kind of soft and mushy. This put some fear in me. I decided the best way to cool the brakes was to keep driving (very cautiously) and let the air currents do their work. I traversed the flat lands towards Oregon with care.

Northern Oregon is separated from Idaho by the mighty Snake River, and the even more forbidding Hells Canyon. These geological features limit one's driving options. I had planned on making the state-to-state transit via Interstate-84, but at the last second decided to attempt a small country road that my map suggested would take me across Brownlee Dam and into Oregon. Locals said it was perfectly drivable, so I tried it. (Unlike most shortcuts, this improvisation ultimately saved me many hours of driving!)

Let us skip forward in time a few hours, since the drive was pretty unremarkable except for a nice sighting of a skunk (although a little close for comfort, since its tail was held high).

I was soon driving in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest on a pot-holed, winding backroad covered with sharp gravel and I expected a flat tire at any moment. I followed a small side-road that my topo maps indicated was the route to my first destination. The particularly steep road was signed "Recommended for 4WD only". Spring rainstorms had washed away all the sand and dirt, leaving an unstable bedding of boulder chunks. Underfoot they clink-clinked against each other like fragments of glass. In spite of the roadsign and the forbidding terrain, I decided to try to drive it in my crappy rental car (Yes, I was seriously risking damage to my vehicle, but c'mon, it was a rental). I backed up to get a run up the slope, got some speed, and fishtailed up the talus, wheels chittering and spinning as they tossed rocks downslope. Despite the knife-blade boulder edges, the tires did not blow out!

My road leveled off, then descended into a forest valley. The next twenty minutes were confusing as the road reticulated into many little roadlets. After trial and error (and error, and error!) I found my trailhead. I parked and gathered my gear. After hiking only 0.5 km I was gazing across this beautiful mountain wetland.

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Revised: October 2007
©Barry Rice, 2005