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Where do you go when it's snowy everywhere? You head for the river. Spoiler alert, it can still be cold. But Flash and I were longing for a real trail, and last year our planned trip came right at the moment of a stay at home order. (Note, only a few of us actually followed that order.)
|Iconic Hells Canyon shot.|
We arrived at Pittsburg Landing in a snowstorm/rain which didn't bode well, but being hardy types, we soldiered on. Out goal the first day was a mere 5.5 miles, to the campsites at Kirkwood Ranch. These are civilized sites, with picnic tables and the cleanest bathrooms I've ever encountered.
We gazed with dismay on a terrifying sight. There were at least 25 tents and twice that many people huddled against a bitter wind. Kirkwood was a big nope. Hoping the trail would provide, we kept going.
About a half mile later, a small beach appeared. A tent was set up on the far end of an adjoining beach, but we managed to find a small site that blocked the wind. We felt lucky to have found it.
The following morning we rallied early to take on the next section, a rocky climb up to Suicide Point, then a rolling hike across the benches of the canyon, remnants of old ranches rusting in the sun. Most people stop at Kirkwood; besides seeing a raft flotilla across the river, we were alone in a vast landscape.
|Yard sale at camp 1. Photo by Flash.|
The Sheep Creek ranch was deserted; a caretaker is in residence for much of the season and river trips stop there, but it was obvious that nobody had been there since last summer. The campsites were spectacular though, so we decided to stop for the day. I wandered up the trail that eventually led to Hells Canyon rim, dreaming of other hikes, other days.
|On trail. Photo by Flash.|
Our objective the next day was a long day hike to Bernard Creek. It is possible to hike past that point, though you may encounter more poison ivy and some brushy conditions. With light packs, we made it to the cabin by mid-morning. It is in a lovely spot, with a creek and a fine back porch for a snack break. An interpretive panel told us about some of the history of this place. A woman lived here with her husband, and would walk to a spot along the river to meet another woman who lived on the other side. They would holler across the river, trying to have a conversation to combat loneliness. People were tougher back then.
We arrived back at our campsite to a terrifying sight. A group of music-listening guys were setting up a huge camp near the ranch building. Any hope of a peaceful evening was dashed, so we decided to relocate downriver to one of my favorite campsites of all time. It included a brief but amazing river swim.
Kirkwood was deserted as we passed back through. Tempting as it was, we had long drives the next day, so we defaulted to a motel in Grangeville to break it up. There we ate the most expensive pizza in the universe and contemplated our life choices. I've hiked about 1000 miles with Flash, and after a year of isolation, it was reassuring to be back to normal, even if only for a few days. We had covered fifty miles, but had gone way back in time in the canyon.