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Posted June 19, 2017:
Weíre back in Wallowa County where
June has thus far been a very wet month. All the evergreens have
profited. Douglas firs, Noble firs, White Firs, Red Cedars and
Spruce trees all have bright green tips of new growth.
Around our cabin I have a score of
trees, some of which Iíve planted, most of which are volunteers,
that I tend and watch with interest. I trim them and fertilize
them. Sometimes I will stake a tree that needs support. If weíre
in a really dry stretch, I will water those that appear to be
struggling. Most of the trees I tend appear to have three inches
or more new growth since I was here just three weeks ago.Rain is
marvelous thing for growth.
The rivers are all running high in
the Valley and fast ó at full throttle. Lots of water coming
down out of the mountains from snow melt, on top of the spring
If past summers are any indication,
things will soon both warm up and and the rivers will slow down.
People like me will head into the mountains with packs on our
backs and may still find enough snow higher up for a ride on our
butts down some slippery slope.
On Saturday morning this week, Linda
and I begin a four day, three night raft trip on the Snake River
as it courses through Hellís Canyon. Though Iíve done several
trips on the Grande Rhonde River, this will be my first on the
Snake. The Canyon is deep (deeper than the Grand Canyon) and the
history runs deep as well, both the geologic and the human
The Nez Perce wintered in canyons
close to Hellís Canyon, Joseph Canyon and Imnaha Canyon. Their
creeks and rivers are tributaries of the Snake. In the late 19th
and 20th centuries, after some not very successful gold miners,
sheep ranchers ran thousands of sheep on the steep hillsides of
Hellís Canyon. They carved out a way of life there that probably
sounds way more romantic than it was.
In preparation for the trip Iíve read
one such account writer by Grace Jordan, Home Beneath Hellís
Canyon. Jordan, her husband, and three children headed into the
Canyon during the Depression, preferring hard work in the wild
to no work in town. Itís quite a story.
A more recent book, Temperance Creek,
by Pam Royes, is another glimpse into that world. Pam tells her
story as one of the last of the sheep ranchers, with her
husband, Skip, at the Temperance Creek Ranch in the Canyon. A
marvelous coming of age story.
When the area became the Hellís
Canyon National Recreation late in the twentieth century, the
homesteads and ranches became property of the National Forest
Service, and a wild and extraordinary way of life came to an
Part of the reason that people in
areas like this one, in contrast to say a Seattle or Portland,
are not so high on government is that government plans and
programs has meant the loss of land, ranches and of a way of
I will benefit, on my river trip,
from Hellís Canyon now being a National Recreation Area. But not
everyone has experiences such changes as a benefit. Iím sure
Iíll know more about this and have a richer and more complicated
perspective on Hellís Canyon, in little over a week.