Do You Have a Plan B

  “Do You Have a Plan B?” asked Marvin.

We were headed to Hat Point and the road used to access Hat Point was barricaded by a sign stating the road was closed. What now?

There is only one road leading to Hat Point.

There were warnings.  

Hat Point Warning

On the highway from Joseph to Imnaha a huge roadside sign announced road 4240 was closed.

The road designation didn’t mean much to us. Several important forest service roads lead to Halfway from Imnaha so we were not immediately aware which road was closed. We knew the road to Halfway had washouts. Perhaps that was the road that was closed.

When we crossed the bridge to Imnaha we noticed the sign for Hat Point Road read 4240.  

Sign for Road Closed
Road closed to Hat Point

Sure enough, about half a mile up the gravel road leading to Hat Point we saw the barricade. The sign read “Road Closed”!  Another sign read “Log Trucks Only”.

We were stunned. We had driven 346 miles just to find a sign that said the road was closed. What now?

Did I have a plan B?

I did have a plan B.

“What if we drive out to Buckhorn Overlook?”

The road to Buckhorn is a continuation of the Zumwalt Prairie road, beginning back near Enterprise, mostly rough gravel, crossing the Zumwalt Prairie.

The Zumwalt Prairie… famous for its raptors and wildflowers in season. Although we were past the wildflower season on the prairie the elevation gained to reach Buckhorn Overlook would put us back into the wildflowers.

Buckhorn Overlook
Buckhorn Overlook Imnaha Canyon Wallowa County

Like Hat Point Lookout at 6,982 feet the view from Buckhorn Overlook at 5,333 feet is spectacular… Like Hell’s Canyon, Imnaha River Canyon is rugged and photogenic… we met some interesting fellow travelers at the Overlook. We came home with some wonderful photographs of scenery, flowers, birds, butterflies and bees.

Buckhorn Overlook was a successful substitute for Hat Point, a great plan B and we had a story to tell.


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A Flat Tire at Dug Bar

September 4, 2007: We were packing our camping gear at Dug Bar, getting ready to leave, when Chris announced, “We have a flat tire.”

A flat tire is serious business at Dug Bar. There’s no cell phone service anywhere close. We were alone at the campground. An occasional jetboat would roar by on the Snake River. An occasional jet airplane would pass 35,000 feet over our head. Dug Bar is the definition of remote in Oregon.

Never been to Dug Bar?

There are four ways to get to or from Dug Bar located about 31 miles downstream from Imnaha: By vehicle on a very rough, rocky access road, most of which is limited to high clearance 4WD rigs like my Dodge ¾ ton pickup; by jet boat on the Snake River; by airplane, capable of short field takeoff and landing on the grass strip at Dug Bar; or by walking.

Flat tire at Dug Bar
Chris Rea Changing tire Dug Bar

Walking is the least desirable option. Fortunately, we had a spare tire to replace the flat. We changed the tire but now we didn’t have a spare.

We didn’t intend to camp at Dug Bar but the 31 miles from Imnaha took nearly four hours to accomplish. At the end of the day we were tired and miserably hot. Camping at Dug Bar while we still had daylight looked much more inviting than any place we saw during the drive in. We decided to stay the night and leave during the cool of the morning. We pitched our tent and settled in. And the tire went flat during the night.

Now we were praying we wouldn’t have a second flat. Rock roads are tough on tires. We used low range gears and treated our tires tenderly.  Another flat meant a long walk. The day was beginning to warm up as the sun heated the rocky terrain. Walking would not be pleasant.

Every mile we traveled was a mile closer to the Les Schwab Tire Shop in Enterprise. Believe me, we counted down all sixty-six miles. We breathed a big sigh of relief when we got the flat repaired.

For more information on Dug Bar:


P.S. Now I travel with a satellite phone!

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Trees, Rocks and Beyond

“I have written a book,” said Ralph and as a teaser he added, “and you are in it… there’s a chapter about ‘Traveling with Larry’… The title is ‘Trees, Rocks and Beyond’ (by Ralph E. Anderson) and it is for sale on Amazon.”

Of course, I had to buy one.

Ralph and I were classmates in high school and teammates on the track team. He was from Delena and I was from Fern Hill so our social lives did not intertwine. We graduated in 1957. That was the last time I saw him. We went to separate colleges. Joined separate military services. Married and raised a family. And now we were a couple elderly, retired guys. Some 55 years after parting company at graduation Ralph knocked on my door and reintroduced himself.

Ralph spent his working days as a carpenter. I had several professions and several retirements but my hobby was becoming a certified naturalist and photographer. Maybe because of his lifetime association with wood Ralph was fascinated with trees. I was fascinated with trees because they are part of nature.

Ralph traveled the world to look at trees. I traveled Oregon to observe and photograph nature, which included trees. When I would mention a tree, Ralph would want to go see it. The title of my book will be, “Traveling with Ralph” because we ended up looking at more than trees. Occasionally we traveled to look at rocks. And, if I broached the subject, occasionally we discussed ‘Beyond’. We have traveled the borders of Oregon, and we have crisscrossed the state.

I suggest reading the category “Traveling with Ralph.” Some of these stories are included in Ralph’s book, from his point of view. My point of view may be different in opinion but hopefully the same in fact.

Stories will be added from time to time, this is a work in progress… enjoy.


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The Oregon Record Hackberry Tree


“Ralph, I think I have identified the Oregon record Hackberry tree. I have found Hackberry trees in the Deschutes River Canyon… they seem to be uncommon in Oregon… I know where some big ones are located… maybe one is a record. Let’s go look.”

“A Hackberry tree was submitted about ten years ago but never verified. It’s in Hells Canyon, on the Oregon side of the Snake River and difficult to reach. The guy that submitted it recently asked again if we had ever confirmed his tree… maybe we can do that. We owe it to him to verify his submission.”

We checked the location on Google Earth, found what we thought was the tree in question and decided the terrain was a little too rugged to hike for a couple of old guys. But another plan occurred to me.

“Ralph, have you ever ridden a jetboat from Hells Canyon Dam to Lewiston, Idaho and returned to the dam? It’s an exciting adventure in terms of whitewater rapids. I know you would enjoy seeing the rock formations. That tree is close to the river… maybe we can encourage the jetboat captain to pull ashore long enough to let us confirm the tree.”

Snake River Rapids
Hell’s Canyon Adventure

Ralph was agreeable to the plan, so, the plan was hatched.

We made reservations with Hells Canyon Adventures and put the plan into motion. The jetboat ride down river was momentous and I thought I spotted the tree up river from Dug Bar. All we needed was some cooperation from the captain and about five minutes on shore.

The captain was amenable. During our layover in Lewiston we coordinated the stop to measure the tree… he remembered the spot I described and he put us ashore within 100 feet of the tree in question. Ralph got the necessary measurements and photos to verify the tree. I love it when a plan comes together.

Record Hackberry TreeOregon’s Record Hackberry Tree… Hell’s Canyon, Snake River Sept 20, 2015


As soon as the submission details were confirmed we sent a congratulatory letter of notification for finding an Oregon record tree.

We got a thank you letter from the guy’s wife with the sad news that he had passed away during the year. Bummer… he waited almost ten years for confirmation but maybe he is smiling up there, knowing his tree finally made the list of big trees.


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The Building is for Sale

Porte Cochere Oregon Trunk RR station in Redmond

“The building is for sale.”

His voice startled me… I was in the city of Redmond, Central Oregon, admiring the architecture of a building that appeared to be unused… lights off… doors locked… parking lot empty.  I did not see or hear the stranger approach. He just appeared unannounced beside me… his words an invitation to a discussion… waiting for a reply.

I took another, longer look at him. He was short, stocky, well dressed… this was no cowboy or logger… his clothing and attitude spoke of wealth…  an executive… maybe a banker… but with hands that looked like he knew how to hold a pick or shovel.

“Tell me about the building,” I said. “I’m curious about the design.”

“The building was a passenger depot for the Oregon Trunk Railroad… constructed in 1912 using volcanic tuff from a local quarry.  We chose masonry over wood and built it to last… Cost us the grand sum of $9,290… that’s $242,775 in today’s money… Passenger service declined so we sold this building to the city of Redmond for a dollar… they spent $300,000 to move it to this location… to make room for a highway… but it’s still near the railroad.” He nodded toward the railroad tracks located just behind the building from where we were standing.

A loud blast from an air horn interrupted our reverie. A BNSF locomotive rumbled past, heading north toward the Columbia River, no longer hauling passengers but still finding profit with freight.

“Damned air horns, they have no panache,” he said with a note of derision in his voice.  “I miss the steam trumpet… with a little encouragement a talented engineer could play Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.”

I turned away from watching the locomotive pass by and found myself again standing alone in the empty parking lot… believing I just had a conversation with the ghost of James Hill, the man who owned the Oregon Trunk Railroad, the man known to history as “The Empire Builder.”

For more traveling Oregon stories:

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