Note: This is an old post that has been sitting in the “out box” for quite some time, just needing me to put the photos with it. Where does all the time go? I mention this because in the nearly three months that have passed since I visited Jim Carlson and first learned about FOTJDB there have most probably developments with his budding organization that I am unaware of. Accordingly I’ve invited Jim to comment on the post and/or maybe give me some additional material to post here.
Back in April, as a side trip to my participation in ONDA’s annual meeting, I had the chance to spend a few days on Night Hawk Ranch. The spread is located just north of the Twickenham Crossing on the John Day River. Jim Carlson, the owner had invited folks headed to the ONDA Annual Meeting to stop by the ranch prior to the meeting and learn about – and maybe become involved in - the formation of a new advocacy group. The group is called Friends of the John Day Basin and will focus on restoration projects specific to one of most environmentally unique and important areas in the entire Pacific Northwest. Potential project sites include the Painted Hills area and a number of wilderness studies areas including Pat’s Cabin, Horse Heaven, Cathedral Rock, Spring Basin Wilderness, and Sutton Mountain.
Given the size of the Basin and the scope of its issues, Jim’s outline of first year activities seems pretty realistic:
- Coordinate with other groups with similar interests and missions
- Identify opportunities for small restoration projects
- Recruit volunteers, preferably from local constituencies
- Research the area physically and through a review of the literature
- Establish a website and open communications channels
- Conduct 1 to 3 small scale restoration projects
For the moment it appears Jim is fronting the entirety of this enterprise. As far as I know he has not yet applied for 501 c 3 status so attracting cash donations will be a bit of a challenge. I don’t think he has begun work on any grants either. I did a rough estimate of what it took in the way of gasoline, firewood and construction to get his “camp grounds” ready for visitors. It wasn’t chickenfeed. He asked a nominal fee from those of us who attended the April intro, something like $10 as I recall, and if I hadn’t made him take that plus a little extra he’d have blown off collecting it entirely. This means that (1)there’s a lot more than simple sweat-equity involved in starting up a do-some-good organization and (2) one lone individual has taken on the (typically thankless) burden of bearing the first portion of pretty much the entire initial load. I hope he can get some reinforcements soon.
The weather was “questionable” for this trip, meaning that it was unclear as to just how miserable a camping experience it might turn out to be. Weather forecasts for that period were not promising. I think those forecasts and the fact that the visit took place mid-week helped limit turn out. Just three of us were crazy enough to show. Over the three day visit rain showers hit the area several times, sometimes very heavily. It was wet most of the time and it got cold to damned cold at night (one night the thermometer inside Shack hit 29). But overall it was a pleasant enough physical experience, thanks in good part to Jim’s great hospitality and his more than serviceable camp ground. His cook shack was spacious and the custom made wood stove inside was a real dandy. I stayed in Shack In The Box and except for the first night was generally snug as a bug in a rug.
We took a few short hikes with Jim as our guide, including one into an area that was a little like a miniature version of the Painted Hills.
We also visited a place that I have named "The Girds Creek Gates."
Just across the road (below) the area is sun beaten for most of the day, leading to an altogether different kind of habitat.
We also took a swing by the Painted Hills Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds. I had heard that there had been some major renovations made to board walk interpretive trail and was curious to see how the layout may have changed since the last time I walked it in the '90s. I came away very impressed with the revised layout and well built walkway.
My companions for most of my stay at Jim's ranch (Lon and Dave) and I pose for a group shot at one of the info markers along the walkway.
In addition to touring the area with Jim and the others I spent a few hours walking a ridge that runs along the west boundary line of the ranch. Since good light was generally nowhere to be found I ended up focusing on the ground itself rather than on the landscape. There’s a whole ‘nother world down there if you know how to get to it. It’s been a long time since I seriously pursued macro photography. Almost twenty years of professional grade jewelry photography pretty much burned that interest out of me. But the results from this brief outing have prompted me to begin work on an album titled “Under Foot.” Here are a couple samples:
I first visited the John Day Basin 1992. Hard to believe it’s been almost twenty years! For a long time it was my favorite part of the state and I would get over there as often as possible. Today that distinction goes to the Owyhee Country, but I still get over to the area near Jim’s ranch at least once a year, if for no other reason than to see what’s new in the Painted Hills. Maybe I'll have to make that twice a year from here on out.