I could have stayed inside all day playing a couple tables at Stars hoping that I might catch a portion of the 25 billion-hand promotion they had this weekend. Yet, it was one of those spring-like days that February throws our way each year, so instead I opted to take a drive. I also figured some of my readers might like to take a break from my PLO exploits. It was a good move.
I headed east, up the Santiam Canyon with one place in particular in mind: my favorite Santiam River fishing hole. The county park road I needed to take to access the site was closed for the season.. Thwarted. I seem to remember that it opens March 1st, about the time the summer steelhead trout start coming up the river in some numbers. There is a rest area along the highway just past the park, and I thought there might be a way into the park, or down to the river from there. I had seen people fishing from that side and figured there must be a path. I found a path but no safe area to go down the cliff to the water. Thwarted again. I snapped a couple pictures and headed back to the truck.
When I first arrived at the rest area, there was a couple with a sign asking for money. They looked truly destitute, the woman in a wheelchair, and their clothes had a muddied hue to them, as if they had been washed too many times and almost too threadbare to be worn much longer. Poverty has always been an issue in the Canyon. When the logging industry was in full swing, this area was somewhat prosperous. Now, the unemployment rate is the highest in Oregon, and, not surprisingly, meth addiction is as equally rampant as there is a lack of jobs. The views of mountains are spectacular; the run-down houses and clear-cut forests less so. I stopped on my way out and gave them some money. I recognized the man.
I pointed my rig back west. I had seen a road that had a sign pointing toward the Little North Fork of the Santiam River. I hadn’t remembered seeing this sign before, and I was somewhat intrigued because the only road I knew that went along the Little North Fork was ten miles further west. I turned onto the road and immediately hit a 13% grade that had me in second gear for several miles. My ears popped about the same time I started to hit snow on the sides of the road. I had to be up about three thousand feet.
The road on the backside of this little mountain was equally as steep and I had to ride my brakes the whole way down the swichbacks. At the bottom lay the Little North Fork and the road that I was familiar with. I found a place to pull over, a U.S. park that was also closed for the season. The road into it was blocked by downed trees, leftover damage from December’s storms. I could smell my brakes.
The rest of my drive was rather uneventful. I stopped one more time in Mehama, a small town to the east of us, to get a close look at the North Santiam River. I chatted a little with another fisherman sizing up the conditions to see if fishing might be worth trying, and snapped a picture of a father and son trying their luck. (Well, the father was fishing. The son was trying out his throwing arm with river rocks.)
I took the back road home from Mehama. I tried to take a few more pictures as I drove, pulled into the driveway, walked into the house, kissed the dear wife, wrote this, and, after I bring the ducks in for the night, I will see how the photos turned out.
The view heading east toward the Cascade Mountains. This is the small village of Gates, population 440.
Toward the top of the mountain on the way to Little North Fork. Note the large area of snow on yonder peak and the orange logging gate in the lower right section of the picture.
This is what the white patch in the picture above looks like without the snow.
The gate for the BLM park.
The Little North Fork of the Santiam River.
The summer steelies are supposedly, already making their way up the Santiam.