Sometimes things don’t go as planned… (Part 2)
Updated: Nov 28, 2022
A spontaneous journey exploring Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, Idaho, and Hells Canyon solo in August 2020 for my 21st Birthday.
I did a lot of wandering this past summer. There’s much I could write about, but I’m going to focus on one trip that had a really big impact on me. That probably sounds a little crazy and somewhat cliche, but it really did. This is the second part to the story.
(Go to the bottom of this post for my disclaimer about my posts where I talk about my wanderings, so you aren’t disappointed by information I don’t share.)
Tuesday, August 18, 2020
I drove into a small town and got gas. The gas station attendant was telling me and another guy that there were winds up to 70 mph the previous night during the thunderstorm. And that the forest service had a lot of downed trees to clear. I was really thankful I wasn’t in the forest when the storm came through. I was even more thankful I wasn’t backpacking.
One of the cool things I got to do today was drive into Idaho. I had seen on the map I was really close, so I decided why not. As I was driving along the highway nearing the border, the map showed there was a gulch named “McLain Gulch” spelled the exact same way as my last name right along the road. I crossed the Snake River at the border and drove down a road that continued to follow the river on the other side. It climbed uphill along the river with an unnerving drop on one side. The road then came back down to the river level. I decided to turn around after a little ways and head back into Oregon, but it was very pretty.
I decided to explore one of the main forest service roads in the area. The downed trees on it had been cleared already so it was passable. I was on the search for cool car camping spots. I found some I liked. I drove along the road and explored some other pull off areas. Then I went to a few lakes and summited a peak. Another thunderstorm was supposed to be rolling in during the afternoon so I was racing time to get back down the forest service road.
It was around 3:30pm and I decided I wanted to explore some more and not set up camp yet. I went back to the main “highway” and continued driving. My plan was if I found a better campsite than the one I’d already found, I’d just camp there instead. The road I wanted to explore ended up being paved. I was a bit disappointed because I was worried there’d be no dispersed off road camping and only the campgrounds along the road. But I decided to drive up the road and explore anyways.
I saw one car camped off the road and I got excited. The forest was beautiful in this area and there was a river nearby. I passed by a dirt road that went off to the left. After thinking about it for a second, I decided to turn around and go check it out. I’m so glad I did! It was an AWESOME campsite. I parked and decided to check the area out. The only downside was two yellow jacket trapper containers in trees nearby. I didn’t come across any yellow jackets though, so I decided it would be okay.
I took my phone and GoPro to go check out the river as there was a little trail leading down to it. It was 4:20pm and miserably hot. I thought to myself that a dip in the water sounded nice. The river was crystal clear and had a rock covered bottom. It wasn’t too swift or deep. Before I fully realized what I was doing, I took my shirt and pants off, set down my electronics, and was stepping out into the water. I stepped out to a deeper part (only came up to my knees). Then I squatted down and rinsed my whole body off. It was very cold water and took my breath away. I felt so exhilarated and on a high after doing that. I decided I was going to camp there for the night. I just relaxed and enjoyed being during the evening. I walked down the little dirt road I was camping off of. It had one more camping area and then continued through grass.
I had a very annoying chipmunk constantly chattering for about 15 minutes as the sun was going down. It had been a really wonderful day with some incredible highs.
I’m really starting to enjoy this whole “wandering” without any plans kind of thing.
Wednesday, August 19, 2020
I woke up at 6am. I quickly packed up camp and drove to an overlook nearby in Hells Canyon. I missed sunrise, but I still got to see the sun coming up. I really enjoyed feeling the sun on me.
I drove back to the road I’d camped off of and drove all the way to the end. I explored all the little roads that branched off it. I noted all the options for dispersed camping, marking them on my map so if I wanted to come back to any of them I could. I munched on huckleberries I found along the road. After I’d finished exploring different roads, it was time to drive into town to get gas.
As I neared town I thought a shower sounded really nice. My muscles were bugging me a bit (due to chronic illness and sleeping on an uneven seat in the car). I drove to my grandma’s house and took a nice shower. I took the opportunity to reorganize the car since I was focusing on car camping instead of backpacking.
My grandma’s husband showed me some different places in the area to check out. I filled up with gas and got some groceries then set out north on my way to a lookout a good distance away. I’d charted out the roads on my map because it required going down a maze of forest service roads. I ended up driving 75 miles on backroads over the course of the afternoon to get to the area I wanted.
I’d been watching the whole way for dispersed camping areas. There really weren’t any. The anxiety started to get higher the later in the day it got. I went to the view point briefly and decided I wanted to come back to watch the sunrise. I drove further down the road to see if there were any other dispersed camping options. I only had one option and I didn’t want to stay in the campground nearby.
I found a cool, rough road that looked like it went to an awesome view. It was getting late and I needed to find somewhere to camp. I explored down another road and then decided to settle on the one spot I’d seen earlier if it wasn’t already taken. I got to it and started setting up camp. I was leaning in through the back of the CRV when with door tried to slam shut with me in it. It ended up slamming on my legs and popping my knee caps. It really hurt!
I made mac-n-cheese and had root beer for supper which made me happy. At one point I glanced over to the forest and saw a huge black mass. It scared the shit out of me. It was just a big black cow, but it took a few minutes for my heart rate to return to normal.
I saw a lot of wildlife on my drive throughout the day. I saw 3 mama deer with spotted babies (saw at separate times), a herd of deer with white butts and dark long necks, a beautiful buck with an incredible rack, wild turkey with babies, and LOTS of free range cows.
I had multiple spill, flub, and injury moments today. It kinda felt like nothing was going right. I kept reminding myself “It’s all an adventure and I have no expectations.” I can’t believe tomorrow is my birthday.
Thursday, August 20, 2020
I set an alarm for 5 am. When it went off I let myself rest until 5:18 am and then forced myself to get up. I drove the 5 minutes to the overlook. I got there just as light was starting to reflect on the clouds. The sun hadn’t come up over the horizon yet. I stayed and watched the sunrise until almost 6am. When the sun broke through the clouds it was bright red. It was so cool! I sat in my car and ate my birthday donut. It was a whole lot easier to transport than a cake lol. I don’t really like my birthdays. They bring up a lot of grief, and it tends to not feel like a celebration for me internally. Turning 21 was a big deal forme though and I wanted to deal with it on my own terms which is why I wanted to be alone in the middle of nowhere for it.
Once the sun was up I decided to go down the rough road from last night that looked like it went to a cool view. I drove to where I stopped last night. There was a steep section of road going downhill and then uphill to the viewpoint. I decided to walk it instead of drive it. It was sooooo worth it. It was such an amazing view looking out over the canyon. It was a 0.8 mile walk/hike round trip. I just took in the view for a few minutes and then took some pictures as well. It was dry and there was a decent wind blowing over the rim of the canyon.
I decided to drive back to town. I made it Joseph by 8am. I stopped at a pull-off and FaceTimed my parents. I filled up with gas and got some items from the store.
I drove to a VERY small town and took a backroad a long distance that then connected with the national forest. It ended up being all private land along the road, so I was a bit disappointed. I drove back to one of the dispersed campsites I’d discovered the day before. I decided I was just going to hang out there the rest of the day. It was by far the best dispersed campsite I’d found. It was right next to the river, the forest was beautiful, and there was a trail down the steep bank to the river. The river had a beautiful, deep, calm pool right where the trail came out. The perfect spot for swimming.
I changed into my swimsuit and just sat in the car with all the windows down wearing only that. It proceeded to get hotter the longer the day went on. I ate, drank, and read one of my favorite books. I went down and got wet in the river a few times to cool off once I overheated. I doused myself with one of my water jugs at one point. It was so freaking hot. Around 4:30pm I decided I didn’t want to sleep another night on the awful car seat. I drove back to my grandma’s house and brought groceries to make one of my favorite meals. I am definitely going to be building some type of bed for the car so that car camping next summer is less painful.
The day was sort of all over the place, but I enjoyed the quiet, relaxed moments throughout it.
There are a few things I mentioned in my Mossy Forest Wanderings post that I’m going to repeat:
Wandering: moving from place to place without a fixed plan. (Dictionary.com)
Wandering is how I’ve found some of the most incredible places and lesser known views. It’s also how I find some of the most epic dispersed camping spots. They end up feeling like they’re just mine. So if I write about my wanderings I won’t be sharing the location of where I wander or of the places I find. My goal is to inspire you to wander and discover your own places. That’s what makes them so special—they feel like they’re yours and yours alone.
My Wild Adventure is not responsible for your safety, any possible injury, or anything that happens if you choose to follow anything on this website. Maps are not intended to be used for navigational purposes, but to give an overview of the route taken. By going outdoors you are solely responsible to know your strengths and limitations, be aware of current conditions and proceed with the appropriate caution. My Wild Adventure is not responsible for your choices and the outcome. Reference my disclaimer for more information on being responsible outdoors.