Categories
Hiking Oregon SE Oregon Trip report

Pillars of Rome and Chalk Basin – SE Oregon Vacation Day 5

On day 5 we said goodbye to Jordan Valley and headed west on Highway 95 to Rome where we made a brief detour to visit the Pillars of Rome. The sun was still rising when we arrived so our lighting wasn’t great for photos but the interesting rock formation here were a taste of what we’d be seeing later during our hike at Chalk Basin.
IMG_6270

IMG_6272

IMG_6274

IMG_6279

IMG_6283

After visiting the pillars we returned to the highway and followed our guidebooks directions to Chalk Basin. The description of the drive calls for a high clearance vehicle and I would add you need all wheel drive at a minimum. The final 16.6 miles of the drive were by far the worst we’ve driven. A theme was developing on this trip and we once again parked before the recommended starting point. This time we parked .9 miles from where the guidebook suggested at an old tire that had been converted to a water trough.
IMG_6288

There are no trails at Chalk Basin but after walking the .9 miles we turned right at an x junction onto an even worse old roadbed and headed down into Chalk Basin.
IMG_6306

There were some tire tracks present, I can only assume they were from OHVs, as we followed the road for 1.2 miles to a fork. Along the way we passed some tufted evening primroses and an orange globe mallow.
IMG_6313

IMG_6316

Across the basin we had a view of some mini painted hills.
IMG_6321

IMG_6323

IMG_6326

We veered right at the fork and in a tenth of a mile came to a crossing of a dry wash.
IMG_6331

IMG_6332

We turned right here and headed down the wash.
IMG_6333

IMG_6337

We followed this wash for .7 miles to a drop off at a dry waterfall. It was an interesting hike through the wash which it turned out was not entirely dry.
IMG_6341Side blotched lizard

IMG_6353Wildflowers in the wash

IMG_6357Smooth stemmed blazing star

IMG_6361Monkeyflower

IMG_6364End of the water in the wash

IMG_6373Above the dry waterfall

Following our guidebook we backtracked 100 feet and climbed out of the wash up the gentlest slope to the south.
IMG_6376

When we crested the hill we could see the canyon we had been in winding its way toward the Owyhee River Canyon.
IMG_6384

We continued south heading for another large dry wash, this one running north/south.
IMG_6385

We headed for that wash passing a group of smooth, rounded protrusions.
IMG_6388

As we were dropping into this wash the one and only snake we would see on our whole trip passed between us heading uphill. It was a decently sized garter snake, not one of the areas many rattlesnakes. Heather never even saw it and it disappeared into the sagebrush. Soon after a small side blotched lizard raced into a different bush, then a much larger lizard raced out of that same area and up onto some rocks.
IMG_6394

IMG_6399

We were supposed to follow this wash for another .7 miles, staying left at forks, to the head of the wash. We passed some interesting rock formations along the way but somewhere along the line we took one left fork too many.
IMG_6409

IMG_6406

IMG_6413

We didn’t realize it at first as we had been trying to only take the most obvious left hand forks. When we reached the end of the wash we headed cross country toward the lowest point we could see which happened to be a little to the south of a large rock fin.
IMG_6414

IMG_6415

If we had been in the correct spot we would have crested a ridge at the edge of a rim just to the NE of a feature known as the Yellow Knoll. Instead when we reached the top of the ridge the Yellow Knoll was still quite a ways to the south.
IMG_6419Yellow Knoll with the Yellow Dome to its left.

IMG_6428Yellow Knoll

IMG_6426Yellow Dome

We followed the ridge up and down a little under half a mile to the Yellow Knoll. The views form the ridge were great as we made our way over.
IMG_6422

IMG_6429

IMG_6432

We eventually made it over to the Yellow Knoll and hiked to a viewpoint atop it.
IMG_6437

IMG_6442

IMG_6443

IMG_6444

IMG_6445

IMG_6446

After checking out the view from Yellow Knoll we headed for Yellow Dome and climbed to its top.
IMG_6457

IMG_6460

The view from Yellow Dome was even more impressive as the Owyhee River flowed past rows of chalk pillars.
IMG_6469

IMG_6473

IMG_6482

After admiring that view we headed back past Yellow Knoll and followed the canyon rim for half a mile before striking off cross country following a dry stream bed in a westerly direction.
IMG_6511

IMG_6513

20180613_094605_stitch

This dry stream ran past the water trough that we’d parked at so all we had to do was keep that on our left and it would lead us back to our waiting car.
IMG_6518
Dry stream bed (indentation) on the left with Steens Mountain in the distance.

Following the stream bed worked perfectly and we were soon back on the horrible road after a spectacular 6.9 mile hike at Chalk Basin. After surviving the road we took Highway 78 north to East Steens Road where we turned left toward Fields. The road is paved for the first 10.9 then turns to gravel for the next 42.3 miles before turning pack to pavement. The views of Steens Mountain and the Alvord Desert along this drive were amazing and we did stop once when we spotted a pair of sandhill cranes in a field.
IMG_6532

IMG_6527

IMG_6525

When we arrived at Fields Station we checked on the availability of a room. Fortunately there was one available for the night so we checked in. The room was actually a large front room with a bed, table, chairs, refrigerator/freezer and a coffee maker, a bathroom, and another bedroom in the back. After getting settled we went over to the store/cafe and ordered bacon cheeseburgers and a couple of their famous milkshakes before the cafe closed at 4pm. I had a 3C – Coffee, Chocolate, and Caramel and Heather had a combination of Raspberry and Chocolate. They lived up to the hype. We had a full day of hiking ahead of us before we started our journey home so we turned in early (a little extra early now that we were back on Pacific Standard Time instead of Mountain Time). Happy Trails!

Flickr: Pillars of Rome and Chalk Basin