Sunday, January 29, 2017

Oregon Badlands Wilderness: Flatiron Rock

 In the midst of the worst winter central Oregon has seen in 25 years, finding a place to recreate can be a bit of a challenge. Mainly because unplowed roads promise misery for the unprepared driver. I don't want to join the ranks of the many snowbound vehicles I have seen on forest roads in the last couple weeks. So I head to the Badlands. Flatiron Rock trailhead is literally just off the highway. I don't have to navigate any treacherous forest road to get there. I just make a left from U.S. Route 20, and boom, I'm in the parking lot.

Ancient Juniper
A couple route options exist from Flatiron Rock trailhead. We combined Flatiron Trail with Ancient Juniper Trail to form a 7 mile lollipop loop. The scenery in the Badlands doesn't really change, no matter what part of the wilderness you're in. It's relatively flat and covered in old gnarly Junipers (some over 1000 years old), but Ancient Juniper trail had some of the biggest Junipers that I've seen in the wilderness. Some were old and dying and others lush and green. We noticed several were cut with saws, including the Juniper in the photo above. It looked like someone cut a V into it with a chainsaw and then just walked away.

 Flatiron Rock is much more discreet than its neighbor Badlands Rock to the east. It doesn't stab upward like Badlands does. Nevertheless, the views from the top are almost just as impressive. From the northwest corner of the rock the cascade range was clearly visible as far north as Hood. I've heard that Flatiron Rock hides a lot of little caves and crevices ripe for exploration, but the amount of snow made finding such places impossible. 

Views of the cascade range.

As usual in the Badlands, we didn't see many people. We also didn't hear any birds... like at all. It's weird because if you read my blog regularly you may recall that I'm constantly remarking about the huge number of birds I see and hear in the Badlands. In fact, since my last visit I've read that the Badlands and surrounding desert host over 100 different species of bird. Today however, I didn't hear a peep. Maybe they were all hunkered down trying to stay warm. 

Hike out

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