Simply Nahala

Writer. Photographer. Soul Traveler.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Cottonwood Canyon

Over the weekend, my daughters and I hiked around the remote jewel of Cottonwood Canyon State Park, the second largest in Oregon. Nestled in Eastern Oregon along the John Day River, this country is wild, natural and draws you in with its vertical canyons. There is beauty everywhere: golds and browns of grasslands, sagebrush in bloom, and the river meandering through the deep canyon. Pure bliss for someone who loves the rugged outdoors.

The park makes for a relaxing day trip or camping retreat. Recreational opportunities include hiking, camping, horse back riding, river boating, hunting, and fishing. The day use area has brand new restrooms, and a covered area to relax or have a picnic with a historic barn backdrop. After walking all day on old ranch roads covered with pieces of black obsidian, the sun blazing down on us; it was a welcome reprieve to sit in the shade and enjoy lunch in the warm breeze. The smell of sagebrush permeated the air. It was intoxicating.

There is no cell phone service in the canyon or many parts of Eastern/Central Oregon, so be prepared if you are planning a long hike. You can record your planned return time with the information station in case of an emergency. The weather can be extreme, sizzling hot in the summer and frigid cold in the winter. There are also rattlesnakes and ticks throughout the area so pay attention to where you are walking. The ticks are most active in spring and early summer. I always like to be prepared: water, hat, first aid kit, knife, snacks, flashlight, matches. You never know!

Native Americans once grazed horses in these canyons. Then modern farming and ranching changed the land. There is a preservation effort in the park to restore native vegetation in the 8,000-plus acres, especially in the riparian area. Camping and future development is minimal in order to maintain the integrity of the land. If you are interested in learning more about Cottonwood Canyon, click HERE.

As I've been out and about in nature this fall, I can't help but notice that the earth feels so warm. Feverish really. A fever can be healthy as it rids the body of infection. On the other hand, if it's too high it can be fatal. This is my favorite time of year, but things just feel a bit off. Way off really. The rivers are so low and much too warm. Here in the northwest, we have had a mass die off of fish.

According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, over 100 wild spring Chinook salmon died in the John Day River this spring. They are not acclimated to climate change. The high water temperatures and low water levels have been lethal. The ecosystem is rapidly changing before our eyes. It's surreal really. What the future will bring is uncertain, but one thing is clear to me: we are being forced to change our ways and adapt very quickly.

Oregon is officially in a drought, and we are experiencing significant earth changes world wide. My water bill just went up to deter excess water consumption, and I think it's a good idea. I've already made changes around my home to limit water usage. May this new dawn bring innovative changes that honor this planet and all beings that reside on it. Cheers!

Advice From a Canyon

Carve out a place for yourself
Aspire to new plateaus
Stand the test of time
Don't get boxed in 
Listen to the voice of the wind
It's OK to be a little off the wall 
Reach deep!

Ilan Shamir

Happy Exploring!


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