Over the weekend, we decided to take a drive South from Pendleton to Battle Mountain and beyond. Heading south on Hwy 395 we drove through rolling hills, slowly climbing in altitude. About 30 miles south we entered the Battle Mountain Forest State Scenic Corridor. Grass covered hills gave way to snow-dappled forests of Douglas Fir and Ponderosa Pine. We also passed by the entrance of Battle Mountain State Park, but it is currently closed for the winter. As we drove in the cold rain, we saw many groups of Mule Deer, but the elk my husband was looking for weren’t to be found…. yet…

We decided to drive further South into the Umatilla National Forest. Taking a Forest Service Road, just North of Dale, we followed it East into the mountains until we found a nice place to park and get out. There’s still a bit of snow on the ground higher up, but not much! The kids and the dog had a blast running free and throwing big rocks off a nearby bridge. There was ice partially covering the creek and my boys delighted in trying to get the rocks to break through the ice shelf. I wish we were all so easily entertained. We all took turns hiking up to a high point to see if we could get some good views, and the boys discovered the thrill of rock climbing. After an hour or so we decided to drive back home.

We stopped in the little town of Ukiah, OR, mostly because of pure curiosity on my part. My husband had been there numerous time during elk hunting seasons past, and a few of my Michigan friends had also lived there prior to moving to Michigan. We always seem to hit the local towns on a Sunday, and as a result, they’re frequently very quiet. This was no exception. This is however, the home of the North Fork John Day Ranger District of the Umatilla National Forest, and a place to stop for information about the forest, as well as gas, food and lodging. The Blue Mountain Scenic Byway also goes right through Ukiah, but parts can be closed in the winter, so I’m saving this much-anticipated drive for spring after the snow is gone and the wildflowers come out.

As the shadows started lengthening we started our drive back to Pendleton, and just as we were driving over Battle Mountain, we spotted a large herd of elk right next to Hwy 395. I was able to grab my camera and take this video. Please excuse the background noise of a loud radio and excited dog. No doubt this was the high light of the day.

Becky is a mom, living in Pendleton, Oregon who likes to explore the outdoors and find free or low-cost activities to share with her family.

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