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  • Writer's pictureScott Nechemias

Columbia Plateau Route Thru Day 6: Spring Basin to Pine Creek

I'm not sure it was a productive exercise for my brain, but I while packing up in the morning I reckoned that I had eaten about 7 pounds of food thus far on my trip, but was now carrying 11 pounds of water. Given the normal amount of water I had been carrying my packweight went back to almost exactly the same place it started at 6 days ago. It felt heavier than my starting pack weight as I climbed up the old jeep road towards Horseshoe Mountain.

There were stellar views of were I had come from, one of my favorite aspects of a trip, being able to gaze back over a wide view and see a couple days back in time. In this case Black Rock, Chinaman Hat, and North Pole Ridge are clearly visible from the northern Edge of Spring Basin. I eventually stopped looking behind me as the jeep road curling around to Sheep Mountain is difficult to keep track of, and as I gained elevation would stop often to check out the blooms on the tiny cacti growing all over the ridge.

The jeep road runs out just before Sheep Mountain, where I took a long break to admire the views. The most reward comes from a summit of Sheep Mountain, and it's what I'd advise to anyone recreating this trip, but I'd climbed it before and had a sneaking suspicion about a drainage east of Sheep Mountain that just might contain a spring. Despite it's name, Spring Basin is a terribly difficult place to find water of any significant flow, and I was eager to see if there were sources unknown to me as well as see some new terrain.

I pushed through a few narrow choked up parts of the drainage, taking note of some smooth exposed rock in places and the increasing vegetation, until I happened upon a marshy trickle. Not exactly an oases, but would certainly beat dehydration if I ever needed it in this area. The real surprise came just beyond the spring when I came upon a couple of old prospecting cabins previously unknown to me an unmarked on the USGS.

I finished my walk through the drainage into Breo Flat, and followed the jeep road there until there was a convenient spot to cross over to Rattlesnake Canyon. The weather was turning gloomy in the late afternoon, and the steady climb to May Basin was tiring but scenic. The sense of isolation here is extreme, not many besides seasonal hunters travel through the Pine Creek Area, and with no hunts in season I definitely seemed to have the area to myself.

With weather rolling in I made the decision not to continue to climb to Juniper Flat, judging myself slightly ahead of schedule for the whole trip and that May Basin would provide a warmer, calmer night. The map of the day's travel:

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