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  • Writer's pictureScott Nechemias

Columbia Plateau Route Thru Overview

The first week of April, 2021, I hiked from the Lower John Day Wilderness Study Area to Mitchell, Oregon. This southbound route through John Day River Country passed through these areas:

  • Lower John Day Wilderness Study Area

  • Thirty Mile Wilderness Study Area

  • North Pole Ridge Wilderness Study Area

  • Spring Basin Wilderness

  • Pine Creek Conservation Area

  • Pat's Cabin Wilderness Study Area

  • Sutton Mountain Wilderness Study Area

The route hikes upstream, opposite the flow of the John Day, and allows for a more immersive experience than rafting. There is a caloric cost for the endeavor, which in the end wound up being a little over 120 miles and averaging just under 450 feet of vertical change per mile.The route uses no developed or maintained trails, but does use existing jeep roads for about 40 percent of the travel. Two raft crossings of the John Day are required. Future routing adjustments could lower these numbers and ease travel to a certain extent, but would not change the fact that this is a trip for a hiker experienced in off trail navigation, used to utilizing game trails for efficient travel, and willing to carry supplies and gear (including a packraft) for the duration of the entire hike as there are no resupply points and no convenient bail out points.

I'm presenting information about the hike in two parts, with a short video for each, a blog post for each day, and an overview map. While an experienced hiker could use these resources as a rough guide, they are not meant to serve as one. I expect after a few fall and winter hikes in late 2021 I'll publish more comprehensive and cohesive information.

This was a highly gratifying endeavor that has a place among the best trips I've ever taken. I have an affinity for Oregon's high desert country, and while I'm not sure this ranks as a true destination hike for the backpacker enamored mostly with alpine vistas and forests, it should certainly be on the radar of adventurous Pacific Northwesterners looking for an off season option of substantial time and distance. It is my intention to make a hiking connection from Mitchell to the Western Terminus of Oregon Desert Trail, allowing a truly intrepid individual an opportunity to extend an ODT thru over the Ochocos and into the Columbia Plateau.

The map for Part I can be found here:

(my struggle to get links to display in a different color continues)

And the video:

Materials for Part II should be posted by early May, and will be added to this post.

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