John Sweat led a hike on Thursday, Oct. 27 up Dry Creek Canyon. The approach was a bit confusing as the trailhead is beyond an ODOT gravel pile, and down a pretty rough road that requires a high clearance vehicle. We relied on the GAIA GPS to keep us from ending up at the Badlands Rock trailhead.
It was quite cool even at 9:30am, partly due to the time of the year and partly due to being in the shadows of the canyon. This particular trail is closed for nesting falcons from February 1 through August 31. I was quite pleased that the trail bed was not the sand of the Badlands, but a solid dirt base apparently left over from the flowing river that drained ancient Lake Millican.
The beginning of the trail is quite flat, winding over water-worn rocks and through stands of juniper. The canyon is about 300 feet deep at this point, with the walls being formed of various colors and layers of basalt.
Although we were on the lookout for the white wash below falcon nests, we saw plenty of other interesting features such as the lichen on the rocks as well as the trees. A basalt formation I had never seen before was like a bunch of smaller rocks glued to the side of the walls. One statuesque feature couched in the rocks on the canyon wall reminded John of Juan Diego’s 1531 visions of the Virgin Mary. It was a surprisingly rounded rock feature that stood out in the sunshine against the shadows of the surrounding rocks.
We turned around at about mile 2.3 when the trail seemed to abruptly end at a large rock. During our lunch break, John discovered that the trail actually headed up the canyon wall. Had we continued, we would have been able to reach Highway 20, and even cross it for a return hike down a section of the Horse Ridge trails. Regardless, we all decided we would have to return with the intent to explore a bit more of this picturesque canyon.