Deschutes River Trail 50 miler
The Deschutes River Trail follows the river south from where it meets the Columbia at the Deschutes River State Recreation Area 24 miles to the road at Macks Canyon Campground. It follows the bed of an old railroad track, and there are lots of remnants of the line and the Ranch history of the area (much more existed before the 2018 substation fire burned down buildings and ranch infrastructure). Across the river the tracks are still in use and a couple trains a day travel south. In the southern section, fires ripped through and burned the railroad ties and trestles crossing the canyons, leaving empty footprints behind and some charred remains. Where the trestles were, short scrambles down into the canyons connect the trail. There is some great geology exposed from the river and railroad cut including a section of marvelously twisted basalt columns. The canyon cliffs can feel immense at times rising up from the river.
The weather seemed like it would perfect mid 60s with afternoon clouds, so I arrived on the trail just before sunrise. Heading south was ideal, with the high canyon walls providing shade and then the afternoon clouds coming in just when temperatures and sun exposure would have become uncomfortable. The light wind pressing against me on the return north was pleasantly cooling. I made it the 24 miles down to the road at Macks Canyon in 5 hours, and the journey north took a bit more than 7 hours as I took much more walking breaks as my knee really started to feel the hard gravel and rock of the path. When I got back to the car late afternoon I decided to tack on a few extra miles rambling back north along the Blackberry trail to finish the day with a total of 50 miles, my largest single day yet.
Flowers are starting to bloom including some of the balsam root and lupines, the bird life was really incredible. I saw a plethora of birds of prey: almost a dozen Kestrels, a falcon, Bald Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks, a Harrier. Spooked some turkeys, endless Chukars, some very panicked quail, and a couple of pheasants. Lots of songbirds and a constant chorus of meadowlarks and wrens along the way. Early in the morning a large group of the bighorn sheep ran across the road behind me and up the hillside.