September 30, 2012

The short, scenic and historic drive that is road 48

Barlow Road near Forest Creek Campground
As I've written in a previous post, sometimes the best part of a trip to a particular destination is the drive. After making numerous trips over the Cascades from the Portland area to North Central Oregon, one drive that became routine was forest road 48 beginning at its western intersection with Highway 35 (to Hood River) and ending in the little hamlet of Wamic. However, looking closer, the road closely parallels one of the most important roads in not only Oregon history, but also the history of the U.S.

Views (above and below) of Mt. Hood from road 48

Forest road 48 is a scenic drive, too, stretching roughly 30 miles from the eastern slopes of Mt. Hood near the new bridge over White River on Highway 35 to the arid flats and ranch lands of northern Central Oregon. Snaking along the bottom of White River's forested canyon, the historic Barlow Road is never far from the river or road 48, which provides access to logging roads leading to the Badger Creek Wilderness and that areas numerous trails.

White River near road 48

What is left of the old Barlow Road, where pioneers crossed the Cascade Range to enter the Willamette Valley, is a well worn, wide dirt trail intermittently winding through second growth forest and between large old growth Douglas firs and Ponderosa Pine. There are several places where the pioneer road is accessible from forest road 48.

One of the ponds along 48 near Wamic
Coming directly off the slopes of Mt. Hood at Palmer Glacier and the surrounding area, the White River is often the ashen color of streams born from melting glaciers. From my frequent visits to the White River, I'm always amazed at the amount of eroded earth from Mt. Hood actually flowing down the river each year in the form of grey rock flour.

Entry bridge over Forest Creek to campground
Two campgrounds are located along road 48 - Forest Creek and Rock Creek. Forest Creek is a small campground located in an old growth forest along its namesake creek about a mile off of road 48. The campground actually sits along a very scenic portion of Barlow Road and Forest Creek. According to the U.S. Forest Service, "Although many pioneers passed by this site, few actually camped here. They did water their stock and themselves in the creek and possibly stopped here briefly on the last leg of their long journey to the fertile valleys west of the Cascades."

Low waters of Rock Creek Reservoir in September
To the east of Forest Creek campground is Rock Creek Campground, which sits along Rock Creek Reservoir's west shoreline about 1/2 mile off of road 48. The lake is 88 acres when full and has good rainbow trout fishing. It was developed in the 1940s for irrigation and, for that reason, is drained down considerably by August. In Atlas of Oregon Lakes, the author writes, "The origin of the name Rock Creek is impossible to establish with certainty. There are at least fifty streams in Oregon with this name, bestowed by early residents with little concern for originality." Yes, I would think that staying alive might trump trying to come up with an original name for a creek.
Old schoolhouse in downtown Wamic
When driving road 48, notice the cattle guards crossing the road at various intervals. They exist because cattle are run in the forests east of Mt. Hood. Frequently, in the summer months, these cattle will graze along the sides of road 48. Rarely do they venture onto the road, but it is wise to keep an eye out for the bovine. On one trip I did witness a dead, bloated cow along the roadside. Near it was shattered glass, obviously from a vehicle that had hit and killed the cow.
Posing along road 48 - Say Cheese!
At the end of the journey when  heading east is the small town of Wamic. A small restaraunt and bar sits along 48 just before the road dips into Wamic. Surrounded by farm and ranch land, Wamic's primary businesses consists of a store with gas (called the Wamic Mall by many), and a general auto parts store. 
Race track for lawnmower races near Wamic
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