Starvation Ridge splits Davis Creek and Swamp Creek. The Chico Trail starts near Highway 3, drops into Davis Creek, goes up Starvation Ridge where there is supposed to be a road, then drops into Swamp Creek before climbing the other side of the mountain. The day before the boys and I verified that there was a road going down Swamp Creek, but it was closed and there was indeed a very hike-able trail called Driveway Saddle Trail #1678B that goes from Miller Ridge to Swamp Creek. Today the boys and I were going to see if the road my map shows going out Starvation road was there, if it was open, and whether it was drivable.
I had tried to cut some trees off a road the day before with no success because my chainsaw wouldn’t start. I did not want to run into the same situation today so we waited for the Ace Hardware store to open in Enterprise hoping that they sold an inexpensive chain saw. We were in luck and after getting a small Poulan saw we were off.
A short distance up Forest Road 46 we found the turn off to Starvation Ridge. There were multiple groups camping near the road here, but none after the first half mile. There was no gate on this road to stop us, but I think the road itself would probably stop most. It is built from base rock that doesn’t get much smaller than four inches in diameter. Excellent tires and slow speeds are mandatory for this road. The tires on our pickup are pretty new and we luckily did not pop any.
This road is a little over six miles, but it took us a long time to drive it. As you near the Chico Trail the base rock road ends and it is simply a dirt road. Even with all the rain we have been getting, the road was not soft although it had some large mud puddles that the boys enjoyed going through. A quarter mile from the Chico trail the road drops over some bedrock that is pretty rough looking. I do not like beating up my rigs or pushing my luck so we stopped there and walked to find the trail.
It is not real obvious where the Chico trail intersects the road, but there are several rock piles that mark it and walking over the ridge on either side will give you a clearer view of where the trail is. We walked back to the pickup to get our gear. There was a good chance it was going to rain on and off today and we would have to cross the creek so I had the boys wear their waders once again. I decided to take the chainsaw to cut out any logs on the trail. The Forest Service does not maintain this trail anymore although I am told that the Backcountry Horsemen of Oregon has cleaned it at certain times in the past.
After losing 1200 feet in elevation and a little over a mile of ziz-zagging down Starvation Ridge we were to the Swamp Creek trail and there was only one small four inch tree across the trail that I cut out. The chain saw was looking a bit like extra weight that I would be packing out without putting to much use.
There are corrals and a shed near the bottom and I saw a freshly dug hole to the side of the trail. I pointed it out to the boys and mentioned that it must be a badger hole as big as it was. Kolby walked up to inspect it and was met by growls, hisses, grumblings and all kinds of bad noises. I hollered at him to get back and was happy to see that the badger did not take enough offense at the inspection to come out of his hole. We left the badger to his excavations and proceeded down the trail.
The fence that follows Swamp Creek looked freshly fixed in spots and we found trees that had been cut off the trail this spring. After a mile of packing the chainsaw along Swamp Creek, I decided it was simply extra weight and left it beside the trail to pick up on our way back. Now I had my hands free to take pictures and borrow one of the kids sling-shots to show them how it is done.
There may be two trails going down Swamp Creek: one cow trail on the uphill side of the fence and another trail that crisscrosses Swamp Creek. We walked on both always choosing the path that looked the most used.
On the creek bottom there are a lot of large Ponderosa Pines and when we began examining them, it was hard to find one without claw marks going up and down the tree. Combining the claw marks with the amount of bear crap we saw makes me think there is a healthy population of bears down there. We did not see any however. All bears and other creatures could hear us coming. The boys are not particularly quiet, but especially not when they are going down a trail playing with sling shots and comparing each stick they find with the one they already have in hand to see which would make the better spear, sword, or arrow. They surmised that one never knows when an angry badger might come out of a hole or when a bear might sneak down out of the tree it has climbed up. So it is best to be armed with a good spear or sword should you need to defend yourself against said bear or badger.
We had covered almost six miles by the time we reached the intersection with trail # 1678B which we had hiked down the day before. Starting out the day I wasn’t real confident that we would make it that far. The boys kept going strong though and they are pretty accustomed to going on long walks with me. I know from experience that they have no problem covering 10-12 miles in a day and this day we would be doing 12 with the last mile going up Starvation Ridge.