Wrong Turn Nearly Cost Us Dearly!

Wrong Turn Nearly Cost Us Dearly!

I was engaged in car travel chitchat as we drove towards Prineville. I had driven this route a bunch of times.

I was with a fellow photographer and her out-of-town friend. Our plan was to hike the Chimney Rock Trail up to the plateau overlooking the Crooked River for sunset.

The plateau has wonderful views of the river below, the Cascade Mountain Range to the West and high desert terrain in between. The hike was short but steep requiring an above average physical effort.

Chimney Plateau 151302LND8

Chimney Plateau 151302LND8

I based our Bend ‘leave time’ on the estimated drive time, a comfortable hiking pace plus a bit of spare time added as a buffer.

My preplan weather assessment gave us a good, but not great chance of a colorful sunset sky. However, the closer we got to Prineville the more promising the sky looked.

We drove through downtown. I turned south and drove by the hospital. Before I knew it we were at the Prineville Reservoir. This is not where we needed to be! Well, actually it was almost where we needed to be except we needed to be on the opposite side of the tall ridge I could see out my drivers side window.

Did I say the sky was looking pretty promising? It now looked even more promising!

I turned the car around, admitted my mistake and headed back towards town. The more promising the sky looked the more anxious I got. Had I blown our chance of capturing a stellar sunset?

The car seemed to know where to go. I just had to keep it from breaking the sound barrier.

Back through town we traveled and then south again this time on the correct road. It’s a road with lots of curves adding precious time to our commute. As I drove I began to consider a Plan B.

I pulled in to the trailhead. After a brief discussion about wether there was enough time, we collectively agreed to ‘go for it’. On went the backpacks and up the trail we hiked.

The trail is rocky and moderately steep. I kept looking backwards trying to calculate the sun’s speed as it dipped towards the horizon. I wasn’t at all sure we were going to make it in time.

I had already formulated an apology speech in case we were too late.

It was clear this was going to be a stellar sunset.

On top at last, albeit a bit short of breath, I led the others to the edge of the plateau. We contemplated photo compositions.

My fellow photographer elected to back track a short distance to a spot I pointed out on the way by. I stayed at the edge of the cliff and lined up my own composition.

It was happening! The sky was already being painted a beautiful yellow-red-magenta. I could hear occasional cheers of happiness down the trail.

As foreground shadows darkened the snow capped mountain peaks became perfectly defined against the semitransparent colorful sky. The sunset seemed to last forever!

Chimney Rock Plateau Sunset 1810104LNND8

Chimney Rock Plateau Sunset 1810104LNND8

Finally it became to dark to take any more photos. It was time to put my headlamp on and packed up my gear.

I walked back down the trail to meet the others. All of us were amazed at what we had just witnessed. After some high fives we trained our headlamps on the trail and headed downhill. The remnants of the sunset lingered in the sky for most of the return trip down the trail.

I’ll admit I was a bit worried we weren’t going to make it in time. In the end we had just enough time to take a deep breath and capture one of the most stunning high desert sunsets I’ve seen in a while.

Steve