Once again I learned not to trust the weather forecast. I had been thinking of doing Rock Creek Butte all week but alas when the weather report for the weekend came up, it was for rain and snow in that area. I even called the ranger station in Baker City and they confirmed the rain and snow forecast. So I didn't plan to go anywhere or do much of anything and that was a mistake.
When i woke up on saturday morning, I was treated to clear skies and I knew that the weather people had blown it once again, as had I. I mentioned to my wife that I'd still like to go down to the John Day area and do Fields Peak, a 2000 foot prominence peak and she said "lets go".
We hastily packed stuff into the Caravan and headed south from Kennewick through the towns of Lexington and Heppner and then via state highway 207 towards Dayville, making a stop at the new visitor center of the John Day Fossil Beds national monument. Nice facility and worth the stop.
From there we headed to Dayville and 13 miles east where we picked up the Fields Creek road and drove 8.2 miles on pavement to a turnoff that led us to the McClellan Peak TH, the TH we needed for Fields Peak. We were the only vehicle in the small lot and after opening a barb wire gate, I was soon on my way up an old jeep road. I continued on this road for about a mile and a half when I came to a fork where a small wooden sign is stuck to a tree. The arrow on the sign pointed to the right but the jeep road continued up to the left which is the way I should have gone. Trusting the sign (and not having the route description contained here at this page), I went to the right but after awhile it seemed like the trail was going away from the peak (which it was). Checking my GPS, I just decided to go straight up the mountainside and then spent a fair amount of time working my way up through brush and talus slopes.
I used a talus field as a super highway to a false summit, which after I surmounted it could see the actual summit less than two tenths of a mile away. The roundish summit once had a fire lookout or some kind of structure on it and I could see the jeep road that I had ignored at the fork and would have provided an easier way. The wind was blowing and it was getting late so after spending just a few minutes and making a phone to Bob Bolton who got me interested in these prominence peaks, I headed back down a trail to the saddle between Field and Moore Mtn., just to check it out and 40 minutes later I was back at the vehicle where my wife was waiting. She had a cute story about the 7 cows that visited her while I was away. One of the smaller one had even tried to lick the bugs off the front bumper and she lamented the fact that she had not taken any pictures of them.
I had originally had plans to do a couple more 2000 foot prominence peaks that were east of John Day, Dixie Butte and Vinegar Hill but my knee was acting up so I decided to save those for another day. My wife and I headed for John Day to have a decent dinner before we drove 395 120 miles to Pendleton and then the final 50 miles from Pendleton to home.
I intend to go back and pick up Moore and Moon Mountains (:nice ridge walk:) as well as peak 7264, just north of Fields Peak (see topo of Fields). I'd recommend this as a good conditioner and for the views.