Headin' Outdoors with Scott Staats
One morning, I wanted to get away, but didn't have the energy to go too far from home. The solution I came up with was to go down Highway 380, aka the Paulina Highway. Personally, I think the route should be renamed the Prineville-Post-Paulina Highway, or the PPP Highway or the Triple P Highway.
I always like the view as the highway drops down toward the Crooked River around milepost 16, just a mile or so from Eagle Rock. This is the highest part of the highway. I did see an unidentified hawk atop Eagle Rock but no eagles. Golden eagles can be seen there in spring and summer. From Eagle Rock, it's just a few twists and turns until the highway reaches the Crooked River. After that it's only eight or nine miles to Post.
Here's something I had to try for myself. Get out an Oregon map and draw an imaginary X across it from corner to corner. Where the lines intersect, you'll find the small town of Post, the geographic center of the state and 25 miles from Prineville. X marks the spot for Stephanie Barclay, since Post is her home. And when I say small town of Post, I mean small; Barclay, who manages the Post General Store & Eatery, represents the entire population of 1.
Over 80 years ago, the store was situated on the south side of the river, but was moved to its present location in the 1920s due to flooding. The bridge that crossed the river flooded out so many times that the original owners decided to move the store.
The store now offers great fresh food such as meatloaf sandwiches, turkey melts and quesadillas. There are about six tables in the small café and a few tables outside. Maple bars are a popular treat in the morning. The Post store is probably best known for its milkshakes that come in about 10 flavors. There is also gas and plenty of groceries, beer, ice and gifts. The sweatshirts, T-shirts, mugs and hats all have the logo "Post - the Center of Oregon."
At milepost, 38 the North Fork and South Fork of the Crooked River converge. The North Fork has its beginnings higher up in the Ochoco National Forest where parts of the river are wild and scenic. The highway continues east following the South Fork.
An interesting old homestead at the Camp Creek Road junction sits nestled in a small grove of cottonwoods, its weathered boards and crumbling chimney attesting to the harsh living conditions of the area both then and now.
I turned off on the "business route" of Paulina, passing the elementary school and stopping at the Paulina Store, which has similar offerings to the Post Store. From Prineville, it's 57 miles to Paulina.
Kurt Brittner took over ownership of the store last year, which is now named Kurt's Country Store and Tavern. The store was built in 1910, while the town of Paulina was founded in 1870. The population of Paulina is about 18.
"We're a pretty close-knit community, everybody knows everybody," said Brittner. "We're not in a big hurry and don't get excited about too much."
He said they get a lot of motorcyclists who come through all the time. From Paulina, they like to ride to Burns or John Day. He also gets a lot of hunters in the fall. Most people coming through Paulina are heading for somewhere else, Brittner explained.
From Paulina, consider a trip north into the Ochocos for hiking or camping, or head south to fish Delintment Lake. On the way back to Prineville, Antelope Reservoir is located a few miles south in the Maurys. Another short side trip to consider is the North Shore Road, where the highway leaves the river and takes a sharp turn to the right. After a mile or so, you'll come to the upper reaches of Prineville Reservoir. Bring along a fishing rod or a swimsuit for a little relaxing fun.
The view is always impressive coming back toward Prineville. You can actually see the five highest points in Oregon from Hood to Mount Jefferson to the Three Sisters (you have to know where to look to see the white tip of Mount Hood far to the north). At milepost 7, you're looking straight at Mount Jefferson out the windshield.
There's also get a fairly good view of the newly discovered Crooked River Caldera at milepost 5 as you drop down off the rimrock. You can see its bordering edges – Powell Butte, Smith Rock, Gray Butte and Grizzly Mountain.
A roadtrip to Post and Paulina will cure any cabin fever. Plus, my trip took only a few hours and a little over a quarter tank of gas.