Bear Hollow CG, Wheeler County
Bear Hollow CG, Wheeler County, on hwy 19 south of Fossil, Oregon

I took a day ride on my 2007 Suzuki V-Strom 650 to Kinzua, Oregon (pronounced ‘kin-zoo’). Kinzua is an abandoned lumber community southeast of Fossil, Oregon. I used to hunt deer in the area with my father back in the early 1980s and wanted to go back to the area and explore around.

My intention was to ride the Kinzua Road (NF21) east from highway 19 to where it connects to highway 207. The maps and online resources said it connected and was open, and even the gas station attendant in Fossil said it was likely open. I rode east on NF21 to the location of where the community and mill site of Kinzua used to be, and spotted a small sign on the side of the road saying that access to hwy. 207 was unavailable.

No access sign, Kinzua, OR
No access to highway 207 from Kinzua, NF21, Wheeler County

I turned around and backtracked the 8 miles to highway 19, then headed south a few miles to have lunch at the Bear Hollow county campground (Wheeler County). The park was deserted, so I had it all to myself. After getting filled up with a lunch of dehydrated “breakfast skillet”, I backtracked my way westward to home.

Bear Hollow CG, Wheeler County
Bear Hollow CG, Wheeler County, on hwy 19 south of Fossil, Oregon

Just west of Shaniko and riding northwest along Bakeoven Road, I noticed wildfire smoke in the distance to the west. I had just ridden from that direction that morning, and although I could smell a bit of wildfire smoke when passing through Maupin, I only saw a bit of smoke haze to the south, near Warm Springs. This fire was new since I had just passed that way a few hours before.

As I approached along highway 216 toward the community of Pine Grove, I could see that the fire was burning very close to the road. There were no roadblocks and I there were cars coming from the west, so I assumed the road itself was still open.

S-503 fire, Oregon
S-503 fire, along highway 216 approaching Pine Grove, Sat. June 19, 2021

Just west of Pine Grove, I stopped to get a photo and some video of the fire. I couldn’t see the flames but could see how they colored the smoke a deep orange. The fire seemed to be burning about a half-mile from the highway. I continued westward uninhibited and made it home after riding 360 miles for the day.

The news labeled it the S-503 fire, and said it had ignited Friday night. It had burned 4,000 acres as of this writing and was only 2% contained. The fire incident map shows it burning to the southeast into the Warm Springs Reservation. The town of Pine Grove is on a level 3 evacuation alert. If the wind shifts and blows to the northeast, that small community would be in its direct path.

S-503 fire, south of highway 216, June 19, 2021
S-503 fire, burning a mile south of highway 216