Since the guidebook warned us of the numerous rattlesnakes that hang out by the shore of the river and in the grasses we opted to sleep in and start once the sun was up and we could see. We started out following some cow trail along the banks of the river weaving our way along the shoreline. We had to cross back and forth as we got cliffed out along the way but mostly we were doing well.
The brush and willows were thick and the side hiking was tough but the first 4 miles went well and then things changed quickly. We soon found the brush and the steep slopes too much so we started walking up the river itself (yes we are heading upstream against the little but if current there was. The water was full of weeds and little fish darted away as we stepped further and further upstream.
With this being the hottest summer in Oregon’s history the river was extremely low and full algae blooms, weeds and frog eggs. As we tried to stay by the shore eventually we would have to cross the river and more than once it went over our chest and we floated away. After the first few times we came upon Whiskey Canyon. Flowing down was a hot creek from a hot spring so we decided to have a snack and warm back up by eating why we sat in the creek.
Finally we got back to the bushwhacking on the shores and trying to wade when possible. As the sun was getting higher we had one very deep wade over to the other bank where some big rocks were. Right as salty was about to climb up she jumped back in the water as a rattlesnake greeted her. We all slowly backed away and I climbed out at a different spot. When I got on top of the rock and looked below another snake laid coiled up resting in the sun. Great now we are all on edge even more about snakes.
Finally we reached a point where the canyon walls met the river and in the center were large boulders. We said screw it let’s swim. So with our packs on our backs the three of us entered the water and began swimming upstream. It was fun but so tiring. Our packs our buoyant because of our Katabatic quilts and other light gear, plus each pack is lined with a garbage compactor bag as a pack liner in theory keeping our gear dry and our packs bouyant. Well the packs did float us but are bags and clothes got a little wet. The other thing is even though we tried to do the breast stroke we had to do more of a hybrid dog paddle with our legs so we could feel for rocks and keep the pack at the correct angle, and a breast stroke with our arms to pull us along.
Finally after all the swimming we made it to antelope canyon and took a long lunch break. After lunch we decided to try to stay on shore to make better time. The bush whacking was a bear over loose screw and slick grass. But finally we reached 5 bar and our escape from the canyon. We sat at that spot for an hit reveling in what we had just done and planning our water strategy for the the rim walk going forward. With 10 liters each we climbed up the steep canyon walls to the rim and started our walk toward McDermitt across the most stunning rolling hills one has ever seen.
What an amazing place the Owyhee is, I hope it does become a national monument as is proposed. The canyon was so remote and the landscape was so dramatic we could of been in the SW of the US. With sweeping cliff walls, tons of birds and wildlife the West little Owyhee is truly one of the best kept secrets in the US. It’s so great to explore my state by foot and go somewhere few ever will.
Miles hiked 22-23
We slept in a bit this morning to recover from the previous nights bad sleeping situation. While I was off having my AM-BM my pack fell over and when I came back a large puddle greeted me. The bite valve for my hydra pack had sheared off and all the water had pumped out. I was able to remove the hose so I can still haul the 3L if carries but I have no way of sipping off it as a hike.
We headed for the cow tanks we had a little trouble finding them in the dark but finally managed. The water looked kind of gross but as we filled our bottles it looked clear and ok. I treated 6 L and carried 2 as spares in case I needed more. Once loaded up we headed down the road alternate we had been told was an option from previous hikers.
Now today is Friday so we had grand visions of cars and weekend campers coming by and offering us sodas and treats…7 cars passed us today and only 1 stopped to say hi and no treats were offered despite our best attempts at yogiing. So we trudged on grinding away. I was able to get a cell signal and talk with Suzy who was more than helpful in getting some much needed items in the mail to us so they would arrive in time at McDermitt for us. It was nice to hear her voice and catch up, I owe here big when I get home for always being the support person on the other end of these hikes.
The day found us mostly trudging along looking for snakes and dreaming of shade, cold sodas, and the warm springs we were aiming for. As we approached the final leg of the road to start our descent down the canyon we saw a huge camp set up with an RV, gigantic tent, and horse trailer, plus trees. We laid plans to ask to buy sodas and yogi food but when we arrived no one was around so we carried on to the trees down below.
I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to sit in the shade of a juniper stand and let the breeze blow on us. We had walked over 45 miles with not a stitch of shade and it’s been In the high 90’s, for a short fat dago like me that’s a bit too much in the hot side. As we started down toward three forks the sky got dark with clouds and the wind picked up. A nice change for the afternoon.
As we got to the river there was a great pit toilet and sign talking about how the area we are in was designated an wild and scenic river in 1984, this year is the 50th anniversary of both the wild and scenic river act and the national trails system act so it’s pretty cool to be on a trail and also a river at the same time.
We found our way across the river and started up river along the shore through the canyon lands. The grass and brush were y’all and the dry nettles were like walking through barbwire. We finally went up hill and found an old toad as we walked down it across the way we could see some awesome waterfalls and then we found it the warm spring pool on the side of the hill. We dropped our packs and jumped on in the bath temp water. Clothes and all we laid around for a hour enjoying the warm water and the removal of the slate and dust from our bodies and our clothes.
As time wore on and our hands got more and more pruned, we lamented having to get out of the warm pool. Eventually our stomachs won the battle and we headed out of the water changed into dry clothes and then headed down and across the Owyhee to a sandy beach for the night.
Tomorrow we take on what most have called the most challenging part of this hike the West Little Owyhee River canyon. It’s about 8-9 miles until our first option to bail out of the canyon for an overland rim walk, so we’ll see how it goes and play it by ear.
miles hiked 23-24
We all slept terribly last night, the truck traffic on the highway was constant all night and only being about 100’ away from the highway made for a loud evening. We got up at 4 and got going as quick as we could to try to beat the heat of the day and make some miles since it was forecasted to be 96. The trail started up a steep climb to the canyon rim above the Owyhee. Once there we were met with a cushy dirt road to carry us most of the morning. We made great time and marveled at the wild beauty of the canyon and river below.
As the sun crept higher and temps wore in so did our disdain for the 3 gallons of water and 6 days of food we were all schlepping, last time my pack was this heavy was on the Appalachian Trail back in 1996. Oh well we pushed through and made our miles. The trail today had us spend a few miles at a time going cross country. The cheat grass again was sticking in our shoes but we seemed to take it all I stride. On the next toad salty and I were walking ahead if swept away when the tell tale sound of a large rattler stopped us in our tracks. Off to the side of the road 35’ Away the large snake slinked off I to the sage brush.
The weather was hot and we tried to find shade anywhere we could for a break or siesta but it never happened. We tried various ways to rig our umbrellas for a lunch break but eventually we gave up and held them each of us curling up in our own little spot of shade to try to stay cool. There was this awesome sage bush today at lunch and it smelled like fresh nectarines all these little fuzzy wild bees were on the flowers and it was great way to spend some nature time while eating.
The rest of the day we had some clouds come in and out providing us some shade and cooler temps. As the day turned to early wavering were were in the middle of a long cross country section that took us down an dry creek bed and then up over the rim more. I looked at our map and noticed a tank which means potential water and a road we could use to get to the same spot, funny it’s the same road we are walking cross country towards. We Berliner for the road and saw the most glorious site 100 cows walking down to a trough of water!
We have set up camp so that we can enjoy the evening without disturbing the cows. In the am we will head on down get our fill of water and hike the 20 miles to three bar and the start of our Owyhee river hiking. We are aiming to end at some hot springs indicated on our maps so we can enjoy a warm swim since we missed out on showers in town.
I also heard from Suzy on my Inreach and she made it home today from Boise and said Karluk was very happy to be home. She is getting an old phone to Virgo so he can set it up for salty to use out here with the maps and data books so by the time we get to McDermitt she’ll be back in action.
All of us today commented how happy we are hiking together we make a good team and get along well. I’m happy because I think we were all a bit nervous since we hadn’t hiked together and this trail requires us to stay together and work as a team.
Tomorrow makes day seven a full week in trail and I’m happy to say I can’t wait to see what else this trail has to offer.
Day 5 Rome
We awoke super early I slept like crap last night form some pain in my foot and back so when the alarm went off at 4am I was more than happy to get going. We donned headlamps and made easy miles along dirt roads in the cool of the morning air. As the sky turned pink we had already made great progress towards town.
We tracked over mostly dirt roads and saw only a few lizards and cows. We finally got a cell signal and were able to catch up with emails and all as we walked through the flat rolling terrain. Eventually as the sun rose higher the heat cranked up and we had pace ourselves to deal with it.
The flat terrain turned into a canyon wall and suddenly we stood atop the rim of Jordan Creek and looked down into the area we needed to descend into and Climb out from. The climb down was steep but manageable the creek was flowing but small. The shore was covered in cat tails and grasses as we made our way through, Swept Away jumped back and said,”big rattler” a large snake moved its way through the grass and we all were more cautious as we continued our bushwhack up out for the canyon.
After reaching the rim we crossed some hills and saw a large heard of prong horn in the distance. We could hear the highway and the siren song if town. We proceeded to walk the two miles down the paved highway and into Rome, a glorified gas station with some cabins and a restaurant. The cabins were full but for $15 we are able to camp in the rv park and use power and WiFi. A few meals later and town chores down we are mentally preparing in our own ways for the next 30 mike waterless stretch with temps predicted at 96 degrees.
Ahh the joys of the long distance desert hiker. We know that after this next stretch it will get easier and the temps better we just need to stay hydrated enough to get there
First I must say praise to the makers of gold bond powder, I was in the verge of getting some chaffing and after a wash, dry and application of the fine powder last night I awoke up feeling fresh as can be. That brings me to the second thing big shout out to my man Disco of The Trail Show Podcast and his trail tip of the blue sponge. The sponge and zip lock of water has been a blessing for washing off the dirt, salt and other grime each day helping my skin stay nice and chafe free out here. That little tip he shared on an early episode of the trail show has changed my life in the world of hygiene on trail.
Ok enough about my personal grooming, we headed out cross country on our way to the road we needed to get to hike up on the rim of the Owyhee canyon today. We ventured cross country and started down into the canyon as the sun was beginning to shine down on it. What a stunning sight, I must come back and raft it this next spring or summer. Form there we walked roads. The dirt kind with the only company being a few prong horns, cows and 1 little itty bitty rattle snake that let us know her was there about 12” before salty and I would of stepped on him. We backed up and gave him his space and he moved on away.
We kept to the high rim and dirt roads until about 1pm then we dropped down the rim in a cross country route which led to an old Jeep road. That road was a god send because in just a short .2 miles we were standing on the banks of the Owyhee river. We dropped our packs and in the nearly 90 degree temps with sun blazing down the three of us hopped in the river fully clothed shoes and all to wash off the dust and salt of the past few days.
As we sat there salty asked to charge her phone, as she plugged it in we saw the little apple icon and then nothing. Her phone is completed fried…a huge bummer considering her maps, guide and data book are all on her phone and the photos from the past 3 days. Luckily she has paper maps and swept away and I are with her so we shall overcome this technological mishap.
We left the river and climbed back up about half way to the rim. From there we followed a really old jeep road that appears to have not been used in some time. We walked through Lauer rocks, filled up with 9 L of water each at bogus spring, which was a slow trickle and looked like bad aquarium water. With heavy packs and hot temps we trigger along enjoying the views and relishing the shade of our umbrellas. As the sun began to get low we left our jeep road and headed cross country to find a faint “road” to the rim. We watched an awesome sunset over the Owyhee canyon right as we broke the rim to the plateau that will take us to Rome. We figure we are shy of 20 miles to town tomorrow for a much needed meal and resupply.
We received the weather forecast from my in reach and it’s going to be 88 tomorrow and the following few days, so we are getting up at 4 am to get a jump on the day before the heat.
Ok so I’ll end on the tally of things that have gone wrong, been lost, or broken so far since the start.
Heat rash on lower legs
Lost water filter on day 2 (luckily she has aqua tabs)
Water filter will not flow even after back flush (should of gotten a new one, luckily have chemical backup)
NeoAir 2 holes
ODT day 3 (24 miles)
After being awoken a few tikes in the campground by star gazers, drinking campers and our neighbors using a foot pump to pump up there sleeping pad numerous times throughout the night. I awoke at 5 am only to discover my neoair had a leak from a goat head and would have to be fixed, I started up breakfast while Salty and Swept Away woke up shortly after and the three of us packed up and headed down to the reservoir to begin our shoreline line hike. 4 miles of side hiking along talus and scree, it was a serious workout but we made decent time in the cool of the day.
We heard coyotes crying across the way and were treated to a large flock of white pelicans sitting out in the water. We came to our junction with the next canyon we had to climb up. We checked the water and saw a trough about 6 miles away….after yesterday’s water woes we loaded up with 4-5 liters each and headed up the canyon. It was a great hike up we followed some cow paths and swept away did a great job of finding our path. We finally climbed the canyon wall, only to have to climb down, cross the canyon and climb to a Jeep road. Ahh road walking, something most hikers dread or skip or find an excuse why they hate it…not me, swept away and salty. The three of us were giddy to walk a wide road free of cheat grass and willows.
We made great time and as the sun got higher and themometer crept higher we found an olive tree to rest under and enjoy the shade and snack. I worked on a few blisters and repaired some gear. Ahh break chores they never seem to end.
We kept to the road and found a large trough with a spring fed pipe feeding it. The water was cold and refreshing we drank deep, found the hole in my sleeping pad to be fixed later and then discovered our next reliable water was 24 miles away. 12 liters or 24 pounds of water went into my pack, the girls each took 8L.
We worked our way cross country through terrible cheat grass along a large climb to the plateau. We eventually joined another series of roads and continued walking them through the high prairie of damage brush and cheat grass. It was a beautiful day really but the temps were in the high 80’s and the extra water weight was a killer. We settled in for the night at the junction of the official route and the first alternate which goes down the Owyhee Canyon. With the heat and our energy levels we had decided to stick the the official route and and come back in the spring with Suzy and some friends and take a guided rafting trip down the river instead of battling the willows and terrain in the canyon in this heat.
As I lay down my head an owl just flew by on the hunt and bat is working his wings to eat some insects. With the cry of the coyotes I’ll drift off to sleep and look forward to walking another day through this stunning yet remote landscape.
Day 2 (21 miles)
The night sky here is incredible before drifting off to sleep I could see the Milky Way. I woke at 5 today made some coffee and the three of us were off and on our way by 6 am. The route took us down some drainages through the cheat grass and the sage brush. We marveled at the thistle and then a couple hours in saw our first wild horse of the trip. A beautiful bay stallion with a black mane and stockings. He trotted up to a ridge and we watched him walk away from us. A few minutes later we saw 6 mule deer one being a large buck.
The canyons today were awesome painted canyon was a wonderful way to start the day with various colors of rock and pockmarked cliffs. We enjoyed the fun walk through a geologic wonder. We stopped at about 9:45 for a break wondering why we hadn’t gotten to the lake and camp ground yet. It was then we realized our folly. Being westbound we need to read all the data in the opposite way, what we thought was 17 miles yesterday was only 10, whoops and the lake was not 9 miles but 24.7 from where we started….the real issue was we didn’t have a lot of water and it was already getting hot. After consulting our maps we saw a trough that might have water, it was listed as unreliable but hey given our situation we had to go see.
When we arrived an hour later we were greeted by the grossest looking water if algae, we scooped it off and were then treated to some awesome murky water. It tastes fine so we took what we each thought we would need for the next 8 miles.
An hour later I was dizzy and nauseas the heat was getting to me, we found a lone juniper teee in the wash and we decided to take a break 45 minutes later I woke up and said, “ I want some mango” . I ate a luxe and said mmmmm, according to salty and swept away I then proceeds to snore some more. I finally awoke and we headed our cross country.
We made our way to the topmost leslile gulch writhing the next half mile all 3 of us would drink our remains water. And we still had about 5 miles to go and it was hot as hell.we made our way down the canyon which was simply stunning with amazing rock formations and caves. We finally hit the Jeep road and saw a privy.
Swept Away went to use the privy and we sat waiting then I heard a car. I held my water bottle upside down and he stopped, 2 gallons later and the three of us could drink freely for the last 4.7 miles to the campgrounds. We arrived to find a few cars and more then a few campers who offered us water. We gladly excepted, made dinner and headed down to the lake.
A swim and laundry felt great we area all coated in salt and scratched up from the cross country. With clean bodies and full bellies it’s time to get some rest and tackle the next leg to Rome.
Hopefully we learned our lesson today and will or be carrying more water than we think we need.