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Oregon Desert Trail Section 10: Rome to Lake Owyhee (2022 Thru Hike Journal)

Day 40: Pillars of Rome to Lambert Rocks

June 20th

After another big breakfast, we started hiking around 11am. This is typical for Donny and I, no hurry leaving town.

We begin walking a dirt road out of Rome. There’s a small plane flying overhead, about 200ft above us. He makes one pass perpendicular to the road, then another directly over the road. Then, a truck comes down the road from a nearby ranch. He tells us the plane is getting to land on the road, so we hop on the back of his truck bed while he drives us a couple hundred yards down the road to his ranch, so the plane can land. Never had that happen before, pretty cool!

The next section passes by a waypoint on our ODT route map marked “aggressive dogs”. The route we are walking is actually the alternate ODT route now, apparently ONDA rerouted this section just because of the dogs. The new route is longer and involves more cross-country, including a steep climb and a legit river Crossing. Just to avoid dogs? We’ll take our chances.

After crossing a bridge over the Owyhee River, we pass the bad dog house, and two black dogs run up to us. They don’t bark or growl, and barely seem interested in us. I’m instantly reminded of the movie Stand By Me, the scene with the junkyard dog “Chopper”. Chopper has a reputation for being a mean, killer dog, but in reality he nothing to be afraid of. Same here in this case.

We climb up a road to reach the plateau above the Owyhee River. Back to Sage-Kansas. Occasionally, we get a distant view of the snow-capped Steens Mountains to the east, but they look more nicer through my zoom lens than with the naked eye. It’s pretty boring overall, but the fact that we’re finishing this hike in a few days motivates us. Plus, we know there are some incredible landscapes ahead in the next few days hiking the Owyhee Canyonlands, but right now, we’re up on the high plateau that separates these many of these canyons and gulches.

At one water through, there are a bunch of cows that don’t want to leave and run away, like usual. There’s barely a trickle of water coming out of a pipe, and the cows are all competing for it. Donny wants some of this water, and uses a Gatorade bottle to collect it from the dripping pipe. The cows are 6ft away, watching intensely. Inching closer. It’s pretty comical to watch, I’ve never seen cows surround a human like this.

Next, Donny and I take different routes to get to the same place; Bogus Creek, our next water source. I take a route that has more miles below the rim in Owyhee Canyon, while Donny stays high on some roads.

First view of Owyhee Canyon, since last section, is impressive as always. Here, I enter an area called Lambert Rocks. The roads fade, becomes a faint trail, turns into xc and then becomes a road again. A fairly decent road, too. Strange.

We meet at Bogus Creek, which had some water. However, it’s not deep and is kinda crummy water. More like a bog. There are a lot of tannins in the water, staining it yellow. The color mostly filters out, but it still smells like pond scum.

We camp next to Bogus Creek. I take a spot in the middle of the road, because it’s flat and clear, and unlikely to see any traffic. Nobody comin’ down here.

ODT Day 40 Map

Day 41: Lambert Rocks to Willow Creek Canyon

June 21st

Donny and I broke camp at 8am. Now, in mountain standard time, 8 is the new 7. We cross Bogus Creek and hike about a half mile, and start looking for a route up to the top of the rim. There is a bit of a path to follow for the first 200 ft. After that, we’re on our own.

Back up on the rim, it’s Into the Sage Kansas once again. However, on the opposite side of Owyhee Canyon, the land is higher. There’s this really cool backdrop of cliffs that contrast against the flat plateau that we’re hiking on this side of Owyhee Canyon. I like it.

Soon enough, our backdrop of cliffs fades. Most of the day will be on dirt roads, and without much of a view. There are occasional views of a distant Owyhee Canyon, but usually, we aren’t that close to the edge.

Our map says it’s a 26-mile water carry, with a possible source halfway in between. Indeed, about halfway, we find a tanker truck full of water which drains into a kiddie pool. We scare off the cows, and fill up with fairly decent water.

We find more water along the way, both in reservoirs and old tires. I almost never drink from these cow ponds. But I do drink from old tires. Gotta have standards. There are some occasional good views over Owyhee Canyon now, late this afternoon. But canyon is still somewhat distant.

I jump ahead of Donny early evening, hellbent on reaching Willow Creek tonight. Donny isn’t sure he’ll make it that far, so we prepare to meet up tomorrow in that case.

I cross a huge flat plateau, taking a series of dirt roads instead of the cross-country hiking the ODT suggests. Near glover Reservoir, I realize why ONDA has us going xc; to avoid the private ranch property I am currently hiking. However, there are no homesteads or people to be found here, just cows. No harm, no foul.

After the ranch property, I reach grasshopper spring. I am pleased to see cold, clear water running from a pipe. This is the best water I have seen in a while. I stopped to filter a couple of liters, and clean myself up while I’m waiting for my gravity filter to work.

Next, I find myself at the top of Willow Creek Canyon. I can tell it’s going to be a beautiful hike. The scenery improves as I drop down In elevation. Wow!!

Now down in the canyon, I’m surprised to see an actual flowing creek here. It’s 8:30, so I start looking for a campsite. I find the perfect backdrop, some hills with really cool rock formations running along the top and the slopes. Yeah, this is it. In fact, it’s the most scenic campsite yet for me along the Oregon Desert Trail. Donny arrives about an hour later.

ODT Day 41 Map

Day 42: Leslie Gulch, Juniper Gulch & Three Fingers Gulch

June 22nd

Like most days, Donny gets an early start, and is ahead of me by the time I break camp. I walk down the canyon and hear an engine in the distance. A four-wheeler approaches from behind, it’s a Rancher looking for cows. I tell him about the two cows I saw last night near where I camped, on the other side of the gate. He heads back up the canyon to investigate.

The road through Juniper Canyon eventually turns and goes up over a small pass which drops into Spring Creek. The official ODT route continues down Juniper Canyon as a bushwhack, but the road through Spring creek provides a much easier path to follow. The downside? It’s private property. Donnie and I had decided yesterday to take a chance and go for this road to avoid the bushwhack. Having just seen the local Rancher on his four-wheeler, I was a bit apprehensive, but continued on with the plan.

The scenery was outstanding here. In fact, coming down the pass into Spring Creek was one of the most spectacular canyons I had seen along the ODT thus far. Upon entering the private parcel, signs stated “No Hunting”, not necessarily “No Trespassing”. The vertical rock walls that formed the western side of the canyon were stunning. It appeared that there was a landing strip in the canyon, as well as a home of some sort. It was unclear whether it was currently inhabited, but it certainly didn’t look dilapidated and abandoned. Needless to say, I walked quickly down Spring Creek Canyon in order to pass through this private parcel as quickly as possible.

I pass through the private parcel right where Schoolhouse Gulch dumps into Spring Creek. I walk this for another mile before reaching another private parcel right on the Owyhee River. There is a fairly modern looking cabin here, and it’s clear that it’s used somewhat frequently, and probably not all that long ago. Donny is sitting on the porch In the shade, taking a break.

From here, we walk the shoreline of Owyhee River. Only now, it’s referred to as the Owyhee Reservoir on the map, from here to Leslie Gulch. The water level is low enough to make passage possible along the shoreline. In the spring, water levels are higher, which could make this traverse a lot more challenging. The scenery here was stunning as well, especially on the opposite shoreline.

We stop and filter water from the Owyhee Reservoir when we reach Leslie Gulch. The water here is pretty disgusting. In fact, it’s solid green, choked with algae. But, It’s the only water around, and it filters Just fine.

Next we hike up Leslie Gulch. There is a well-maintained dirt road here. I have visited Leslie Gulch about 5 years ago, my only prior visit to Oregon before hiking the ODT. I knew how stunning it was, but somehow, it was even better today. Just Incredible. Hard to describe how majestic this canyon really is. Both sides of the canyon are flanked with unique and impressive rock formations. Very jagged, and otherworldly.

Next, we leave Leslie Gulch and hike up Juniper Gulch. It’s getting hot now, temperatures forecast to be in the low to mid-90s today. Not only that, but it felt very humid. The hike up Juniper Gulch was outstanding as well. Surprisingly, pretty good trail leading most of the way up to the top. It was a 1000ft climb to the ridgeline, and the final 500 ft were brutal. The terrain was steep and the dirt was loose, causing me to slip and fall a few times. And the heat, man was it wearing me out.

Now on the crest, I walk the ridge line for a while and see Donny taking a break. There’s no shade, but we need the break either way.

Next we drop down into an unnamed canyon. The upper reaches are not all that impressive as we bushwhack our way down hill. So far, it’s quite a pain. But then, we see signs that it will be an interesting hike, as the canyon narrows a bit.

Once we really get into this unnamed canyon, it really begins to impress. More incredible rock formations; hoodoos, spires, pillars… whatever you want to call them. Large “fins” seemed to protrude vertically into the sky, and we weave in and out of them. Progress here is slow, because of the bushwhacking and because of the incredible scenery. The canyon fights us the whole way down to the bottom.

We hiked over a small hill and find a large tire filled with water. It’s pretty disgusting though; chocolate milk colored filled with algae and bugs. Still, we need this water. We are hot and thirsty, and it’s a long ways before the next water source. Unfortunately, I lost my pre-filter earlier on this hike. Since I practically never use it, I didn’t bother to search for a replacement. Well, now would be a great time to have it. The water is so dirty that my filter needs to be back flushed every quarter of a liter. It takes two hours to filter 5.5 liters.

The sun is dropping lower in the sky now and it makes the walking more bearable in the heat. Next, we hike over to Three Fingers Gulch, which boasts some pretty impressive typography on the map. And in-person, it does not disappoint. Very sheer vertical rock walls form the entrance to this canyon, and damn is it stunning.

We enter Three Fingers Gulch and do a bit of bushwhacking to pass through the deepest, most narrow part of the canyon. After a half-mile or so, the canyon opens up a little bit and the terrain becomes flatter. There is good camping here, so we stop for the day. Another excellent campsite, our last of the Oregon Desert Trail.

ODT Day 42 Map

Day 43: Painted Canyon & Finish at Lake Owyhee

June 23rd (finish)

The mood Is different this morning. The finish line is immediately on my mind, and a calmness comes over me. It’s a good feeling to know the end is no longer weeks or days away, but mere hours.

The hike out of three fingers Gulch is rather easy and pleasant this morning. There is a surprisingly good trail running through here. Most likely, a cow path. In fact, it looks like an old road used to run through here at one point. Whatever the case, we have something to follow.

The route turns up a side canyon leading out of three fingers Gulch up to a pass, and then drops us down into Painted Canyon. Wow! Another stunning Canyon. None of this was a surprise to me per se, anyone with the ability to read a topo map would have seen this coming. But seeing it with your own eyes in person is never exactly what you envisioned by looking at the map. Somehow, it’s always more impressive when you see it in person.

The hiking becomes more challenging in Painted Canyon, but still, not a terrible bushwhack. In fact, there is a halfway decent wash to walk, mostly clear of vegetation. Excellent scenery.

Towards the upper end of painted Canyon, there is a short section of a little bit of scrambling over a few small boulders and pour offs. Personally, I really enjoy this type of canyon hiking. Donny, though, not so much.

We climb out of painted Canyon and hiked up to the top of a saddle. I scare up a deer in the wash, one of only a few deer I’ve seen along this hike. South sheephead spring is here, and there are only a few small pools of disgusting water left in the footprints of cows who have trampled through the mud. Naw, I’ll wait. Near the spring, I see a badger. I had seen three others in the Steens Mountains, but this time, I was able to get a great photo with my zoom lens before he retreated into his hole.

Next, we climb up to Sheephead Ridge. The suggested route is pretty annoying here; instead of gaining the ridge and walking the top, the ODT route has us sidehilling below the top. There are no horse trails here or anything, it’s just a bushwhack through sagebrush and a bunch of scattered rocks. Very frustrating. Just climb slightly higher and walk on top of the ridge, instead of sidehilling around it.

I crest the top of a ridge and see Pronghorn antlers about 40 ft away. He scampers off downhill. Probably the closest I’ve been to a pronghorn on this trip, and perhaps ever.

Now I descend to Rookie Canyon Spring. There is a herd of about 200 cattle gathered around it. As I approached, I scare off the cows, but only enough for them to walk about 20 ft away. They moo like crazy, not happy that I’ve moved them away from their water source. They stare at me while I get my water, and are quite vocal. Eventually, the majority of the cows disperse, but a few stragglers refuse to leave.

Donny arrives and gets his water, and together we leave the spring behind for a road. The official ODT route has us about 7.5 miles from the finish line now. It would be all bushwhacking to the end, but I see on the map that there is an option to take old 4×4 roads all the way to the finish line. This would add three miles, but would certainly be easier and almost certainly would take the same amount of time, or be faster. Gladly! The terrain between here and the finish line just wide open Sage Kansas, and the bushwhack actually parallels the road. Seems pretty gratuitous to me, and as far as we know, most ODT hikers take the road route over the bushwhack anyways. It just makes sense.

At the top of the hill, I check my cell phone signal. Still nothing. I use My Garmin inreach Mini to contact the Friends of Owyhee, who pick up Oregon Desert Trail hikers from the Eastern Terminus at Lake Owyhee. We give them a time, and they said they could be there tonight to pick us up. Excellent!

We walked a few more miles through Sage Kansas, and eventually reach the road that drops us down along Birch Creek. The views from this road are outstanding, an elevated view above the canyon as well as Lake Owyhee which is now clearly visible. It’s hard to understand why the official route suggests that we bushwhack through the bottom of Birch Creek, through a lot of poison ivy according to other ODT hikers, but Donny and I are glad that we chose to avoid it. Good call!

It’s about a five-mile walk down this road through a winding canyon. With the end in sight, I begin to reflect on the journey, and all the emotions that come with finishing a thru-hike begin to rush in. My fourth long-distance hike, coming to an end. While nothing can compare to the feeling of completing my first thru-hike, I do notice one similarity; there are no combination of words that can accurately describe what a hiker feels at the end.

After descending the canyon, I reach a paved road, walk through the boat launch area, and over to the final outcrop of rocks that jet out into Lake Owyhee. These rocks mark the eastern terminus of the Oregon Desert Trail, and the end of my journey. Lake Owyhee itself is beautiful, surrounded by massive cliffs. The sun is shining and reflecting on the lake. It’s perfect. It’s exactly what I envisioned at the end of a long hike, for once. I certainly didn’t get this kind of ending on my CDT thru hike, in 2018.

I climb out to the farthest, highest rock. I hoist my pack above my head, and scream at the top of my lungs. What a feeling it is to be done with this hike!

Donny arrives a few minutes later. We congratulate each other, snap a few quick photos, and head back to the day use area where we relax in the shade, sitting on a picnic table and drinking cold water from a spigot. Little luxuries, but the kind that one can only appreciate after a long hike, like this.

Sammy from the friends of the Owyhee is there to pick us up just after 8pm, and we begin the long but very scenic drive through the Owyhee Canyonlands to the town of Ontario, Oregon. Great guy!

I suppose the rest of the details don’t matter much to the average reader. Donny and I split a hotel room for the night, and I take a Greyhound bus to Boise the next day. Then I stay in a hotel near the Boise airport and fly home the day after that.

And just like that, another long hike is complete, another journey under the belt. Back to the world, where no one else understands what I’ve seen, endured and accomplished. At least on this one, I had Donny to share the experience with. One person that gets it. That’s more than I can say about my last few hikes. And for that, I am thankful. ODT complete.

ODT Day 43 Map

Back to Oregon Desert Trail Thru Hiking Guide & Journal index

Oregon Desert Trail Section 9: McDermitt to Rome (2022 Thru Hike Journal)

Day 34

June 14th

After our 11am checkout time, Donny makes a stop at the library to print out a shipping label, so he can mail a faulty Lite AF backpack in for repairs. With just over a thousand miles on it, the seams were all blown out and you could stick your hand through them. I’ve never seen a backpack fail like that.

It’s after 11am now when we start hiking out of McDermitt. We start by hiking dirt roads out of town for a couple hours. We’ll need to climb up 2,000 ft to the top of a plateau in order to enter the Owyhee Canyonlands. We’ll be in the Owyhees for the rest of our hike now, another 9 hiking days. That’s a big region!

After climbing up about 1,500 ft, There’s a shelf that reveals some pretty impressive cliffs, and the final 500 ft climb. Every now and then, you stop and realize that you are walking into something special. And this was one of those times. The Owyhees have been on my radar for several years, and to finally be here at the Gates of the Owyhees, well, It was really starting to hit me.

Outstanding views as I climbed Up to the top of the plateau, topping out around 6600 ft. It was 65° in McDermitt today, and probably 55 or so up here. Add the 20 mile an hour winds, and it was quite cold.

After soaking in the final views over the valley below, I headed into Sage Kansas once again. These views always get me. Not the most beautiful, but damn, is it vast. And you gotta hike through all that. Just sage, to the horizon. Alright, let’s get into this.

The swarm of Mormon crickets had been pretty consistent all day. Wherever I hiked, they were there. They seemed way worse In town, but maybe that’s because they had fewer places to hide. I was really beginning to worry I might not be able to escape them tonight when it’s time to set up camp. And since I can’t zip up the mosquito netting in one of my vestibules of my tent, well, you can imagine why I might worry.

Even though the map shows a bunch of dirt roads up here, they barely existed, at best. It was mostly just cross-country hiking. And not the easy kind. There were many rocks to step over or on, many ways to twist an ankle. The hiking here has mostly been a pain in the ass after leaving the decent dirt road that led me up to the plateau.

By early evening, I reached Louse Canyon, home of the West Little Owyhee river. I was really surprised to see snow tucked away against some of the canyon walls. I’ll drop down here and walk this for a few miles.

West Little Owyhee River Is flowing, and there is much green grass along its banks. The canyon is not deep or narrow, but it’s much more interesting than Sage Kansas. I’m happy!

There are a couple of caves, arches and cool rock formations along the way. Hiking here in upper Louse canyon had a very raw and primitive feel to it. You could really feel a connection to our ancient ancestors that certainly called this canyon home. I’m not generally in tune with that kind of thing, but you could really feel it here.

After a few miles, the river was pushing me up against the canyon walls, and I found it easier to climb out. It was 7:30 now, and I was realizing that I was out in the middle of Sage Kansas again. That’s the term I coined on the ODT, Sage Kansas… referring to the flatness of Kansas, but with sagebrush instead of grass. Except now, There were so many rocks that these were much more of an obstacle than the sage. With several miles of this ahead, there will be no opportunity to get out of the wind and very little opportunity for a clear or flat spot to put my tent. So, I head back down into the canyon to make camp, a little earlier than I would have preferred.

It took a while, but I found a suitable spot to put the tent among some green grass. There was pretty good protection from the wind, but the downside is that I’m at the very bottom of the canyon, and not far from the water. This is going to make a cold night even colder, with the possibility of condensation, likely in the form of frost. Most nights, campsite selection requires a trade-off in one category or another.

ODT Day 34 Map

Day 35:

June 15th

Just as I expected, a very cold night, with condensation and frost. It was 20° when I woke up. This is one of the coldest nights of the entire hike. And it’s in mid-June, no less.

It was a good thing I didn’t push on past my campsite last night. This morning’s walk was slow, tedious, and absolutely nowhere to camp for miles and miles on end.

I reached Massey Canyon, and took a break. There were a couple of marmots around in the boulders here. Interesting, I was not expecting to see them here.

Massey canyon was short but pleasant, despite the cow activity. It was pretty heavily trampled by all the cattle, and cows were shitting right in the creek. It’s sad to see all the cows in places like this.

After Massey Canyon, it’s back out into the sage Kansas. I walked a series of dirt roads for a couple hours, reaching progressively larger roads. Swarms of crickets and grasshoppers came in waves. More cows, and another bull snake.

It was around 1:00pm when I reached Anderson Crossing. I had been talking with a guy named Mike on social media, who operates under the name About The Journey, and he was kind enough to offer to come bring me some trail magic. This is the time and place we had agreed upon meeting, but I didn’t see anyone here.

Crossing the West Little Owyhee River here at Anderson Crossing was mid-calf deep. I walked through the area along the road and around the bend, entering Louse Canyon. I figured I’d have lunch, filter water, and take a look at Louse Canyon while waiting an hour or so for Mike. Maybe he’s just running late? I took lunch, filtered water, and washed out my dirty socks… anything I could do to kill some time.

After stalling for a while, I decided it was time to get moving. Even though he won’t get it until he gets service, I sent him a message with my garmin inreach telling him I had to keep moving, and It’s a bummer that we missed each other.

Almost immediately upon entering Louse Canyon, I could see the challenge that lied ahead. The steep canyon walls and thick willows forced me into the water. I began hiking through the river, in water that was about crotch deep. It wasn’t long before I realized that this traverse of Louse Canyon wasn’t going to happen. It’s about 45 miles to Three Forks from here, and if the water is this deep in the very upper reaches, imagine how deep it will be farther down. Furthermore, it’s a very committing route, with few exit points. I decided it was best to turn around, head back and take the alternate route around West Little Owyhee, like literally almost every single ODT hiker does.

I was very disappointed. I had wanted to hike West Little Owyhee and Louse Canyon for years. Regardless, I backtracked through Anderson Crossing, and there was Mike. His truck was parked, and his camp was set up. His dogs rushed to greet me, and we said our hellos. This was definitely the silver lining here, getting to meet up with Mike and enjoying an afternoon of trail magic… beer and tacos!

Later in the evening, after dinner, Mike wanted to do an interview with me for his YouTube channel. In the middle of this, we had a couple of interruptions, in a good way. The first was an older guy named Charlie, who was out doing research on the number of predators (bear, mountain lion, wolf etc.) in the region. He asked us if we had come across any, and I thought back to what I had seen on this route so far. None of those in person, but tracks, and I even heard a wolf howl while in the hart mountain national antelope refuge. Charlie was pretty happy to hear that I had GPS location for this as well, since it happened while camping and I always mark my campsites. So after the hike, I’ll get in touch with him and pass on All the detailed information I have for what I’ve seen along this hike.

Our second interruption was two young women who were working for ONDA (Oregon Natural Desert Association). They were doing field work, monitoring effects of grazing on random plots of land. One of them had been working for ONDA for six summers, and said I was the first ODT thru hiker she’d come across. They were pretty excited to hear I was hiking the trail, and one of the women gave me her Oregon Desert Trail hat! That was super cool!

ODT Day 35 Map

Day 36:

June 16th

I got a late start this Morning, leaving Anderson Crossing at 9:45. Since I won’t be hiking the route through Louse Canyon, I’ll be hiking the alternate, which stays above the rim. The shaves off a couple of miles total, but probably shaves off at least a day walking due to the much easier terrain on the alternate route. I’ll be walking primitive roads all day. I figure It’s 29 miles to 5 bar, where the route crosses the main fork Owyhee River. This will be my goal for today.

Today’s walk was very dull. Besides the last few miles at the end of the day, It was all Sage-Kansas. I hike a series of dirt roads that seemed to get progressively worse. Pretty much nothing notable happened,

I saw my first and only rattlesnake of the entire Oregon Desert Trail today, alongside the road under some sage. It looks like he must have just eaten. It was a smaller snake, but very wide in the center. Well, at least now I can say I saw a rattlesnake along this hike.

The scenery began to improve massively as I dropped down in elevation towards five bar. Louse Canyon terminates here as it meets Owyhee Canyon. The scenery is downright nuts! But, the route is anything but straightforward from here.

I get down to West Little Owyhee River and check my map. I will need to follow this downstream, but it’s choked with willows and the stream is braided. It’s just wide enough to be unjumpable, but with some ingenuity, I am able to keep my feet dry and cross.

I reach a deep pool, hemmed in on both sides by cliffs. I’ll need to cross this. It’s 30 minutes before dark, and I’m not too keen on getting my shoes or clothes wet. So, I stripped down to my underwear and put on my sandals, and went waist deep to cross it.

After that, I started working my way along the banks, and found myself walking above a small rock face. This ultimately ended up being a dead end, and I needed to backtrack. Then, I had to drop down to the river again and cross it. I push my way through some willows and get to the other side, where I could walk a gravel bar. This leads me around the bend, where I see a big cave on the other side of the river. It looks like an awesome place to camp, But I don’t feel like crossing the river again, moments before dark. So, I set up camp on the gravel bar, which still affords me an insanely awesome view!

ODT Day 36 Map

Day 37:

June 17th

I love mornings like this, where I open my tent to a view that takes my breath away. Even though I was aware of its beauty last night when I set up camp, but somehow a night of sleep diminishes our memory. Wow! I took some time admiring the towering canyon walls before packing up.

From camp, I’ve got a quarter mile hike North before I reach the Owyhee River. I’m walking through the West Little Owyhee River now, which is maybe calf deep here. Extremely scenic.

I reach the Owyhee River, and see a decent current and stomach deep water. Still, it doesn’t look like a raging river, and fordable. Taking Heavy Teva’s advice, I walk (bushwhack) upstream about 50 ft and cross here. It’s a little shallower. When I reach the other side, I walk down stream about 50 ft in the water and along the banks, and find a good spot to exit the water. That wasn’t bad at all. It was about crotch deep for me.

From here, the route climb steeply to the canyon. As a gain elevation, I noticed two things; the scenery is downright stunning, and the best crossing point would have been about 20 or 30 ft downstream from the confluence with West Little Owyhee River, not upstream. Here, the water was really shallow.

I can’t emphasize how incredible the landscape is here. This spot, climbing out of the Five Bar area, is my favorite along the Oregon Desert Trail. It seems like something out of a fairy tale. It really makes me want to return someday and explore these canyons more. Or just sit and stare at them.

At the top of the climb, there’s a Jeep parked along a dirt road. I really wasn’t expecting this. I follow this road across an area called Brown Ridge for several miles. It’s pretty boring here, mostly flat and rolling hills with sage. But this will connect me with three forks, which is another incredible area.

As I’m walking along brown ridge, The Jeep that was parked along the road a while back drove up behind me. Typical for me on boring stretches, I was in the zone and the Jeep scared the shit out of me as he approached. It turns out, This guy was hiking and camping down by five bar Ranch last night. He had also hiked the Idaho Centennial Trail a few years ago, which was pretty cool to hear. Very few people have hiked that trail.

Soon I reached Three Forks and the scenery once again blew me away. Pretty Incredible landscape as I dropped down from Brown Ridge around Three Forks Dome. There’s a big network of roads here, as this is probably the single most popular spot in the Owyhees. There’s a hot spring here, and they always draw a crowd. However, I didn’t make it to the hot springs myself.

The road I was walking crosses the North Fork Owyhee River. Here, the water was calf deep. A quarter mile up the road, there’s a bridge that goes over the North Fork Owyhee River. It’s a pretty awesome looking canyon, and it’s clear more water is flowing through the North Fork than normal. There was some vegetation that looks like it would normally not be underwater. Today though, the Owyhee River USGS station at Rome was only showing 270 CFM, which is really not that high.

As I walked through the Three Forks area, I saw Mike’s truck parked here. His dogs ran up and greeted me, and I stopped by for a beer. It was 12:30 or so, and I had some time to hang out for a bit. Mike has a YouTube channel of his own called About The Journey, and he tried to conduct an interview with me the other day when we met at Anderson Crossing. However, he was having some technical issues with his GoPro, and what we recorded the other day was lost. So, I sat down again with him this afternoon for another crack at it.

I hung out with Mike until around 3:15. Now, it’s time to climb up out of the three Forks area onto the canyon above Owyhee River. My map shows cross-country hiking, so it was a surprise to see an old 4×4 road leading up the canyon. There were many trees here, junipers perhaps… the first trees I’d seen in a while. I was feeling great, and powered through the hike uphill, making quick work of the 1000ft climb. The road fades near the top, and it’s a couple hundred feet of off-trail to gain the rim.

The wind was whipping pretty hard by the time I made it up to the top. And the views were stunning! Owyhee Canyon is a majestic place. Along the rim, there’s an occasional lone tree that stands out. In fact, there’s a line of trees along the rim in certain places. Certainly, a microclimate exists here. Most likely, the wind’s moisture blows up from the canyon and allow these trees to exist along the rim. They are not found more than a few feet away from it.

Now, I tried to walk the rim as long as I can. The landscape everywhere but the canyon itself is an impossibly vast and open terrain. The vegetation here is a mix between Sagebrush and grasses, with a bunch of basalt boulders scattered along the ground as tripping hazards. The cloud cover is thick, the winds are whipping really hard. It certainly has an ominous feel to it, especially the way the grass moves in the wind.

The skies grow darker, and it’s pretty clear it’s going to rain. There has been light sprinkles here and there, I think the sky can hold out much longer. I stop and take the first acceptable campsite I can find around 7:30. Moments after setting up my tent, a moderate rain begins to fall. Man, is it a good feeling when you beat the rain!

It rains for an hour or two after sunset. And there actually was a sunset tonight. I was able to peak my head out of the tent and catch a glimpse. Red and orange skies, one final treat for the day.

ODT Day 37 Map

Day 38:

June 18th

I woke up this morning to full sun beating on my tent. The tall grass blowing in the light wind, wrestling against my tent, wakes me up. It looks like It’s going to be a nice day.

Today will be a mix of walking on dirt roads and cross-country hiking. There’s a well-maintained dirt road that roughly parallels Owyhee Canyon, but because the canyon twists and curves, the road is only sometimes close to the canyon. I’ll walk the road for now, as the canyon is a ways away.

I walk the road to Owyhee Canyon overlook, and leave it here for a while I can walk the rim. Every time I see the canyon, it just takes my breath away. Incredible. Now, I hike the rim for a while before heading up over a hill and back to the road.

I stay on the road until I reach Lambing Camp Reservoir. I take a break here and then head up over a hill and drop down into Soldier Creek Canyon. There’s some water here, but also a bunch of cows. Not really drinkable water unless one is very desperate. You know, because of the cows. The climb out of the canyon affords a good view, though!

Back up on the rim, It’s no longer Sage Kansas. The landscape now is more of a, well, regular Kansas. It’s a sea of green grass, and it’s vast. Quite an incredible place to walk, really. Like hiking through that old Windows wallpaper background. The grass seemed to breathe with the wind, or perhaps, flowing like waves of water. Kind of a surreal moment.

As I drop down slightly into a canyon, the grass gives way to sage again. I meet up with another primitive road, and follow this for a mile or two.

When I leave the road, ODT route suggests that I walk the base of a small hill for a few miles. This doesn’t make any sense to me though, because It’s only a small 150 ft climb to the top, which looks like it would afford me a view of Owyhee Canyon. The walking doesn’t seem any easier on the bottom than it would be on the top, nor would it add any miles. So, I do a 5-minute walk to the top, and sure enough, there’s a view of the canyon.

First chance I get, I hike over to the edge of Owyhee Canyon. Of course, it’s just stunning. The cloud cover creates a real moody scene over the canyon, making for some great photos. Then I hike along the edge for a while, until the canyon veers away from my general trajectory. I definitely recommend this small alternate route, as an improvement over the original route. Do it!

I follow a ridge line downhill, come across the cow path, and it drops me down into a canyon. I walk through the canyon and meet up with a 4×4 road. This should mostly be the end of the xc hiking for today, although I still have too many miles left to town to truly believe that.

Soon, it’s time to stop and for a break. I found one of those tags that go through a cow’s ear, with a number on it. Surprisingly, this is the first one I’ve ever found. I think I’ll keep this one, just for the novelty of it.

From here, I think I have about 8.5 miles to Rome station, and it’s about 4:30. I have 2L of water left out of the 5 that I took with me yesterday afternoon, leaving Three Forks. I was conserving my water a little bit more, because I was thinking I was going to camp a few miles out of Rome tonight, and nearo into town tomorrow. But like always, when I get within striking distance of town, I can’t help but push in that same day. That means I’m no longer worried about conserving my water, so I can drink!

I hike on with a purpose now, hoping to reach Rome in time to get a cheeseburger before the grill closes at 8:00. To distract me though, the road I’m walking eventually veers very close to the edge of Owyhee Canyon. The edge is only 30 ft away now, and it’s very easy to stop frequently and see the canyon from new angles. And I take full advantage of this, stopping many times for photos and video.

When the road veers away from the canyon, my route has me doing a quarter mile xc hike to meet up with a different road. I walk through a field and struggle to find the road, but eventually stumble upon it. It’s here that I realize that my next turn is not really on a road, as the map shows, but it begins what appears to be a nearly 2 mile xc hike into town. Seriously? This is so like the ODT, to bushwhack your way into town. I was pretty pissed about this.

I can see that there is a very, very faint set of tire tracks that run parallel to a fence line. However, it’s through a bunch of cheat grass, which has been a real pain to walk through lately. Little bits of the grass, which are very sharp, stab my feet as they become embedded in my shoes. It can be pretty horrible to walk through for long distances. Not only this, but to descend the rim to the river on the other side, It looks like a bushwhack of a couple hundred feet as well.

I’ve got another idea. I can continue straight ahead on the road I’m currently on, instead of turning left along the fence line. This will take me to Highway 95, and will add 1 mile. I’m not worried that it will add one mile, because I’m pretty sure it will be just as fast as the official route. It should be faster hiking, with less crap in my shoes.

I reach Highway 95 and walk along the shoulder. The road curves and winds downhill, with a nice view over the Owyhee River. I crossed the bridge over the Owyhee River and marvel at its size here. It looks 10 times bigger than it did from the top of the rim.

I reach Rome Station at what I think is 7:30, having hiked 31.5 miles today. I’m surprised to see the store/grill closed. Inside the store I see a man, so I knock on the door. I tell him I’m an ODT hiker and looking for a tent site tonight, and a cabin tomorrow night, which I will split with Donny. He says they have a cabin available tonight and tomorrow night, 75 bucks a night. There are no showers otherwise, and with the 25 mile an hour winds right now, that cabin sounds pretty good. Sold!

For 75 bucks, I wasn’t expecting much. But when I opened the door to the cabin, I was pleasantly surprised. A hot shower Felt great, and I got started on my town chores… charging electronics, sink laundry etc.

ODT Day 38 Map

Day 39: Zero Day in Rome

June 19th

Donny arrived mid-morning, just in time for breakfast. And breakfast here at Rome station was excellent! Big omelettes, thick cut bacon, good hash browns. Seems like every little town in Oregon makes the best omelettes.

Not much to do today, except relax. We gorged ourselves with food and watched some TV in the cabin. Just one more section to go!

–> Continue reading Oregon Desert Trail Section 10: Rome to Lake Owyhee (91 miles)

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Oregon Desert Trail Section 8: Denio to McDermitt (2022 Thru Hike Journal)

Day 30: Red Mountain Wilderness Study Area

June 10th

After another delicious breakfast from the cafe, we had Dalton pick us up late morning to take us back to Cottonwood Road, where we will start the next section.

It was about noon when we started hiking. It’s 9 mi down Cottonwood Road before the climb starts. I see another bull snake within the first mile of hiking. I guess it’s snake season now. Still, no rattlers along the ODT.

Just before the climb begins, there’s a mile or two of cross-country hiking before meeting up with a road on the map. The xc exists to skirt around a private ranch property, which is pretty common on the ODT. While the xc hiking here is easy, because it’s so open, it’s a pain in the ass because many bits and pieces of the cheat grass get stuck in my shoes, socks and my one gaiter. They poke my skin like tiny needles with every step. Super annoying. It’s impossible to pull them all out too, some are just stuck in the shoes forever, it seems.

When I reached the spot where the 4×4 road was marked on the map, I could barely see it. This would be the beginning of another cross-country section, essentially. But as I hiked up Hill, the road Improved, along with the views. Now I enter the Red Mountain Wilderness Study Area, part of the Trout Creek Mountains.

I hiked over little windy pass, then Windy Pass itself. This is where the road ends. It’s a couple of miles of cross-country hiking from here, along no name creek.

The upper part of no name creek was nothing special. Some rolling hills and a bunch of grass. Easy xc hiking. But as I dropped lower in the canyon, the views improved. The canyon became a little narrower, and was flanked with some rocky outcrops. But still, rather green and lush. Interesting, and pleasant.

There was some minor to moderate bushwhacking along the creek bed. I occasionally found some water in the creek bed (No Name Creek), but really, not enough to draw from. There was also one small cattle pond. No thanks, I’ll pass.

I hiked along no name creek for a few miles before reaching a dirt road. I followed this uphill to no name spring. It’s a good size pond, With fairly clear water. I filtered 2L here, and took two more dirty liters with me to filter later. It was 8:00 now and I need to find a place to camp.

I planned on camping somewhere near the spring, But of course, at least a few hundred yards away from it. However, there was nothing flat nor clear. Ahead of me was a 1200 ft climb. I didn’t want to do this tonight, but I started heading uphill anyway, hoping I would find a flat spot along the road. I didn’t. In the end, I hiked the entire 1200 ft climb, up to 7400 ft, and didn’t see anywhere suitable to camp along the way.

At the top, I passed up a decent spot, determined to make it to Government Corral. I have no idea what’s here, but it’s marked on my map. One can only assume a corral has some land that’s clear-ish and flat-ish. I found a suitable spot along the road near the corral, just as it was getting dark. Well, I set up by head lamp, so it was dark. Just in time. I guess I’ll see what this campsite looks like in the morning.

ODT Day 30 Map

Day 31: Hiking the Trout Creek Mountains

June 11th

I woke up this morning to the sun on my tent. It was very relaxing. Started hiking at 7:45.

Past my campsite, I hiked through a few groves of aspens. The landscape was rolling hills, a few patches of snow off on top. There were occasional good views of the valleys and distant mountain ranges.

I stopped to filter some water from a trough before reaching Trout Creek, which was flowing pretty good. I took my shoes off to cross, and the water was COLD. There haven’t been many water crossings that required wet feet, so to me, it makes sense to take shoes off for crossings unless I know they will be unavoidably frequent.

Next I climbed up a road that follows alongside Trout Creek. This was another thousand foot climb. At the top, I was over 8,000 ft. Besides the Steens, this is the only other time I will reach 8k on the ODT. So far, the views weren’t that impressive here either.

There were several miles of walking above 8k. I was surprised to see a couple of trucks coming up one of the roads. The last one In the convoy stopped and If I needed a beer. Of course! Score.

I walked another mile or so to a high point, where I’m taking a break to eat lunch and drink my Bud Light. It was getting super windy now. My tortillas were flapping around in the wind! Haha.

Next I drop down off the crest of the Trout Creek Mountains. Here, I hit the 500-mile mark on the ODT. Multiple groups of side by sides pass me In both directions. One of them stopped and me if I would like any fruit. That would be great! I scored a couple of apples and a handful of grapes. A nice fresh treat. His name was Ken, former owner of the Quinn River Market in McDermitt. He was very familiar with the ODT. Nice guy.

The scenery was getting better now, looking back at the Trout Creek Mountains and the way they transitioned into the lowlands below.

A couple of bike packers came up the hill as I was coming down. They weren’t doing the ODT, but instead, a couple hundred mile loop that starts and ends Frenchglen.

The next several miles were pleasant. Some decent distant views, and some interesting formations along the trail.

The next bunch of miles basically connect the Trout Creek Mountains with the Oregon Canyon Mountains. Unfortunately, they aren’t as scenic as some of the past few miles. There are several miles of sage and scrub land to cover here, across flat plains and some very small rolling hills. There was water at every marked water source: chicken spring, Fifteen Mile Creek, Gopher Spring, and log spring. There were also a lot of cows in the area.

I filtered water at log spring. From here, the route climbs up to nearly 8000ft again, and will be pretty exposed to the wind the next 6 miles or so. It’s 7:15, And I probably won’t have enough time to hike those six miles plus another 1.5 of cross-country hiking to drop down off the ridge. With a storm moving in tonight, I don’t want to be caught up on the ridge, so I decided to camp near the spring. Like, right next to it. This is bad camping etiquette, I know. But given the above factors, it’s my most attractive option.

Beautiful sunset tonight. I enjoy it, knowing that tomorrow morning I’ll wake up to rain.

ODT Day 31 Map

Day 32: Oregon Canyon Mountains

June 12th

Rain started around 1:30am, and the winds picked up after Sunrise. Well, it was hard to call it sunrise… when I opened my tent, all I could see was thick fog. Visibility was down to a few yards.

The rain this morning was pretty heavy, with high winds. But it came in waves. Every time the rain let up and I thought I could pack up camp, it started raining again. I’m generally not that motivated to pack up camp in the middle of a blowing rainstorm, and this morning was no exception. I drifted off to sleep again and again, wait for a break in the weather.

Sometime after 10am, I heard Donny’s voice. “Oh what a candy ass! You haven’t even left yet?”. Who are you calling candy ass, I’ve been waiting here since last night for you to catch up! While Donny got his water from the trough, I started packing up. Fine, I’ll hike today.

With Donny about 20 minutes ahead of me, I hit the trail and started walking into the clouds. It’s a 500-foot climb from camp to the top of the ridge. I could tell today was going to be miserable. And with the weather, I had to stow away my good camera, preventing me from capturing the likely-awesome landscapes that were obscured by clouds and rain.

As soon as I reached the top, it started raining. It wasn’t long before I was soaked to the bone and water was sloshing out of my shoes. I hadn’t expected so much rain on this hike, and thought I could get away with wind pants instead of rain pants. It’s worked for me on every other desert hike I’ve done. But this isn’t really a desert hike, despite the name.

I pass Donny, but it’s too cold to do anything other than keep walking as fast as possible. All of a sudden, the clouds break a little bit, and I can see how impressive the terrain is. However, my camera is packed away in my backpack in order to keep it dry. Even if it wasn’t, I was too cold and miserable to bother taking photos anyway. What a shame.

After reaching a high of 7860 ft, I take a road that contours south along a ridgeline. The brief lull in the weather quickly ends. Back to freezing rain. I hike fast, and the road fades. It’s pretty much a bushwhack now. I emerge to an open ridgeline, just as the thunder starts cracking. Great…

I reach the end of the ridgeline and look for my way down into Cottonwood Canyon. From here, it’s about 1.5 miles of xc hiking before I meet up with another dirt road… on the map. The weather begins to clear as I make my descent, and start pushing through wet sagebrush.

I reached the bottom of the canyon, and walk a cow path through Sagebrush along the creek. Everything is soaking wet. My shoes fill with water again as I brush up against the vegetation.

Finally, I reach the dirt road on my map that will lead me out of this canyon. It’s sunny for a moment, and allows me the time to stop and eat something. This would be the only time all day that I eat anything while hiking.

The views were excellent as I hike out of Cottonwood Canyon. I reached the top of the pass and get my first view into the valley to the east… upper Quinn River Valley, I believe. It’s big, vast, and looks like… more rain coming. Ugh.

I descend into the valley along what the map calls a road. Maybe it used to be a road 80 years ago, but today, it’s so faint I can barely follow it. It generally follows the path of Rock Creek.

Down out of the mountains, I hike around Mitchell Ranch. After following the fence line, I reach a dirt road that parallels a set of power lines running through the valley.

From here, it’s 12.25 miles into town. It’s 3:45, and it looks like I’ll be on roads the rest of the way, so I know I can make it tonight. I kick it into high gear and start knocking down some miles. Some wicked shelf clouds lurk about, which seem to chase me as I hike. Ominous.

I reached the highway, the Oregon/Nevada state line, at 6pm. It’s about 4 miles into town from here. I walk about two miles, and hear a truck coming up behind me. I stick my thumb out, and he stops. Interesting guy. He said he was about 18 beers deep, having just met up with his sister, whom he hadn’t seen in 15 years. He was driving about 25 mph in a 45, so I felt safe enough. Ha. I definitely had my seatbelt on though!

He said he had something for me, and offered a swig of some homemade booze… a family recipe. It’s been in his family 300 years, passed down to the eldest son of each generation. It was basically Ever clear mixed with apple mash and some other ingredients. Extremely smooth, and honestly, pretty damn good!

My ride dropped me off at the McDermitt gas grill and motel. It’s supposed to be a Rode way Inn, part of the choice hotels family. I walk into the gas station, and ask if I’m in the right place for the hotel. He says yes, and asked if I have a reservation. I said no, but how much for the night? He says 99 plus tax. I say, I see 85 on my choice hotels app. Will you match it, or should I book through the app? He says book through the app. Then he says, If I do that, it won’t show up in his system until tomorrow morning. I know this is not true, and call him out on it. But there’s nothing I can do, he’s the only hotel in town and that’s the game he wants to play.

Also, if I get the single room for tonight, and a double tomorrow when Donny arrives, he says I must check out at 11:00 and then would not be able to check into the double room until 3:00pm. What a douchebag. Seriously, this guy, real piece of work. Ultimately, I get a double room for the night, because Donny is coming tomorrow and we will split a room then. Not much choice unless I want to check out and then sit around side for 4 hours before I can check in again. There were multiple other things about the owner that made this one of the worst hotel stays I’ve ever had. Owner flat out refused to give me points for my stay when I asked him! Things like that.

To make matters worse, he refused to give me My Choice Hotel reward points. He says, maybe some other time. Really? Be some other time? How about right now! I later found out, he didn’t enter my hotel stay into his system, so Choice Hotels had no record of it when I gave them my “receipt.” Because he did not enter my stay in the system, Choice would not give me points either. This shady owner knew what he was doing. He’s scamming the system, basically doing things “off the book” and avoiding accountability for his douchebag actions. But there’s nothing I can do about it. There’s nowhere else to stay. I’m cold, wet and dirty, Just need a hot shower and a bed.

For dinner, I head over to the casino across the street. It’s basically the only place in town that has a restaurant serving hot food. It’s pretty basic and small portions, so I get both bacon cheeseburger and an order of chicken wings. The bartender had plenty of stories about things going on in town, including a renegade truck driver that was terrorizing town about a month ago. It didn’t sound real until she showed me the video. Some guy in a semi truck was driving around purposely smashing into vehicles. Most were parked, but then he hit one head-on along the main road. It was absolutely nuts! It took the cops an hour and a half to show up, and eventually charged him with attempted murder. So yeah, McDermitt Is an interesting town.

ODT Day 32 Map

Day 33: Zero Day in McDermitt

June 13th

There are a lot of oddities about this hotel room. The cold water won’t work at all on the sink. There’s a hole in the wall, stuffed with a rag to fill it. All the lights are fluorescent, and they flicker. General sleazy motel shit. Not surprised, given the sleazy, low-life scumbag owner that’s running the place. I bet this guy is friends with the owner of the Sands motel, down in Grants, New Mexico. Remember that, from my CDT thru hike? Put this guy up there with him. Motel wall of shame.

For breakfast, I head down to the Quinn River Market. I could have just gone to the convenience store that is attached to the motel, but I walked a little farther to another market. There’s no way in hell I’m giving that guy any more money than I have to. Everything in there is way overpriced, too.

Outside today, there is a massive Mormon cricket swarm descending on the town. I’ve seen another swarm in Central Nevada 2 years ago, but this one was far worse. It was impossible to step anywhere, without stepping on them. They pop when stepped on, and when cars drive by… pop, pop POP! Absolutely disgusting.

The scale of the swarm is hard to describe without photo or video. The entire wall of the subway was covered with crickets, perhaps 5000 or more. Business owners are outside sweeping them away with brooms. The entire ground seems to be moving. Sewers are clogged with piles of dead crickets. This smell almost makes me gag.

I pick up a few sausage biscuits from the market and use the microwave in the hotel. Donny shows up late morning, and we catch up on the events of the last 24 hours.

We spend the day doing the typical zero-day stuff… washing clothes, gear repair, grocery shopping. This was the first hotel we’ve had since Lakeview that had a TV, and we watched the reboot of MacGyver pretty much all day. No complaints.

–> Continue reading Oregon Desert Trail Section 9: McDermitt to Rome (117 miles)

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