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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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