A desert is a place without expectation. – Nadine Gordimer
We took five days and drove from Harper to Rome, Oregon, on 120 miles of dirt road. Larry and Calli (the dog) hunted chukars. I hiked along and snapped photos. If you’ve ever been chukar hunting, you know it’s like finding (and shooting) a needle in a haystack. If you’ve ever driven south from Harper on the Crowley Road, you know better than to hope for anything in particular. Just sit back and see what comes along.
We stumbled upon this 1914 land survey marker. The $250 fine for removal would be equivalent to about $6,280 today.
This 1914 survey marker has been here for 105 years. How many visitors have happened by?
Larry and Calli hunt up the canyon. Chukars like it high, dry, and rocky.
No reason to work too hard . . .
The center upright support posts in this old barn are juniper tree trunks. The barn was built on dirt–no foundation or floor.
Old barn near Skull Springs
Rabbitbrush blooms in the fall.
Sagebrush also blooms in the fall, something I had failed to notice until recently despite having grown up in in sagebrush country. The blossoms are the same color as the leaves–it’s easy to miss the flowers.
This reservoir is a cow watering hole. The rangeland is public land, managed by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) and is beat up and grazed down by cows. I often wish I could have seen this country before it was overgrazed and overgrown by invasive plants like cheatgrass and medusahead.
The dam was built using upright railroad rails. The nearest rail line is over twenty miles away. How’d they get here without a good road?
We celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary at this sunrise camp.
So much nothing. So much sky. (Note Moby, the tiny white speck, to left of center.)
An old juniper. Which is stronger: rock or wood?
Larry and Calli looking for chukars in all this great expanse, one small flock of needles in the haystack.
Oreo cow on the Crowley ranch
Leave the gate how you found it: a rule I absorbed from my father and an absolute must on the open range.
Bulldozer at a ranch hoping that good times will come again.
This house in Barren Valley offers a bleak existence. Rock cribs are often used in places where there are no trees for fence posts.
Modern accommodations at the ranch. The roof has corrugated metal and a chimney for the small wood stove inside.
Ranch barn lizard
Nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live here . . . So much work. So much alone.
“It’s not down on any map; true places never are.” (Herman Melville) Larry’s secret campsite on the Owyhee river, north of Rome.
How long has this hammer been lost in the desert? Who dropped it here and when?
Larry makes toast on his dad’s camping toaster from about 1960. It’s made from a Folgers coffee can with wire on top to hold bread above the flame.
Sand Springs: another lonely spot with an old cabin (on the right) and a old trailer (on the left). How much would I have to pay you to spend a winter here?
A cold and windy hunt above the Owyhee canyon.
If Calli smells birds way down there, would Larry go?
Moby camped above the Owyhee River. If you have very good eyes, or a very good imagination, you’ll see a very tiny Moby parked on the tall cliff (below and to the left of center). It’s just me and Larry and Calli, nobody else as far as the eye can see.
Three hours hiking, four birds, five miles. A very good day.
The Oregon Desert Trail winds 750 miles through Oregon’s deserts. In places like this, it’s a suggested route marked by cairns rather than an actual trail. If you want a hike with plenty of suffering, this might be for you. Read about the Oregon Desert Trail here.
Dog’s best friend. Larry carries Calli over a sticker patch. Her feet are sore after a long hunt.
“The road goes ever on and on . . . ” (J.R.R. Tolkien) This country is so sad, yet so beautiful. Cow stomped and covered with invasives, destroyed beyond hope. It’s also so lovely you can’t stay away, can’t quit driving the road just to see where it goes.