5 September: #8, Hart Mt. Hot Springs Campground.
I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think [if i’m lucky]. Socrates [Kiri]
Short but annoying drive through the Northern Basin took me to Hart Mt. Had a couple close encounters with cows on the ‘road to nowhere’. On the drive up to the top of Hart Mt. horst I spotted a small group of Antelope. Then after the ranger’s quarters I spotted a pair – a buck with a lovely rack, and a doe. My other wildlife encounter was crossing over to the vault toilet, two does sprung across the path in front of me! There are a bunch of hunters camps here – it is archery season, but the campsites are spread out so it was easy to find a quiet spot.
After hemming and hawing and rationalizing my night alone on Glass Butte at the knappers camp, “if no one comes by sundown, no one will come”. I was out there, and it was a little scary. But I survived. Didn’t see a single person out there until I passed another car camped along the road out – about 5 miles from where I camped. Out in nature I’m always more worried about 2 legged predators, than 4 legged ones. I did have a canister of pepper spray, a pocket knife, and a machete in the car, just in case. On the way out, along a less adventurous route I saw many pits dug just off the road for the choice obsidian. Would definitely like to go back there for a serious round of rock hounding. But the obsidian was rough on my tires, and caused some serious anxiety later in the day.Having a lovely “kanteen cup” of Bota Box Red. There’s a small creek next to the campsite so there are a lot of birch trees (I think). They have very rounded leaves and smooth pale gray bark. I worked on getting the car more organized when I got here – moved the front passenger side seat up so will hopefully have more room to stretch out. Last night had crazy bad night sweats. I set the tent up here for a full stretch out! Hopefully will sleep w/o interruption. Sleeping in the car would be better if I dropped the amount of stuff I brought. Probably could have ditched half the stuff.
I headed east on 20 towards Burns, I needed to pick up an axe and fill up the tank. I tried to keep the gas at half the entire trip as I read that some of the more rural gas stations are only open seasonally. This was probably a good idea since once you turn off of 20 onto 395 there’s a sign that says 90+ miles to the next gas. I passed one of two patrol cars on 20 just into Burns, 1830 miles of road and 2 cops reinforces the ‘out there’ of the adventure.
Traveling southern and south eastern OR is an exercise in self-sufficiency for sure. I needed the axe as part of the fire restrictions on Hart Mt. We’ve been calling this summer fiery – in temperament and temperature, and the fire conditions in most places I traveled were either ‘High’ or ‘Extreme’. Hart Mt. is so remote and conditions so severe that even a hot car could cause a wildfire, so you had to carry your own “fire-fighting” equipment.Saw the 1st OR State Patrol into Burns – had to bypass there for gas and an axe, I was going 65 in 55 but there were so many others going way faster so no stop for me! Yay! There are a lot of flies here, but thankfully none are biting. Have to carry in the car for fire restrictions [w/in Hart Mt. National Antelope Refuge]:
1. A 24-26″ axe
2. A 24″ shovel with >8″ blade.
3. 1 Gallon container of water. Oh great, a bunch of people have arrived, hope they are not too loud. I am enjoying my ‘silent’ vacation. Voices carry, people! OMG this fucking squeaky ass car – not going to get too incensed, it is the weekend after all (old hippy farts and their VW vans). Wow, maybe they are leaving! That would be amazing – nope – another VW van taking their place. Please be quiet that’s all I ask.
Speaking of fiery. Water. Let’s talk about it a little. During my trip I passed far too many to count fields that were being irrigated via sprinkler. In the high desert. In the middle of the day. Hay, grass (for seed, lawn, pasture), and countless other crops – some growing where they might naturally with a little extra H2O encouragement, some growing where they naturally shouldn’t. Driving through the high desert seeing fields being sprinkler irrigated at noon – it literally makes me feel ill. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how to communicate the fact that we are tapping into water resources that cannot be recovered in our lifetime. Are there water wars brewing?Will have to see about staying up here two nights. Will drive up to the ranger station and see what’s what! I’m ready for a nap or something. Oh yah still no period. I ate all the hot dogs between last night and today. No more perishables. A moth keeps trying to get into my wine mug. Caught the doe and her yearling eating the birches at the campsite next door, got a couple of photos. Just noticed a cut in the sidewall of my right front wheel. Debating whether to go to Burns or Lakeview to have someone look at it. Wanna make sure it’s ok for Steens!
My first afternoon on Hart Mt. was spent comfortably reading and painting in my camp chair, getting my mellow on. Hart Mt. felt like the refuge it is. Peaceful, quiet (mostly), relaxing, a true refuge for Antelope, deer and human alike. I was reading a book when I glanced over at the car and noticed a small tear in the sidewall of the front passenger side tire. Keep in mind i’m at day 3 here and I have >1000 miles to go in “way out there” places. The last thing I want is a blow-out 60 miles from the nearest help with no cell phone service (I had my ham radio in the car though). Should I go, or just hope it holds? Should I pack up camp, or leave my gear? What if they needed to fix it and couldn’t get the right tires in? After a multi-hour mental debate with myself I decided the best course of action was to drive 120 miles r/t to Lakeview to see if I could find a tire place that could check out the tire.
But first a nice long soak in the hot springs.
The hot springs “tub” is centrally located in the campground. Open air, free, and cozy. I waited til sundown so I could get a little star gazing in during my soak. I walked over and had the most amazing soak for about an hour. The water was the perfect temperature, not too hot, not too cold, and in the brisk air it was wonderful. Since it was right around full moon time, the star gazing wasn’t as good as it could be, but it was still pretty magical. The warm water, the silence, the stars, the moon, the deer bedding down streamside.. Ahhhhh…6 September. I woke up early, packed things up and headed to Lakeview. I took the road via Plush and Adel. Great drive. In Lakeview I had the guy check the tire. He said it was superficial and check in 500 miles. I’m keeping close tabs on it. After that I ate brunch at a diner (Tall Town Cafe and Bakery), can’t remember name, will have to look up when I get home. Talked with Mary on the phone for a bit then headed back up to #8 via the Plush cutoff road – on top of the horst – that was pretty neat. Spent the rest of the afternoon reading and deer watching – tons around the campsite. Went to bed early after dinner of bunnies & cheese with dehydrated veggies. Yum!
Fortunately when I returned from Lakeview my campsite was still open, so I unpacked and set up the tent again. Spent the rest of the day wandering aimlessly around the refuge, walking, driving, filming antelope herds, giggling at Chipmunks flying back and forth across the road, watching deer, treading carefullly for rattlesnakes, reading, writing, and drawing. Anything and everything to try to wash the “anxiety of the tire” from the system, and to forge forward.
When I settled down in the evening I opened one of the two books I was reading turned on my flashlight and HORROR! The whole ridgeline of the tent fly was covered in gnats. EWWWW. I turned off the light and watched them drift around as the light from the moon shifted over the top of the tent. They settled wherever it was brightest. There were zero gnats the night before, clearly the gnat signal was activated in the intervening 24 hours. In the morning they were gone, and in their place a new way of looking at and living with the desert.