If you like down-home, salt-of-the-earth people, stop by the Adel Café on any given mornin
Hot Springs, Campfires, and High Rock Canyon
We'd originally intended to search for Murder Rock, the site where Pete Lassen and his mates were apparently bushwhacked by Indians (stories vary widely on this). But we were glad to be on terra firma and sheepishly took a graded road north to the old cavalry post at Soldier Meadows. We'd have to settle for a late lunch and a dip in their swimming pool-sized hot spring. Shadows were stretching long on the horizon when we met some members of the Pair-O-Dice Four-Wheel Drive Club, who invited us to share their campfire. A moonless night and at least a hundred miles from the mega-mall, our camp was illuminated by the faint blue glow of the northern constellations as they swept graceful arcs around the North Star.
High Rock Canyon is the perfect place for an ambush. From a saddle between two peaks, we entered on a narrow two-track as sheer cliffs rose to the north and south. At times, the valley floor narrowed to less than 50 feet. Our tires were following two narrow ruts in the limestone ledge, evidence of steel wagon wheels of the 1800s. On the canyon walls and shallow caves, the etchings of early settlers bear witness to their passing (except for the few that some moron defaced). We'd read accounts that on several occasions bands of Paiute Indians waited on the high cliffs for wagon trains to enter the canyon, then sent a barrage of boulders over the edge, scattering livestock in a mass of confusion. As we made our way west, we couldn't help but keep a guarded eye on the skyline above.
After several weeks in the desert, the tall pines and cool mountains streams west of Fort
There isn't much in Vya, California. The map showed a town, but the only evidence of habitation was the Old Yeller Ranch and a sign that read: "We don't rent pigs!" The low-fuel light illuminated as we ascended the Sierras towards Lakeville. Rather than pulling one of the Expedition One fuel cans off the roof, we chanced it and ran on fumes all the way into town.
Mud Bogs, Rock Stars, and the Backcountry Discovery Trail
Mile 1,350, N42"11'17, Lakeview Oregon: The guy at the next table leaned over and said, "You two must be lost. No one comes to Lakeview on purpose-that your fancy Jeep out there?" Restocking supplies at the local market, we nabbed the last DeLorme Oregon atlas in the county and headed east on Bullard Road. I'd researched the Oregon Backcountry Discovery Trail (BDT), which was designed as an all-dirt, north-south route connecting state lines, and picked up a set of map books from the Oregon OHV Association (www.oohva.org). We would use sections of the BDT for points north of the Hart Mountain Reserve Antelope Reserve and into Washington.
Avoiding the tar road, we zigzagged through thick pine forests, dodged cattle, and backtracked numerous times before getting stonewalled near the western edge of Hickey Ranch. The only option was to sneak back on the pavement for a 20-mile southeast traverse to the two-horse town of Adel. We were tallying our paved-road mileage, but were trying to reserve northward progress to the dirt two-track.
Two dusty pickups sat outside a rustic and weathered roadside café, the only public establishment in town. Inside, Will Cockerell and the Lang brothers (now those names have Wild West written all over them) sat around a small table with a checkered plastic tablecloth. These were genuine mud-on-your boots horsemen. The smell of hickory-smoked bacon and fried eggs swirled about, and various glassy-eye elk, deer and antelope oversaw the morning routine from their purgatorial wall-mounts. A wealth of information on the area, the Lang brothers keyed us in on the coolest hot springs on the West Coast. Grabbing an egg burrito to go, we looped around the east side of Crump Lake for a good soaking with a view.
The tourist entrance to the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge is from the north. But we'd read about the little-known Central Oregon Military Wagon Road (circa 1880), which accessed the park from the south. "Little known" was a spot-on description. The overgrown switchback to the Hart Plateau hadn't seen traffic in some time, maybe years. Once on the plateau, the refuge's 278,000 acres of rolling high desert is host to magnificent pronghorn antelope, for which the park is named and who roam in small herds over the sage-covered terrain. And . . . the refuge has dozens of miles of overland (non-tar) tracks that you can still drive on!
The previous month's rains had left our 25-mile track in the Hart Mountain Antelope Reserv
The rains that had waylaid our passage on the Black Rock Playa had also left the next 25 miles of track almost impassable. Pronghorn watched from a guarded distance as we slogged through hub- to fender-deep water for the next four hours. A few sections, which were longer than a winch line and presented no indication of their depth, required stripping down and testing the waters on foot first. (There is something about being stripped down to your underwear and wading thigh-deep in snow runoff that makes you love the great outdoors.)
We awoke to a dead silence the next morning. Peering out from our tent, the rain had run its course-it was now snowing. We'd camped at the Hart Mountain Hot Springs (thank you, Ray and Monica and their five kids for sharing a dry spot under your E-Z UP). Considering it was June 21, the summer solstice, the thought of another thousand miles of camping in spring storms sounded pretty dang cold. Our fingers were a bit on the frostbitten side by the time we wrapped up Casa de ARB, stuffed everything in the Jeep, and got rolling.