Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Cutting my way into Oregon.

Friday, 1st of June to Saturday, 2nd June, 2018; 
Big Den Creek, Nevada to the Warner Mountains, Oregon.

Sand Mountain.

Once the Pony Express ran by here …
now ATVs sputter about.

Upon leaving Big Den Creek, I crossed over or passed around several more mountain ranges, and the down into the Salt Wells Basin to Fallon, NV, re-supplied, crossed over the Carson River and the edge of Carson Sink.  This fairly dismal landscape, seems to form a frontier between many of the plant communities I had become used to over the past months, and those of the High Desert and the Basin & Range section of the Pacific Northwest, for when I camped that night, half a mile off of Hwy 477 and northwest of the Black Rock Desert (think Burning Man Festival), I was surrounded by Junipers only … no Pinyons … and certainly no Snakeweed.  It was beginning to feel like southeastern Oregon still close to a hundred miles off.  From Fallon I had passed through Fernley, crossed over Interstate 80, picked up State Hwy 477, passed by Pyramid Lake, spotted wild burros north of mostly dry Winnemucca Lake, in the Poito Valley, gazed up the flat expanse of the Black Rock Desert as I crossed over its southern tip at Gerlach, NV, to my campsite for the night near Squaw Summit.  The next day would see me back into Oregon, but not without incident.

Pyramid Lake … for obvious reasons.

Lake Winemucca … mostly dry.

Wild …

… Burros.

There did not seem to be any Snakeweed in the area, so somewhere while crossing Nevada, I must have passed out of the zone in which that plant thrives.  Snakeweed is one of those plants I became familiar with, during my months spent on the Colorado Plateau.  The Native Americans would use bundles of it to brush the prickles off the Prickly Pear Cacti, during food preparation; so much to learn about the plants and animals in the world around us!

Last Camp in Nevada
… no Pinyons … no Snakeweed.

June 2nd and twenty or thirty miles after crossing over Squaw Summit, Hwy 477 descends down into Surprise Valley, and passing from Nevada into the extreme northeastern California.  The Warner Mountains had been visible all the way from the Summit, and now formed the western wall of Surprise Valley.  The eastern side of this long valley is still the high desert terrain, I had been passing through, and in the Valley are three long alkali lakes, dry for the most part, but with stretches of water.  However, the western side of the Valley, between the alkali lakes and Warners, is lush and green, especially at this time of year, and dotted with farms and ranches, and some of the largest and most magnificent Cottonwoods I have ever seen.  There are pools, and ponds, and marshes, and green pastures; such a contrast with the lands I had passed through, beyond the alkali lakes.  And, yes, Surprise Valley is a surprise, just as it was for some early pioneers heading along the southern route to Oregon, some of whom turned around, once they got to Oregon, and came back to settle.

First view of the Warner Mountains
from Squaw Summit on Hwy 477.

Looking up Surprise Valley from the South.

Down the Surprise Valley
from Fort Bidwell.

Cedarville is the largest of three small towns in the Valley, with a population of about four or five hundred.  From here the main road turns west and crosses over the Warner Mountains, to US Hwy 395 and Alturas California. From there it is north along the shores of Goose Lake to the Oregon border and Lakeview, a few miles further on.  I did not go that way, but took the roads less travelled.  Heading north from Cedarville, I passed through Fort Bidwell, with no shops still in business that I could see.  From here the choice is northeast, on the lower desert/forest roads to the “wide spot in the road,” Adel, on Hwy 140, or north on County Road 2 into the Warner Mountains, and the latter is what I took.

Climbing high out of Fort Bidwell …

… and higher still …

… and even higher into the Warners.

Indian Paintbrush.

Unknown white flower.

Climbing and climbing, up and up for ten miles, and from 4000’ to 8000’, brought me to the crest of the Warners; I could have stayed on County Road 2 down to Hwy 395 and Goose Lake, but I turned northeast onto a small forest road (148, I think), and began my descent towards the Oregon border that way.  Squeezing past several trees that had fallen onto the road during the Winter, finally brought me to a pair of trees that had fallen all the way across the roadway.  ATV drivers had already been through, but had only cut a path through wide enough for their little machines.  I lifted the tops of the trees off the road, but because of the small stream on that side, was still unable to pass; time to give my Christmas axe a workout!  I worked through the branches of both trees, clearing the way to safely get a swing at the main trunks of the fallen.  My Christmas axe ... a hand-forged, Scandinavian Forest Axe, cut beautifully; thank you siblings.

Moonlight Mine, just as I started down towards Oregon, from the highpoint.

Half a mile along brought me out onto high mountain meadows.  The road became more rutted and very rocky, and I began to think of turning around … there could be twenty miles of this!  But as I crested a ridge I could see mountains in the distance that I recognized thirty or forty miles away, and in Oregon; Hart Mountain on the right to the east, and Drake Peak in the Warner Mountains on the left to the west, with the Warner Valley in between.

Out of the woods with
Mount Bidwell behind me.

Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge
in the distance to the northeast …

  … & Drake Peak to the west
of the Warner Valley.

Some sort of yellow flowers.

I saw a cattle grid a couple hundred yards away, and I decided to make my decision to turn around or not, once I got there.  The border was closer than I thought, for once at the grid, a sign on the other side said “Welcome to the Fremont National Forest.”  That's Oregon, I thought, since I was in California's Modoc National Forest.  I crossed over into Oregon, eleven months after departing the Twin Cities.  Two miles farther on, I camped within a grove of large trees that from a distance I had taken to be Ponderosas, due to their size; they turned out to be enormous and magnificent Lodgepole Pines; I've never seen Lodgepoles so big.  I had said to the Ranger at the Great Basin National Park Visitors Center, that I would spend about ten days crossing Nevada … it took me seventeen … I was in a bit of a hurry, or it might have taken even longer.

Standing in California
looking at my truck in Oregon … made it!

First camp in Oregon,
amongst the large Lodgepoles.

Pretty Blue Flowers hereabouts.

These little blossoms were tucked in
under the leaves, and only accidentally 
spotted they were under there.

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