I had a beautiful start to my morning with the sunrise on the Pueblo Valley floor. This was largely a cross country section that began very easy with hard ground and sagebrush that was far enough apart that I could keep an fairly straight line to Alvord Lake. Once I hit the lake in was a straight shot down the to the other end of the lake. I was surprised how soft the lake bottom was. I ended up staying on a some 4×4 tracks for easier travel. Once I left the lake for a cross country section to Borax Lake. This lake is feed by geothermal vents. As I approached this lake the ground became more and more crunchy. It reminded me of when I was a boy growing up in Alaska and I would go out and play in the snow when it was very cold out. It had the same crunch to it. Soon I was at the lake and checked out some of the springs. It was on to Fields Station next.
I walked into the town and meet Tom, the owner, and collected my resupply package. Tom was nice enough to let me take a shower and sort out my resupply package in the back on the station. Jane cooked me up a cheese burger with an egg on it. I passed on the milkshake. I had one when I stopped by back in April and I did not want to go into a food coma before leaving for the trail in a few hours. I had an additional resupply package coming in that afternoon that I needed to await for its arrival – huge thanks to Dave for taking care of me and getting that out to me so fast!!!!
While I passed on the milkshake I could not pass on the beer that Fields Station had. These guys have great taste in beer!!!! I ended up having a McKenzie Brewing Company Red Ale. It was delicious.
It was 4:00pm and it was time for me to return to the trail. I hiked out of town up to the foothills of the Pueblo Mountains to camp. I had a great sunset and was set up well for the cross country hike tomorrow across the Pueblos.
Big thanks again to the crew at Fields Station: Tom, Jane, Jake and Ray – Thank you for your hospitality and letting me hangout while I waited on the mailman.
Today was one of my favorite days on the trail thus far. I got rolling at normal time to beat the heat as these section of the ODT has lots of vertical gain and loss. Most of this section is cross country and you are following rock cairn to rock cairn. I loved this! It was like following a treasure map. I would locate the 1st rock cairn, hike to it and then look at the map locate the next cairn in the distance and devise a path to it and then hike over to it. It was incredibly engaging and fun! I was again rewarded with amazing views of the Steens, Alvord Desert and Lakes, Trout Creek Mountains and of course the Pueblo Mountains.
I purposely went slower today as I was trying to set myself up to arrive at the Denio USPS when they open tomorrow morning. I took longer than normal breaks today. At one point I came to the realization that I could not be happy than where I was at that very moment. I was doing exactly what I wanted to be doing enjoying some spectacular views!
As I came around a ridge and there in front of me was a heard of 100 big horn sheep!!!! I was able to get a couple photos and a video before they spotted me and they took of running up the mountain. I felt guilty for making them run up the mountain but then I realized that they where going to the top and jumping over rocks and what looked like cliffs to get to the top. It was incredible to watch!
I continued on and the route became more brushy with each mile. Eventually I had to put my bushwhacking gators on as the sagebrush was pretty thick at times. Around 3:00pm I took an hour break and lounged under a tree because I had plenty of time to reached my destination. This was a nice change of pace for me as I am usually trying to make miles. After relaxing for an hour I hiked to to the old Tiller Cabin site. There was nothing here but it had a flat piece of ground without brush on it that I could set my tent up on. It was off to bed and get mentally prepared for tomorrow – Denio Creek. I have heard stories about how bad the brush is down this drainage.
When you are hiking a thru-hike information always has a way of traveling down the trail. In this case myself and the other two hikers out here have been in contact with each other. Both of them are well ahead of me so I get information passed onto me. When I was on the PCT in 2010 there was the Suiattle River crossing in Northern Washington that was legendary because you had to cross the river on a log that other hikers have falling off of. I heard about this log for 1000 miles before I ever got to it. So you have plenty of time to let your mind “expand” the situation. Turns out that log was not that hard to cross after all.
Well on the ODT there is Denio Creek. This has been explained to me as the bushwhack from hell. I even found a blog from some hikers who hike the Pueblos in 2011 explaining how bad the brush is going down Denio Creek. They even have a graveyard at the terminus of this canyon. Was this graveyard for the hikers who did not make it out alive from Denio Creek? With that said I was a little nervous about going down this canyon. Before I left Fields Station Jake mentioned to me that I should just stay high above the brush. I dismissed him because I was told how step the canyon was but I kept his comment in the back of my mind.
So I get rolling at normal time of 5:00am and the canyon is rugged looking but remembering what Jake said I stayed 50 to a 100 feet above the brush on the north side of the creek. This worked well for the first quarter mile until I came to a rock outcrop that I thought that would not be able to get over. So I came down to the creek and found a spot that I could cross easily and climbed up the south side avoiding the brush. I continued down the canyon on the south side and crossed the creek again before EB100 back to the north side. This side had what appeared to be mining tailings or an old roadbed in this section. I stayed on these tailings until it was overcome with brush. At this point I found a very faint animal trail that started to ascend the canyon. I continued to follow this trail and it keep getting higher and higher. I really had no idea where I was going but pretty soon I was 500 feet about the creek below! I was starting to get nervous that maybe this was a bad idea but there was fresh deer tracks on this animal trail so I continued to follow it. Well it finally came out about 1000 feet above the creek below with no bushwhacking! I had avoided the massacre below and found a new way out of Denio Creek for future ODT hikers!!! Photos are below. Jake, you where right, stay high to avoid the brush. This from here on out this route should be called the Jake Alternate Route.
From here I came down the mountain in the sagebrush to the graveyard and out to the highway for a 1 mile road walk to the Denio USPS. I was there even earlier than I had planned to be. The postmaster Terri was super helpful and told me about the local history and why Denio Creek is so over grown. Turns out that the BLM will no longer allow cows up there there and the brush keeps growing in thicker and thicker every year. She then said it will probably burn someday soon like the Trout Creek Mountains did in 2012.
After resupplying in Denio I was on my way to the Trout Creek Mountains. I had a 10.5 mile road walk to the start of the mountains. I had to put music in my ears for this one because it was another flat sagebrush landscape. I finally made it to the base of the mountains and I started the slow climb to the top. These mountains where almost completely burned in a wildfire in 2012. All that has grown back has been the cheatgrass. This stuff is super annoying that I had to stop and put my bushwhacking gators on to keep the grass off of my shoes and socks. The trail slowly climbs higher and higher. It was a long way to the top but had some great views. Future ODT hikers note, No Name Waterhole had water. I ended up stopping at Government Corral to the evening which also had great water. I was so stoked to have found an alternate route for future ODT hikers today that it made my entire day and remember, hike smarter not harder!
I woke up not feeling well today. This made for a slow going morning which normally should be my fastest time. It was another beautiful sunrise this morning. The trail dropped elevation down to Trout Creek. I stocked up on water here and then started a very long walk up and over the Trout Creek Mountains. What impressed me the most today was I had an unobstructed view once I got to the top of the Trout Creek Mountains. I am use to putting in 30+ miles a day but today I was in awe of just how far I needed to hike. It seemed like forever! It is amazing what one person can do when you place one foot in front of the next foot.
Future ODT thru-hikers take note: Chicken Springs and the Spring at EB157 where dry. Everything else in this section had water.
After hiking close to 30 miles I arrived at the headwall of the Oregon Canyon. It was late in the afternoon but I figured if I could hike for a couple more hours it would save me that time tomorrow so I could get to town earlier. I found an animal trail down the canyon and away I went. As I got further in the canyon it became more brushy. After fighting the brush I donned my gaiters to start doing some serious bushwhacking. Every time I place my gaiters on I feel like I am going into combat with Mother Nature. Within a few minutes I was ripping through the riparian vegetation and getting whipped and shredded along the way. In the ONDA guidebook it mentions that there are hunting camps along the route. My intention was to find one of these sites and camp there for the night. I never could find one. So I ended up hiking for another hour until I could find a suitable spot to set up my tent. It was not perfect but it would have to do. It was close to the river and I knew it was going to get cold being down in the canyon next to the water. I set up camp and it was lights out for me. Tomorrow I had a big push down the rest of the canyon and then the long walk to highway 95. Hopefully I can get a hitch into McDermitt or it is a 9 mile road walk into town.
I woke up about 2:00am this morning freezing. I had to put all my clothes on to stay warm. Cold air always sinks to the bottom of canyons and my hunch from last night came true. I broke camp earlier today because I was already dressed when I got up at 4:00am. I had probably 5 or 6 miles to go down the canyon before I would exit it. It was very slow going. I tried Jake’s method of staying high but in Oregon Canyon this slowed me down even more as I had serious drainages that I had to cross that took me way off route. Finally I said screw it and I hiked back down to the canyon floor that now opened up that it appeared that I could make my way through the brush. On my way down the hill I got into a huge pile of rosebushes. I had thorns everywhere on me including my crotch. Let me tell you, thorns on the family jewels does not feel good!
After getting through the rosebushes I was on the canyon floor. I started navigating back and forth across the creek trying to find the path of least resistance. At some point bushwhacking through this vegetation my maps got pulled out of my side pocket on my pack!! Once I realized this I spent an hour back tracking trying to find them with no luck. If any future hikers find them please bring them in and I will pay for postage back to me. Luckily I studied the route the night before and I had the GPS to get me to town.
After about three hours (1 hour lost looking for my maps) I came to the point that I would climb out of the canyon. This was a very steep and slow process up I made it to the top. Below is a photo of me looking down into the canyon. Once I got to the other side it was all down hill and flat from this point on. Future ODT hikers, the first three cow tanks had water. The water quality progressively got worse the further you went down hill. I filled up at the first tank to get me to McDermitt. It was a long cross country section from here on out to Highway 95. I did not see any rattlesnakes in this section. After about 3 hours I arrived at the highway. I spent about 30 minutes trying to get a hitch into McDermitt. I was covered in dirt, sweet stains and a few blood spots. No one would stop and I was not going to wait for hours so I put the tunes in and hiked into town. It took me two hours and forty five minutes to cover the nine miles to town. I got a room at the McDermitt Hotel for the night. I was able to get my clothes washed at the Ideal Market before they closed at 7:00pm. I then had dinner at the casino that night. Very long and exhausting day. I am going to double zero here for the next two days before heading out to the Owyhees.
I have been resting up here in McDermitt doing hiker stuff such as eating, laundry, updating this blog, eating and resting my feet. Since my last blog updates in Frenchglen the route has become way more physically difficult to hike. The elevation and brush being the two factors that have changed since the first half of the ODT. The temperatures have also risen. It hit 91 degrees yesterday in McDermitt but luckily I was in an air conditioned hotel room.
The Steens and Pueblo Mountains where incredibly rewarding hiking through them. I have some great memories and pictures to take away from that part of the ODT.
I am heading out to the Owyhees tomorrow morning. I know I will no longer have cell service until I get to the finish in about 9 or 10 days. If everything goes well I should be finished on the 19th or 20th. Please watch on the SPOT link below. I will update this blog once I get back to civilization after the 20th.
It was back to the trail today after two days of rest. I had breakfast at the casino and then it was off to get a hitch 9 miles back up to the trail. I was a bit concerned that it may take awhile to get a hitch out of McDermitt because I could not get one getting into town. However, my luck changed! I did not stand out side on the side of the road for more than two minutes and the first car that went by turned around and picked me up! The driver was a young man named Nick who was driving back to Idaho after being laid off from his mining job in Winnemucca Nevada. 10 minutes later I was dropped off the side of the road and ready to make some miles.
I started up the hill at 7:00am and my pack has never weighed so much!! I had seven days of food and 4.5 liters of water. After getting to the top and taking my mandatory panorama it was a long hike down the otherwise of the valley and an eventual cross country hike to the very start of the Owyhee River in Louse Canyon. I refilled up on water from the stagnate pools of water at West Little Owyhee. It was pretty muddy tasting water. Similar to Rock Creek back in Hart Mountain. I found my 6th tick of this hike on my pant leg while filling up with water.
It was still early in the evening so I continued for a few more miles and camped out on the high plains above the Louse Canyon. While I was getting ready for bed I could hear the coyotes singing in the distance.
For future ODT hikers: There was water at OC007 but was heavily cow polluted. OC012 Tenmile Creek had water and it was flowing but the was heavy cow activity. In fact, I think there was more cows around this one spot than any previous location on the entire ODT. I did not visit the spring at OC013. Chicken Springs at OC019 had great flow – See picture. Muddy tasting water at OC029 from West Little Owyhee River. Three Creek Spring at OC040 was dry. The water trough at New Road Spring had good water.