By Marcial Reiley & Kim Jardine Reiley
It's Friday night at the Jordan Valley Cafe. We have the place to ourselves at the moment, no surprise in this remote outpost of a town. Reno is eight hours away in our rearview mirror. We've driven all day through wind and rain to finally catch a break in the weather, and to meet our guide and mentor for this expedition.
When a tall guy with a Stetson walks in through the side door and straight to our table, introductions hardly seem necessary. We'd only spoken to Chris Hansen on the phone a few times over the past few months, but from this moment on it was clear that we shared a kinship with the desert and it's wild places.
This whole thing, this idea, started about a year ago. Take some time off, get to know some of the most remote landscapes in North America, and make a video that could somehow share a little of what we see and feel while we're out there.
If the weather cooperated. Weather was the big “if” in all of our plans Chris would tell us.
Roads in the Owyhee region are few, with even fewer being drivable after some snow and rain are mixed in. This is late March in Eastern Oregon so just about any kind of weather can happen, and did.
To think we'd driven by on the highway years ago, time and again saying we should check this place out. Now we're here, and what we've seen in pictures or read in words really doesn't compare to passing through these canyon walls. Looking up from the bottom, or gazing down after a brisk hike to a ridge, you have to marvel at the rugged beauty and scale.
Ancient. Time lays out before you in a place like this. As we look down the surface of the cliffs we're humbled by the layers of rock that have come before us. This place has been special long before people set their eyes on it, and that has been a long, long time.
We base camped at Slocum Creek Campground the next eight days and seven nights. The view is certainly one of the best in all campground-land.
We had several long trails to hike from camp, and with Chris' vehicle we were able to get out a little further, Juniper Gulch, Timber Gulch, Upper Leslie Gulch. And to Three Fingers Rock, across, up and over about 13 miles of fairly rough roads. Chris kept telling us we'd need to leave if we saw thunderclouds because the roads would not hold up. We did make it there, took in that view of those massive walls of stone, the rock corral and cave. I got some great pictures. The dogs introduced themselves to one of the local cows. Sadly this outing was the last time the Stetson was seen. I'll leave that story for Chris though. By the time we'd noticed we were several miles on the return trip and the clouds were moving in so we wisely headed for camp to mourn the loss.
For the next several days we'd watch the rain come and go, windy. Even hail once. Chris tried to get us a flight for an overview since we couldn't get around on many of the roads. Even that was canceled due to weather.
Patience prevailed on the ground, even though the rewards were brief clearings and bursts of sun through clouds. We still would not have wanted to be anywhere else. The rock formations and colors. The birds, chukar to be heard everywhere but not often seen. Herds of deer, pronghorn antelope, and the largest herd of bighorn sheep in the country-- which somehow managed to evade us for the entire trip, except for one tantalizing moment on a ridge line the night we drove in. Weather permitting, we would have seen them. All the more reason to come back. We will always be drawn to the ever changing beauty of this rugged, remote, and wild country.