Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Day 2, Clyde Holliday State Park, Oregon to Elko, Nevada

Oh my, it got cold, very cold, last night although I am unsure of exactly how cold but for sure in the low 30"s maybe lower. That portable alcohol heater sure did its job of keeping my sleeping area warm. In fact, some time in the night I woke to turn the heater off, only to turn it back on.  This Origo heater is invaluable.  I was so nice and warm I didn't want to get up. I kept on waiting for the sun, but then realized by being in a valley it could be some time before the sun's rays hit my camp.

I warmed up by heating up water for coffee and instant oatmeal. It was so cold I had to put gloves on. I'm sure my neighboring campers were amused watching me as they sat in their big travel trailers all nice and warm. I wished I was too. I wolfed down the coffee and oatmeal. I then heated up the rest of the coffee to boiling hot and re-filled my thermos. Camp was easy to break. Move the stuff from the cab to the back and I was done.

I didn't register or pay for my campsite last night so Rocky and I took a walk to register. Then we walked farther along the John Day River on a nice park trail. Several times we saw deer out feeding. They were probably using the state park as a refuge to keep from being hunted as it was hunting season. I noticed that it definitely got cold because there were many places you could see where water in small puddles, ditches, and ponds had a thin layer of ice. The coffee, oatmeal, and brisk walk were warming me up. When I left Clyde Holliday State Park the truck temperature gauge showed a low of 29 F. Okay, it is officially cold.

After leaving Clyde Holliday State Park shortly after 8 AM, I entered the small town of John Day. I decided to get gas because this was the last town of any size until I got to Winnemucca, Nevada almost 300 miles away. In this distance I only went through three small towns, if you could call them that. Actually they really were a collection of a few houses (less than 10), a grade school, mercantile, and a post office. Lots of vacant buildings which let you know that sometime in their past they were bigger and more significant than they are now. The three towns were Frenchglen, Fields, and Denom. Denom actually straddled the Oregon-Nevada border and was the sorriest looking of the three.  You could tell Frenchglen had some former history to it and still had a thriving elementary school.  Fields seemed to be more of a hunters destination, although the elementary school seemed smaller. Perhaps Frenchglen or Fields had gas but it wasn't obvious. Denom didn't have anything - school, post office, store or bar. In fact, I wonder considering the shape the town was in, why would anyone choose to live there.
Day 2 route is yellow highlighted
Today's route was, US Highway 26 to the town of John Day, about 7 miles. Turn right on to US Highway 395 all the way to just outside of Burns (about 67 miles) to turn off onto OR SR 205, the Frenchglen Highway. Frenchglen being about 60 miles away. Staying on OR SR 205 for 73 miles until the Oregon-Nevada border where OR SR 205 became NV SR 292. Three miles down NV SR 292 where it becomes NV SR 140. Travel 65 miles on NV SR 140 with several very long straight stretches until it hits US Hwy 95. A right turn onto US 95 and 31 miles later you're in Winnemucca, Nevada. A left turn onto Interstate 80 and 124 miles later you are in Elko.
Silvies Ranch country along US 395 heading south

Between John Day and Malheur the scenery was typical of the day before. A winding this-way-that-way road up a canyon until it hit a high point in the woods. Basalt columnar cliffs and large out croppings of basalt rocks mixed in with willows along the canyon creek and Ponderosa pines everywhere else. The Silvies Ranch before I got to Burns, Oregon, seemed to go on for miles. I noticed that the ranch had several huge barns or sheds that always featured three evenly spaced characteristic cupolas on the roof. Also, the gateways to the ranch were stucco arches versus typical log gateways. US 95 bisected at least 12 or more miles of the Silvies Ranch.

Just before Burns, US 95 started dropping out of forested country and into high desert scrub-sagebrush with steppes and buttes. Malheur Lake was shimmering in the morning sunlight. I considered stopping at Malheur Wildlife Area but it was closed due to the government shutdown. Malheur is famous for observing waterfowl. OR SR 205 bisected the western edge of the Malheur reservoir. I slowed down but didn't see any waterfowl. What I did have to stop for was a cattle drive across the road. Now how often does that happen to you?  I was most intrigued how the two Border Collies did all the work to keep the cattle in line. They wandered this way and that way stopping every now and then. The cowboys on horseback simply rode along at the cattle's pace. Wow! Might not seem like much but I found that fascinating and a most welcome diversion.

High desert and mountains. (Photo taken through windshield.)
After Malheur the drive changed from following along a creek and canyon to driving along the edge of shallow lakes and wide valleys. A familiar pattern of mountain range-valley-mountain range became the norm. The road would follow along or slowly cross a valley, then at some point reach the far mountain range before going into the next valley and so on and so forth all the way to Elko, Nevada. Some mountain ranges had big mountains, other ranges the mountains were simply hills. When you would cross a mountain range the road would rise sharply and wind its way up and down and over the range. Driving the valleys consisted of long straight sections with a slight curve just to keep absolute driving boredom at bay.

Off to my left as I headed south to Frenchglen was Steens Mountain. This mountain seems to just rise up out of the steppes. I read that it is its own ecosystem. I observed plenty of snow up on Steens Mountain. Just before Frenchglen there even was a skiff of snow alongside the road; although I was many miles from Steens Mountain. At Frenchglen I saw a turn off to the "Steens Mountain Loop Road." I decided that traveling the Steens Mountain Loop Road was on my bucket list.

SE Oregon on OR SR 205 just outside of Frenchglen
Right out of Frenchglen OR SR 205 steeply climbs with many twists and turns to get out of the valley to get back into that high desert. Once at the summit the road straightens out back to the familiar boring straights. I wished I had stopped in Frenchglen but not sure why I didn't. So I will have to return at some other time.

There was no traffic until I hit Interstate 80 at Winnemucca. Many times I stopped barely pulling off
Sagebrush and empty spaces
the road to either get a picture or take a pee and for the whole time - maybe 10-15 minutes there was no other vehicle. I began to wonder what to do if an unfortunate mechanical issue would arise. You could get old waiting for another car. When you did stop, it was so quiet.  A few stops had some wind blowing, but I heard no birds or other critters. I saw a few Marsh Hawks (you can tell by the white rump patch) and a few Ravens from time to time. I would watch as I drove the Marsh Hawk hover spying some prey below, but never saw the drop for the kill. Hmm? The Ravens were always in pairs. Was I missing something?  Of course there were road signs warning drivers to be on the lookout for wildlife. Oregon had the most boring signs, e.g., Elk, Deer, Livestock, etc. Nevada's road signage seemed to have action images of cows, antelope, and deer.  Come to think of it, I didn't see any bullet holes in Nevada road signs whereas Oregon road signs resembled Swiss cheese.

My traveling of state highways ended when I reached Winnemucca and the end of Nevada 140 which used to be Oregon 205. From Winnemuca on it was even more boring high-speed Interstate freeways. I had to put the pedal-to-the-metal too, from leisurely 55 mph to now blistering Interstate speed of 75 mph. What's more, from never seeing another vehicle to now having multiple vehicles - cars, trucks, and semi-tractor trailer rigs - share the road alongside of you. Wow, I had to stay in my lane. The only positive was having to share the road with other vehicles was your only relief from total boredom of driving in Nevada. All mountains seem to look the same, as well as endless scrub and sagebrush. I don't remember seeing any trees except those planted around houses. Uh, not houses but manufactured homes surrounded by multiple vehicles in various states of disrepair. Used travel trailers (mostly dilapidated) seemed particularly endemic to the Nevada landscape.

Elko is kind of an oasis in the middle of a the high desert scrub-sagebrush. Of course being Nevada there are casinos. Tonight I am moteling it since the overnight forecast was for temperatures in the 20's. Also, Rocky and I prefer a comfortable bed versus the bed of a truck if it's going to get that cold. I pulled into a Motel 6 and got a room for the night. I don't mind the simplicity of Motel 6, but I like them because they are pet friendly and cheap. I ate a quick supper then retired. I was tired, perhaps from driving, perhaps from last night's camping, or whatever but I didn't stay up too late. It was a good day. Traveled over 430 miles and saw lots of places that I had never been to.

No comments:

Post a Comment