I headed south, wandering around looking for fall color, fossils, and views.
I’m staying at John Day for the month of October volunteering at Kam Wah Chung. While there I’m exploring the area.
The tourist brochure for Grant County listed the top 20 tourist sights and included the Humongous Fungus with a note to see the chamber of commerce or forest service for more information. My interest was perked. The Humongous Fungus was in the top 20 sites to visit in Grant County! I located the chamber of commerce office and went in to get the information on this interesting site. The gentleman there had heard of it but couldn’t find any information on it. He couldn’t remember if he had ever visited it. He suggested I visit the forest service office, so off I went. At the forest service office the lady looked around a bit and then found the information for me. Then she pointed on the map (that she gave me) where I should go to see the Humongous Fungus. When I pointed out to her that the area wasn’t where the map located the Humongous Fungus, her reply was: “it is all the same.” I was getting more intrigued about the Humongous Fungus. It didn’t appear to be a hot tourist spot.
Another abandoned ranch. Without a plan, this seems to be a theme for this trip. In this fast world, it is calming to see items made by hand slowly. I slowly look at how things were cobbled together. Yet I imagine that the Riddles may have found pleasure in our easy to purchase manufactured world. They had a hard life.
I stopped at the Malheur NWR headquarters for information. I knew this time of year wasn’t prime for bird watching but I had seen so many birds at the Tule NWR, maybe there would be lots of birds here. I asked, “Do you recommend taking the auto tour?” Other visitors overheard me and answered my question with, “No way. It is a waste of time.” But on Saturday, I drove the south portion of the auto tour and throughly enjoying it.
This is big country. Driving Hwy 140 you can see vast distances. By Sage Hen summit I could see the Steens to the north and the Pine Forest Range to the south with fresh snow on the top. It is a wonderful middle of nowhere type of place. In the valley of Guano Lake there were miles of grass land.
I came to the Lava Beds National Monument to see the caves and found so much more. The area is full of surprises, contradictions, and irony with a complicated history of war mixed in.
The geology of the lava tube caves was interesting but unexpectly it didn’t grab my interest. I felt an uneasyness as I ventured into the dark caves. And with my headlamp and a large flashlight both on, I couldn’t light up the cave to see the details of the rock. So I stopped visiting the caves and ventured out to see other sights I had heard about.
Driving south from Seattle to the Lava Beds NM gives one plenty of time to think about how to solve the world’s problems. I didn’t do that, I just zoned-out and drove. Smiling as I enjoyed the scenery. I had forgotten how pleasant the drive is between Biggs and Madras on Highway 97. Not much traffic and high plateau farming and ranching. At the north end are huge un-worldly wind turbines. Looking at them reminded me of all the marvelous things engineers have figured out. After a night spent at the Haystack Reservoir East Shore Campground I continued driving south. It was a rainy day, raining the entire way from Madras to Klamath Fall with low clouds. No scenery and lots of traffic. Ugh. The dogs and I needed to take a break and do something other than driving so we stopped at the Collier Memorial Logging Museum. What a pleasant surprise.
After a month at the City of Rocks and Castle Rocks, Idaho, it was time to hit the pavement and get home to Seattle.
Birds of Prey
I’ve never had a bad night camping in the many years I’ve been camping. The odds caught up with me; with my stay on the Snake River near the Swan Fall hydro power plant. It was a Sunday night; it should be a quite night – correct? I was tired of driving. I-84 throught Idaho was busy, boring, and hot; so I simply picked a camp site that look adaquate. I settled for camp site #1, which was very close to #2, #3, and #4 and a vaulted toilet. Not a good site, but it being Sunday night, I was sure it would be quiet.
Today I started driving home. I decided to take the backroads – the blue route. The road was scenic and remote; in places slow and twisty. The road north of Burns had a rhythm; twisty-turny up hill, pine forest, a summit sign, twisty-turny down hill, then valley grasslands; repeat. It took me 7 hours to drive it. I’m guessing I saw a total of forty cars the entire day, except for the short stretch on highway 26 and at Burns. An enjoyable road.
I had been wanting to go to Silver City for years, ever since I had seen the TV show Northwest Backroads on it. I think that show was about eight years ago. When the snows came on Saturday, I was wondering if I might not make it in this trip. But I decided to hang around and let the roads dry out for a couple of days. Today: Silver City or Bust.
I took the road from Jordan Valley. It is a gravel road freeway all the way to the DeLamar mine that is now closed. After that the road is a single lane windy, twisty, road that I drove at 5 to 20 mph. I was glad I had waited two days for the roads to dry. There was still a bit of compacted snow on the road in a few locations. Following are photos from the drive.