Leaving the comfort of our cozy yurt at Wallowa Lake, we hit the road. Destination – the middle of nowhere. Based on looking at maps and some light googling, I decided we should head to Leslie Gulch, a BLM wilderness study area near the Owyhee Reservoir. The Benchmark Atlas description of “unique rock formations, some towering more than 2000 feet above the canyon floor” sounded intriguing. Apparently the rocks are filled with holes formed by escaping volcanic gasses. Raindrops started to fall as we got closer to the area. We set off on a 25 mile long dirt road to the area and hoped for the best.
The whole area we are passing through is open rangeland. If I were a cow, this would be a mighty fine place to be. At least now, in the lushness of spring. They looked pretty happy, and there were tons of cute little calves, often on the road. The land usually doesn’t fare as well. Thankfully, this area didn’t seem overgrazed, as is so often the case.
The pronunciation of Owyhee is interesting.The name of the river
is from the older spelling of “Hawaii”. It was named for three Hawaiian trappers, in the employ of the North West Company, who were sent to explore the uncharted river. They failed to return to the rendezvous near the Boise River and were never seen again. Due to this the river and its region was named “Owyhee”.
A sign informed us upon entry to the gulch that camping was allowed only at one designated campground at Slocum Creek. Once we got there we were pleasantly surprised. The campground was perfect, even relatively luxurious. Completely empty, located in an enchanting area, a brand new bathroom, garbage collection (!), and free!!
Each site even had a (certainly for sun protection) shelter, so we could camp comfortably in the rain. Yay! Here I am glassing the hillsides for bighorn sheep (no luck) The herd is over 200 animals.
The next day we took a hike up a side canyon called Juniper Gulch. If you are a 9 year old boy this is the ideal kind of trail.
This is the view back toward where we came.
Later, back at camp, the boy displays his shell collection which has been growing since he started it in Hell’s Canyon.
Cool news! A new 517,000 acre wilderness area was just created on the Owyhee River as part of Obama’s omnibus bill March 30th, 2009. Right on!
That’s all for now, more to come.
End of part 2
In the next installment: A place to die: The world of graves and fossils
Go to Part 1