The wind was cold last night. I thought about taking the rainfly off the tent because its mind-numbing flapping was barely tolerable, but the thin nylon was shielding me somewhat from the chilling wind. As it was I snuggled deep into my 40 degree quilt.
My morning route took a right onto a road as it crossed over another drainage, but I walked by the area, failing to see the road. I thought I could spy where it met the rise a couple hundred yards away, so turned around and looked closer. I finally noticed the gate. This road hasn’t been used as such in many decades. The tracks were gone where it crossed the drainage (with water of course) and thick vegetation obscured the way.
Here I go soaking my feet again, I thought. It wasn’t exactly the bog of eternal stench, (Labyrinth anyone?) but I was rock hopping just the same and got to the other side, dryness intact.
I’m glad I put my gaiters on this morning. The road walking was essentially cross country walking, then the next span of cross country walking was cheat grass walking.
I could see the lush farmland of the Malheur River valley below. I was working my way towards the highway where i would walk the last 5 miles to my car at Harper.
For the last bit I followed the contours of an open canal…with water! I can’t get over all the water I’ve come across on this trip.
Then the road. Just as I step onto the pavement a semi blasts me with air and send my hat flying. I walk carefully after that, moving far away from traffic as I slowly inch around a looong corner, listening to a podcast to take my mind off speeding vehicles.
Then, a car pulls over. I thought I might see some sympthatic recreationists on their way from the Skull Grinder bike race in Burns that weekend; I had spent the day there Wednesday as part of an Eastern Oregon Recreation Summit (talking trails and bikes) and the summit hosts were expecting hundreds of people for the race and festivities that weekend.
Ok, the car. Out gets Kate! Kate was with me at the summit and is the recreation lead for Eastern Oregon Visitors Association. I told the group I’d be out here walking, and here I am. Kate asked if I need anything, and I suggest getting a ride the last 1.5 miles to my car would be most excellent. She agreed and I hopped in. A short and lovely encounter on the side of the road. Thanks Kate!
I changed into my chacos and went inside to tell Brian about my trip. On Thursday when I showed up I convinced the owner of the gas station and store/bar to let me park my car there. Backpacking wasn’t a traditional past time in Harper, but I must have made a convincing argument because he agreed. In fact, my judgement may have been hasty. As I was walking away he waved me over to another Harper local to meet Jeanie. Jeanie’s brother had thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail and most of the Continental Divide Trail. Love it!
I enter the bar, remembering Brian had said he sells sandwiches. Rootbeer and sandwich…yes please! A few locals were nursing drinks, and Brian welcomed me with a Coors Light, then a rootbeer. Some of the cows belonged to a rancher at the counter, and I delicately mentioned how nice it would be if the cows were kept out of the springs… the conversation centered on the land, and I quizzed them on features and names of things. All and all, it was a great way to end the trip.
Ah, but it wasn’t over! At least I didn’t want it to be over. I had another day to play with, as my long miles on day 3 had me finishing ahead of time. So what is a big part of the hiking experience on a long trail? A town day! I decided to go the extra little bit to Ontario, Oregon and get myself a hotel room and nice dinner.
I wasn’t ready to go home yet. Home means the end of the trip.
But getting in the car means the end of this blog….see you soon when I start writing about the Appalachian Trail! The countdown is on 😁