After departing Jordan Craters we had enough daylight left to grab some fuel and bounce our way out to find a camp near Chalk Basin for the night. Just getting out to the Chalk Basin area is no small feat but was made much easier through the description of William L. Sullivan who happens to pen, in my opinion, the best hiking books about Oregon. Luckily we knew that we were driving on a public road even though through the first stretch it feels like you are driving through a private ranch yard (you are). And then of course the rancher chasing you down on his four-wheeler to ask what you are up to doesn’t boost your confidence you are in the right spot either, but we got thorough his property with him telling us to ‘go enjoy yourselves’ so it all turned out fine. After getting through the ranch it is pretty much all nondescript roads through a sea of cheatgrass that alternate between boulder gardens and stretches of dried up mud (note: do NOT attempt this road with even a hint of rain!). We finally made it out to the vicinity of the basin so we could launch our morning hike without more travel the next day. We found a level spot with a view and enjoyed the sunset, the Steens to the west, Chalk Basin below us and not another human within what I’d confidently guess 10 miles.
We enjoyed a stellar night sky full of stars and a dutch oven full of slow cooked stew. The next morning we headed off on our short cross-country hike in the direction of what seemed to hint of the exposed formations we had read about just out of view. You can see for miles and there’s plenty of topography as you head toward the river so a wrong turn was unlikely. It wasn’t until we were nearly to the edge that the formations came into view. And oh what a view it is. For contrast the next two photos were taken standing at the same spot. You are walking along through the high desert with views like this:
Then all the sudden it’s this:
I think if this sight was in a park like Death Valley you would see buses full of people there every day. Lucky for us it’s not, we had it all to ourselves and enjoyed the views for quite a while.
New views seemed to keep revealing themselves as we wandered around. I imagine it’s also quite a view to see floating down the river (and I hope I get to see it from that angle sometime soon).
We still had a way to go to get home and we weren’t sure if we had lots of first gear roads ahead (we had enough it turns out), since we came in from the south and were departing to the north, so we headed out after we had a good helping of views saying farewell to the Owyhee Country for the time being. I can’t wait to get back and see more of the country, I know we just scratched the surface.