Update: Galleries Boise Parade and Last Camp on Owyhee added.
The first day of the journey for me began just west of Vale, Oregon. We had planned on driving 4 miles west to take up where they left off on July 3; however, there was a DOT sign warning that Highway 20 was closed because of fire. Needless to say, we decided that being safe was far more important than those few miles that would be left off. So we headed through town and turned south out of Vale towards Nyssa. Bill rode about a mile and a half out of town and came on a cattle guard. We had to put Blackie in the trailer to cross as there are no gates near these cattle guards. I then drove 4 miles and stopped at a wide spot in the road about half a mile from the next cattle guard. When Bill caught up with me we gave Blackie water and grain. We also had a little bite to eat.
Just past the cattle guard there is a pull off with a monument and markers of the Oregon Trail. We stopped and took some pictures. This is a very interesting place and is worth going out of the way to find. There are several very nice plaques with lots of information and some maps of the trail.
After this brief rest I drove another five miles and came upon yet another cattle guard. I parked and waited for Bill and Blackie. They are getting close as I can get a crackle from the “talkabout” radio we have. It is getting hot now and I’m not sure if he will want to ride farther today. We got a late start so that may cause our day to be shorter. The country around me here is all but treeless with lots of dry brown grass. Looks like cheatgrass to me. Hope no fool throws a cigarette out here. There are tracks on the hills were people have been riding their four-wheelers.
By the time Bill gets to the trailer at this stop the temperature has soared from a very tolerable 85 degrees to 95, and it is only 11:30 a.m. After some debate we decide that it is only going to be detrimental to the horse and Bill to continue with the temperatures rising this quickly and predicted to climb to 108 today. We load up and head to camp. We stop at a quaint store/diner on the road to Owyhee. There we buy some Gatorade, bottled water, eggs and the ever needed ice. As we near the place where we will set up camp, we stop at the Hot Springs (Need to find name) Bill unsaddles Blackie, and lets him cool down in the shade while I take a few photos of the area. We rest there for about 30 minutes and then load the horse up to get to the campsite. By this time the temperature is well over 100 degrees and climbing. By the time the panels are set up for Blackie the heat is absolutely sweltering. It’s not even cool in the shade.
Bill leaves for a few minutes to get some more ice and refreshments and I begin to set up the tent. I make very slow progress as the heat is oppressive. When Bill arrives back at the camp we put on our swim suits and head to the river to cool off a bit. The water is really cold but it is so refreshing. After a few minutes Bill brought Blackie down and he walks right into the river and takes a long drink of that cold fresh water. On the trail he gets water from containers so this is a very nice break for him. He stands in the water for a while, dunking his head in up to his eyes and splashing. This is one horse that is not afraid of water. After nearly an hour of this relaxing in the cool water we walk back to camp where we complete setting up the tent.
As the heat grows in intensity we try to find the deepest shade possible. At this point there is a light wind blowing so it’s not too bad. As the afternoon progresses the wind picks up to about 40 mph and feels as if it is coming from a blast furnace. My ankles and feet swell from the heat. I drink water and Gatorade by the quart. I can not imagine how the pioneers were able to cross this sweltering country in the heat, mostly on foot, with extremely limited supplies. They had to have been some very rugged, healthy people.
Bill and I are waiting for what seems to be ages for the sun to go behind the rugged hills. This brings a little relief. By this time, even with our best efforts to anchor the tent, one of the flimsy fiberglass poles has snapped in the wind. I guess that’s what happens when you have a cheap tent. We sure won’t buy another like it. What we really need is a two-horse gooseneck trailer with minimal living quarters. Nothing fancy, just somewhere to sleep, shower, and get out of the heat. Unfortunately we don’t have $30,000+ to spend on one. With the publicity we get, maybe there is a manufacturer that would like for us to demo one for them.
For now we attempt to sleep in the nose of the trailer on an air mattress. With all of the gear and supplies we carry there is not much room for us. It can be rather stuffy in there too after a long day in temperatures as high as 108. You can see there are no windows for ventilation in the front. Our shower facility is a shower bag hanging in the back of the horse trailer. We put a tarp down to keep our feet clean as we bathe. This type of shower is ok but it is awkward to use, better than nothing I suppose.
When it is time to cook a meal we use a Coleman two-burner that I remember my Dad using on camping trips when I was a child. The stove is well over 40 years old and still working as good as ever. It’s not as pretty as a new one but it sure gets the job done. I think all of the burners and the tank are original too. I had sent one of my best cast iron pans with the guys when they left. Someone used soap and a scrubber on it and almost took all the seasoning off. They had to scrub hard to do that. When I caught up with Bill, one of the first things I did was to season the pan again. Now it’s back to being as non-stick as any Teflon coated pan and way more durable.
Finally it begins to cool down. Bill works hard to ready a place for us to sleep. Without the tent we will be in the trailer. As the sun sets the air begins to cool some. We wait until it is almost dark to take our showers in the trailer. This is, as I said, an awkward undertaking to say the least. If you’ve ever attempted to use one of those shower bags you know what I am talking about. We put on our coolest clothes and climb into the trailer to rest. The wind now has lost some of that “blast furnace” edge and is providing welcome relief. No covers necessary on a night like this. There aren’t many bugs to bother us here either. I guess one of the advantages of such hot dry country is the lack of habitat for these pests.
After a brief night’s rest we are up as the sun begins to show light in the sky. In the cool gray light we pack away the rest of our gear, feed and water the horse and strap the panels onto the trailer. Bill saddles Blackie and loads him into the trailer. We then go to the point where we left off the day before and begin again. We have breakfast in Adrian, Oregon. Blackie is doing fine and ready to go. I find a good place in the shade about 6 miles out of Adrian to pull over and wait for Bill. As soon as he gets there we do the normal routine of offering grain and water to the horse. He takes some water but is not interested in eating any of the grain. He seems to want to get on with the ride.
Just as Bill is about to mount up and ride the last 8 miles to Homedale, Idaho, a very kind man and his wife pull up to see if we are ok. Bill begins a conversation with the gentleman and it turns out his place is just down the road in the direction Bill came from. They own a place where they raise, train and sell horses.
They also raise some really good alfalfa hay and are very kind to offer us two bales to assist the horse on our journey. These are the kind of people that make up the backbone of our country, and they are the ones this ride is all about. They are obviously on the way to church but have taken the time to assure that we are not in need of assistance.
After obtaining the hay we are on our way again. Bill wants to make the next eight miles in one push. I drive on ahead and stop just on the west side of Homedale. I am parked in front of a home-based business called “Karen’s Kountry Korner”. She is a creator of gifts of Tole. I check with her to be sure it is ok for me to be parked here. She assures me it’s ok so I begin the wait for Bill to catch up with me. A drive that takes me about 10-15 minutes takes Bill about 2 ½ hours. It is times like this that make me appreciate the sun-screen we bought for the windshield. Trying to stay cool and hydrated in this heat is a challenge. Bill assures me it is not nearly as bad for him and Blackie as they are constantly moving and have a nice breeze most of the time.