The morning is clear, crisp, and beautiful. The storm passed overnight, cattle disappeared.
We shake the water off the tarps, cook our breakfast, and take stock of surroundings. Discuss the vegetation on our trucks' undercarriages, and ponder what would a mud bog crossing do to the intricate plumbing and electrical connections to every corner of our left-at-home LR4s.
The plans for today call for a climb near the top of Juniper Mountain (where we originally planned to camp), then sail downhill and across the state line to Three Forks in Oregon, then do something else and camp close to Silver City, Idaho. It's "all greek" to me, since I have never seen the map of the area.
The rain did a decent job at washing the dust off Chris' assortment of Pelican cases - we only need to wipe some mud from the corners and load them up. Soon, we're on the move.
The road climbs steeply towards the top of Juniper Mountain, gaining nearly two thousand feet in elevation. The scenery changes - from sparse junipers barely above high desert to a full-grown mixed forest. I learn that juniper is an invasive species in these parts, and the Forest Service takes pains to eradicate it - my attempts at making juniper invade my own backyard failed miserably.
We briefly stop at a vista point - near one huge farm of ham repeaters - and look down at the basin of North Fork of Owyhee River. Some time later, our curiosity makes us stop and check out a really well-set hunting cabin - with external hook-ups for propane, electricity, etc., and a variety of warning signs.
The road gradually descends to the plains; we pass by a large ranch operation - through which we hoped we could drive, but the Clive Bundy-esque attitude exhibited on the gate and fences suggested looking for alternative routes via BLM lands. A road sign tells me we're near the border with Oregon - come to think of it, two days ago we were in Nevada less than 100 miles from Utah border.
Spotted a likely World War II era flatbed truck on the pasture; one could chop the back end of the frame and bed and make a really cool camper out of it.
Soon, we're back to our routine - flying close to 50 mph on a gravel road, with occasional washouts and rocky outcroppings. Rain clouds loom on the horizon - sooner or later, we're going to get doused.
Closer to the descent into Three Forks canyon, Chris runs off in pursuit of another fading two-track, and we find ourselves in the grass again. We retrace our steps mostly out of respect to fire regulations in the state of Oregon. That is a full-page of computer-generated 12-point-font text, stapled to the road sign, listing every possible combination of vegetation and motor vehicles, and specifing the amount of water, the length and width of a shovel, and the type and capacity of a fire extinguisher we MUST carry (what do you want from a state that does not allow you to pump your own gas!). Miraculously, we're Oregon-legal on all and every count.
We stop to admire Three Forks on our way down into the canyon.
The confluence of various forks (three, according to the name) of Owyhee River was great. We drove around, crossing some of the forks a few times, and decide to make a stop for a swim call and lunch. The latter was of the most-unhealthy, and by proxy - the tastiest - variety: bacon sandwiches. All it takes is a toasted hamburger bun, and filled with cris-crossed strips of fried Hempler's Pepper Center Cut bacon. Folks, we ate a pound and a quarter of bacon in about forty minutes - and we could certainly eat more! Cool beer is very handy as well.
The photos above are taken by Chris Shell
We let the food settle in our stomachs, roll up our riverside kitchen, and head up and out of the canyon. By now, my truck's getting low on Owyhee gasoline - and our next stop is a small town of Jordan Valley, Oregon.
The Pleasant Valley Road to Jordan Valley goes almost along Oregon-Idaho border, leaning towards Idaho. We fuel up in town, noting that Verizon does not provide cell phone service anywhere along the road - including U.S. 95 we briefly get to; I will be back to the same highway several more times later.
Somewhere along the road, we come across the first Forest Service sign with a clear hint to the motorists that they are on their own, just like North Death Valley Road in California; we've been to plenty of similar places in Nevada that didn't bother with any warnings of any kind. Must be an Idaho hospitality thing.
We head back a few miles along Trout Creek Road that becomes Silver City Road later, slowly gaining elevation. Vegetation changes accordingly; by now it is early evening, and we start paying attention to potential campsites. After I see a few I like and immediately forget, I decide to save the locations in my Garmin; the first gets some elaborate name, by the fourth I am down to giving them a single-letter designations. By the time we see the first dwellings of Silver City, I am up to "F." We compare mental notes and decide that the one labelled "D" was the best, and drive into town.
In the City, everything was already closed - the Hotel, the coffee shop, and the drug store. We walk up and down the main drag, and sit down at the coffee shop's veranda admiring the flock of hummingbirds by two feeders.
When it starts to get darker, we head back to the "Campsite D" by the creek. Seeing some rain clouds around, we repeat the tarp routine of the previous night (making the tent more taut, with a defined angle for water to go, and more functional. 110's open doors get their own tarp treatment - also an improvement from the last night. The Colemans are produced and resume the "Tin Chef Challenge."
No new blows to my bull bar are delivered by itinerant cattle through the night.