September 6, 2019, day 2
North Sheepshead Spring to Juniper Gulch, ~17 miles, ~27 miles total
So far, it rains every day here in eastern Oregon. But rain sounds more dramatic from the inside of a silnylon tent then walking outside in it. We packed up and were walking just after day break.
The scent of sage pungent after a good rain. We enjoyed walking old two track road as we watched clouds roll over the hills with mist rising off the wet vegetation.
Amid sun breaks and ominous clouds we started traveling down a wash. Met (probably) a gopher snake warming up on a cow trail in a bit of sun. Reminding us of a friend’s experience in Owyhee country where he often encountered snakes on trails in the morning. We’ll stay alert!
Then we made a turn down canyon. And like so many magical canyons, this one, Painted Canyon, gradually began to reveal its wonders. Colorful rocks of pink, red, maroon, turquoise, yellow, robbins egg blue, purple. Boulders and pour overs in lovely swirls and stripes. Fun scrambling and reminiscent of terrain in much beloved Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (ALL 1.9 million acres BTW).
We were thoroughly enjoying the canyon as it opened up into a world of honeycomb formations. We took a break to enjoy breakfast just as the rain came back. Yesterday’s sun umbrellas are today’s rain umbrellas.
Near the end of breakfast thunder boomed and we saw lightning dance across the sky. The storm was maybe 10 miles away but I HATE being out in lightning. So my nerves were raddled quickly. We kept moving down canyon in the rain. Even amid the storm it was amazing country to walk through! Gabriel and I started thinking up scenarios to hike into Painted Canyon with enough water to explore around for a day or more.
This being a thru-hike we took in as much splendor as we could and kept a-walking onwards our next water source and next canyon. And I tried not to be unsettled about the thunder booms in the distance.
Just after noon the clouds gave way to sunshine and we were drying out our wet gear while eating lunch in the shade of our umbrellas-a new thanks to the ODT experience.
As we walked into Three Fingers Gulch to find water, the rock walls soared 500 feet above us and the sweet descending trill of canyon wren song welcomed us. Red walls towering above of us, trippy lava rock under foot, groves of willows and service berry, and distant patches of poison ivy. Only halfway through the day and we were starting to understand why the Owyhee canyon country is so revered.
With water enough until tomorrow morning, we wandered up horse-made trails to our next canyon while another round of thunder rumbled in the distance. Again, I was a bit on edge, but again the landscape distracted me. The steep grassy sloped canyon with orange-red spires and honeycomb formations rising out of the grass. This majestic little place is unnamed on our maps, but Friends of the Owyhee refer to it as “Let ‘er rip Canyon”. It’s a spectacular surprise along the way!
The storm cell passed and it was back to clear skies and glorious clouds with late afternoon light. We gained our last rise and descended by The Yellow Jacket formation into Juniper Gulch.
Wow! Wow! Wow! An extraordinary place of honeycomb towers, caves, spires. Beautiful red rock formations akin to those of Upper Muley Twist in Capitol Reef National Park. Groves of juniper growing in between. A marvelous world of red and green aglow in the setting sun. Mahogany Mountain’s golden hillside glowing to the south. Waxing gibbous moon rising above us.
What a place to camp for the right! We ate dinner with bats flitting about and the stars starting to flicker into view. The lights of Boise and surrounding communities some 50 miles away aglow to the northeast.
A rainy, stormy, hot and sunny beautiful day on the ODT. We’re excited to be here!
Photos below are out of out of order…
The rain stopped and the sun came out – drying things out and warm things up.
What a treat to walk through the rolling hills and see rock formations like this one come into view.
Starting to walk down Three Fingers Gulch and getting a taste for colorful tall red walls to come.
Easy cross country!
Gabriel is impressed by the horse scat piles along the animal-built trail.
Lovely cones and twisted honeycomb spires in Let ‘er rip Canyon.