September 20, 2019, Day 16
McDermitt to Upper Mitchell Spring, ~14.1 miles, ~213.7 miles total
We took care of a flurry of errands this morning: Finish drying clothes (bathtub laundry!). Mail home things we no longer need. Find some extra veggies and warm things at the Quinn River Market. Phone calls with family back home. Breakfast at the Say When. My how time goes by so much quicker in town!
All morning in between errands we looked to the west up at the snow dusted ridges of the Oregon Canyon Mountains. Our day’s destination. They are beautiful in the first rays of sunlight with a low scarf of fog rising from the rain-dampened greasewood, playas, and alfalfa fields across the valley.
By late morning, we got hoofing it out on Cordeo Road. Dry, mellow road walking, a good warm up for the next five days of mountain roaming to reach Fields (milkshakes here we come!). We watch birds congregate on telephone wires, admire rosehips, and breathe deep of the alkaline-scented greasewood of the basin floor. We’re crossing a basin and entering the next range.
Over the next few days, the ODT will take us up into the Oregon Canyon Mountains, Trout Creek Mountains, and the Pueblo Mountains. High grassy hills more than 8,000 feet tall studded with mountain mahogany and aspen groves. Mountains a mix of processes that formed the Owyhee Uplands and the Steens Basalts. Headwaters for streams that support rare fish and uplands known for mule deear, pronghorn, and sage grouse. I’ve been looking forward to exploring these ranges for years and the ODT’s route seems like a fine introduction.
But with every mile walked west the skies turned more overcast. Then thunder rumbled. JUST after we turned off the paved road to head into the mountains. Hmm… today was supposed to be mostly sunny. This gives me pause, as I just want this next part of the trip to be beautiful and relaxing. Not one of weather apprehension. Knowing the temps will likely be chilly the higher we go and the dark clouds are discouraging we decide to stop early and camp low today.
We reached Upper Mitchell Spring area around 5:00 pm. and set up camp in sagebrush patch. Another atypically early stop. But it’s not raining, so we can leave the tent doors open. Tonight we listen to coyotes sing as we eat our dinner, looking out at sagebrush hills and distant Hwy 95.
Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny!