September 23, 2019, Day 19
Dry Creek to Denio, ~11.1 miles, ~270.7 miles total
Last night’s storm went on for hours. Flashes of lightning would illuminate the tent. Rain pelted down, then pattered, then pelted, then ceased. I put in earplugs and covered my face to muffle the sounds and sights of the storm. Eventually falling asleep.
I awoke feeling hungover from last night’s wave of fear and lack of sleep. Mind muddied and finding it hard to start packing up. Brain vacillating between the thoughts of, “We’re really quitting.”/“Today we head into the Pueblos.”
Gabriel was out of the tent and noted that the skies looked calm and the Pueblos were in view. Instead of thinking ahead, best just be present, take in the morning. It’s peaceful at this hour. The clean scent of sage and greasewood confirm we are back on the floor of the basin here in the Pueblo Valley. To the west, there’s a scarf of fog rising up from alfalfa fields at the base of the Pueblos. To the east, there’s still a deck of gray clouds above the Trout Creek Mountains. But soon the sun rises. And for a few minutes the sun is between the mountains and clouds and a warm rose desert alpenglow illuminates a band of the Pueblos and Alvord Peak. What a beautiful time to be in the desert.
Distance is deceiving in these basin flats. It took us longer than expected to walk a flat road out to the Fields-Denio Road. But then, we aren’t feeling hurried to get into the Pueblos anymore.
Last night’s decision still stands. Somehow seeing a dead jackrabbit that had been run over that morning (intentionally, suggests the tire tracks that have been straight for miles until this here hare) cements the decision. I’m back to tears at the sight of the hare’s fresh blood and mangled body. Easily triggered to cry as I feel shame and a sense of failure for this and so much more. Descending out of the Trout Creek Mountains and walking across the Pueblo Valley has lifted a curtain – oh so briefly – to a dam of misconceptions and expectations I need to address before I step onto another trail.
Gabriel and I are both sad, but resigned. Both of us are still enjoying the beauty of the morning. We try not to make too many plans on this road walk to town as we don’t know how we’ll get from Denio, Nevada back to our car in Bend (260 miles from here). We do tell ourselves that we’ll be back out on the Oregon Desert Trail next spring. When lupine and other wildflowers cover the hillsides of the Pueblos, when balsamroot and wyethia mule’s ears bloom on Steens, when baby pronghorn are running alongside their mothers, when the sagebrush sea is filled with bird song, and the days are getting longer instead of shorter. We know spring is a wonderful time to be out in the deserts of eastern Oregon.