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Old 11-15-2011, 06:13 PM   #16
trailrider383
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Bump for the finish!!!
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Old 11-16-2011, 05:42 AM   #17
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Great report!
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Old 11-16-2011, 10:10 AM   #18
Jason Abbott OP
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Bending mildly at most, Succor Creek to Mahogany Gap gravel roads accommodate highway speeds as I fly further south from Leslie Gulch, further from home. I’ll arrive at Jordan Craters in no time at this rate.

Although Ed warned it would be gated, I follow the line on the GPS off the gravel road up dirt tracks leading to Mahogany Mountain. Maybe things have changed since he was here.

Compared to how we usually use the word in this part of the country, “mountain” is a generous description of the gentle, juniper covered rise above surrounding dry hills.

A fork in the road reminds me of the aerial photos I studied. Both directions should follow draws up the mountain but left looked more interesting. The predicted gate greets me across a couple rises: “No Trespassing.” Darn. Back to the intersection, this time right, brings the same result. Double darn.

Cow pie crossroads

Y in the road

I backtrack toward the next option, to follow Mahogany Creek about four-and-a-half miles, somewhat cross-country, to Jordan Craters Road. The only other choice is over twenty-two miles, staying on the gravel all the way east to Highway 95 just to return west on the nearly parallel Jordan Craters Road.

But where the GPS map suggests roads near the creek, I see no way through. I would scout more in that direction but a farmhouse intervenes. I decide to keep going and circle back on another road I see ahead on the map.

Lost the trail somewhere

The deviation is longer than I expected. I wish I would have tried harder to find a direct path near the farmhouse but at least I appear to be on track. A stretched wire gate reading “Private Property / Please Close Behind You” invites me to head toward Mahogany Creek.

I follow tracks that fade into a hay field mowed flat and gold. Where now? Straight across would be logical but the creek there meanders into a marsh the length of the draw. I test it on foot—ankle-deep mud.

Oregon desert

I ride tentatively around the edge of the empty field as if trying to conjure a memory that wants to remain buried. Every direction is the same. I imagine for a moment my wife’s incredulous question: “What are you doing there?”

“Just trying to take a shortcut, dear.”

On my second perimeter pass I notice a faint ATV trail through the green marsh grass—not quite confidence inspiring but the right direction. I hope to go over the hill onto Jordan Craters Road but instead the winding wisp flows back to Mahogany Creek beyond which no trail is evident.

Um, where’s the trail?

Mahogany Creek

“I hope this comes out somewhere,” I think to myself as I splash through the water to become a red, roaming bovine cutting my own casual trails through the dry grass and sagebrush.

Mahogany Creek

I followed the cow trail along the left bank

Wondering if this whole direction will come to naught weighs more heavily on my mind than terrain technicalities. I’m therefore quite relieved when finally I see evidence of the road ahead, a line of dust rising from a passing car.

6300526258

Mahogany Creek shortcut could have been shorter

Beauty of being lost

I am a little worried when I don’t see a gate in the stretched barbwire. The sagebrush is thick here so I walk the fence line rather than crashing around on my red bovine. Still nothing. It must be on the other side of the creek. I hope.

I dip across the creek to sweet relief. There it is, a gate. It’s a bugger to open but in a moment I’m on Jordan Craters Road, putting the big boxer motor to use as I hasten to reach the craters while light remains.

Desolation

A carpet of mellow greens and golds stretches to distant horizons brilliantly pink and yellow. With no sign of another soul in any direction, it’s somewhat thrilling to imagine I have this vast spectacle to myself. In spite of my haste, I’m compelled to stop and witness.

Wonder and curiosity enliven minds big and small. A herd of antelope turn in unison to marvel at my passing after running indifferently down a draw to cross the road. Rabbits seem to play a dangerous game, in three places darting across the road between my fast moving wheels. It’s a surprise each time they make it.

Riding into it

While descending the short access road to Coffeepot Crater, I see someone walking across the gravel lot below. When I get there, though, I find myself alone—no cars, nothing.

Stretched before me are miles of dangerously contorted black rock scabbed over a deep wound in the face of the earth. If there be specters interested in aberrant existence, this would be a favored haunt.

The 27-square mile olivine basalt lava flow is estimated to be between 4,000 and 9,000 years old, based on the degree of lichen development on the rocks. An 18-acre flow within the field is thought to be less than 100 years old because not even lichens have begun to colonize it (BLM Brochure).

Just me and the moon
Pack it up

I climb the crater’s cone to look out under the half-light at the surprising expanse of “well-preserved vents and striking flow features” (USGS). I wish I would have arrived sooner. It will be completely dark in a matter of minutes, no time to explore.

With or without you

Jordan Craters

A cold wind comes with the night. I close my eyes and consider the space all around, empty and scarred. It seems so alien, so lonely.

With a half-glance upon the sky
At night he said, “The wanderings
Of this most intricate Universe
Teach me the nothingness of things.”
Yet could not all creation pierce
Beyond the bottom of his eye.
He spake of beauty: that the dull
Saw no divinity in grass,
Life in dead stones, or spirit in air;
Then looking as ‘twere in a glass,
He smooth’d his chin and sleek’d his hair,
And said the earth was beautiful.

Lord Alfred Tennyson, A Character

Your lava fell in my peanut butter

Coffeepot Crater

Hours from home

Only with a flashlight can I see the distance scale on the lens. Once set, I do my best to stand frozen at the focused distance for a twenty second self-portrait. I never get it quite right but decide the indefinite result is fitting.

The beam sweeps across smooth green skin as I stoop with flashlight in hand to collapse the tripod. What was that? A frog? Salamander? But up on this mound of crunchy rock? I flick light around but find no culprit.

Why would you care

Coffeepot Crater is a heart-shaped tephra cone constructed of numerous overlapping lobes … The walls of the crater show good evidence for a fluctuating lava pond which appears to have broken through and rafted away portions of the northeastern and southeastern crater walls … Additional material was vented from a series of … trending spatter cones (USGS).

More than one way around

I wouldn’t mind hanging out here a while longer but I hear my wife frowning at me a hundred miles away. I’m already out past my curfew (dark) and I have no phone service to check in.

Air up

The evening’s mysterious onlookers no doubt chuckle to see me fumbling flashlight, air pump and gauge to fill the tires for the hours of asphalt ahead.

Darkness is palpable beneath the cloud obscured crescent moon. I took advantage of the rising cinder cone as a target to adjust my lights but they seem nonetheless overwhelmed by gloom as I trace my isolated return on dirt and gravel.

A flash of eyes draws my attention to a coyote standing near the road with head low, observing. It slips into darkness when I return the gaze.

The way home is tenebrous not tedious. I rumble fluidly along gravel, highway and interstate. I am joyed to glide along in quiet darkness after this day of uncommon grandeur.

these images are hosted at flickr
this post was automatically generated from my blog
text and images are © Copyright 2011 Jason Abbott. All Rights Reserved. ■
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Jason Abbott screwed with this post 11-16-2011 at 02:54 PM Reason: Picky word tweak
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Old 11-18-2011, 12:46 PM   #19
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Great pictures!

These are great pictures! Thank you for sharing.
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Old 11-19-2011, 06:23 PM   #20
Mike Ryder
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Thanks, that was great. phenomenal shots of an extraordinary place.
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Old 11-19-2011, 06:50 PM   #21
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Nice. We don't often get such prose to accompany spectacular photos.

Well done.
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Old 11-21-2011, 06:18 PM   #22
10guy
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Excellent ride report, I try to get to this area of Oregon at least once a year. I missed it last year, rode the Oregon Back Country Discovery Route instead but am planning a ride for this next summer that will make up for it.
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Old 11-21-2011, 07:21 PM   #23
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It's amazing how surreal and beautiful everything can be when you're lost! Sure is rewarding when you get out though! nice pics!
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Old 11-21-2011, 09:08 PM   #24
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What happened to the parking lot specter?
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Old 11-21-2011, 09:38 PM   #25
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Envious thoughts flowing from Texas.... Great RR.
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Old 11-22-2011, 08:40 AM   #26
Jason Abbott OP
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Glad you enjoyed seeing some of the Owyhees. It's a surprising place.

Quote:
Originally Posted by trailrider383 View Post
What happened to the parking lot specter?
He never bothered me. I guess it must have been that sign board I saw from above—don't know why it seemed to be walking.
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Old 11-22-2011, 08:35 PM   #27
trailrider383
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jason Abbott View Post
Glad you enjoyed seeing some of the Owyhees. It's a surprising place.

He never bothered me. I guess it must have been that sign board I saw from above—don't know why it seemed to be walking.
Yeah, but...

the next time I'm there I'll probably be thinking of your sighting.
I'll just make sure it's daylight and not too close to the witching hour.
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Old 11-23-2011, 12:37 PM   #28
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Great RR and photos - what a beautiful area, thanks for sharing!
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Old 11-27-2011, 09:19 PM   #29
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Very nice! Really fascinating geography, thanks for taking the time to take us along.
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There's roads and there's roads and they call, can't you hear it? Roads of the earth and roads of the spirit. The best roads of all are the ones that aren't certain. One of those is where you'll find me till they drop the big curtain. Bruce Cockburn
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Old 11-28-2011, 12:08 PM   #30
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Hi Jason,

I'm the guy your brother's future mother-in-law warned you about (ha!) Just wanted to say that I've really enjoyed reading about your adventure and seeing the photos. Your photography and narrative skills are awesome! Look forward to meeting you in person sometime.

Regards,
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