Back to the Desert

On I-80 between Winnemucca, NV and Wells, NV

night campWe have spent a lot of time this past year traveling the coast and the western valleys of Oregon and California.  Our little winter time jaunts to Desert Hot Springs require a lot of traveling south along interstates. One of the advantages of living in this part of Oregon is that the northern high deserts are just a skip away to the east. For this trip to Colorado, we decided to follow our infamous Highway 140, (the one we take to Medford all the time) due east toward Lakeview, over the Warner Mountains, and south to Winnemucca.

cow thoughtsAt the moment, we are on I-80 heading east from Winnemucca toward Wells, where we plan to find a resting place.  Interstate traveling at its mind numbing finest, but the visions of the last evening and this morning are still fresh in my mind.  We are on our way to a family reunion, and Mo’s brothers are traveling east this morning as well.  Original plans included all of us leaving this morning, and Roger and Nancy planned to come south to Rocky Point to caravan with us.  Instead, they traveled north to caravan with Dan and Chere, and pick up brother number three, Don on their way east past Umatilla, Oregon.

day 1 and 2_016DSC_0016Mo and I were almost ready to go on Saturday night, with only a mid-afternoon Sunday anniversary party to attend, and we looked at each other and said, “Why wait till Monday”.  The original plan also included a driving day of more than 500 miles, not something we were particularly excited about. Instead, we dropped in on the party, and dropped right back out again and were on the road by 2:30 Sunday afternoon.  Made for a bit more of a rush on Sunday morning, but well worth it. 

map day 1We haven’t traveled 140 east for some time, and spent much of our conversation trying to remember which routes we had taken on which trips and during which years!  What we both remembered, however, was that the road east of Lakeview was narrow, but quiet and beautiful and we knew there would be someplace where we could spend the night on the boonies.

day 1 and 2_029DSC_0029This route is the one we have taken a few times, visiting the amazing Hart Mountain Reserve, camping at the mysterious and magical Steens Mountains, and returning through the Sheldon Wildlife Refuge looking for wild horses.  We love the desert, and yet somehow we had forgotten just how much we love it.  The vistas opening out to nothing, the roads empty of anything but stray cattle, the spacious skies all make for spacious open mind thoughts, uncluttered.  Love that.

see the dust?!  That is one long cattle driveWe got gas in Lakeview, at $3.73 per gallon, after realizing that the next reasonable gas was more than 200 miles distant in Winnemucca.  Driving over the Warner Mountains was quick, and in no time we were dropping down the basalt canyons toward Adel.  The meadows opened up to the south of the highway, and a wide level pullover shaded by a single juniper called to us.  By 6:30 pm we were settled in with the slide open, the jacks down, and dinner in the skillet.  Both of us were happy to have an extra 150 miles under our belts so our Monday drive to Wells would be a manageable 350 miles or so.

yeah it is steep, yeah there is no shoulderThe silence was beautiful, and Mo and I just relaxed, and read a bit, talked a bit, and then started laughing when we couldn’t figure out what the animals outside our rig munching happily on the grass should be called.  I wrote to Jenna and hopefully she can answer me.  We called them cows, but then thought that cows are only females.  Then we had the conversation about what is a heifer, and what animal do you castrate to make a steer if it isn’t a cow, and it is obviously a boy..  We went down the lane with a cow moose, a cow buffalo, a cow elk, and the a cow cow, of course.  Then a bull cow?  like a bull elk?  This is the kind of silliness that can overtake at a boondock site in the middle of nowhere.  

leaving Oregon, into NevadaThe goal is to reach Rock Springs, Wyoming on Wednesday where we will hook up with the brothers and their rigs and camp with hookups at the KOA.  Then we will all caravan east toward Laramie, and then south to Lakewood and the rest of the family.  I would imagine this first night in the middle of nowhere in Eastern Oregon was possibly the quietest night we may have on the entire trip.  Our only sounds were the cows and a very occasional car passing by.  The stars were brilliant, even the ones low on the horizon, just as I remember from so many years ago at Hart Mountain.

map day 2This morning we were treated to high pink wispy clouds to greet the day, and then even a bit of rain between Denio and Winnemucca.  I haven’t seen rain in this part of the desert for a very long time, in fact, I don’t remember ever seeing rain in this part of the high desert.  I drove this morning, Mo took over at Winnemucca, and before long we will be hunting for another desert boondock site.


Author: kyotesue

Soil scientist/mapper working for 35 years in the wild lands of the West. I am now retired, enjoying my freedom to travel, to hike without a shovel and a pack, to knit and quilt and play, to play with photography and write stories about all of it.

14 thoughts on “Back to the Desert”

  1. OK, ladies, a cow is a cow is a cow! Cow denotes female, two years and older, moose, elk and cattle. Heifers are female, two years and younger–never had a calf. Once a heifer has had a calf she becomes a cow. A bull is a male of the cattle, elk and moose species. A bull can be castrated and is then known as a steer. Calves are the babies/offspring of cows, elk and moose. Clear as mud, right???


  2. Love the cow, bull, heifer conversation. Isn't it wonderful to have such important issues to take up your time?? But Janna or Mike ruined it all by knowing everything's correct name. Oh well, you'll have to come up with another very important topic. 🙂

    Sounds like a nice relaxing night. The best kind!!


  3. Just wondering… did this conversation stem from bottles of wine purchased on the vineyard tour? Or do such deep thoughts go with the desert and, dare I just say “cows”, on a lonely road to family fun times???


  4. What a bunch of BULL!! (tee-hee) Anyway, I don't want you to have a beef with me so I'll just shut up now and say I hope you enjoy your trip. Loved your pull-out spot for the night. Perfect.


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