Friday, September 11, 2015

ICT: Bruneau Desert


I crossed into Idaho on foot and the thunderhead above flared open amid a clamor of thunder. Rain poured in buckets and I hiked a bit in the pouring rain. The drops felt good and cooled me off in 100 degree heat. Then, the drops got bigger and gooey, like from the inside of a lava lamp. I took cover under a large juniper and waited out the moveable force above me. After 15 minutes I ambled down the road to the forks of the Jarbidge River.

I could have potentially hitched out of there. Cars seldom passed but the ones that did stopped to inquire about me. Each asked if I needed a lift. No doubt in my mind I wanted to continue north. The timing of my hike in the dreaded heat of the southern Idaho was unplanned, unexpected. Originally I had planned for an early June entry, which was a far different type of season than my early August entry. But life happens and all I wanted to do was to walk and be purely immersed in wilderness. I wanted my spirit back. I simply wanted to walk.

I took a little used river trail down the Jarbidge Canyon. Volcanic rubble piled up against hard, porous walls. The grass stood rigidly erect, spindly and bristly they grazed my tanned legs. I took 5 liters of water from the river as I made a secret confession to the river longing to lay and float down it. Instead, I climbed up from the banks along a faint trail that led to the Bruneau Desert on the arid, scorched plains above me. The water I got was to last me about 40m in extremely hot weather. I felt reckless, adventurous, however, I felt thrilled yet relaxed.

At the rim, the my panorama widened and incredibly massive, roving storm cells hovered over the open desert casting enormous shadows while the golden stiff grass reflected the sun brightly enough for me to squint my eyes. The view was incredible, exhilarating. I found my first ICT marker and headed north in the exhaustive heat. 

The heat intensified and I had no cover. Not a single tree, no hills, nothing. I slowed my breathing and kept my mouth shut. I nursed the occasional sip of water. I felt to be in survival mode. Rogue storm cells floated in behind me from the south. They raged over the Jarbidge Mountains and surrounding hills. Eventually, the storms would creep closer to me striving to hover over my head. Only then I had shade and some relief from the incessant heat. Lightning struck close by scattering the black cows in the distance. The thunderclap dissipated across the open expanse. Sometimes a storm edge would be within a 1/4m of me. I could see and smell the rain, or I would walk right into the tail end of the storm. Other times a brief deluge of water fell from above and I kept walking in it because of the lack of cover. I felt helpless, frightened even, as a good 10 lightning strikes struck close by. My 40m waterless stretch became a minor concern. I was at the mercy of lightning.

The dusk of early night blazed under the fire of the sun. Ironically a massive wildfire burned just to the north of the flaming sunset. I slept that night under the darkest sky I have ever seen. On the desert plain, the ceiling of the Milky Way seemed to be so thick with the mass of stars I thought I could reach up and touch them all, that I could plunge my hand into a batter of doughy stars and swirl my arm around. I laid on my back and hardly slept they night because of the beauty. Over time the night sky revolved as if a dainty breath blew on a mobile above an infant's crib. At one point, I laid on my belly and gazed into the blackness. On the far horizon I could see the outline of the wildfire that silhouetted the Owyhee Mountains.

I reached my water source the next mid-afternoon. My urine turned a dark yellow but I made it. Clover Creek had isolated pools of algae filled water, dark with tiny fish and wriggling tadpoles. I rested in the shade of a couple of large trees at an old homestead. My next water source was 37m away at the Snake River.

More of the same the next day: walking in the oppressive heat with no cover. The frequency of storms lessened, however. Because of the heat and just plain tired of dirt road walking, I decided to take an alternate cross country route through Browns Canyon, as eventually I would end up there anyways. My choice proved to be cooler and more scenic. I stumbled upon a short narrows section that winded into a promontory that I humped up and over into a wide basin. Miles later I walked along an agricultural road between corn fields. At the bridge crossing the Snake River I replenished on water. 7m later I walked into the small agricultural town of Hammett. The thermometer said 104 degrees.

1 comment:

  1. I'm loving your blog dirtmonger! I've been looking at the Idaho Centennial Trail myself recently so it awesome to see some photos of it and hear your experience on it! - Sheriff Woody