Thursday, August 13, 2015

Great Basin Traverse: Jarbidge


I am not sure why things have worked out the way they have; things were supposed to be that way. I followed my heart. And I also followed signs.

For 650m the Great Basin of Nevada has been starkly beautiful, barren and empty, and so exposing to the frightening elements. I have taken what the land has given me yet the sequence seems out of order. But I found meaning and an obscure road map in all the confusion. Nevada twisted my emotions, mangled my mentality, yet soothed my instincts and coddled my endurance. I cannot explain it.

My last basin and desert crossing led me from the oasis of Wells north across a harkened expanse of sagebrush. Mega thundercells electrified the sky all around me. Two enormous cells enveloped me from the west. A lightening strike would alternate from each cell every minute. I kept hiking as the evening crept in. This was another test. Where would I find the strength? I have endured what the Great Basin has dished out and now I'm thrust into the most exposed situation yet.

The cells kept getting closer, creeping  like a moving floating city. The lightning would flash a deafened silence, like someone whispering in my ear in pitch blackness, like I recognized the visual through invisibility. An hour passed. Adrenaline seethed through my bones and my hands started to tremble. I noticed a figure in the distance. It appeared ghostly and I wasn't sure if I was seeing things. In all this loneliness amongst a thrashing storm and I see another human? I neared the figure silently. A bony face hooded in a jester's hat propped up frozenly, the other part of the deathly uniform cloaked over a railroad tie buried into the ground. A plastic axe hung over a shoulder. I hiked on but kept looking back, just in case. 

I needed to camp at least a mile away from the demon, so I lumbered down the road as lightning struck around me. Once far enough, huge rain drops began to fall and two desert owls swooped around my head. They flapped and glided in for a closer inspection. The rain fell harder, the thunder boomed, and lightning strikes blinded me. I whipped my trekking pole above my head as the owls got really close to me, as I set up my tarp. One of the desert owls perched on a large sagebrush and watched me. Omens seemed to be all around me. I crawled into my sleeping bag and buried my head into it, as simultaneously the thunder and lightning struck. On a barren plain, I had no choice but to be in the middle of the storm. The flashes blinded me, the rain fell in droves and the noise kept me up. My mustache tickled my nose as the tiny hairs stood on end. I buried my end further into the hood of my bag.

I woke up a few hours later and felt the inside layer of my tarp. I needed to see if I was alive. Blackness enveloped the space and landscape around me, yet as I blinked I could still see the white flashes in my head.

Cold set in the next morning and I made the crossing of the Marys River valley. I hiked the drainage to its headwaters high up in the Jarbidge Mountains on wonderful trail. Hoodoos resembled the Gila River Complex within the river corridor. The miles came easy and I just kept walking, simply enjoying what truly makes me happy in pleasant country. In the west fork of the Marys River basin a huge herd of elk grazed on the grassy mountain slopes, the bulls bugled and the cows chirped. What a state of wildness I was in! After another mountain pass I came to the headwaters of the west fork of the Jarbidge River. Moose droppings littered the trail in the boggy areas. Shortly after, I set up camp in an aspen grove.

The town of Jarbidge situates as the most isolated populated town in the Lower 48. It's in the boonies, I tell you. Furthest from any place I felt I've been including the Thorofare in Yellowstone National Park. Surprisingly, I found a small diner open and ordered a cheeseburger for breakfast. Soon after, I carried on down the road another 9m or so until I hit an old post signifying I had reached Idaho. I touched the signpost and instantly I felt the charge of sudden memories come flooding back from the whole state of Nevada. I walked without following a certain route and other personal events signified this hike as difficult.

I am not sure why things happened the way they happened, but they did. And I reached Idaho feeling I followed the way only my heart will know.

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