Tuesday, October 18, 2011

This Ain't No Highway

Tuesday October 18 2011

It used to be, a nice smooth packed sand highway-wash (the Birch Creek drainage) that the horses could cruise several miles up, past the Wind Caves, and on up into the Birch Creek Canyon narrows.

There was actually running water in this drainage this spring, something nobody around here has ever seen. Mother Nature was very busy doing a lot of rearranging and restructuring. Crevasses here. Piles of deep sand there. Miniature canyons here. A solid foundation of rock there. Last week we got dumped on with heavy rain which probably helped sculpt more desert drainage artwork. The smooth Birch Creek wash highway is gone. It will be many, many years, decades... centuries?... before it's back to the way it used to be, if it ever is.

Just think of the power of water that removed up to 3 feet deep of sand, sometimes 10 feet wide, in places. A lot of it washed down here, right to the area we used to have our vet check and the start of the LD ride for one of the days of the Hallowed Weenies 2-day endurance ride over Halloween. We had trouble with rigs getting stuck in here when it was a firm highway of sand. Nobody's going to be parking on here this year.

I hiked and flagged the Birch Creek wash/canyon/trail on foot today. It was a perfectly beautiful cool fall day for a 13 mile hike in the Owyhee desert! It will be a little more technical this year. There's some deep sand, rocks, miniature canyons, and some whoop de do's (apparently motorcycles and ATVs love this kind of challenge), but there's plenty of good footing too.

There's also plenty of water once you get close to the canyon narrows. The trail goes right in the creek at times. Plenty of water means plenty of plant growth. It's a jungle some places in there, but there's always a trail, and only one way to go - up the canyon.

The trail passes the Wind Caves,

squeezes into and through the red Birch Creek Canyon for a few miles.

There are oases of trees hiding raptors birds, and birds that hide from them. There might even be a rattlesnake, like this one who scared the bejeesus out of me when I scared the bejeesus out of him. We agreed to go different ways. (You sure pay a lot more attention after you see your first rattlesnake of the day!)

I'm not finished hiking yet - back tomorrow to mark a couple more miles of the trail coming down from the Wind Caves... and I probably can't resist a little exploring off-trail in this very cool place.

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