I think for most people who live outside Northern Nevada or Southern Idaho, the name deserves an explanation. I could not shake off the closeness of pronounciation of it to the name of one of the Hawaiian Islands - Oahu; more to my surprise was the discovery via Wikipedia
that this area was indeed named by the hawaiian ex-pats participating in overland exploration trips in Northern Great Basin and around.
In general, Owyhee River Basin lays in one gigantic plateau, with many creeks, tributaries and forks of Owyhee River cutting deep, nearly-vertical gorges. It is a beautiful high plain, very green wherever the water flows (year-round), and muted sage-green elsewhere. Wildlife and cattle abound - so driving fast across this desert plain requires constant, incessant attention to whoever may wander onto the road.
That's it, I put that down.
Our day begins, traditionally low-key and lazy, with a trip back to the town of Jarbidge. You can scoop up all the details in the earlier chapter
; it is sufficient to say that we leave town in very early afternoon.
The off-pavement excitement begins right away - Chris turns off into a barely-noticeable side two-track, dipping into the river with steep banks on both sides. It doesn't take long to arrive to the "Road Closed" sign - which we reluctantly honor and turn back. Not a big deal, we weren't on pavement to begin with, and another dirt road offered itself not even a mile later.
This time we have a proper convoy - led by Chris Snell in his soft-top 110, followed by Jason Rose in a 110 Station Wagon, Kevin Day in an LR3, and me bringing up the rear in the Disco. We amble along the road, gaining a little elevation in process, until Chris sees a two-track snaking right up the mountainside. No arguments there, and the next ten minutes are spent in low range climbing to the top of Bear Paw Mountain.
The insanely gorgeous view from the top definitely calls for a little more celebration, and Kevin brings out some Canadian beer for the sake of variety. Soon after, we come down the hillside, and Chris conveniently discovers a rarely-used forest service road leading into a canyon. For the next couple of hours, it is a classic Chris Snell trail - shown on the map, yet not used in years if not decades, and driven more out of sense of direction (or adventure?) than some substantiated geography. The best thing to do is to enjoy the ride - we have four capable vehiclces with plenty of recovery equipment, and some common sense.
Our way downhill is very steep; the canyon is overgrown with willows, wild rose, blackberry, wild blueberry and raspberry, and grass. There is a lot of grass - not dry, but very green and alive grass at times a foot above the hood of the 110. I have not yet looked at the footage of the GoPro mounted on my front bumper - I may have as easily put it on the front of a cornbinder.
The tracks are becoming fainter - Chris does his best to spot the barely-noticeable dips in vegetation. There are some spur trails going away from the canyon - one of them claims Chris' front fender-mounted ham antenna, another requires unspooling of the winch cable.
Kevin and Jason have to return to town before the workday begins tomorrow - it definitely isn't clear if forging ahead is faster than retreating uphill to the larger dirt road.
Yet the road prevails - it emerges at the bottom of the canyon and follows the creek; later it joins Forest Road 037 along Bruneau River. Somewhere along the way on this road, we leave Nevada and enter Idaho. We arrive at the junction with a FR 016, and to a decision point for Kevin and Jason. We know that they are between three and four hours away from Boise, but (a) Chris' USGS topo map shows a vast network of roads, some but not all of which converge near the town of Grasmere, Idaho - and it would be a smooth sailing from there. However, neither of us has a paper map of adequate detail, and GPS services are rendered by smartphones. One of these things you know perfectly well where you are, but have little clue on where to proceed. It is already late - close to 8 pm - and Kevin and Jason make a decision to head back before it gets dark. We bid our friends goodbye, and head out West towards ... I have to pause here...
Chris takes care of all our navigation and route-finding - and anyone who tried to pick a path in the desert knows that there are many of them, so it is rarely an exact science. More often than not, you guess where the road is generally headed, and hope you don't run into a dead-end canyon, or a thousand-foot drop-off near a great campsite. In nearly-total absence of cell phone coverage and detailed maps in my Garmin, I guess our general direction by the Sun and the shadows - but in canyon country it is meaningless. The turn from the F.R.037 actually takes us South-East - but Chris knows we're actually heading West-South-West. Go figure.
There's a mountain range in front of us, and the road begins its ascent. It isn't well-travelled, either, with occasional ruts of harrowing depths that we straddle. The Sun's already pretty low, and when we pass aspen groves it gets outright dark. Finally, we break out of the wooded area, open a gate, and find ourselves in the saddle between the Hicks Mountain and an adjacent smaller peak. The Sun is right into our eyes; the area is wide, empty, and clear. At the spur of the moment, we decide to camp right there - however imprudent it may be to camp near a hilltop, with some thunderheads towering in the distance. We take a short trip to the smaller peak in the Disco, in search of elusive voice connection. No success with that.
We're parked on top of low, not very dense, but very dry grass. Setting up the grille, Colemans, and everything else requires clearing a sizable area of vegetation, sprinkling a bit of water, and getting a large fire extinguisher out of the truck and next to our "kitchen."
The dinner menu: rack of lamb, french fries, and Macallan. Life's a gas.