Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge
We stop at Warner Valley Overlook and feel the quiet. It hangs on us, noticeably creeping into our senses as we take in the view. The entire Warner Valley spreads before us, clear across the lakes and sagebrush range to the hills beyond. Directly below us, racing up the ravines, are flame-colored aspens. So much space, so little sound. So much beauty, so few here to enjoy it.
From the hot springs bubbling out of the ground at 102 degrees, we walk a jeep trail to a high point where we see eastward to the already snow-topped Steens. The track then eases down to a streamside meadow containing the Barnhardi cabin, an old plank structure in the shadow of Warner Peak. The front of the cabin is golden brown, while the remainder is sunbleached grey. Inside, the roof joists are splitting in two. Giant aspens stand guard and several deer, ears erect, watch our progress as we move away.
We spend the night near the hot springs, our tent beneath golden aspens that hiss in the wind. As darkness descends, the wind creates a natural draft to our campfire. Stars in the night sky nearly cover the dome. Shortly after we retire for the night, coyotes yip and bark for several minutes, seemingly right outside the tent.
The following morning, we easily find many antelope from Lookout Point on Blue Sky Road and get a close look with spotting scopes. Golden eagles are likewise plentiful. We did not find either sage grouse or bighorn sheep, thus ensuring that we'll have to make another visit.