Evocative remoteness summarizes the experience on The “Divide,” or the “Cat’s Back.” Located in a little visited corner of Wallowa County in NE Oregon, it provides some of the most beautiful country you will find anywhere in this nation. In 1885, sisters Daisy and Caroline Wasson came to live there on a homestead established by their parents. High, on an open ridge with spectacular views of the Wallowa and Seven Devils mountains, they spent ten years. Snowed in for six months of the years, they learned to sew from their mother, and do the multi varied tasks that made life bearable in the winter. In the summer, the place was magical. Daisy wrote about those who wondered how/why they could live in such “god forsaken” place: “I have a picture in my mind of Caroline, standing, listening. She has on a little white linen hat and she is holding her walking sticks, and leaning a little forward. I watch her, and then after a little bit ask what she is doing. ‘I hear music,’ she answers, ‘when I am real still and look at the mountains. I hear it.’
“I hear music when I am real still and look at the mountains.” Meg and I have enjoyed this music, the silence, as we have enjoyed the blessing and privilege to visit the Cat’s Back many times in the late spring. I hope you enjoy these pictures as well and “hear” the music for yourselves.
“If we don’t allow God to address the deep levels of our attachment to ourselves and to our programs of happiness, we will put into the world the negative elements of our self-centeredness, adding to the conflicts and the social disasters that come from over identifying with the biases and prejudices of our particular culture and upbring.” Fr Thomas Keating
Boy Scouts from La Grande Troop 514, led by Dr Koza and myself, enjoyed a most excellent June Friday/Saturday backpack trip to Strawberry Lake. The trailhead is out of Prairie City OR, about a two and a half hour drive from La Grande. The hike is a gentle mile and a half. The boys worked extremely well together, setting up tents, hiking up to Strawberry Falls, cooking dinner (backpackers thanksgiving from scratch) and breakfast (pancakes and sausage), retiring a flag, and playing a great game, “Terrain.” It was an exceptional time together.
Before leaving the Chalk Basin, Michael and I took one last hike. This hike took us cross county to an area above the lower Owyhee River knows as the chalk cliffs. On the float trips I have made on the lower Owyhee river, we have camped below these formations on the second night of rafting. I have always want to see this area from above. I finally fulfilled that desire.
PS I did successfully drive the Cherokee out to the road, although not as boldly as Michael 🙂
Sunday began with the kind of sunrise that spoke peace and oneness and concluded with a sunset that invited deep sleep. In between, Michael and I made a major hike through gullys and canyons amidst incredible ash and rock formations. The rain that had challenged us driving here left trickles of water in what are normally dry washes. The air was cool, the damp “dry” wash walk refreshing.
We reached the Owyhee river and ate lunch. I napped while Michael fished. Afterwards we discovered an exciting canyon with the most intriguing and colorful formations we had seen that day. Definitely like Moab, UT, but without the crowds.
Michael found a beautiful agate thunder egg. He hauled this thirty pound rock back to our campsite as my Father’s Day gift. What an outstanding son! Scott, the man we had extricated from the mud hole (see the first Chalk Basin post) came over before dinner. We enjoyed a wide ranging discussion about the presence of God in our lives, and the transformational nature of His deep love for us.
Far, far away from any towns, large or small, lies the Chalk Basin in Southeast Oregon above the lower Owyhee River. A very poor road leads to it. Although merely bumpy and dusty when dry, this clay road is a quagmire when wet. The guide book advises it is NO GO after rainstorms.
Son Michael and I ignored that advice over the Memorial Day weekend as we drove through and went around at least two dozen of these mud holes in the Jeep Cherokee Trail Hawk I acquired a year ago. Michael’s bold confidence took us through places from which I would have turned back. And, we in fact extricated another rig that had gotten stuck in the mud.
We camped at the end of the road, overlooking the Chalk Basin. The advantage of rain storms is that they create rainbows, and we enjoyed two separate ones, full and nearly double, during the late Saturday afternoon. And the sunset sky, both east and west, filled with glorious cloud shapes and colors.
From here we took two long day hikes, exploring the many nooks and crannies of this country. Those pictures will follow in the future, but here is a description from the guide published by William Sullivan:
“There are no trails in Chalk Basin’s colorful badlands, but adventurers who explore this remote Owyhee River canyon will discover dry waterfalls, pinnacles, and rock ‘goblins’ reminiscent of Utah’s Bryce Canyon.
“The Snake River once flowed across southern Oregon to join the Klamath River. As mountains rose along that route to block the river, a huge “Lake Idaho” formed between Boise and Steens Mountain five million years ago. Another three million years passed before the lake finally spilled north to the Columbia River, carving Hells Canyon along the way. In the meantime, the shells of the microscopic animals had built up layers of diatomaceous earth—chalk—in the lake. Since then, weathering and minerals have turned the soft chalky deposits into a rainbow of yellows, reds, and whites.”
Michael and I can testify to the amazing colors and geological characteristics of this physically and visually stimulating country side!
“Living God, I pray for your love in my life. I pray for your joy in my heart. I pray for your peace in my soul. I pray for your patience in my words. I pray for your kindness in my actions. I pray for your goodness in my sharing. I pray for your faithfulness in my relationships. I pray for your gentleness in my spirit. I pray for your self control in my choices. May this fruit blossom in and through me. Forgive me when I fail, and restore my strength to create a clean spirit in and through You.”