Tag Archives: Jordan_Valley

More than the eye can see

As my body has aged, the acuteness of my eyesight and hearing has diminished. In May, I had cataract surgery on both eyes. Between the two surgeries, I could compare the colors and the sharpness between my “new” eye and my old one.  The difference was stunning.  In our church sanctuary, a wall that looked a dull gray was in fact a subtle pink.

Also, Meg has given me a special hearing aid that reduces the high frequency of bird songs to a frequency my ears can hear.  Suddenly, as I sit on the front porch in the early morning, drinking coffee and reading my devotions, the world is filled with this wonderful music that almost seems like a tape recording of bird sounds. Sounds I no longer knew existed.

As I think of what I had lost and the awareness what has been restored, I realize how much more awaits us in God’s Kingdom.  Beyond anything we can imagine, God’s eternal infinity awaits us.  Someday, for each of us, the curtain will be pulled back, and like Steve Jobs on his death bed, all we can say will be “Oh, wow, oh wow, oh wow!”

Jordan Valley, Malheur county

Blue Mts Oregon, Umatilla county


Jordan Valley, OR and Silver City, ID. A Memorial weekend visit

 Jordan Valley, with a population of less than 200, is the furthest southeastern town in Oregon. Now it is an area of far flung sheep and cattle ranches. However, it first came onto the map when a party of prospectors stopped to spend the night on an unnamed stream.  They decided to try panning some loose gravel and were astounded to find gold.  Claims were filed and the location grew into a city that was subsequently for one of the miners who was killed by Indians along the creek.

As the area transitioned into sheep country, Spanish Basques from the Pyrenees Mountains were recruited to bring their sheep herding skills to this remote area. From the 1890’s to the First World War, large numbers of Basque immigrants came here, and to adjacent areas in Idaho and Nevada. The Basques brought a distinct culture and language, “Euskara,” which is not related to any other language in Europe.  They have deeply influenced this part of Oregon.  A local phrase is heard, “where smiles are wide and frowns are few, sheep are numerous and friends are too.”
A footnote links Jordan Valley to the Lewis and Clark expedition: The child who accompanied Sacagawea during the expedition, Jean Baptiste Chabonneau, is buried just west of the town.
And one more footnote:  The Old Basque Inn serves excellent meals, and the Rock House Cafe has excellent lattes and ice cream!!
I have always been curious to visit Silver City, Idaho, a ghost town that lies about thirty miles northeast of Jordan Valley. The route from the Oregon side, unlike from the Idaho side, requires a high clearance vehicle.  After 15 miles of good gravel road (although there are two water crossings), the remaining distance is a onelane clay track, with many rock and potholes to avoid or go over/through quite slowly.
The town itself is worth a visit, although it can be crowded with those who come in to enjoy taking their ATV’s and dirt bikes on the many challenging old roads. Founded in the early 1860’s, Silver City is situated in a deep, narrow valley at 6179 feet. As the gold and silver mining thrived through the 1890’s, the town grew to 2500 people and was one of the largest and most prominent towns in the Idaho Territory. The Idaho Hotel, built in 1865, is a three story structure that has been restored and now offers rooms and dining from late spring to late October. The home made pie is exceptional!!
Many of the seventy or so existing buildings are privately owned by third and fourth generation descendants of the original miners and have been lovingly restored.  Meg and I were struck that by our standards, access to Silver City is difficult, extreme, and remote. Yet in the late 1800’s, it was “normal” to live here, the businesses were prosperous, and travel to and from the town was no more difficult and time consuming than anywhere else in the west. (Check out the stage rates from 1880 on the last picture).  Our paved state and interstate highways have definitely changed our tolerance and acceptance of gravel and dirt roads and how long it takes to get “there.”
Harney County, Jordan Valley

Basque sheep herding, Jordan Valley, Malheur County

Jordan Valley, Malheur County

Old Basque Inn, Jordan Valley, Malheur County

Rock House, Jordan Valley, Malheur County

Silver City, ID, Idaho Hotel

Idaho Hotel, Silver City

Idaho Hotel, Silver City school
Silver City Mason’s Lodge and school house
Silver City church
Silver City

Silver City freight rates, 1880



The Honeycombs

The Honeycombs are one of the most obscure, most spectacular canyon areas in Oregon. Located northwest of Jordan Valley, along the Owyhee Reservoir, the area has been one of my backpacking meccas.  A somewhat gnarly 4WD road takes you within a couple miles of where this canyon country begins.  The road is clay, and is not to be trifled with in wet weather, as it turns slick and greasy. Rob Ostermann, a friend with a similar passion to explore, and I drove down there last week.  Twice we attempted to reach the drainage where the hike begins, and twice threatening weather turned us back.

I did get some alluring pictures from afar, and the goal remains to actually reach into this scenery close up another time. The Honeycombs road takes off from the Leslie Gulch road, so we camped there instead and enjoyed the scenery you can view in my Leslie Gulch post.

Leslie Gulch

A vast land of magical shapes, spires, and walls, Leslie Gulch lies in the Owyhee river country of the extreme southeast corner of Oregon. I am drawn there in the springtime, when wildflowers and bird songs fill the canyons formed by volcanic tuff–ash that has consolidated through heat and pressure in solid rock. Wind and water have sculpted these walls into an infinite number of patterns. Early evening and early morning intensify the colors.

Overarching the light and the colors of this canyon, is an incredible feeling of awe, wonder, tranquility, and timelessness that dwarfs our mere short term human experience.

Binding ourselves to God

This passage attributed to St Patrick is a great reminder that God is the source of everything that I am. What matters is my total commitment/relationship to Him, not merely my “thoughts” about Him.

“I bind myself today to the power of God to hold and lead,

his eye to watch, his might to stay, his ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach, his hand to guide, his shield to ward,
the Word of God to give me speech, His heavenly host to be my guard.”

attributed to St Patrick,  c. 420 

Meg and I loved how this spring, its source unknown to us.
brought refreshing beauty to this dry sagebrush of SE Oregon.

The Birch Creek ranch on the lower Owyhee River of SE Oregon