Sunday, May 29, 2011

Up to Hart Mountain ~ May 22nd

Slept like logs last night, it's remarkable what a little exercise will do for the soul! We must bid adieux to Trisha, Leland and Annie the Wonder Dog this morning as they head home to Idaho. After breakfast and goodbyes we once again pile into Ken and Betty's trusty CRV and head out for the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge (over 240,000 acres).

It's located on a massive fault block ridge that ascends nearly three quarters of a mile above the Warner Valley floor. We pull into the first scenic viewpoint on the way up Hart Mountain for a short walk and are absolutely stunned by the expansive views of the valley. This is one of those places when you say to yourself "What population problem?"

We're only part way up the mountain

The Warner Valley

The Rodster

The east side of Hart mountain is less precipitous and descends in a series of rolling hills and low ridges: a sagebrush sea, sprinkled with juniper and bunch grass, that is typical of SE Oregon and the Great Basin. Aspen and pine are also found in the canyons and on the steep rim. Below are a couple of locals, the beauty on the left is a meadowlark.

Since its creation in 1936 as a range for remnant herds of pronghorn antelope, the refuge has broadened to include conservation of all wildlife characteristic of this high desert habitat, more than 300 species. At the high point of the refuge is the visitors center. I'm totally smitten with the residential buildings. Though I've not been able to confirm it, my guess is they were built in 30's or 40's. What an incredible place to live and work. If you like solitude this would be heaven.

Ah, but here is what we came to see, the Pronghorn antelope. It took us bit of exploring but the wait was worth it. It's so amazing to see these beautiful creatures in the wild.

They are curious enough to watch us but wary enough to know when to go. It's quite a site to see them race across the landscape. A special thanks to Leland for trusting me with his telephoto lens!

After a long day on the range we take a different route home and discover more picturesque landscape, rivers and ranches. Absolutely toast by the time we get back to camp, we decide it's time for dinner and a nap. Another excellent adventure. We reluctantly head for home tomorrow.