What a great view (photo by the author)
I found myself with some time during Spring Break — time to do whatever I wanted because my family was out of town. I love Spring Break: no holidays, no commitments, no expectations; just time to do what you want to do.
Here’s how I spent mine.
As I considered my glorious 10 days off, I wondered how to begin and what I wanted to do. That changed about 5:00 PM with a call from my cousin. I have an aunt who isn’t doing well health-wise and it was suggested that if I wanted to visit, this would be the time. I have to admit I have done a terrible job getting over and seeing family, so I made the decision to leave the next day.
I had to take my chocolate lab, Diesel, with me on the trip. My wife and I are not the type of people that like to take our dogs everywhere with us, but since no one else was home, he hopped up in the backseat after I fed him breakfast and we hit the road.
I planned to stop several times and leisurely make my drive to Prineville. That quickly changed based on two factors.
One, Diesel puked his breakfast up on my back seat, which I found the first time I stopped to let him out.
Two, it started raining and snowing on me, turning the dry desert dust into mud. Now, letting the dog out of the pickup was a pain, so we just beelined for my cousin’s house
I don’t want to write about visiting my aunt, at least not in this article, but I’m glad I went.
I picked Lynette up from the airport, mounted up some new wheels and tires on the new Jeep, and hung around the house for a couple of days. Tuesday, I took Lynette back to the airport and got ready to do some Jeeping.
Finally, I was able to get my green Jeep out. I drove to Dan’s Ferry and gassed up, ready to go explore. I headed for the corrals off Silver City Road. Once there, I rolled down the windows, let some air out of the tires, and got ready to enjoy one of those Goldilock’s perfect days outside: Not too hot, not too cold, but just right.
Once I left the corrals, I went up the hard way instead of the gravel road. Soon, I was creeping along in 4 Low of the Atlas, testing to see how slow I could really go. I never spun a tire.
I stopped at the cabin and ate my lunch. There was a couple with a grandson just finishing up their lunch. I signed the guest book in the cabin and dropped off two beers on the rickety cowboy shelf. I try to always leave beer there; my hope is some dusty, thirsty cowboy finds it after a day of moving cows.
I continued up through Marriage Counseling Hill and took a picture to remember a great memory. When we all rode quads, that hill will test a husband and wife’s relationship. I’ve seen it happen many times, including multiple times with my own wife. Now, there are extra bypasses around the hard stuff, which is stupid to be cutting new trails around existing trails.
If spouses don’t end up yelling at each other or not talking, this hill hasn’t done its job.
I spent the day running errands and selling the blue Jeep to Josh. Most of the day was trying to remember all the spare parts I had for the Jeep and getting them collected and sent with the Jeep.
I woke up early with a plan: an all-day trip to one of my favorite places on Earth. Three Forks Canyon, and specifically the hot springs, are awesome. I looked on the Internet and saw that the river was running between 6000-and 8000 cfms, so I knew I wouldn’t be able to drive across the river and get to the hot springs.
Still, I wanted to go. I gassed up the green Jeep and decided to test out my fuel economy. I drove the two hours of pavement and gassed up again in Jordan Valley and did the math: 15.9 mpg on the pavement! A V8, 37″ tires, and Dana 60s front and rear, and I had just got better gas mileage than most pickups.
I also stopped and weighed at the Marsing jump scales and confirmed what I thought: the new Jeep was a heavy pig. When I towed it home on the trailer, it felt heavy compared to all the other Jeeps I had towed. The scales glowed the numbers 5170 at me.
Once past Jordan Valley and off the pavement, I stopped and aired down. My new tires at 10 psi were a cushy ride in, over the 25 miles of washboard until the top of the Owyhee Canyon.
Once there, I spun the hubs, shoved the NV4500 in Granny low, and high ranged down the hill to the boat launch without touching the brakes or the gas pedal.
And the boat launch was CRAWLING with people. The water that was a detriment to my plans was a selling point to theirs. At least five pickups that had dropped off side-by-sides were parked at the top of the hill. When I came out later, there were three camp trailers set up at the top of the hill, with dirt bikes and side-by-sides.
In addition to the four or five pickups hauling raft trailers parked at the boat launch, there were three different groups of people camped down there — even one who had pulled a trailer down there. While I was on the hot springs side of the canyon, I had two different groups of people stop and visit me. To get to the hot springs, you have to be goal-oriented. I’m afraid the secret is out on my favorite place.
However, in the morning, once I drove past the boat dock, across the creek, up the long rocky hill, past the juniper trees, and over the summit to descend into Three Forks, I was all by myself. And I loved it.
I stopped and hung out at the upper camp — the one my Dad calls Juniper Camp. One Fourth of July trip, they had to cut a juniper tree to rebuild a lightweight camp trailer’s frame that had broken in half. It’s a cool overlook, with awesome views. I have never camped there because I like what is down the canyon so much more, but any other place, and it would be in the Top Five of all time awesome camping spots.
Since I couldn’t get across the river to the the good hot springs, I settled for Three Forks Light. On the road, just off the rock wall, there are two hot pools. Once is barely big enough for one person and quite a big colder than the big one.
The big one held my attention for most of the afternoon. I sat in the hot springs, ate lunch, had a couple of coldies, and watched the world go by. Sitting in the canyon — watching the birds, and the fish, and the deer, and the jets from the Air Force base — is one of my favorite past times.
This was a different type of off-road day: I went for a RZR ride from Jump Creek to Succor Creek with Gabe and Tony. I needed to test out my Shock Therapy springs on my RZR and see how I liked the ride. Side note: best money ever spent on my RZR.
It was a great ride with my son-in-law Josh as a copilot. It was his first experience in a side-by-side so he spent most of the day holding on for dear life. He gradually relaxed and enjoyed the ride.
We did have a huge negative this day: we found a big group of 40 ATVs and UTVs who were waiting on a Life Flight helicopter. A lady had fallen off an ATV and had a back issue. We waited about an hour while we ate our lunch before slowly creeping past the group. We later saw the helicopter inbound. This prompted me to renew my Life Flight membership that had lapsed because you never know.
It was time to clean the rigs, clean the house, and head back to reality. What a great Spring Break full of lots of exploring.