Snow has finally found us in the high desert. For those of my friends who read this blog and have heard about the winter storms descending on the Pacific Northwest, the worst of it is to the west and north of us around Portland and Seattle. Snow is unusual for them. The Oregon Coast is forecast to have hurricane force winds today. We have snow which we need, especially in the mountains. The Northwest depends on melting snow pack for much of its water. In the photos I posted last week of the Steens Mountains, you could see that there was barely any snow. The horses stand in sheltered areas to get out of the wind. Ours have stalls they could go in, but they don't like to be enclosed, being the semi-wild girls they are. They'll stand in the snow, resting, and it piles up on their backs. When they move, they just shake it off. Their coats are like mink fur. The photo of John is of him standing in the garage on the phone, talking to one of our neighbors about pumps and irrigation lines as the snow blows by him.
A farmer in our neighborhood set his alfalfa fields on fire Monday night. Of course, he didn't tell anyone he was going to do it. We wondered what could he be thinking since the wind was blowing good and everything was very dry. John, being a volunteer in the Crane Rangeland Fire Dept., took a drive over in his truck to see what was going on. The farmer had trenched the fields and fortunately for the neighbors the fire didn't blow out of control. Someone did call 911 and another guy, Dave, with the fire dept. came with a water truck to stand by. It burned on into the night and finally died out. In a desert a range fire can be very scary.
Last week since we still had no snow so John and I took a trip to Fields along the east side of the Steens Mountains. It's 250 miles round trip and takes about three hours to get to Fields with stops. The East Steens Highway turns to gravel below Highway 78. I was doing research for my current mystery novel (working title is "Under Starry Skies"). I love looking forever into the distance and seeing blue sky and mountains and endless road.
Our first stop was Mann Lake open to trophy fishing year round. You'd need to take your chain saw to get the fish. The Steens Mountains are in the background. The ice was cracking on the lake so it was very noisy and the lake also moans and the sound vibrated off the mountains. Kinda spooky. Intrepid John is pictured here walking on water. I told him I would not come in to pull him out. The lake is fed by snow melt from the mountain but has no outlet. The movement of the water under the ice pushes it onto shore.
In our quest for hot springs we stopped at this one on private land but open to the public. It's 23 miles north of Fields right along the road. John investigated but didn't get in. While the water was warm the air was a little chilly.
Driving north from Fields at the substation there's a dirt road following the electric lines to the east. Sandy at the Fields Store told us to follow it to the first dirt road north to get to the ruins of the old Borax Works. We were seeking yet another hot spring. There's not much left of the borax works. Just some rusty tubs. John is not standing in snow. That is borax (I think). The lake is called the Middle Borax Lake and is said to be about 80 degrees. We did not go in as it was about freezing that day. John investigated some of the steaming pools to the north of the lake. Luckily, the ground did not cave in under him so he didn't get scalded to death.
On our way back home from Fields the road turns and the desert lays in the distance. The north end of the desert has water, the middle looks muddy and only the south end is dry this year. Very unusual.
Here it is January. We should be knee deep in snow and . . . . nothing. Looks pretty brown and gray. Great sky and sun. This last year the weather has been pretty weird. Yesterday the weather was so warm and nice John and I took an eight mile bike ride around the neighborhood.
We spent New Year's Eve making music. What a way to bring in the new year! We have a tendency toward bluegrass, a little rock and roll, and soft country and western. The band plays on. We need a name and we have a gig in New Mexico this summer! Core band members are Diana on the guitar, Jane on the flute, and Marjorie on the accordion. I'm not sure the world is ready for us.