Dried bunch grasses glow white in the slant spring sunshine. New grass pushes up green. Spring is emerging in the Owyhee uplands.
This is a harsh and hard land. Man clings and then passes. The evidence is all around as we make our way past signs of early settlement.
As we bump over the flat sagelands, we spot mule deer. Larks and bluebirds are out and the ground squirrels are bouncing in and out of their holes. Three pronghorn race the car…just for the thrill of it. Well, we were certainly thrilled as we were forced to slam on the brakes when they crossed in front of us.
Our destination is Jordan Craters lava beds, a barren moonscape island in a sea of sage in a remote part of Oregon. We begin our exploration at Coffeepot Crater. Peering over the edge, one can imagine the lava pushing up 150,000 years ago.
We set out over the lava fields trying to remember our geology, delighting in the ropy pahoehoe lava, the tubes, gutters, ridges and vents. Its bleakness reminds us of what primitive earth looked like. The only life on the lava is lichens and the occasional lizard. And yet, there is beauty in the starkness. Life and earth reduced to simplicity. One can almost grasp it.