Brian's Photo Blog — Article 85
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Muddy Roads, Invisible Mustangs, and a Round Barn
Wednesday 18 April 2012   —   Category: Outings
This morning I splurged and slept in a bit, getting up at 5:45 instead of 5:10 like I did the day before. I've been fighting a cold this entire trip, and I think yesterday’s long twelve-hour outing took so much out of me that the cold is now getting the upper hand. Or maybe it was skinny-dipping at the hot springs in the cold mountain air that weakened my resistance!

Well, whatever the reason, I didn’t feel much like going out exploring today. But I told myself that since I was here, I had better make the most of it. Unfortunately, the forecast for rain didn’t help any. It’s kinda hard to take pictures and to picnic when the sky is dripping water!

It’s been really crummy weather these days — a lot like the Willamette Valley! I thought Western Oregon was lush and wet, while Eastern Oregon was barren and dry. Guess I was wrong! This first photo is of the sunrise over the Blitzen Valley, in which the hotel where I am staying is located.

My first expedition for the day was to see if I could find any of the Kiger wild Mustangs. First I had to drive north and east through the Diamond area. After traveling 34 miles (in about an hour), I reached the turn-off for the Kiger Herd Management Area (HMA). The sign said 11 miles. The brochure added that you should have a high-clearance vehicle, and attempt the “road” during dry weather only.

I've been learning a lot about unpaved roads during my stay in Eastern Oregon. A surprising number of roads are gravel, but they are so well made, that you can drive 65 MPH and almost imagine you’re on the I-5 — it’s very impressive! During the past three days, I have driven two to three hundred miles on such roads.

The eleven-mile road I was facing now was NOT such a road! No, this one was a single-lane, rocky, dirt (muddy) road leading up and out into the boonies! Even though it was not raining this morning, the road was kinda wet. It started off not too bad, but before long I engaged the four-wheel-drive on my Tacoma, and kept it on the whole time.

It took a full hour to reach the parking area, located at the top of a steep, rocky climb to the top of a small hill. The road wasn’t exactly dangerous, but let’s say it might cure you of constipation! It was a very tense, demanding hour, negotiating the rocks and mud in first and second gear. Gosh!

When I got to the herd observation point, how many Kiger Mustangs do you think I saw? Nary a one! Zero, zilch, nada! A two-hour drive in my mud-bespattered truck, and not even a welcoming committee?! Well, seeing that the Kiger HMA is 37,000 acres for not more than 80 horses, I suppose it’s actually pretty slim odds that you’ll ever see a horse! There’s a sucker born every minute — and I guess I’m one!

Well, because the adrenaline-stimulating road cured me of my constipation, I had to leave a little present for the Mustangs under a tree. I guess that’s an appropriate symbolism for how I felt after driving all that way, on such a bad road, for nothing! And now I had to drive the same horrendous eleven-mile road back!

After that trying and fruitless excursion — and with my losing battle with my cold — I felt exhausted. But I forced myself to press on to the Pete French Round Barn. What I found was so unusual and amazing, resulting in some awesome photos, that it made today’s outing totally worthwhile, despite the invisible Mustangs!

With a tripod and my new Sigma 10-​20​mm wide-angle lens, I was able to photograph large parts of the barn in each shot, and get some really unusual angles. This photo here is just one sample of the numerous pictures I got. What a photographer’s paradise!

By this time it was 12:40, and I felt sick, tired and hungry. A cold sandwich didn’t sound too appealing, so I headed back to my hotel via Narrows, where I have been buying gas and bags of ice. While in there a couple of days before, I had noticed a sign for the soup of the day. Boy, that sounded good!

After a forty-minute drive I arrived. Cars were parked by the gas pumps, with nobody in them, and no-one pumping gas. Inside, an older lady, working by herself, seemed stressed trying to cook food, serve customers, and run the cash register. I looked, but there was no sign for soup. After waiting a few minutes, the lady never came out of the kitchen. I was feeling so tired, that I decided to skip the soup and filling my truck up with gas, and just headed for the hotel.

After a cold roast-beef sandwich I felt a little bit better, but by then I had decided that, between the bad weather and me feeling under the weather, it was time to cut my trip short and head for home. So early tomorrow morning I’m hitting the road for the 305-mile journey back. With how drained I’m feeling, it’s going to be a long drive, but I want to be back home so bad that I’ll feel extra motivated.

Well, that’s enough for now. I need to eat some (cold) supper, and then go to bed early. Even though I’m returning two days ahead of schedule, still, I've taken tons of pictures, and a fair number have the possibility of being really nice photos. I’ll write my next blog entry once I’m back home.
For a complete list of all the blog entries and photo albums resulting from my trip to Eastern Oregon, be sure to check out the April 2012 Eastern Oregon Photo Outing Recap
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 85
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