After Burns we drove south, met an elder couple in a side by side ATV with a chainsaw and two dogs. They were looking for “agates or whatever.” When we said we were on a public lands tour, he replied “they keep trying to close them down.” And when asked what he meant, he explained “the monuments.” He didn’t elaborate, and we continued south and crossed the Malheur river.
We came upon a roundup of sorts. There were many cows and some Cowboys walking their horses across the road. We waited and then drove slowly by the mooing cows. Sam got excited about showing the ranchers Lyle’s Cold-Brewed Buttered Coffee (from Portland), so we turned around and Sam got out and walked toward the house. A man was walking out to say hello. He introduced himself as Rob. Sam told him that we were from Portland and on a long trip to learn about public lands. Michelle came out and we chatted about grazing. Rob was quite open about the challenges and enjoyment of ranching. He lamented difficulties managing his grazing permits both due to pressure from environmental groups and lack of flexibility by federal agencies. He noted that tools exist for better grazing and stressed the need for communication and flexibility in permits. He also noted that while science was good it was not everything. He previously sold under Country Natural and then switched to private export when the return was better. He has sold grass-fed beef as well.
He was curious about our views and so asked us a question: Where does the economy start? Sam answered: The land. Rob smiled and nodded. As Rob knows as acutely as anyone, it all begins and ends with the land.
Rob strongly suggested we not take the trailer down Riverside-Crowley Road to Cedar Mountain, so we re-routed and took the Riverside-Crane Road to the highway. When we turned off to Cedar Mountain there was a beautiful valley with big piles of lava rock tumbling down the hill. We passed a one room-stone house that sat next to a spring. It was out-of-this-word picturesque. Through a few gates and wary of getting stuck we arrived at Cedar Mountain about 45 minutes later. Strangely there was a ping of AT&T service, so we picked a spot up the hill and backed Flicker off the road and facing the valley. It wasn’t long before Michelle noted the brand new spare tire and rim was missing along with the section of bumper to which it had been attached. Ah nuts! Years of rust had weakened the bumper so the whole thing shook right off on the washboard gravel roads.
Facing the rainstorm and the prospect of being without a spare, we choose to backtrack and look for the errant bumper and tire. We had no luck between Cedar Mountain and Hwy 78, only night fall came so we headed toward Jordan Valley and pulled into Antelope Reservoir for the night.