Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Barnhardi Basin

Ah, Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge is so beautiful. Wide open spaces that go on forever with enough tall mountains to keep little hikers with big egos relatively humble. Later in the year when the sun bakes the refuge hot and dry like a bachelor baking a pot roast for the first time, the refuge is probably not as hospitable as it was during our stay here. We hated to leave but leave we must so we saved the best hike for last: a pleasant stroll into the green dale of Barnhardi Basin.

Merle, at an early morning start to the hike
On the plus side, getting to the trailhead required no driving as the Barnhardi Road began at the hot springs in our campground. Not wanting to get pulled into a conversation with "The Naked Guy" frequenting the hot springs, we averted our eyes and walked quickly past. The trail, actually a jeep road, followed Rock Creek for a while before peeling away and heading uphill alongside a small fork of Rock Creek.  

Cold and cloudy Warner Peak
The skies were gray and overcast and a blustery wind kept things cool and perfect for hiking. The creek burbled merrily as a dense stand of white-barked aspen kept the stream hidden from view. Not so perfect, however, was the grade as the road climbed relentlessly up the sagebrush-covered slopes of Hart Mountain.  It's trails like these that get me muttering to myself "I need a new hobby" and "I hate hiking". However, the grade ended at a ridge crest with a nice view of cloud-bound Warner Mountain. It's trails like these that get me muttering "I'm glad I have this hobby" and "I love hiking".

Barnhardi Basin is a green meadow right below Warner Peak, and we splish-splashed through the wet grass to the Barnhardi Cabin. An old homestead cabin, the shack is pretty dilapidated with a sagging roof and floor. There are not enough Martha Stewart doilies in the world to make this ramshackle cabin a habitable home, even with the world class view from the front door.

Water in the desert
Well, we had reached our destination but had not walked yet very far and it was decision time. We could have returned cross country through the narrow cleft of Rock Creek or we could follow the Barnhardi Road and see what there was to see. We chose the up-and-down latter option. Amazingly for this area, a genuine bona fide creek crossed the trail and the vegetation was lush and verdant. So many flowers blooming by the wayside and I soon lagged behind, a camera-happy fool.

Buzz! Hah, scared you!
At the 4 mile mark, I turned around, content with a respectable 8 mile hike. John and Merle continued on and I enjoyed a leisurely return, taking pictures of all the desert flowers we never see on the west side of the Cascades. The terrain was abuzz with the love songs of the cicadas. The critters were flying all over the trail and if hikers stepped too close, they buzzed a warning like a rattlesnake would. I was a nervous wreck by the time the hike ended.

Pellet pusher
At one point, I was looking at a pile of deer poop when a pooplet or pellet or whatever you call an individual piece of the pile began rolling around seemingly possessed by a poo-poo poltergeist. Upon closer inspection, there was no supernatural explanation needed, it was simply a handstanding dung beetle rolling his treasure with his back legs. I'd never seen one before and now I'll have to give extra scrutiny to deer poop piles. And, I wonder why I have no friends.

At the bottom of the trail, there was a primitive hot springs that burped sulphurous gas bubbles (just like my brother) in the clear water. I removed my shoes and soaked my feet in the hot water, as happy as a purring cat. We definitely saved the best for the last!

Bye, Hart Mountain
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

1 comment :

  1. You are too much Richard. We laughed many times while reading your post! Glad to learn what "the naked guy" was all about and that it was not you, John or Merle. Looks like a beautiful area to hike. Hope you get to feeling better and get back to those 13+ mile hikes.