Monday, April 25, 2016

Pillars of Rome

They say "When in Rome, do as the Romans do!" Well, on April 25th that might have been a little difficult to accomplish as the nasty weather probably had all 18 Oregon Romans indoors, huddling around a wood stove for warmth. We, on the other hand, were tenting it next to the Owyhee River and had no such recourse. Besides which, huddling in a sleeping bag inside a tent all day sounds kind of boring, not matter how restful it may be. So the six of us hopped in our cars and set off on some dirt roads on a quest for the fabled Pillars of Rome.

View from the Rome Cliffs
From the miniscule hamlet of Rome, the Owyhee River heads north in a shallow canyon and the river supports a fair number of farms and ranches next to the river. Shortly thereafter, the river enters the Owyhee Canyon area which is mostly accessible only by river rafts. The soft rock, comprised of volcanic ash, is easily eroded which is how the river had carved the formidable canyon in the first place. However, the same aqueous forces that carved out the Owyhee Canyon have also created some fantastic rock formations on the Rome Cliffs, a prime example of which are the aforementioned Pillars of Rome.

Trails are so overrated
There were cliffs everywhere up a wide side-canyon to the Owyhee River and we parked the car at the the most spectacular rock formations of the bunch. Turned out we were at the actual Pillars of Rome which were guarded by a bored guard cow. There was no trail and there was one barbed-wire fence so we just followed the fence line through the knee high sagebrush while the cow looked disappointed we didn't hop over and scratch him behind the ears.

Darn young whippersnappers!
The pillars are part of the much larger Rome Cliffs complex and our route basically hugged the base of the cliffs while providing ample views of the canyon under a cold gray sky. But at least the wind was blocked by the cliff so we didn't complain too loud. We noticed a pair of (young) hikers hiking on top of the cliffs and wondered how they got up there.  Oops, that was Mark and Kyle, Lane's (young) friends bounding up the steep slope as only the (young) can do. Us (old) Roseburgians (me, Rick, Lane, and Kevin) took a more leisurely pace up a steep draw to get up to the top of the cliffs.

View from a small peak
Wow, we could see some stuff from the top, like miles and miles of sagebrush and tumbleweed. Canyons carved up the plateau above the river and creek valleys and it is odd to say "rivers" and "creeks" in relation to the scenery because it was about as dry as a freeze-dried mummy. Yet, what little water there is has created some awesome geologic features.

Just had to climb the pimple
On the Rome Cliffs rim, a small cone rose like an unsqueezed zit and it just called us. A short cross-country jaunt later, we enjoyed more stupendous views from atop the pimple. By now, we had worked our way above the dirty white Pillars and looked upon the Pillars of Rome like some modern day Visigoths just before the pillaging.

Visigoth at the Sacking of Rome
Sprouting out of a ledge like two giant mushrooms were a pair of isolated columns; a short scramble down provided a closer look. We had fun posing seriously as befits such a noble monument and then it was back down to the valley floor below the Pillars. This time around, though, we did slip through the fence although the cow was still disappointed we didn't scratch him behind the ears.

Rock temple
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

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