To get to Virgin Valley, we had to go on route 140 for a long way. It’s such a remote area that Larry bought two gas cans to store in the back of the pick up in case we couldn’t get to a gas station in time. So, when I say this place is remote, I really mean it! There are not a lot of towns around.
We headed to Virgin Valley Campground in Denio, Nevada in mid May of 2022. Virgin Valley is a part of the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge which is managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Serivce. The refuge was founded in 1931 with the allocation of 572,896 acres of wildlife habitat in the northwestern corner of Nevada. The campground was free, first come, first serve, there was potable water, showers and hot springs!!
Larry picked out this spot because he figured that I would like to spend my 65th birthday hunting for opals at the nearby Opal Mine. Isn’t that the coolest idea? Alas, I had to say no because, even though I am in pretty good shape, my arms would not have taken kindly to shoveling for several hours. We did visit the site and I got a lovely pendant for my big day.
It was hard to believe that there was water in this area but there was and this drew an astounding number and variety of birds to the area. Larry even spotted a Sage Grouse but it was too fast for me to get a picture of it. Here’s one from the web.
The weather was pleasant and in the 70’s and that made it perfect weather for a hike. I told Larry I would be heading out and pointed to the knoll that I was aiming for. It was a lovely evening. I had hiking boots, long pants, wide brimmed hat and a hip pack with water, whistle, wool hat, pepper spray, band aids, reflective blanket. I had my cell phone. I was ready! After the first knoll I figured why not head all the way up the mountain and so I did. About that time I realized that I had no cell service and that I was out of sight and down wind from Larry. Well, no worries, I figured. I need to mention that this mountain was really more like a big pile of gravel. Sure enough, despite my caution, one minute I was standing and the next I was airborne, head over tea kettle. BAM! On my back. Once I got my breath back, I did a body check and figured I was pretty much in one piece. I limped back to Shiny with not much more than a bruised ego. Now, when the doctors ask me if I have fallen in the past year, I have to say, “Well, yes.”
Some of you have asked me how I get along with Larry day in and day out for over four and a half years in a 27 foot camper. By and large, we get a long really well and know when to take some space when we are getting irritated by silly things. I am not sure, but maybe Larry took this picture shortly before I decided to go on that walk! (By the way, I’m wearing my Birthday necklace.)
Another really cool find at Virgin Valley was the obsidian. Obsidian is naturally occurring volcanic glass. The dirt roads were strewn with them. I have found a piece or two over the years and have thought that was pretty special. But here, the obsidian was ubiquitous (I just had to write that for the sound of it!) The rock is pretty plain when uncut. But when it shatters you can see why it is a glass. It has a very hard surface and was used for arrow heads by indigenous peoples
I was so busy looking at the obsidian in the lower right corner of this photo that I almost didn’t see the snake. Yikes!
Our next stop was Hart Mountain Hot Springs Campground in the Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge in Lake County, Oregon. One thing that caught our attention on the way was that many of the lakes that appeared on our map and our navigation system were no where to be found. There was no water in the lakes. Some were vernal lakes but the others are empty due to the prolonged drought. The picture below shows lakes but they were empty when we were there.
What the picture above also shows is a gravel road with no guard rails. You can somewhat get the sense of how high up you are but not really. Larry had a real white knuckle drive up this road pulling Shiny. I was looking at photos of Connor on my phone which is what I do when the landscape freaks me out and I am this side of a panic attack. Obviously, due to these conditions, we took no photos on our way up. When we got to the top we were both pretty clear that there was no way in god’s sweet green earth that we were going to leave the same way we arrived!
To say that it was worth the drive would be an understatement. Hart Mountain was beautiful and very remote. The camp ground has no electricity and no running water that we saw. It did have hot springs right out in the field and you can’t beat that! The water in the pool was very warm and in spots could have been about 105 degrees. That soak took the chill off of a cold day.
Alas, we stayed only one night. Temperatures dropped down into the single digits at night and we were concerned about Shiny’s tanks freezing so we headed out the next day which is a pity but that’s the way it goes. As we left the refuge, we were delighted to see a herd of Pronghorn antelope in the big, wide open High Desert of eastern Oregon where you pass mile after mile of desert sage.
So, this wraps up another exciting episode of Streamin-in-Shiny. Thanks for for sharing in this journey with us. Next stop, Burns, Oregon.