We met some very nice folks at Rome Sation, one of which was the former river ranger with the BLM on the Owyhee River and had an extensive knowledge about the next section of our route. He gave its some great tips for water sources and type of terrain we could expect.
The main attraction in this section is Louse Canyon, to put it extremely nonchalantly. In actuality, I was really a bit nervous for the canyon coming up. It's touted as one of the hardest sections on the trail and spoilers, it did not disappoint.
Our second day out of Rome we past three forks hot springs and crossed the Owyhee River late in the day. We had seen videos of hikers swimming across the raging river earlier this summer but now the water level was barely to our knees and very manageable. As we camped on the sandy river edge at the mouth of the canyon, I couldn't help but think about what Louse had waiting for us ahead.
We woke up early the next morning and quickly got to walking. The day was filled with some chill walking at first, then as time past the rocks we walked over got bigger and bigger with points of bushwacking in between. The canyon was still pretty wide as this point and the canyon walls fairly deep. We hit occasional pools of water, none of the swimming deep but still chill you to the bone, deep. By the end of the first day we had only done 13ish very tough miles. I don’t know if I've ever worked harder for ever step of a route. Here is an section from my diary that day, “tough day in the canyon. Saw a rattle snake and a dead, decomposing cow. Waist deep water.” And the sentence carried on as an incoherent scribble as I feel asleep with my pen in my hand.
As we assumed, things didn’t let up the follow day either. All the guidebooks, blog posts and first hand hiker testimonial promised “fun” swimming sections in the canyon so we figured today would be the day. Again, a passage from my diary (fyi there are some expletives). “No idea how many miles we hiked in the canyon today (it was 8.5), don’t know, don’t care. Today was a s*** show, holy f*** this trail is hard. Woke up to rain, what a surprise. Bushwack, boulder climb, swim, repeat. Last swim section was the longest, we couldn't see the end from where we started. Got wacked in the head by willows repeatedly. Lost my sunglasses but luckily I went back and found them. The water was so cold, I struggled to keep my body temperature up. I had a stomach ache by the end of the day after shaking from cold for so long. Luckily everything in my pack stayed dry.” In the end we scrambled up to the canyon rim where our maps said we could walk the rim the rest of the way.
Hiking in a remote canyon is a new experience for me and I couldn’t help but contrast it to walking the canyon rim from just a few days before. I couldn’t decide which one I preferred… the rim gives you the entire possibility of the sky above. But with the vastness you can see all the storms that may or may not ever make it overhead. How many times did I fear the rain and lighting in the distance that never found me? Should I be worried and stressed from all of life's million problems that may never materialize?
But then I'm in the confines of the canyon. It has a tight grasp on my view above. Just a narrow little portal, wide enough to see what’s going on during that exact moment in time. Blue sky one second and a cloud the next. I worry, is this the only cloud or are there many more to follow? It starts to rain and I have no idea how long it may last because the canyon walls constrict my gaze. I can only see the conditions that are upon me at this very moment.
Is it better to see the entire sky or just the sliver of the moment you're living in?
The hike continues on.