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To the Alkali Basin


8/28/12, Alkali Lake Airport, OR - (Coordinates: N. 43 deg. 05.157 min.; W. 119 deg. 58.390 min.)

It was another long day in harness for the lads. After breaking camp, 16 miles south of Riley, we drove another 26 miles across desert terrain. Doc and Bob were at bat today, while Bill was in the dugout.

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The view from the cabin at breaktime.  You can see that I have all the essentials of driving at hand: driving lines, water, carrots, horse treats and my Bob-stick.

My first objective for the day was the town of Wagontire.  (Somebody had to bring the wagon to Wagontire). I wasnít sure if I could pick up water there, so I wasnít counting on it, but it would be nice to have.

The terrain continued to be devoid of people and had very little livestock.  Like yesterday, the lads had to pull through a series of small ridges that bisected the road.  Sagebrush abounded, but I was starting to see more rabbit brush as I worked my way southward.

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The lads not only work there magic on small children, they also get other horses excited.  This large band of range horses thought we were the neatest thing they ever saw.

Wagontire is the only town of any sort for 100 miles.  It used to have a population of three, but is now down to only one.  I spoke to the Mayor, Town Council and Chief of Police and he was happy to let me use his water hose to fill up some containers and water the team.

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The cafe and gift shop werenít open, but the townís entire population was still employed.

After lunch, the boys climbed a few more hills.  Then, we drove down into the large basin that holds the Alkali Lakes. I suspect that the entire basin was once an inland sea or large lake.

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From curves and hills to a flat and straight road.

Most of the land in the basin belongs to the Bureau of Land Management, but I did see one ranch. Itís not a place I would choose to live in.  When the wind blows, it picks up alkali dust and blows it everywhere. Within a few minutes I could taste the alkali salt every time my tongue touched my lips.  I think Iíve washed my hands and face 6 times in the first two hours I was here.

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Driving through dry lake beds on both sides of the road.

A couple of weeks ago, I met John and Sharon, from Orofino, ID.  John did some scouting for me on a business trip and found a public well near the Alkali Airport. After scouting the area, thatís where we landed for the night. The water is sweet and can be valved in to fill a stock tank or a water truck. Since the stock tank was about 5000 gallons, I only turned it on to fill up the buckets and tubs for the horses. Even though they donít have grazing, they have clean, sweet water, a place to roll and plenty of rations from the wagon.

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Camped next to the airport.  If you look closely, you can see the windsock in the upper, left corner of the picture. Below the windsock is a paved runway that is several thousand feet long.  Other than that, you wouldnít know there is an airport there.  I suspect that it was a former military aux. field that was refurbished with federal money.  If United or American Airlines wanted to build a hub here, they wouldnít have to worry about upsetting the neighbors - there arenít any.

So, I have a nice quiet night with no visitors, except a large jackrabbit, that likes carrots.

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Making the most of a pan full of oats. Since receiving our wonderful gift of 75 pounds of carrots from Anita, the lads have been getting picky.  They now favor their oats with a carrot icing!

My next source of water is a rest area that is 18 miles south of here. Since itís easier to camp at the water, I plan on spending tomorrow night there.  My slowest walking team is Bob and Bill, so thatís who will be on deck for tomorrowís travels.  Even though he doesnít like it, Iím forcing Doc to take a day off.

Iím exactly halfway through my 140 mile desert crossing from Burns to Lakeview, OR.  I originally planned on 7 days for this segment, but Iím going to try and make it in 6.  That way, Iíll have time to get feed and food on Saturday, before the shops close for the holiday weekend.

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The sun, still well above the horizon, but blood red due to the smoke from the fires burning well to the south of here.