One of the things about the high desert is that it just looks boring. Miles and miles of - generally boring - flat terrain. Millions of the same - boring - sagebrush arrayed out over the sandy soil. And colors that - for most of the year - are just drab and boring.
There's a lot of this land in the western United States, and one of the great things about it - in my opinion - is that everyone else thinks it's boring. The secret, however, is that these desert areas are great at preserving whatever ends up within their boundaries. Over the decades, lots of interesting things have found their way into the high desert. And today, we had our sights set on one in particular: an entirely glass house.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves - we had quite a way to go before we'd reach something that sounds like such a bad idea. I mean seriously - it's hot in the desert, and there are lots of stones.
The land rose up alongside US-395, snow highlighting the layered nature of the volcanic cliffs.
Eventually, we turned off of US-395 and onto Hogback Road. I'd expected this to be paved, but it was even better - well graded gravel! I say better because paved roads tend to suffer quite a bit in the hot/cold climate of the high desert. Expansion and contraction lead to deterioration, and fixing asphalt is difficult. Gravel on the other hand can be easily regraded, and ultimately leads to smoother travel. I smiled, @mrs.turbodb napped, and we ticked away the miles.
Hogback Road curving off into the distance.
The steep side of Hart Mountain rising up to the east.
An interesting tidbit that my more-geologically-adept-passenger noted to me a little later in the trip was that the steep side of Hart Mountain and the steep side of Steens Mountain (which we've visited a lot and borders the Alvord Desert region) are mirrors of each other, creating a gentle valley between the two ridgelines.
A cross section of the opposing fault block mountains of Hart Mountain and Steens Mountain.
An hour or so later, we turned west - away from our ultimate destination - to check out a little draw that I'd noticed as I'd been planning our route. I forget why it'd jumped out at me, but the name - Mine Draw - certainly sounded promising. As we headed up, it was classic Oregon outback with rolling hills and rocky outcrops.
With its southern exposure and clear skies, most of the snow was gone despite temperatures that still hovered in the mid-30s °F.
After several miles, and a thousand feet of elevation gain, we rounded a bend to a dilapidated old miner's cabin at the base of an area dotted with diggings. There wasn't much left to see, but if for no other reason than to stretch our legs, we got out to take a look around.
Won't be here much longer.
On a nearby hillside, perched atop a pile of tailings, this strange ore chute stood watch over the site.
Off we go.
After climbing another 300 feet or so, we reached the ridge and carried on over the other side, wondering if there was more to see. Deciding after a mile or so that there was not, we headed back to the top where a snow-dusted Hart Mountain gleamed in the distance. We had only one more stop - for fuel in Plush - before we headed that way.
Fingers crossed that the blue skies win out.
Heading back down Mine Draw.
Into the valley. I really liked the contrast of rock and snow, brown and white.
The Tacoma all fueled up, we soon found ourselves bumping along the western flank of Hart Mountain, the snowy cliffs now much closer, aspen still clinging to their yellow leaves as they snaked up the canyons.
Fall into winter, right before our eyes.
To our west, what used to be Hart Lake was dry, now just a field of brilliant yellow grass.
Pvt. Charles A. Fonda | US Army 23rd Infantry Company D | Died from wounds | April 30, 1868
The long evening rays turned everything golden.
Winding our way through a maze of roads, it was just after 5:00pm when we made our final turn and spotted the craziness we'd set out to find - the all-glass roof of an all-glass house in the middle of the high desert. As we pulled into what could only be considered the driveway, the love and care that went into building this place - as crazy as it was - was immediately apparent. We wasted no time exploring.
Decorative metalwork lined the driveway, the tops of stone walls, and many other elements of the property.
The main entrance sported four large doors, an affordance for quicker cooling.
Built into the small rise on which it sits, the house is well camouflaged if you aren't looking for it.
Even on this cool day - temperatures never reaching higher than the low 40s °F - it was reasonably pleasant inside what was essentially a greenhouse in the desert. And, with no way to open or cover any of the roof panels, it is easy to understand why this project ultimately failed - there was simply no way to escape the oven-like environment on even relatively mild days.
The living room.
After poking around for a few minutes - @mrs.turbodb opening some drawers (where spices, utensils, and other niceties still remained), me inspecting some of the electronics (both 120v and 12v receptacles were distributed throughout the house) - we reconvened in the kitchen where a guest book sat on the counter. With fewer than a handful of the 80 sheets consumed, this place sees only a visitor or two a month, perhaps understandable given its location in the middle of nowhere.
We did find one interesting entry - Wonderhussy (Sarah) - from June, 2022.
Our search complete, it was time to figure out our camp plan. With only about 15 minutes until sunset, we decided that the smart money was on camping nearby the house so we could get dinner prepped, eaten, and cleaned up as quickly as possible. Plus, a parking area off of the driveway afforded us a nice flat spot to setup the tent. And so, as the sun dropped below the horizon and the color of the sky transitioned through a pastel palette, we set about our evening activities as efficiently as we could.
Though it hadn't been that warm all day, temperatures dropped quickly as the sun ducked below the horizon.
Climbing into the relative warmth of the cab of the Tacoma, we killed a bit of time before climbing up the ladder to snuggle under the covers. While @mrs.turbodb read, I copied a few photos off of the camera, marveling at the things we'd seen just a few hours earlier!
An Unexpected Aside...
Some of my favorite moments of a trip - and these don't happen every time - are discoveries of something unexpected. Just such a discovery happened somewhere along our route between Christmas Valley and the Glass house - we just happened to glance at some large rocks on the side of the road and noticed that they were covered with petroglyphs.
If you know where these petroglyphs and pictographs are, please keep their location special. There are already several petroglyphs that have been shot at, and modern graffiti on some nearby rocks.
Of course, upon noticing the art - which is relatively plentiful in the area - we stopped immediately to take a closer look. The images and shapes here depicted common themes - bighorn sheep, hunters with bows, alien-bug-men, and concentric circles - that we've seen elsewhere in southeast Oregon (Owyhee, Hart Mountain), and were likely created by a civilization that once roamed the entire region.
Follow the leader.
A common etching.
A hunter and his quarry.
A full rack.
The highlight of the rock art was the discovery of a single multi-colored pictograph, a short distance from the petroglyphs. It's a mystery we'll never know the answer to, an opportunity for our curiosity to run wild.
Red and white Bugman.
Of course, modern humans can't help but leave their mark as well, this yin-yang symbol adorning a nearby rock as well.
The Following Morning...
Fully expecting it to get just as cold as it'd been the previous night, both @mrs.turbodb and I had bundled up before climbing into the tent just after 7:45pm. This time, I'd oriented the tent to take advantage of the sun rising over the easter horizon - my hope being that any frost on the rain fly would sublimate before we even got out of bed.
What neither of us expected, was to hear the pattering of snow that began at midnight and lasted nearly four hours!
Luckily, with temperatures in the mid-twenties (°F), the snow was reasonably dry; what little didn't slide off the tent on its own was easily shaken off when we got up to go pee. And when we did, I hoped that at least some of the white stuff would stick around till morning, because it was beautiful.
After getting an inch or more snow, this is all that was left several hours later.
A little more on the cold steel metalwork of the Glass House.
With sunrise at 6:30am - and even having gone to bed early - it wasn't until 7:30am that we finally climbed down the ladder and started packing away camp.
Clearing skies to the north, but no sun to sublimate any frost on the tent. Lucky for us, there wasn't any!
Most of packing away camp is a quick process, but as I've mentioned in several rig reviews over the last couple of years, the toughest part these days is getting the zipper on the CVT cover to close. To make is as easy as possible, I now wash/lubricate the entire zipper with water, each time I zip up the cover. This can be torture on my fingers on a cold morning, so I've started storing my water bottle with me in the tent, its contents warming my fingers during the cleaning process, rather than freezing them!
Unfortunately, the problem this morning wasn't going to be fixed with warm water.
Bummed at the lemons that life had thrown at us, I tried to look on the bright side - I still had the straps to hold the tarp mostly on the tent, and trail dust would be minimized given the moisture we'd gotten the night before. And so, with everything packed away as best we could, we set out for our final day on the trail.
Just like the last, it'd turn out to be full of unexpected surprises.