In the desert.. In the dark..
Bill Witherspoon and I had left our camp in the Oregon Desert heading for the town of Burns 100 miles north to get needed provisions. After leaving Burns, Bill wanted to show me Steens Mountain southwest from there before returning to our camp at Mickey Basin. The view at 9000 feet high from the top of Steens Mountain was spectacular and being there was a great experience.
After a really interesting day of exploring the desert region west of the city of Burns, Oregon, my friend Bill and I headed back to our campsite deep in the Alvord Desert. The Alvord Desert area that was south and southwest of Burns, Oregon was a desolate desert region. There were a few ranches, but no gas stations or stores of any kind for 80 miles.
Once the sun dropped below the horizon and without a moon to shed some light, the night turned to complete darkness. Bill and I had left our camp about 8:30 in the morning and now found ourselves returning at about 10pm in total darkness.
Once off the 18 mile county-maintained dirt road, we began driving on a small sage brush lined wagon trail that would take us the 30 miles to our campsite at Mickey Basin. The only light came from our headlights.
I was glad Bill was driving, because even in daylight and with many side trails it was hard to find your way. After about five miles, Bill stopped and said he had made a wrong turn. I said, “Are you sure?” He said he was, because he could see the outline of a mountain to his right, and he was sure all mountains going to Mickey would be to his left. We turned around and drove back to a fork in the trail, and he turned to the left, and we were back on track. With more than 20 miles to go to our camp, Bill laughed and said we would not be lost again. Suddenly, something hit the side of the Subaru Wagon. Then, like a sudden rainstorm, jack rabbits began jumping in front of the car and hitting the sides in rapid succession. We stopped the car. Bill said that they must have been attracted by the lights. We started driving again and rabbits by the dozens continued to jump in front of the car and jump into the side of the car. Suddenly, a coyote jumped in front of the car and like the rabbits was killed instantly. Unbelievably this rampage of suicides continued for the next 10 minutes. I quit counting the hits after 75 and am sure the number of dead jack rabbits numbered closer to 100.
When we stopped next to Bill’s truck at the camp, the crew, who were waiting for us, saw the blood and rabbit hair in our bumper and grill. The Subaru would have to be run through a car wash for sure before I returned it at the airport. Everyone agreed that they had never heard of a freak of nature like this before. One for the books, for sure.
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