Art by mail: The great American road trip

Message on postcard:
Hello Todd! This is Mike, reporting from near the end of my roadtrip at Steens Mountain, Oregon. It’s a good day. I got up before dawn and watched the sunrise from near the 9,700-foot summit of Steens Mountain. In the east the sky went from black to dark purple to orange, and once the sun peeked over the horizon I watched the mountain’s long shadow recede across Catlow Valley.

Steens Mountain stands about 5,000 feet above the surrounding desert, and out near the western horizon is Hart Mountain, maybe fifty miles off, although the Abert Rim is visible beyond it. The shadow receded across the valley at probably sixty miles per hour or so. Just uphill from me is the very top of Steens Mountain; it’s a rocky outcropping with some small radio towers on it. (Incidentally, I get great cell reception up here.)

I heard a rock crash while watching the sun come up, and that’s when I saw a huge bighorn sheep staring over the ledge. Pretty soon he was joined by another, and eventually I was looking at five or six bighorn sheep — they were far enough off that my photos of them look more like bigfoot than a sheep, and they blend in surprisingly well among the rocks.

One was a baby — or at least young — sheep, and two of the adults briefly locked horns at one point. I watched them for about an hour while they descended through the rocks and grazed on vegetation too sparse to see. This is a neat place. Yesterday, while overlooking a gorge on the mountain, I met a guy who told me about his fighter pilot nephew, who supposedly enjoyed doing inverted fly-throughs of said gorge on training flights. Wow.

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