There are people alive in the world who are perfectly happy doing only one thing in their spare time. Serious golfers, for instance. I know of two who regularly hit the links seven days a week.

But golfers of that level of dedication, alien as they are, are not alone. Computer gamers are renowned for their near constant devotion to the sport. Even in the realm of outdoor activities there are fanatics. Some birdwatchers, fishermen, and hikers can’t stand to spend a day away from their favorite hobby.

Personally, I’ve been saved from the single-mindedness those people exhibit by the presence of what I refer to as a randomness gene. This genetic code makes it virtually impossible for me to spend a great deal of time doing any one thing.

Even the activities I love the most, hunting and fishing, begin to grow stale after a while. Once, while catching shad on every cast on the Umpqua River, my partners were amazed when I put down my rod and wandered down the bank, where I spent an hour trying to catch even more shad with my hands. I never quite pulled one out, but I shook hands with several and put an emphatic end to my boredom.

Sometimes I don’t even need a new activity; I can be perfectly happy exploring new country, or more accurately, just poking around. Last week, after two and a half days of chukar hunting in the high desert east of Burns, my partner and I thought the dogs needed a little rest so we decided to drive around a bit. In the interest of journalistic integrity, I should mention that we were both pretty tired as well.

We headed up into a previously unexplored canyon and were surprised to run into a beautiful, shaded section full of aspens, willows and pines, in addition to the more common sagebrush and junipers. A lovely little stream threaded its way down the draw and closer inspection showed the presence of four- to six-inch trout in the deeper sections.

Thousands of robins flitted through the trees, stopping in the female junipers to feast on the blue-gray berries which were present in greater numbers than either of us had ever seen before.

Further up the canyon, we happened on a nice forked horn mule deer buck. His gait and physical stance seemed to indicate general soreness, though there were no obvious indications of injury. Uncharacteristically, he seemed almost unaware of us, which we attributed to the rutting season, during which buck deer often trade their typical caution for interest in the opposite sex. A careful look through binoculars revealed a scrape along his left flank, probably inflicted by a larger competitor in their quest for female companionship. We decided that our buck was just recovering from a losing battle. Next year, when his rack expands to a three or four-point spread, he’ll be the one inflicting pain.

When we reached the top of the mountain, we were amazed to see that the entire ridgeline was covered by loose rocks, the size of my fist or smaller. A look at the sides of the ridge showed the loose rock was not just a surface phenomenon, but was many feet thick, possibly making up the entire top of the mountain.

How, we wondered, is all that loose rock deposited? Is it the result of the complete decomposition of what was once a large, solid rock face? Or were the loose rocks shoved upwards by volcanic action in their present state?

I’ll try to find the answer in the next few days, along with other questions that always seem to arise from a few hours of just poking around.

Pat Wray writes about the outdoors and can be reached at


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