A story by John Gaumer
On another trip, Tom and I left Red Bluff, California after school let out for the
summer. We were headed for eastern Oregon and Hart Mountain. We had heard
of a jasper location that we wanted to explore. Hart Mountain is a massive volcanic
rift. From the valley ﬂoor, it looms upward showing several basalt rim rock
outcroppings. We made our camp by an old cabin by a creek, and headed up the mountain.
The climb is daunting as the steep slopes are fanned with dangerously loose talus slides. The collecting was meager and a coffee can full of material was the measure of a successful trip. The jasper occurs as small to medium sized nodules and flat veins in the basalt.
It was years later on the side of the canyon that I almost lost my life. My
dad and I were exploring a basalt outcropping showing bug holes. I wanted to clean
out one of these ‘bubble holes’ in the face of the cliff when I had a sense of vertigo.
In reality, the whole face of the basalt rim was coming down on us. I turned from
the cliff face and gave my dad a hard shove to get him clear. Because my
momentum was with the falling rock, I was mostly spared. I woke to the
sound of my father calling “John”. Dust was everywhere and I had ended up ﬁfty
yards down the hill in the talus slide.
Bruised and bloodied, we made our way down the mountain to camp. I spent a
couple of days in the Lakeview hospital recovering, and my father had a broken
The talus slides on Hart Mountain are constantly being formed by the erosion of
the rock outcroppings. We hadn’t even touched the cliff when the slide caught me.
I was just standing there looking when it happened.