I was excited to see the Steens, a fault-block mountain of the basin and range geology, not like the volcanoes of the Cascade Mountains by my home. I had driven from the Hart Mountain Antelope Reserve and when I reached the valley rim above Frenchglen the Steens looked like a huge gentle giant of a hill that just kept going skyward. There was no clue that the backside abruptly drops to the Alvord valley.
I was headed to the BLM Page Springs campground; a campground that my boondocking brother had recommended. It must be nice if he recommended it. It was centrally located for exploring the vast area with a nice amount of space between each campsites. I found the campground a happy place with a comfy camp site that I settled into for a three night stay.
Heading north on Hwy 205 one day I explored the Diamond Crater area and the Round Barn. The Diamond Crater is an interesting interpretative site with each spot numbered and explained. The challenge for me was that the explanation for each numbered spot wasn’t at Diamond Crater. I found the interpretive pamphlet later in the day at the Round Barn. Here is a link to the pamphlet.
At the south end of the Steens is the Riddle Brothers ranch. A ranch locked in the past with little changed since the 1950s when the Riddle Brothers sold the ranch. I wandered around the ranch and found the doors unlocked allowing one to explore and discover on their own. There were no fancy interpretive signs explaining everything. You have to think to understand how the ranch operated. The place brought back memories from my youth camping with my parents. At each new place we visited, my brother and I would go off unsupervised, exploring the area and report our findings to my parents.
I never did make it to the top of the Steens. During my visit a cold front came through resulting in rain showers in the valleys and snow at the top of the Steens. Exploring the top and driving the loop would have to wait for a different trip.
- There is no NOAA weather radar that covers the area. Do not look at the doppler radar to check the weather. You may be surprised when it starts to rain and the doppler shows clear skies.
- When I visited the Riddle Ranch the gate was closed and it was a simple 1.5 mile walk into the ranch. During my visit at the ranch I didn’t see another person. Got to love the nowhere-ness of the location.
- For three nights I tried to have dinner at the Frenchglen Hotel and couldn’t get in. It is popular. Call ahead for reservations at 541-493-2825.
- There is a nice walk close to the campground that parallels a canal. Walk out of the campground, turn left and walk over the canal and then immediately turn right. Walk along a road that is closed for use.
- Gas at Frenchglen is really expensive.