I stopped at the Malheur NWR headquarters for information. I knew this time of year wasn’t prime for bird watching but I had seen so many birds at the Tule NWR, maybe there would be lots of birds here. I asked, “Do you recommend taking the auto tour?” Other visitors overheard me and answered my question with, “No way. It is a waste of time.” But on Saturday, I drove the south portion of the auto tour and throughly enjoying it.
The Steens Mountain seems like a huge ramp extending from Frenchglen to the sky. It is bigger than imaginable – a Jack In the Beanstalk fairytale size of ramp. It gently goes up and up and the Steen Loop road provides the path to drive.
I has vaguely heard about a canyon/gorge north of the Virgin Valley campground. I wasn’t sure how far the walk would be, so I made the sad decision to leave my old dog Rocket in the trailer. This was the first time I would leave him behind because of his age. I knew that on this trip he wouldn’t be able to go on all my walks so I reminded myself many times that it would be OK to leave him behind. I put Razzy on her leash and started to leave the trailer imagining there would be a fight by Rocket to leave too. Instead he seemed to tell me it was OK to be left behind, he jumped up onto the bed as I closed the door and Razzy and I left. Razzy and I enjoyed our walk but it seemed a bit incomplete without Rocket along.
The Thousand Creek Gorge that we found was amazing. Below are photos from the walk and then we drove to an overlook. I was amazed at the overlook. Four to five hundred feet of shear straight walls. I have never seen anything like this before. The photos don’t capture the aw from the overlook.
This is big country. Driving Hwy 140 you can see vast distances. By Sage Hen summit I could see the Steens to the north and the Pine Forest Range to the south with fresh snow on the top. It is a wonderful middle of nowhere type of place. In the valley of Guano Lake there were miles of grass land.
I came to the Lava Beds National Monument to see the caves and found so much more. The area is full of surprises, contradictions, and irony with a complicated history of war mixed in.
The geology of the lava tube caves was interesting but unexpectly it didn’t grab my interest. I felt an uneasyness as I ventured into the dark caves. And with my headlamp and a large flashlight both on, I couldn’t light up the cave to see the details of the rock. So I stopped visiting the caves and ventured out to see other sights I had heard about.
Driving south from Seattle to the Lava Beds NM gives one plenty of time to think about how to solve the world’s problems. I didn’t do that, I just zoned-out and drove. Smiling as I enjoyed the scenery. I had forgotten how pleasant the drive is between Biggs and Madras on Highway 97. Not much traffic and high plateau farming and ranching. At the north end are huge un-worldly wind turbines. Looking at them reminded me of all the marvelous things engineers have figured out. After a night spent at the Haystack Reservoir East Shore Campground I continued driving south. It was a rainy day, raining the entire way from Madras to Klamath Fall with low clouds. No scenery and lots of traffic. Ugh. The dogs and I needed to take a break and do something other than driving so we stopped at the Collier Memorial Logging Museum. What a pleasant surprise.
I had been wanting to go to the Gravelly Range for a few years. I was in the area last year but skipped it due to wild fires on the north end. This trip I would make it; however, not as planned. And the wildflowers… would my gamble on the dates picked to see the wildflowers pay off? I drove up the Warm Springs Road.