Thursday, May 28, 2009

Next Adventure - Steens Mtns

I will be out of town May 30 - June 7 to the Steens Mtns wilderness area.

The Steens area has long been one of my favorite mystical places. It really gives a good feeling of quiet and wide open spaces and once up in the elevations, panoramic views.
I try to visit there every so many years although it seems to have averaged once each decade.  I love getting out into a sparsely populated area and the Steens fits the bill in spades.   Down in the farthest reaches of SE Oregon, the Steens is only open to motorized vehicles in the summer months.  The mountain range is a fault block.  I can still remember my confusion the first time we drove there, gaining elevation, the map saying we were very close, the road dropping to a primitive dirt and boulders, but yet to see any mountain. Until we got to the top, the highest place that you can drive to in Oregon at 9700'. I got out of the truck, walked over to what was an edge of the world with a mile drop to the Alvord desert below. The suction of vertigo that over came me was tremendous. I had to stop and practically crawl to the edge to look down. Oh my! Amazing! I've read that on a clear day one can see...not forever, but almost as good, five states.  A sunrise is spectacular.  
There still remains vestiges of the old west in the Steens area and a rich history of turn of the nineteenth century ranches. It is open range, primitive and wild. There is a large wildlife refuge down at the northern end towards Burns. An old wooden round barn built by rancher Peter French is a favorite side attraction to be found seemingly in the middle of nowhere. The area is so remote that bands of wild horses thrive along with a variety of birds of prey, antelope, mountain bluebirds and I hear tell Mountain Goats, though I have not seen those personally. Nor have I seen the rattle snakes purported to be in the area and I would like to keep it that way.
Of course I will be taking my cameras and we will be doing our best to find those ponies.

The image above was taken in April 2009 on my way back from the FEI World Cup in Vegas.  A round about tour of Nevada's less traveled highways yielded this small band of wild burros spotted from the road, up near the Oregon border.  They allowed us quite a point.  Once I walked to the side and behind the band, they moved away from us and gave me this image with the dust illuminated by a setting sun.  

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