Solitude in Southeast Oregon - Adam McKibben

Solitude in Southeast Oregon

The Alvord Desert

Chloe and I had heard about the Alvord Desert and Steens Mountain from our friend who recently took a trip there. From what he told us, it sounded like we had to go see it for ourselves. After driving hours through the Oregon desert, (no, Oregon isn’t all lush greenery and waterfalls) we were greeted by shimmering salt flats bordered by towering mountains.

The Alvord looked like something out of a movie. A spot that only gets 7 inches of rain every year, this place was as barren and lifeless as they come. Because it is so flat and dry, you’re able to drive your vehicles across the Alvord playa without worry of jarring bumps or holes.

When we arrived, we immediately drove out onto the playa to run around and take pictures. Kona was just as excited as we were to experience this vast emptiness and solitude.

Shorty after running around, we set up camp and began to cook some dinner. The gusting wind made set up and cooking a little difficult, but not impossible.

As sun began to set, the Alvord took on a whole different personality. It went from being a bright sheet of flat dirt, to a dramatic landscape filled with texture, shadows and vibrant color.

We were hoping to do some star gazing that night, but the clouds ended that plan. The clouds, however, actually added some welcomed depth to the sunset pictures and turned out to be a blessing since we were most likely too tired to stay up watching the stars anyways.

After a night of whipping winds and howling coyotes, we woke up to a perfectly still and clear sunrise. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip. Our eyes were heavy and we were craving the morning’s coffee, but it was all worth it to catch the start of the day. The hues were unreal and the sun slowly began to warm our bodies as we were grateful to be in such an isolated landscape.

The next day we explored a nearby area called Hart Mountain. This place is a National Antelope Refuge and is home to thousands of species of wildlife (mainly birds). We hiked around for most of the afternoon and discovered hidden waterfalls. We even managed to find a very old, and slightly creepy, homestead not too far from our campsite. There was even an old outhouse flipped on it’s side in the neighboring field.

That night we watched sunset over the desert and sat by the fire waiting for the stars to come out. At first they appeared one by one. And then, we blinked and it seemed like the sky was filled with thousands of stars, some still while others shooting. Being the early to bed early to rise type, we managed to stay up just late enough to catch some star photos before our bodies decided it was time to sleep.

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