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Old 05-29-2019, 10:12 PM   #1
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Road Trip: Steens Mountain and Malheur NWR

All the years Iíve lived in Oregon Iíve wanted to take this trip and finally did this Memorial Day weekend. 853 miles RT from Portland. Left on Friday morning, back on Monday evening. About 5 1/2 hrs to Burns, where we stayed at a decent Best Western-type Inn.

Our Garmin track:



Really enjoyed driving that Route 20 to Burns. Such big country! The next couple of days we drove 30 miles to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Gorgeous grounds and glad to see it all cleaned up after the big hoopla out there. You can get a CD auto tour from the nature store, great for guiding us through the Refuge. Itís quite a few miles, so we broke it into two separate days. The weather was nice and cool and we had a couple of rain and lightening storms while we were out. Whew! Iíve never seen anything like that gigantic sky lighting up with no buildings, no mountains, nothing to obstruct your view.




Word of caution on traveling the Refuge road after a spate of recent rain storms. Every river (the Blitzen mostly), every creek, every marsh, every field was drenched to the gills. Who knew the desert could transform like that? The little gravel refuge road, in some spots barely wider than the van, sat up proud of the water on either side by only a couple of feet. I tried not to rubberneck too much for fear of winding up in the drink. Of course, there were those obstinate souls who insisted on driving through the wrong way. Since I didnít care to test the flotation capabilities of a 7500lb van, I mostly made their little cars go around me. Maybe your Subaru floats?






We saw the most spectacular birds in colors Iíve never seen. What a place! We got some great photos, though the mosquitoes were swarming like mad. So glad to have a van for easy access to our food, take a rest or potty break, and not have to go out and feed my body to those skeeters. We returned to Burns via back roads up to route 78. Great loop, great scenery.





Some great taxidermy of Refuge species in the museum:




The second day, after traveling the bottom half of the Refuge, we visited Frenchglen, a town with a bustling 1916 hotel in the middle of nowhere. They were filled up for the weekend with birders from all over.




After Frenchglen, we traveled the couple of miles up the Steens Mountain Loop Road. Unfortunately, the gate to the top was locked due to still-snowy conditions. So we checked out the Page Springs campground instead. One of the nicest BLM campgrounds Iíve seen. At $8 a night/$4 for seniors, you canít beat it. Water and electric hookups and lots of nice trees to keep out the desert sun.




Saw this at the Hot Springs Campground in Crane:




In closing, I canít say enough good things about my Garmin In-Reach Explorer+. I love the way it tracks without a glitch and I always know where I am on the map. Iíve dedicated my older IPad to mapping and enjoy the real-time tracking. So easy to zoom in on the IPad.



But Iíll also recommend the companion to an app lots of folks here use, ďYou Need a MapĒ. I downloaded their Scenic Maps app Western USA to the IPad so I can both plan on it ahead and use it as a highly detailed map in the field. Iím really impressed with the level of detail and it got us going right at several gravel intersections where it wasnít at all clear which way to go.




We sure enjoyed this trip. Though we really wanted to see the Alvord Desert on the other side of Steens, it would have added several hundred miles to an already mile-stuffed long weekend. Next time!



.
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Old 05-30-2019, 12:15 AM   #2
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We traveled down to the Fields/Alvord side of the Steens over the weekend and were amazed at how green things were. I typically only venture this direction in the fall so it was a treat to see the desert vegetation so lush.

Glad you had a good trip!
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Old 05-30-2019, 08:05 AM   #3
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Rockbender, thanks, so right about the lushness. There was water everywhere!

And it looks like we dodged a bullet. Saw this weather report today. Funny, tho... as we drove along the narrow refuge trail, I kept commenting how it seemed rather precarious with water on both sides just a foot or two down and rain falling lightly. But no one else seemed to think anything of it, including the Refuge Director, who was taking a van group out that day. I was like, “The sky looks like it’s going to open up. Is it safe out on that trail?” Her response, “Oh, sure, it’s fine.” I admit my safety antennae are a bit sensitive but sometimes wonder if I’m just old enough to have experienced one too many disasters... Even 4WD won’t get you out of the middle of a ten-mile lake.
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Old 05-30-2019, 02:57 PM   #4
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Cool trip, looks like fun. Thanks for posting.
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Old 05-30-2019, 03:34 PM   #5
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Been thinking about heading out there soon and this certainly is motivation. Thanks for the write up and pictures!
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Old 05-30-2019, 05:02 PM   #6
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We were in that area October last year and September two years before. The loop road over the Steens was open but never made it to the top. To much snow. The refuge was still closed for repairs then after its occupation by the Bundy group. Is is a beautiful area. We will be back there another time. Glad you enjoyed your trip.
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Old 05-30-2019, 05:26 PM   #7
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Looks like a great trip, makes me sad I am in Ohio and so far from some of that cool out west stuff! Thanks for the tip on "you need a map", it is downloading on my ipad right now. Also, what do you have your ipad mounted on? Thanks.
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Old 05-30-2019, 06:47 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yonan View Post
Looks like a great trip, makes me sad I am in Ohio and so far from some of that cool out west stuff! Thanks for the tip on "you need a map", it is downloading on my ipad right now. Also, what do you have your ipad mounted on? Thanks.
-Nancy
Hi Nancy. It's mounted on my ProClip system, which I really love. I have a mount that allows me to quickly switch out my phone holder and ipad holder. It's great. Here's a link:

https://www.proclipusa.com/product/5...th-tilt-swivel

You'll enjoy that map, too. I recommend buying their Scenic Map upgrade, it has a lot more detail. They have a West, Midwest, and East map. I bought all three in a promo deal.
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Old 05-30-2019, 06:49 PM   #9
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Thanks, Marret!

WhitH, yes, you need to go. Quick trip straight from Eugene!
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Old 05-30-2019, 06:52 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by larrie View Post
We were in that area October last year and September two years before. The loop road over the Steens was open but never made it to the top. To much snow. The refuge was still closed for repairs then after its occupation by the Bundy group. Is is a beautiful area. We will be back there another time. Glad you enjoyed your trip.
Wow, Larrie. Still too much snow in September! One day I'll get to see that view.

My only regret this trip is that we didn't have one more day to take that north to southeast ride on the Alvord Desert side. I'm kind of fascinated with it but it was just too much mileage, too little time.
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