Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Steens Mountains!

Several weeks ago, Bill and I decided on a Thursday night that we were going to drive to the Steens mountains in SE Oregon on Friday after work. The Steens mountains are an Oregon treasure. They are far removed from the busier cities in Oregon, which keeps the area relatively empty and beautiful. Bill and I wanted to take a peek to see what all the fuss was about and we weren't disappointed. Well that's not true- we went too early in the summer and were unable to access the mountains themselves. Luckily, there was so much beauty on the drive there and directly surrounding the mountain range that we had plenty to see.

Our long weekend trip started out with a night and 1/2 day in Prineville, fly-fishing the Crooked River. It was lovely!
We packed in a hurry, which meant that I didn't pack cream or sugar for our morning coffee. Yuck! I had a plan though. I decided as long as I wore Bill's semi-cowboy hat, I could drink cowboy coffee.... Luckily it didn't put hair on my chest!
An interesting rock wall on the river.
Baby and Bill en route to a new fishing spot.

We left the Prineville area after fishing for a while and started our trek to through Burns and onto the Steens.
The drive to Burns is long and straight. We broke up the drive with little side trips up interesting roads and with a refreshment stop at this fine establishment.
Shortly after leaving Burns, you enter the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Without leaving the car, we were able to see ridiculous amounts of birds and an Antelope. Little did we know this was the beginning of several wildlife sightings we would have over the course of the weekend.

At the base of the Steens mountains sits the French Glen Hotel. We had been driving for a few hours with no humans to speak of and then arrived at this popular spot. Apparently, they serve a wonderful family-style dinner. Anxious to get to our final destination, we only stopped in to check it out quick. It was 'quaint and cozy' and worth checking out next time we are in the area.
To get to the base of the Steens, you have to drive for several miles on a dirt road through fields of flowers, trees and livestock.... lots of livestock..... some in the middle of the road.....
The views brought immediate relaxation.
Once we arrived at our campsite, it was apparent that we had stumbled into a fresh hatch. The bugs were Out Of Control! Luckily they didn't bite. They just liked to swarm above your head and car.
Baby seemed to be enjoying herself.

There is a bird in this picture. Can you see it?
It was a wonderful, starlit evening. I love being in the middle of nowhere.

The next day, we explored the land, hoping to find the Little Blitzen River full of fish. Unfortunately, it was pretty high and swift. Not the best conditions for fly-fishing. So, we packed up and decided to camp in another area.

Another antelope. These were my first, and hopefully not my last, antelope sightings.
The view from an abandoned shack that Bill wanted to move into, immediately.
The little shack came with pets and they were very interested in us.
The shack needed some attention. This birds nest was hanging from the ceiling in the main room. Super cool!
There she is: Bill's Home Sweet Home! The views were amazing, but the little house needed some TLC- and a roof without holes.
We stopped to observe the wild horses. It was hard to believe at first, but these horses were running around, enjoying themselves, and completely free! If you want to learn more about the 1,000 horses that are running free, click here .
After the wild horse viewing, we attempted to head towards the North part of the Steens mountain area. It was closed and we were sad. We had hoped to get closer to the mountains, but will have to go back during warmer days for that. This meant we needed a new plan. We decided to head towards the Strawberry Mountains, in search of fish. I had been there for a quick hike a few years back, but was interested in checking out John Day and the surrounding area.
We stopped to see the lava beds in the Malheur Reserve and we saw more birds. I love that place!That small structure in the middle of the picture is the famous Pete French Round Barn. We'll have to hit that up next time too.
We ended up driving north through John Day, and up to Magone Lake. There was still light, so Bill was quick to get suited and get his fly in the water. This lake had some beautiful fish and they were hungry!
This picture was taken about 10 minutes before he fell in. Oopsies. Thank goodness for warm campfires.
Baby dining by red headlamp light. She eats well when we camp....
Day 2 at Magone Lake: more fishing.
I even caught a few fish! I think I was more entertained by Bill's determination to fish from somewhat inaccessible fishing spots (notice him in the background)!
After catching several fish, he managed to get back to land without falling in this time.

We had a long drive home that day. It took us through the painted hills and the fossil beds. We stopped, but only long enough to realize that we needed an additional few days to explore those areas..... and it was about 105 degrees.
Stopped to snap a quick photo of this interesting tree next to the highway. I don't know the story behind it, but it was not something you see everyday.
Another great weekend adventure in the books.

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