Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Barbies Adventures: Southeast Oregon

Barbie’s latest adventure takes her to Southeast Oregon, one of the most remote and non‐touristy areas of the state.  This trip didn't feature lush hotels, amazing restaurants, and flashy places of interest. This vacation was everything but that!

Pulling a house on wheels behind a 4x4 pickup, Barbie saw the most amazing scenery, an abundance of beautiful wild flowers,

Beautiful Desert Flowers

and a variety of wildlife in their natural habitat. The tasty well planned home cooked meals and every comfort possible in a 23 foot travel trailer made this "mans" trip possible! 
And wild animals

The first four nights were spent exploring Frenchglen, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, and the magnificent Steen’s Mountains.  Even though the Mosquitoes were early (usually unbearable in late June and July), that didn't stop any exploring. 

There were so many varieties of beautiful birds, too many to count, including a Golden Eagle that was sunning himself in the middle of the road (unfortunately, so amazed by the beauty of this majestic bird, no one thought to grab their camera!).   

A few of the many birds that can be found in the area

Much of the trip consisted of driving on gravel roads, through teeny tiny towns, gawking at the rim rock, or just waiting patiently for cows and their calves to yield the right of way. In this part of the country cattle share the road (open range) with vehicles. Every turn brought something unexpected, but very special. 

Cows roaming freely down the road

The next two nights were spent at Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge, which was established in 1936. Once on the refuge it didn't take long to spot pronghorns (antelope) roaming in a wide open desert that consisted mostly of sage brush, with a backdrop of rolling hills and Hart Mountain looming above.  This is definitely "big sky" country! 

Pronghorns (antelope) at Hart Mountain

The house on wheels parked at a primitive camp spot that had two wonderful hot springs. The mosquitoes weren't much of an issue at this higher elevation, so it was a great time to do a little exploring on mountain bikes as well as some hiking.  Each day ended with a dip in the 100 degree water bubbling from below into the developed hot spring at Hot Springs campground.  The second spring is undeveloped and was almost too warm to linger very long, so Barbie just dangled her feet there. 

Developed and Undeveloped Hot Springs at Hot Springs campground

You also couldn’t help but notice the comprehensive sign posted at the campground which detailed best practices in case of a rattlesnake bite.

Here's a smaller rattlesnake that was spotted on a hike.

The final leg of this journey consisted of driving down the other side of Hart Mountain, which was very steep and curvy.  The truck and trailer crept the last 2 miles, until it was safely off the slope.  After going through a lot of sage brush and farm land, still more small towns and a stop in Lakeview for gas, Barbie visited Fort Rock, a volcanic crater out in the middle of nowhere, for additional sightseeing.  

Fort Rock

The day ended in beautiful La Pine State Park in Central Oregon, which is nestled on the banks of the Deschutes River.  This is where the trailer parked for the final two nights of this fascinating journey.

La Pine State Park:  Barbie sitting in front of Big Tree, the largest
Ponderous Pine in circumference in Oregon (28 feet, 11 inches).
It is 162 Feet tall and 500 years old.

The region around La Pine has so many choices for each day, but the one place that’s a must is Newberry National Volcanic Monument.  Besides all the hiking, biking, fishing and boating that's available, the area has many interesting places to see. 

There is Paulina Lake and East Lake, both located at an elevation of over 6300 feet. Nearby is Lava River Cave.  At one mile it’s the longest lava tube cave in Oregon.   At Lava Lands Visitor Center you can drive to the top of Lava Butte Cinder Cone (5020 feet), or if you want to go even higher in elevation, you can drive to Paulina Peak (7984 feet), but it’s a very narrow and unimproved road.  Both offer very impressive views.  Another highlight is Big Obsidian Flow, which has over 170 million cubic yards of obsidian and pumice, and is the youngest lava flow in Oregon (1,300 years old).  It’s amazing to see the vast amount of obsidian piled up in one place.  If you like waterfalls, there are two completely different ones; Paulina Falls and Benham Falls, which are breathtaking and worth the short hike to each.  Newberry Volcano is the largest volcano in the Cascade Range, and there is much more to see than you will have time for in one entire day.

Newberry National Volcanic Monument  

Exploring unconventional places can be one of the most relaxing, interesting, and truly memorable vacations.

Happy exploring!


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