Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Adios Alvord

The sun rises over the stark emptiness...
The morning sun's rays spread out over the white flats...
On our last morning on the Alvord, we were treated to a stunning sunrise. Or rather I was. My wife is not a morning person and was sleeping soundly while I took this photo shortly after 6 a.m.

Steens Mountain lights up in the early morning..
Steens Mountain glows with the sunrise...
To the west, Steens Mountain glowed orange as it was lit by the sun's rays. I went for a short hike along the 'shoreline' where I saw numerous jack rabbits. No doubt they are a major food source for the coyotes that had serenaded us the night before.

I don't know if we'll ever make it back here... there are so many other places to see on our bucket list but our times here will always remain one of our favourites.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Peaceful easy feeling

Gazing out over the Alvord Desert...
Despite the grey skies, the breeze was warm...
We live on Canada's West Coast. Our landscape is lush with snow-capped peaks, tall trees swaying in the wind, ocean waves sliding up or crashing over rocks and beaches... It's a colourful and often chaotic backdrop that we wouldn't trade for any other place on earth.

Nonetheless, we love the unchanging nature and wide open landscapes of places like the Alvord. For me, the visual simplicity of it is relaxing. Spiritually, it appeals to the minimalist within me.

I think the other appeal is that we were completely alone out there. It's getting harder and harder to find places where you can enjoy true solitude. Out here there were no other people, no cell phone coverage, no radio stations... All that...quiet...gives you a chance to reflect and recharge.

Skies of bluest blue over the Alvord Desert...
A vast and empty expanse...

Friday, October 25, 2019

Windy Wickaninnish...

Windy Wickaninnish beach...
Wild and windy Wichaninnish Beach...
During a recent surf trip to Tofino, I spent an hour or so flying my kite on a particularly windy day. It was so windy that I was frequently pulled through the beach sand no matter how much I tried to resist.

No resisting that wind!
Resistance is futile!
I managed to get some air time in though.

Getting air with the high winds at Tofino...
Up and away!


Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Alvord: The Unstuckening

Thanking our desert rescuer...
Matt was the man! Rescue accomplished.
After sleeping in the desert overnight during a howling wind storm, we used our binoculars in the morning to locate our trailer about three miles distant. We were relieved to see that it had survived the storm unscathed. Based on our previous visit to the desert, I had taken the precaution of lashing down the roof with extra lines.

Fortunately, our small travel bikes were in the trailer with us. My wife bravely set out on a bike to get help, while I remained with the trailer to have another stab at digging it out. Periodically, I would watch my wife's progress with the binos until she was too far to discern.

She returned about eighty minutes later with Jeremy from Salt Lake City who just happened to be camping nearby with his daughters in his van on the desert. He made a valiant effort to pull us out but when he risked digging in his van into the soft sand, I called it off.

Jeremy drove us to a nearby farm where it turned out the owners had a bit of a side business rescuing people in our situation. The total cost, they explained, would be $150 US (about $200 Canadian). That was a hit to our wallet, but not nearly as much as the $800 it would have cost to have a tow truck come from the nearest town two hours away.

We sucked it up, paid the bill, and in no time at all our rescuer Matt had us pulled out of the sand. He was a pretty interesting guy to talk to. His tales of growing up and living 'off the grid' in that part of the state were entertaining and eye-opening. For example, he mentioned that just going out on a simple date involved either a two-hour trip to the nearest town -- a small town with not much to offer -- or a four-hour drive to the big city of Boise, Idaho!

The trench we left behind...
Leaving our mark in the desert...

Friday, October 18, 2019

Alvord: The Stuckening

Stuck in the sand...
By dawn's early light...
Our first night on the desert, we thought it would be fun to drive across the desert at night... maybe do some donuts with no fear of hitting anything.

Big mistake...

We paused at one point to take some photos of small plants growing out of the white mud. When we started the van to get going again, we ended up sinking the front tires of the van into the soft sand. Eventually the van bottomed out so that the tires were spinning uselessly in the air.

In the pitch dark we didn't dare risk trying to hike back to our trailer. The odds were pretty good that we would end up hopelessly lost. So we settled in for the night in the van.

It was a rough sleep as temperatures dropped throughout the night. At dawn we awoke to survey our predicament.

What happened next? Stay tuned...

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Alvord: Part 1

Approaching Oregon's Alvord Desert...
The expanse of the Alvord Desert...
About three years ago, we camped on Oregon's Alvord Desert, and knew then that we wanted to return. At that time, wildfire smoke hung heavy over the landscape. This time though, skies were clear and the scenery was fantastic to see.

The first night we were there, winds were high. That's the reason that the Alvord is popular with lovers of wind sports, such as landboarding. Like the proverbial Boy Scout, I came prepared for this possibility with extra lines to keep our trailer roof securely tied down.

Sunset on the Alvord Desert...
The sun sets over the hills to the west...



Monday, October 14, 2019

Steens Mountain

One of Steens Mountain's breathtaking vistas...
Steens Mountain is actually just one mountain, although to my eye it looks like a range of peaks. Who decides such things anyway?

It rises to about ten thousand feet at its peak and offers panoramic views of Oregon's south-east landscape.

The Alvord desert seen from on high...
The Alvord desert in the distance...

Friday, October 11, 2019

Diamond Craters

One of a dozen Diamond Craters...
Craters but no jewels...
A bit off the main road, we came across the Diamond Craters on the way to south-east Oregon.

The craters -- there are about a dozen of them -- aren't marked very well and they don't stand out from the landscape until you are at the edge of them looking down into the pit.

They aren't the product of meteors though. These craters are the result of ancient volcanic activity.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

The End

End of the trail for hikers...
This isn't a good sign!
In the intense mid-day heat of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, this sign had an ominous overtone...

Rock formations at John Day...
Some of the dramatic landscapes at John Day...

Monday, October 7, 2019

John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

Approaching Cathedral Rock...
Cathedral Rock
Continuing further east of the Painted Hills, you'll come across the harsh landscapes of the John Day Fossil Bed National Monument.

On the day we hiked these trails the temperatures hit 37 degrees C, or 98 degrees F. But it was a dry heat so it was (barely) bearable.

Taking a break from the heat...
Trying not to wilt in the heat...



Friday, October 4, 2019

Painted Hills

Oregon's Painted Hills...
Hues of yellow and red...
Oregon's landscape changes dramatically as you head in from the coast. East of Prineville, you'll find starkly beautiful landscapes such as the Painted Hills.

Oregon's Painted Hills...
Bands of rust and tan on the sides of the Painted Hills...



Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Back in black

Surfing at Vancouver Island's Jordan River...
Warm weather and warm water...
Surf season is slowly starting again off the south end of Vancouver Island...

Carving left on a small wave...
Pulling to the left on a wave...