Washboard wanderings

South Steens Loop is washboard. Miles of washboard. Faster speeds smooth it out.

We saw 39 of the South Steens horses today!

The first group was less than a mile from the turnoff onto South Steens Loop.

Watching us warily
This group crossed the road in front of us. Seven horses, including cremellos.

Crossing the Blitzen River moved us out of horse country

The scenery is gorgeous and changes dramatically around every turn. Amazing.

The Riddle Brothers built their ranch in the most beautiful valley ever

Just before the South Steens Campground is the turnoff to the Riddle Brothers Ranch. If you’re ever in the area, take this turn. You can drive to the gate every day and beyond it to the ranch house Wednesday through Sunday. It was Tuesday, so we walked in to the spectacularly beautiful valley. A gap in the Steens frames the backside. A stream runs through it. Gorgeous.

One of the informational signs on the gate included a picture of the Riddle Brothers and some guests. How did anyone even know where they were? How did they get here to visit? I think it would take several days on horses. This beautiful spot is remote, remote, remote.

Gorgeous gorges


So MUCH wind at the summit. I kept trying to unlock my door, then realized it was unlocked. The wind was holding it closed.

We decided not to get out of the car. The walk to the actual summit will have to wait for a return trip. I could not even imagine being on the brink of the escarpment in that wind.

What a Wonderful World

We’ve been singing “What a Wonderful World” every evening since March 29. It’s my way of reassuring myself amidst the pandemic. We always sing outdoors, usually from our front porch (sometimes our neighbors come out to wave). This is day 198.

The last couple nights, I’ve walked down to the river and sang solo to the dark. Tonight Bill joined me and our singing spot was near the campfire.

It is truly a WONDERFUL WORLD!

In search of wild horses

Sun on rimrock, mild temperature, and wind. Perfect day to head out in search of wild horses

We had to pause for a couple of cows crossing the highway and a bit further on for a bevy of quail. In a roadside field a cowboy on horseback was moving some cows toward a trailer. Harney County.

The BLM office in Hines was closed. Columbus Day. I forgot that our federal government still celebrates the beginning of the massacre of this continent’s indigenous peoples…and I can’t buy the map I want.

The BLM wild horse corrals just to the west were open. Horses eat every day. There’s always controversy around managing wild horse and burro populations.  It’s worth cruising the web to find out about. They did have a (small) paper map and a helpful guy. Palomino Butte here we come.

Hang a left at Double 00 Ranch road and start looking. Not far in we saw a single horse on one side,  then a group on the other. Seems too easy.

Nice country,  but no more horses. We had no idea how long the road was or where it would pop us out. Enough.  Enjoyed the same group on the way out.

The BLM guy cautioned against Kiger and Riddle Mountain–bad roads. I wanted to find a Kiger Mustang. We headed toward Diamond taking the route through Malheur.

Hey! The other end of Double 00 road is just before Sodhouse Lane and the turn to Malheur Headquarters.

The headquarters were closed (did I mention Columbus Day),  but the lovely bathrooms were open. Canada Geese and wigeons were on the pond.  Well worth the stop.

We took the Happy Valley route and found Kiger Wild Horse Viewing Road. Even if there are no horses, wow!

Juniper skeleton

The road skirts the end of a rimrock box canyon. Just a short jaunt from the car, basalt pillars, rusty wire, and the spine of some largish mammal, one pillar separated from the rest. Right out of Zane Grey. As we approached some very large crows exited the canyon straight up. Too cool.

Freya got a little test. The road was dirt, stone, and ruts. Wouldn’t have been too bad if someone hadn’t driven it when the mud was a foot deep. Freya did well.

And…we found horses!

and pronghorn. I love pronghorn.

About 7 miles in we headed back out. Back past the hunting camp, the bluebirds, the beautiful Juniper, and the sage. Back over the ruts, rocks, and washouts. Wish I knew how far to the overlook. Wish I was certain we took the correct tine of each fork. (My map didn’t show any forks or distances.)

Stars, planets, shooting stars. Pretty perfect.

Drying out our soggy affairs

Mattress, mattress pad, sheets,  and blanket still soggy.

We did stay warm and get some sleep, Me more than Bill. Good thing we had three car blankets. They shielded us from the worst of the damp.

The forecast is much better today and we have a plan.

After bagels, smoked salmon, cream cheese, onion, and capers… with Batdorf and Bronson coffee! We spread the car blankets out in Freya, clamped soggy bedding to our little above bed shelf, opened B Horatio’s vent and windows, locked his doors and headed up North Steens Mountain Drive.

We weren’t ignoring the problem, we we’re reconoitering. Our original plan before the deluge and truck joust was to camp up Steens Mountain at Fish Lake Campground.

We’re off to check out Fish Lake before hauling  Brave Horatio up to over 7,000 feet on a nice, but gravel road.

Steens Mountain is amazing in October. The Quaking Aspen are in various stages of decidging (my son’s very useful word). They were bright white and gold. Junipers and sage and bitter brush and who knows what. A tapestry of muted vibrancy.

Fish Lake looks great. We’ll come camp some late spring. A skiff of snow made our decision for us. We explored a little further and turned around.

It’s Sunday and lots of folks headed out. We moved to spot 6, near the river, in the sun, and — most important — graced with some well spaced trees.

We strung line and had soggy bedding hung out wicked quick. Looked a little like the Clampett’s, but we’ll sleep dry tonight!

We left thing drying out in camp and ducked into French Glenn for firewood and toothpaste then spent a couple hours driving Malheur’s Center Line road.

We discovered a great new way to make the bed, walked to a beautiful spring on the Blitzen River Trail, had a roaring good campfire and roaring hot chili and tucked into our dry, warm nest.

And we didn’t die!

We planned to spend September 2020 visiting friends in Perth (Hi, Jane and Tom) and borrowing their campervan for a trip up the west coast to Karijini National Park.

The world had other plans.

My stint with the Department of Health’s Covid-19 case investigation/contact tracing team ended in September so we decided to camp for a week somewhere remote and uncrowded.  Steens Mountain here we come!

We did our final packing at 5:30 am in the rain. It was predicted and unpleasant.

If the rest of the week follows the forecasts, today will be our only aquacamping day. Fingers crossed.

Freya’s brand new, all-weather tires are an unexpected disappointment. We hydroplaned a LOT down I-5. The tires did not track at all. Skittering and slipping on the freeway wakes you up right quick. Something to discuss with Honda when we get back.

A quick stop in Sandy for gas and cocoa and we headed up and up and up Mt. Hood then down and down and down. Out of the Doug Fir and into Ponderosa and Quakies.

On the Warm Springs flat the rain let up. Looking across the the rocky prairie to the sunkissed hills–gorgeous. Mill Creek Gorge–gorgeous. All that rimrock–so gorgeous.


Oh, holy hell!

About 30 miles from Bend we’re driving along on 97 approaching a wide, flat, paved intersection when an old truck just starts crossing the highway in front of us…not nearly far enough in front. It’s heading right at us.

Can’t slow down, we’d be toast.  Luckily the pavement was dry. Luckily their was no oncoming traffic in the two opposing lanes. Luckily the highway was wide enough. Luckily Bill can think and act quickly.

Bill swerved way out into the oncoming lanes as the truck just kept crossing the highway. No reaction from the driver…I don’t think they noticed our fairly large rig pulling a small, but noticeable trailer. I think we cleared that truck by about 3 feet.

We moved into the slow lane, hearts beating. As people passed us, they smiled in disbelief and offered emphatic thumbs up.

I’m glad we’re not dead. I’m glad our adventure didn’t end with tow trucks and rental cars. I’m glad Brave Horatio follows along so closely.

Life goes on

Stopped for take-out lunch at Life and Times in Bend then through another heavy rain storm and off across the Western Juniper plains of highway 20.

Pulled into Page Springs Campground about 5:30. Raining off and on. Only one spot left (Hooray, 1 spot left!) Discovered that Freya also needs larger mud flaps. Poor Brave Horatio was a little bit drowned.

Ate beans and weenies in the car. Made a plan to allow some sleep on soggy bedding. Not the best camp evening ever.

Found a beautiful spot for our 195th evening singing “What a Wonderful World”