Tag Archives: eastern oregon

7 wonders of Oregon

19 Jul

My home state has to be one of the best, if not THE best! We have 7 wonders…and then some!

I was just on a 1,000 mile road trip with a new friend to a new place. We went down to the Alvord Desert in southwestern Oregon. It was incredible, but not on the official Travel Oregon roster for the 7 wonders. But, really you can’t put all of Oregon on the list.

You can read all about the drive and experience on the Alvord Desert and see pictures in my last post.

Oregon’s desert hot springs

After watching the sun rise above the desert we went to relax in the Alvord Hot Springs. There’s a small $5 fee to go in but the views are great. You are sitting in this hot pool overlooking the desert on one side and looking up at Steens Mountain on the other. This is also a place you can camp if you don’t want to rough it without a toilet or fire pit. They also offer a private access road to the desert from the camp and a day use area for hiking.

When we were done soaking up the beauty and warm water we drove around the mountains and up to the top. It’s a rough gravel road but we made it to enjoy the view of the desert from 9,733 feet (the Alvord Desert at elevation of about 4,200 feet, that’s why it’s called high desert).

Alvord from Steens

 

Steens Mountain to Painted Hills

From the mountain we headed North to see the Painted Hills. My friend had never been there and we knew that if we timed it right we could make it by sunset. If we camped near by we could also do sunrise. Two of my favorite times of day. The world is so quiet and the light is just right for photos. Everything glows and looks so beautiful. when taking photos during mid day everything can get so washed out with the harsh light or provides weird shadows, especially on people.

We lucked out when we arrived before sunset to see the moon rising above the gorgeous Painted Hills. No camera tricks here, these hills actually look like this. The light changes slightly, but they are always amazing.

Painted Hills at Sunset

 

Painted Hills to Smith Rock

A short distance from the Painted Hills and pretty much on the drive home, is Smith Rock. Another of Oregon’s official wonders. It’s a great place for camping and hiking but we didn’t get to do either as we were pretty much exhausted from driving and playing for two days in the desert. We were ready get home and shower.

Smith Rock Sisters

 

Mt Hood

On the way home from Smith Rock you get awesome views of Hood and after a short drive (and/or hike) you can have even better views. I just wish it weren’t so warm this year. The snow melt is way ahead of schedule. The plus side is that wildflower season was happening when I was up there. (Photo taken from the PCT trail — a short hike from Timberline Lodge)

Wild Hood

 

Columbia River Gorge

Another of Oregon’s wonders that didn’t make our road trip this time but I go up there quite a lot is the Columbia River Gorge. It’s cool on warm summer days and stays green year round. I love all the shades of green that you can see in the gorge. The waterfalls aren’t half bad either.

Latourelle Falls

 

Oregon Coast

The place where I’ve spent many years of my life, the Oregon Coast. We don’t call it a beach or beaches because it’s not really warm enough year round to hang out and get in the water but it’s still pretty special. It has some of the most picturesque places with all the rocks and trees. The wildflowers are nice too, when you can catch them.

Beach textures

 

Crater Lake

Crater Lake is another FANTASTIC wonder that you must see. The blue color of the lake is unreal. This place really is our #1 wonder! Well, that’s my opinion anyway.

Picture 070

The last official wonder is one that I have never been to but I hope to go soon. I’ll let you know about it when I get there but in case you want to go before me it’s in NE Oregon, the Wallowa’s.

UPDATE: I went to the Wallowas and it’s incredible!

If you like what you see, I sell prints of my photos. I have thousands (some on Flickr, some on my business website)!  You can also follow my daily adventures on Instagram. I post tons of photos from around the world. I’m also pretty active on Twitter.

I hope you enjoyed looking at the photos as much as I enjoyed taking them and sharing my home state’s beauty.

Cheers!

 

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Exploring Oregon’s high desert

7 Jul

Last year, I didn’t travel internationally at all. This year I went to Africa. When I’m not traveling internationally I am trying to see more of the United States and my home state of Oregon. There is so much to see and do in Oregon that my wanderlust is often quenched just by driving an hour or two.

Recently, I went to the desert. Yes, it’s not all trees and rain in Oregon. In fact more than half of the state is pretty dry and desert like. But there is actually a desert depending on your technical definition. This was a recent discovery of mine. Once I found out about the Oregon desert, I obsessed about going. I had to find a time in my schedule to go and I preferred to go soon. I found someone that wanted to go with me and we began planning the trip. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out so well, as life sometimes does. A few days before the trip my friend was canceling due to a family emergency. So I put a last minute call out to a new friend of mine. She is visiting from Australia and loves photography. You know what? She said yes! The next day we set off on our 7.5 hour road trip.

I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before: if you want something to happen you just have to ask or as Nike would say, Just Do It. Get outside your comfort zone and go for it.

On the road

We didn’t stop much for pictures until we were almost close to our destination. We just couldn’t help it with these colors and the open road. I love contrasting colors of nature and playing with perspective.

High Desert Road

Then, we came around a bend to this sight (below). We just had to stop for another photo of the storm that we were driving into. I thought, hey, what the heck, my car needs a bath. But first, a photo!

On The Road with Zoe

We drove slowly through the rain storm. We couldn’t even see the road, much less the desert we were looking for. Once the clouds parted my car looked like it went through a car wash, so that was a plus. A few more miles and we were close to our destination, yet we couldn’t figure out how to get on the desert. With some help from our new friend Rose, we found the way.

It’s really super cool to drive out on completely flat land in the middle of nowhere. It was even better to see the remains of the storm pass around the other side of the desert, somehow, leaving it as dry and cracked as ever.

Desert Rainbows

I did feel a bit guilty as my car did leave a small “footprint”. I try so hard to be a good steward to the environment and not leave any marks. However, the desert is about 6 miles wide and 11 miles long so I wasn’t going to walk the whole thing. I really wanted to explore and knew that driving on it was allowed. I thought about running the whole thing but in 100 degree heat I didn’t think that was too advisable without a lot of water.

There is a tiny lake that is left on the desert from winter. You shouldn’t drive too close to it or your car will likely get stuck in the mud. You can see in the photo where the wet desert meets the dry desert. To me, it’s a nice yin and yang.

Desert Yin Yang

This was one of the most phenomenal sunsets I’ve ever seen. It was everywhere. All around. Literally something to look at 360 degrees. I did’t know where to look and when. It was absolute perfection.

Where do you camp in the desert?

Anywhere you want, so why not the middle? That was my choice. If this was my once in a lifetime chance to camp in the middle of a playa I was going to take it and you know what, it was totally worth it. The silence is so silent. The only time I’ve ever been in such a silent place was skydiving, the moment after you open the shoot and before you get close to the ground. You could hear a pin drop from a mile away. In the desert that pin was a mosquito. You could hear them flying at you like no place I’ve ever been to. I felt like I had super hearing.

Long Sunrise Shadows

The light in the morning is absolutely incredible as well. The desert literally glows, sunrise was pretty spectacular.

Some recommendations I have if you decide to visit a desert like this one.

Rent a car. My car hit a lot of bumps on the roads and it got extremely dirty. I don’t just mean the outside either. My car was filled with dust inside out. I’m not even sure how to get the dirt out of all the crevices and upholstery. I tried for two hours and there’s still dust. Sigh…

If you plan for night photography, like we did, you should pick a night that’s not close to a full moon. Oops! Oh well. You can’t have everything you want all at once. It was perfect enough as it was. Plus, that meant we actually got some sleep. The only thing to wake you, was the flapping of your tent when the wind picks up. Otherwise, utter peace and quiet. It was absolute bliss.

Next stop hot springs! Then a few of Oregon’s other wonders. Stay tuned for more on the blog…

In the mean time follow my daily adventures on Twitter and Instagram.