Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Alvord Playa

How many of you know of the Alvord area in SE Oregon? Logan and I took our first trip here the week of 4/14. I always seem to think I need to travel far away to experience unique places yet here in OR we have such a diverse landscape, and this trip reminded me of that. The Alvord Playa area is mostly dry averaging only 7" of rain a year. Heck we can get more than that in a month here in Portland! It sits at the bottom of the Steens Mountain Range, which tower a vertical mile just above the playa. The mountain tops with their white blanket in winter and spring leave you in awe when you stare at them for the first time on a clear crisp day.

Even though it's beautiful one reason this place is not normally ebbing with tourists is the shear remoteness. The area much of the year is stark and desolate. You have to travel many miles of gravel roads to get there and the largest town about 115 miles away is burns of 10k. Once you arrive there is no cell service, no gas, no store, no mini mart... just wide open spaces with a small number of ranches. If you go, go prepared. Some of the side roads we traveled I know easily can go many days or longer without seeing another person. Come prepared to hike for help if need be, and carry plenty of food and water. The other thing is that we literally experienced 4 seasons of weather and temperatures in 4 days. Wind storm, rain, snow and crystal blue skies...where dress ranged from just a t-shirt to several thick layers!

There is the Alvord Hot Springs which we used twice and was a nice way to warm up when the windchill was in the teens. It's on public property owned by Paul and Toni who own the Alvord Ranch. I met them both when I went to ask permission to hike their property for photography. It's easy to see why they allow the springs to be open to the public for free, they are very nice folks! If you go please follow the basic rules scrawled on the wood and metal around the tubs. They can decide to fence off the public at anytime if they choose.

If you need any supplies like gas or snacks I would highly recommend visiting Fields Market & Cafe which is about 30 miles from the Alvord Playa. The owners here are warm and friendly as well. The cafe is small seating about 10 folks inside but serves up some of the best milkshakes by far. And if you need gas you can get it here. Considering we were pretty much out in the middle of nowhere $3.95 a gallon seemed like a deal.

Enjoy these photos for now until you can get down there on your own. I encourage you to do so, you won't soon forget the trip.


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