Last weekend I spent three nights camping out near the coast of Oregon with Kyle and some of our lovely Portland friends. We were right on the Nehalem River, and our campsites were entirely surrounded by beautiful giant fir trees, wild elderberry, salmon berry and red huckleberry trees. It was my first real camping trip since I was a kid and I loved everything about it. Swimming in the fast flowing river, kayaking and eating damn good food made for a very relaxing and satisfying experience.
When we arrived home dirty and sweaty and tired I had received a message from my new friend Melissa to get together to practice some photography. She told me about this road trip she had been planning, but her friend had pulled out and she didn’t want to go by herself, so she was just going to skip it.
So I was sitting there post epic shower to remove some serious camping grime asking myself when is the next time I am going to have the opportunity to go on a road trip all over Oregon with someone who loves photography as much as me? I’m only here for another two months, I am so making the most of this!
I wrote back to say I would be her road trip buddy, repacked my bags and camping gear and we set off the next morning to begin a VERY long drive to the Alvord Desert.
We left at around 9.30AM Monday morning, and after only one wrong turn (we caught it early on so only a teeny bit off track!) we made it to the gravel track leading into the desert at approx. 6PM that night.
As we drove over the rise before heading down into the desert valley we were hit by a thunder storm, which very conveniently cleaned the car (the rain was so hard and heavy it could be compared to going through an automated carwash), and also helped us along with some freaking amazing light for photos!
It’s hard to describe how EPICALLY amazing it was to drive around and over that final rise to reveal the huge flat white desert before us. I knew it would look cool, but holy moly I was blown away. Melissa and I were literally yelling at each other in excitement! The storm had passed and the sky was left with ginormous fluffy clouds. Perfect for an awesome sunset.
We drove around the edge of the desert to the Alvord Hot Springs and met Rose, who lives on the property and manages the springs. She told us a little about the area, and got us to sign the guest book. I got to sign in red due to my being from another country down under.
She gave us directions of how to get onto the desert, which was basically down someone's driveway. The desert is almost completely flat, 11 miles long and 6 miles wide, and in the winter is actually a lake. There was still a little water at the northern edge but other than that it was just miles of cracked hard clay. You don't even have to use the accelerator to drive, it's so flat you can just coast.
We did a little exploring and drove right out into the center. The best way to describe what that was like is if you put earplugs in and you get that kind of buzzing from it being so completely SILENT! Seriously, you can hear a mosquito coming from what feels like a mile off!
I was a little resistant to setting up our tent right out in the middle mainly because it was a bit windy, but I am so glad Melissa convinced me! When else do you get the chance to sleep in the middle of nowhere?
We drove over to the north western edge to see if we could get near some water and almost got bogged! Thanks to Melissa's quick reflexes we made it out alive!
This is where we hung out for some sunset shots.
I'm just gonna show you what sunset on the desert was like...
Melissa basking in the awesomeness. We couldn't believe our luck with this BEAUTIFUL sunset!
Once the sun went down we set up camp back in the middle of the desert, tried and failed some night shots due to the full moon, and then headed to bed. The wind did pick up a little during the night, but thankfully our tent did not blow away.
Sunrise was at 5.15AM so we were up and ready to go at 4.45AM. Once again we were feeling incredibly grateful for a beautiful sunrise!
Steens Mountain in the early morning glow.
Melissa and I were pretty bloody happy with this awesome golden glow after the sun came up.
After a very satisfying sunrise we headed back to Alvord Hot Springs for an early morning soak, a cool shower and some breaky. Also, yay for toilets at the springs. Haha!
I was going to add the rest of our road trip here, but I feel like this experience deserves it's own post. I still feel in awe from my time on the desert, and looking at these photos again I can hardly believe I got to experience that much crazy beautiful in one go!
I'll post Part Two shortly with the rest of our trip to Steens Mountain, The Painted Hills and Smith Rock.
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