Starting in college my father and I started taking a road trip every summer. Since then I have graduated and have been working in order to pay my bills. In other words ‘Adulting’ has taken priority. However, this past fall we got to put another one in the books! We managed to hit 5 different National Parks, a couple different State Parks, and a wilderness area in South Eastern Oregon. With that we traveled through 4 states and put more than 3,000 miles on the car.
On our first day we passed through Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. This place (literally in the middle of nowhere) got a lot of attention in 2016 due to the armed occupation that took place, but it should have gotten its attention for being the beautiful desert oasis that it is.
Our first night was spent at Steens Mountain. This wilderness area in South Eastern Oregon is breath taking. Our trip took place during a week at the beginning of October so it was chilly but also pretty empty as kids are back in school at this time. The aspen trees were at the tail end of their season, but we were lucky enough to see quite a few vibrant leaves still dancing in the wind.
Camp grounds start about 7,800 ft up the mountain and they’re all fairly small. We stayed in a one that had six or so sites if I remember correctly. This is where we made home for the first night. Even at this time of the year the campground was full.
After setting up camp we drove up to the summit where the wind was no where near lacking. There we could see a deep gorge, though pictures do it no justice as there is nothing to scale it. There were golden eagles just hovering above looking as majestic as ever. And awesome desert views as far as the eyes could see.
I mentioned above that it was chilly. Well it was freaking freezing. When the sun was out, no biggie. However when we woke up the next morning our thermometer said a whopping 17°F. I was cold enough before we went to bed that I had basically all of my layers that I brought with me on. This included: tank top, long sleeve shirt, two sweatshirts, a flannel and my snow coat. Long underwear, sweats, and my snow pants. Three pairs of wool socks, and of course the hat, gloves and scarf. Once I got into my sleeping bag, which is rated for 25°F I still had to find an extra car blanket and burritoed myself with that in my sleeping bag. I woke up and my water bottle was frozen solid. I was scared to take my socks off cause I thought I would find some purple toes, luckily I did not ( I was probably over reacting, at least my dad thought so). To say the least I was ready to leave Steens Mountain for lower land where the temperatures were a bit more appealing.
Honestly though, looking back on it, I’d do it all over again especially this time of the year. Maybe next time I’d come a bit more prepared for the cold.