Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Oregon Desert

"The desert vegetation is all gray. Some is gray-blue, some is gray-green, but all of the typical plants are gray. And so are the lizards, rattlesnakes, coyotes, deer, and most of the birds. Gray is such an uneventful color. The desert skies at dawn and dusk are often color gone crazy. Wild streaks and splashes of all vivid colors. Life on the desert is rough and tough but it isn’t gray. But the plants are gray: sagebrush, rabbit brush, grass, saltbush, and most of the weeds.

The flowers are gorgeous, though: primroses, buttercups, Indian paintbrush, larkspur, phlox, and the beautiful coral mallow. Their vivid colors flash as suddenly into view as a startled antelope.

Writers tend to describe the desert in polysyllabic words. Chet Craddock, of Burns, says that a four-syllable word to a trained writer is as natural as a hair in the biscuit. They say the desert is unchangeable, immutable, inscrutable, unnatural, indefinable, uninhabitable. These words are poor as I see a desert. It is dry, hot, cold, gray, hard, vast, and fierce. Let’s call it raw."

by E.R. Jackman and R.A. Long
1964 The Caxton Printers, LTD.
Caldwell, Idaho

For years now, well at least since 2005, Andrew has been scheming on a trip to Burns, Oregon. I think this is the year it might actually happen. And I'm ready. Let's do it.

28 comments:

  1. YES!!!! It bet it will be a fantastic trip. We drove through Eastern Oregon a couple of times in the early 90s, and I still vividly remember John Day Fossil Beds National Monument and the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. Stunning places, and virtually deserted. Just how I like it.

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    1. Ah good to know Gerhard! We've been as far as John Day and that was nice, well and out to Ft Rock and Christmas Valley. That deserted thing is what Andrew is longing for. And big open sky...

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    2. I'm with Andrew on this. Nothing better than desert and big sky.

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  2. Definitely go on down south to Malheur if you're driving all the way to Burns. Spring migration right now -- the best time to go!

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    1. Sadly it won't be right now, it would be the perfect time too wouldn't it? Andrew jokes about going in August. I don't think I'm up for that.

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    2. If you wait until September, you'll hit fall migration, but you're probably more into the botanizing than the birds! Anyway, at least by August the mosquitoes will be dried up and gone!

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    3. Yes! That's probably more likely, given our schedule and my desire to avoid August.

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  3. Andrew won't be laughing so much if you go in August. The Mulch Man and I spent our honeymoon near Malheur, camping at Honeymoon Lake in August, so I speak from HOT, sticky experience. And we were much younger and more adaptable then. Maybe later during fall migration? If you can sleep in a double bed, the French Glen Hotel is wonderful. At least plan to have family-style dinner there. The conversation is worth the price of admission.

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    1. Ya I think it's more the idea for him than the reality. He does like his comforts. Thank you for the recommendation!

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  4. That sounds interesting. I´m now eager to see the pictures coming soon!!

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    1. It's going to be awhile Lisa (later this year), I just had to share that quote while it was fresh in my mind.

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  5. As much as I love trees, it is fascinating to see the geologic features of eastern Washington and Oregon unhindered. And desert and alpine wildflowers make some of the most spectacular displays nature has to offer. When are you going? The arnica was blooming when I passed through the eastern end of the gorge. Most of the flowers around Burns will probably be gone by the end of May, except at the higher elevations and wetter areas.

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    1. It will definitely be a post-GB Fling trip. We briefly talked about Memorial Day weekend but he's leery of all the traffic a holiday can cause.

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  6. Sounds like a fun trip! Watch out for rattle snakes and take lots of pictures!

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    1. Oh! You would have to mention the snakes...

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  7. Raw is a good word...I grew up in San Diego and it is nearly dessert and then you have the amazing Borrego Dessert. There is a stillness in the dessert and I love the plants of the dessert! I am in awe of their ability to survive in the harshest of conditions. Thank you for the lovely pictures today!

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    1. If we're talking deserts the Sonoran Desert is where I'd choose to be, but of course they all have their charms.

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  8. Funny how we live in the lush greens year round, yet I'm moved and taken by the greys. Anything with a silver or grey, a streak of blue, etc. It's a world I find myself strataling. On one hand I love the lush greens, the ferns, the vividness and on the other I am inthralled with greys and sun-cast shadows. It's kind of like the dance I play in heart between the city and the country.

    I definitely think you should do the oregon desert. The one caveat I have to any trip is whether or not it will inhibit my ability to visit SoCal in the coming year :P... Lotusland 2014!? Garden bloggers road trip?

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    1. Right? Me too. Lotusland...you're gonna freak out Louis!

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  9. Nice writing in the Oregon Desert you quoted!

    The desert will restore you. And you might be more heat-tolerant than you realize, like some of the plants you really like. Don't the nights cool down very well to chilly levels there?

    It's a dry heat:-) Except Phoenix and Tucson in summer, the low desert in AZ is usually quite humid. Hope you enjoy your trip.

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    1. Yes indeed, the nights are cold. I do remember coming back into Phoenix after our big desert circle (up through NM, and hitting the corners of Colorado and Utah) a few years ago. I swear I could feel my skin responding to the moisture in the air. It was like coming home!

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  10. I've never been to that part of Oregon, but I've been to several deserts. I'd say the description was pretty accurate. I remember one time at The Living Desert in Palm Springs I underestimated my need for water, and I got pretty dehydrated after simply walking around the place looking at plants for a couple of hours. My own fault. Anyway, the plants were fabulous, but lots of gray and colorful flowers. I hope you have a great trip!

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    1. Yikes! Yes dehydration can sneak up on you. My scariest experience with it was in Venice, Italy of all places. It was hot and we were just walking and walking...

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  11. If you are going to Burns, you've definitely got to go to Steens Mountain. Gorgeous up there and generally much cooler. August is a great time to camp/hike on the Steens. September will definitely be cooler for Burns and lower elevation areas. Less crowds in September....!

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  12. Living in Scotland a desert is quite an alien environment to me; once every 10 years we have a dryish summer and the grass goes a wee bit brown, but the rest of the time everything is normally very green.

    Have fun when you go and I look forward to the viewing the photos and reading your words about your adventure!

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  13. The Steens Mountains is one of the last little corners of Oregon that we have yet to explore.New territory is always a thrill. I'm sure we can rely on you to document your journey.

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  14. I look forward to your posts about it. Go!

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  15. I read that quote and immediately thought, "That is pretty darn accurate!". I used to live very near Caldwell, and even the dirt there is a chalky gray. It's amazingly hot in the summer, though the yuccas and agaves (few and far between in that rural area) were amazing.

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