Posts Tagged ‘Presley Lake’

Whirlwind Outta Here!

I crave the desert. It’s been nearly three years since I’ve been camping on the desert and I can feel it in my soul. The quick drive through to Colorado last year was not quite enough to sate my hunger for the lonely stretches of sagebrush and alkali. I think I have alkali in my blood. Alkali and high reaches.

In planning our week of vacation, I vacillated on where to go: explore new country in the timber or press Don to go clear across the state to the Alvord with two large dogs? In the end, he was the one who decided we could manage the trip to the desert with the dogs. He even planned how we could camp by water nearly every night. It was an incredible relief to me to think I was going back to the high desert country! I need sagebrush and white dust and magpies, mountain bluebirds, western meadowlarks, and the vast vistas. You cannot see nearly as far in this country as you can in the high desert mountains. I get claustrophobic when I cannot see long distances.

We set a little contest: who would see the first meadowlark (me)? Mountain bluebird (Don)? Magpie (me)? Black-tailed jack rabbit (Don)?

When we set out on a trip like this, I keep a notebook handy to record how many animals we see and what kind: birds for my life-list, butterflies, mammals and reptiles. If we go during wildflower season, I track the wildflowers we discover. I journal more during vacation than any other time during the year, probably because I haven’t got the distractions of a wired life hanging over me.  I also usually take along a box to put little things in: bits of wood, rocks, wildflower seeds – anything that is interesting that I think could be translated into art (seeds plant my garden which is art). This year, I merely took photos of the things I saw that inspired me.

We live at about 180-feet elevation and our destination is always 3,000-feet or more above sea level. High desert refers to the elevation as much as it does the arid country. It is not a “desert” that is devoid of life (those are very rare – even the Sahara has life in the endless dunes). High desert is full of life: plants, creeks, pools, insects, reptiles, birds, mammals. There is no void. Indeed, I did not know that other people thought of desert as a place that is always hot and has no life in it until I left the high desert!

Hot? It also has extremes in cold. Lifeless? Sandy? Desolate? I guess it depends on your point of view. If you have lived all your life in places where the horizon is green and not shades of brown, grey, and purple, then the desert is devoid. But, honestly: how many shades of green are there? They seem infinite in the Willamette Valley or the Cascades. The high desert country has more variety of color in a single vista, and not merely shades of green. (Don’t get me wrong: I love the vistas of the Oregon Cascades. They are steep, intimidating, rugged, and innately wild.)

A “hot” streak was moving into the lower Willamette Valley as we headed out. Temperatures were predicted to hit triple digits with corresponding humidity, a rare occasion in the Valley. We were headed into country that is dryer and sometimes a whole lot warmer.

We hit the road on Friday night as soon as I was off work. Traffic was a nightmare, so we took a backroad through Molalla and Silverton (I need to take my brother to Silver Falls out of Silverton sometime) down to Oregon Hwy 20. Then we turned east and cruised up along the North Santiam River to Detroit.

This was Harvey’s first real road trip and we learned a lot about Harvey. He gets car sick if you feed him before you leave (we had one other dog that did that and I get car sick if I can’t be in the front seat, so there’s a lot of empathy for him). He barks going down the road, but we attributed that to getting car sick.

Our first destination was Presley Lake which we are certain is named for some ancestor of Don’s but we haven’t discovered the history of the lake (yet). We’ve been there many times over the years. Sadly, this year other campers were staked out on the only available shoreline and we had to camp back in the trees. It was probably just as well because the wind came up and blew all night. It did curtail photo opportunities, however, since we could not get down to the water.

(whirlwinds on the Alvord Desert)

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