logo

Oregon’s high desert is a desolate and unique place

While wandering through Oregon’s high desert scouting locations for my workshop to photograph the total solar eclipse in August, I found myself at a fork in the road out in the middle of nowhere. I’ve heard people talking about where they live as being in nowhere, but it wasn’t it too far back down the road where the sign said the next gas station was 94 miles.

One road was paved and the other was dirt, I had a four wheel drive rental, so of course I’m taking the dirt road, even though I had no idea where it went. How far out of the way could it go?

I found out.

A sure sign that I was not in Jersey was a real sign, a road sign indicated curvy road ahead. I hadn’t driven straight for 30 yards yet, so I couldn’t imagine what laid ahead. Other than the road, the sign was the only humanity in sight and it was full of bullet holes. I guess in the desert there isn’t much to shoot at each scrub brush so a road sign is an exciting target.

I went through a cool canyon with rock cliffs looming overhead. This part of Oregon has areas that are much like the desert southwest, canyons, plateaus, cliffs. And it is just as beautiful and remote.

The road kept getting smaller and I came to a sign that said he road was now going through a ranch and I wasn’t to leave the road for the next 15 miles. At this point the road wasn’t much wider than my rented SUV but the rancher’s sign warned that they patrolled it so I figured I was wouldn’t rot for too long if something went wrong. The road was rutted but I kept pushing ahead. I stopped a few times

An hour later the road finally came out to another road and there was a sign saying it was 40 miles to the town I was headed for. I was only eight miles away when I took the scenic turn, so I guess I went the wrong way. There was also a sign saying the Painted Hills were four miles away. I had seen the Painted Hills in my research but I thought they would be too far south for me to visit. But since I was nearby I decided to check them out.

And I’m glad I did.

Oregon’s Painted Hills are incredible. Five million years ago the area volcanoes dumped tons of ash around the region, it got covered with lava, dirt and other stuff and turned red and yellow. Then erosion and upheavals bared some of it and the ash is so toxic nothing can grow on it. At least that is how I understand what I was looking at. All I really know is that it is amazing looking and makes great photos.

Comments are closed.