Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Day Two: The Boise / Oregon Ghost Town Tour...

Day Two was one of the longest and most eventful days on the Tour.

We started the morning by going up to "Radar Hill" just outside Burns, Oregon to visit the old air force base there. My father-in-law was stationed there about 40 years ago. So for my wife it was a chance to "stand" where her father stood decades ago.

The base is all but torn down now, but you can still see the remains. It's a "ghost" air force base.

I won't bore you with all the details of our time there. It was more of a personal trek, reflecting on family history, but we enjoyed it. My son Nathan, in particular, enjoyed walking on the remains of old buildings.

Once we were finished there, we decided to take a bit of a detour. Instead of heading straight to Boise, Idaho, which is where I was performing a concert the next morning, we decided to first head south to take a driving tour of the Steens Mountain in southeast Oregon.

Man, oh man, what a day we had ahead of us.

The trek around the Steens is about 60 miles - all on gravel road. But it is such beautiful driving. Probably the only disappointing thing about the trip is that we were there in late July, too late to see all the flowers in full bloom. Still, the landscape was incredibly beautiful.

I must tell you, the views at the Steens are breathtaking. I've rarely seen more beautiful country. There's one point where you're sitting above 9,000 feet and you can miles and miles of country 5,000 feet below you. A few of those viewpoints are no place for anyone with vertigo to stand!

Here's a photo I took of one of the glacial carved valleys. I truly wish I had something in the picture to give you a perspective on the size of what you're looking at. The photo makes it look much smaller than it was. Let's just say that in order to truly photograph the entire expanse, I had to do it in three pictures. This is just the center one.

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And here's my daughter, Noelle, relaxing at the edge of "Fish Lake," one of my favorite spots on the Steens tour.

Aren't the colors beautiful? All the greens, blues, yellows and browns create such a lovely canvas.

Just mile after mile of epic scenery. Like something straight out of a fantasy novel.

A good four miles of the Steens loop trip is impassable (at least safely) by any car not equipped for it. Once we reached that point of the tour, I was so very glad we rented a Ford Explorer and not a mini-van! Even with the Explorer we were going really slow - like maybe 1 mph. Even at that slow speed we were being bounced around like dog toys in the truck as we drove over that crazy, crazy road!

I had estimated the 60 mile loop would take us 2 and a half hours. It took us 4 and half with stops! By the time we were through it, we were glad to be on paved road again. But the trip was worth it.

For anyone thinking of taking this drive, a recommendation: Start the loop at Frenchglen, Oregon, and then drive up to Wildhorse Lake. At this point, rather than continuing on to the "rooster road," just turn around. The rest of the loop is tough driving and though it's beautiful, it doesn't match the beauty of what you've just come through. The last 20 miles or so of the loop are really LONG miles!

From the Steens we headed north east back up to Boise. We arrived at about 10:30 pm. It was a long day in the car for the kids, but we were ready for the next day's concert.

In the next blog, I'll include a photo from that concert, plus a couple more from this day's adventures.



Anonymous darnesha said...

Those pictures were so beautiful! In Chattanooga, there are lots of mountains, and when you're driving, you don't realize you're on a mountain until you can't breathe and your ears start to pop. Then you freak out and try to back the car the way you came. haha. there's a turn on Signal mountain called Deadman's Curve that would scare anybody. People with stickshifts had better be careful!
Anyway, can't wait to read the next blog entries!

3:53 PM  

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