This page documents the first half of Phil Kopp's and my ride home from the 20th Great Pacific Dryside Gather (aka the "GPNDG" or just "The Gather"). The ride there is documented too, if you're interested. Phil was on a Suzuki DL650 and I was on a BMW F800GS.
Our primary goals were to ride the Steens Mt. Loop road and to find an unpaved route through Hells Canyon from Imnaha, OR to Asotin, WA. Both rides were on our bucket lists, though I had camped on the lower Steens Mt. Loop road once in the 70's where I killed and ate a rattlesnake that came into my camp at dinnertime.
This was our very approximate route, or as close to it as I could get maps.google.com to render. Basically, we rode the pavement from Eagle Lake, CA to Cedarville, NV and then gravel up to Hwy 140 and on to Fields (aka "Fields Station") where we spent the night.
Early the next morning we hit the pavement again to the lower end of Steens Mt. Loop road (which we found closed at about mile 19) and then backtracked and rode up to Frenchglen where we had excellent french toast, bacon and sausage for breakfast.
Then we rode the northern end of the Steens Mt. Loop road up to the summit, with a side trip to the top of Kiger Gorge. Then pavement (mostly) straight up to La Grande, OR where we spent the second night.
An interesting rock formation about 5-10 miles east of Cedarville, NV. I'm a sucker for interesting geology and flowers.
Intersection in the far northwest corner of Nevada. I think I took this road during the last Black Rock Desert G/S Rally in the late 90's. But my memory is fading...
More interesting rocks after we turned left at that intersection. The weather was perfect — sunny, deep blue skies, fluffy white clouds, dry and warm but not too warm. We really enjoyed ourselves.
A candidate for the long-running thread titled "Post your pics of Long Lonely Highways" on ADVrider.com. It wouldn't be a winner, but it's a better shot than many of them.
Wild horses are common in Nevada, and even in southeastern Oregon. Including a rare type called the "Kiger Mustang" which are close to the original Spanish horses brought to the new world (resembling the Sorraia or Iberian horses). We visited Kiger Gorge the next day. Didn't see any horses there, however.
Phil and I each shot a lot of photos just to get the pretty clouds in them. This is one of mine, with Phil patiently waiting.
Our overnight at Fields, at what may be the only business in town: a combination general store, cafe, gas station and motel. Just a handful of motel rooms, but each has two bedrooms and they are cheap at less than $75/night. And no sales tax in Oregon!
It's a family run operation, so it closes early. Like 4:30pm the day we were there. Next fuel is at Denio Junction, 20+ miles south where the bar is open until about 9:00pm, so presumably you can get gas until then too.
The pre-sunset view from the motel parking lot, looking east towards the southern end of the Alvord desert. Phil, his wife, and our friend Mark, did an off-pavement tour of the Oregon Outback a few years ago, and at that time Alvord lake was dry. This time it was "full", for some meaning thereof.
The only shot I kept of the 19 mile ride we did up the southern part of Steens Mt. Loop road. That's the Little Blitzen river below. The road was paved over this bridge, otherwise it was good high-speed gravel, which we might have ridden at 50-60 mph but we assumed the speed limit was much lower. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.
The western slope of the Steens is very gentle. The eastern slope is very steep, and very majestic when viewed from the Alvord Desert below. That is probably the Steens summit just above my bike in the photo above. It was also very green and pretty up there. And it cooled off nicely.
I think we were both surprised to see so many wildflowers on the 22nd of August. This is typical scenery on the northern end of the Steens Mt. Loop road.
Looking west down what I think is Little Blitzen valley. It looks pretty flat to the horizon, but this is probably 8,000' or so where I shot this photo and the horizon is probably only 4,000'.
Big Indian valley.
An example of the flowers. Pretty harsh weather up here most of the year, and I imagine this is covered in snow 9 months of the year, but it sure was pretty that day.
Speaking of snow, this was just a mile or so from the previous photo — a patch of last winter's still-unmelted snow on August 22nd, 2011. This was probably at about the 8,500' level or so. Nothing to obstruct this from most of the day's sunshine, so it must have snowed a lot last winter.
The summit at just over 9,700' and Alvord Lake a mile below at about 4,000'. Only very hardy plants grow up here.
The GPS shows the altitude where we parked the bikes. We couldn't ride much higher than this.
Hardy thistles growing on the summit looking east down on the Alvord Desert.
Kiger Gorge, carved out by glaciers. Down at the lower end, out of sight, is the "reserve" area where the Kiger Mustangs are isolated by a combination of natural and man-made obstacles to keep them from cross-breeding with the other wild horses.
What look kinda like corn-rows on top of my head are grooves in my scalp made by my new (cheap but well-rated) Scorpion helmet. Over a week later they are still there!
Me in that damn helmet, shooting flowers again, near the top of Kiger Gorge.
Like I said, I love shooting photos of flowers, particularly ones unfamiliar to me. These next three shots are macro shots, and the flowers are actually pretty tiny.
These were little (presumably) hollow balloon-like flowers.
And these were like little dyed cotton balls.
A final shot of Phil at the top of Kiger Gorge, camera in hand.
We had a lot of miles to cover to get to La Grande before dark, considering the small secondary roads we planned to try for, so that's the end of the photos. The next day's ride, into Hells Canyon, is documented on the next page.
Copyright © 2011, by H. Marc Lewis. All rights reserved.