Simply Nahala

Writer. Photographer. Soul Traveler.

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Alvord Desert

Interesting place, the Alvord Desert - desolate, mysterious and quiet except when the wind speaks. There is a vortex here, a portal to other dimensions where you lose sense of time and serenity takes over. The imagination is allowed to run wild and free. Panic and discomfort will emerge if not accustomed to being still with yourself. Far removed from the conveniences of modern life, the dry lake bed is located in southeastern Oregon of the American West.

My 15 year old daughter and I recently spent the night on the dry cracked playa under the most magnificent starlit sky with the Steens Mountain Wilderness watching guard to the west. There is no potable water, restrooms, designated camping areas or cell phone service, just the pristine high desert. We built a fire to keep us warm and to provide a bit of light in the immense blackness. It was a magical evening for both of us. A rite of passage for a young woman that has been raised in both the country and city.

With this rapidly emerging age of technology, our children are spending less and less time in the outdoors. Preoccupied with social media, there is a disconnect from the natural world. Also, many caregivers are busy trying to earn a living and pay the bills, while our kids and pets are either chronically over scheduled or home alone and stuck inside. Whether we live in urban or rural areas, there are many ways to nourish the spirit that doesn't require a trip out to the middle of nowhere, but simply put, our kids need to get outside more. We are just like plants in that we need fertile soil, sunlight, water and fresh air to thrive.

The Alvord Hot Springs is situated on the western edge of the parched lake and is a great way to rinse off the desert dust and relax while soaking in the geothermal waters. The natural surroundings are absolutely gorgeous and peaceful. Once a free community hot springs on private land, the caretakers decided to go commercial and charge a nominal fee in order to maintain the area and deter vandalism and sanitation issues. There is a parking lot with on-site caretakers, plus a small gift shop that carries basic supplies, a restroom, showers and a maintained entry road onto the lake bed - 24 hour access costs $5. There are campsites and refurbished military bunkers for rent as well. Call the hot springs office for current rates at 541-589-2282. The nearest ranching community is Fields, Oregon, 20 minutes away from the desert playa. There is a general store, cafe, gas station, campground, hotel and a post office.

While in the area, you may want to do the Steens Loop Tour Route, a 59-mile loop that begins in Frenchglen, Oregon, takes you to the top of Steens Mountain at 9,773 feet, then pops out on the south side of the mountains. Page Springs Recreation Site in Frenchglen is a beautiful and well maintained campsite. It is here in the Steens Mountain vicinity where you will enjoy spectacular views, glaciated canyons and a variety of plants and wildlife. You may even be lucky enough to spot a Kiger Mustang! Weather can change abruptly in these parts so be prepared for lightening storms, snow, rain and high winds. Avoid high points, canyon rims and creek bottoms during inclement weather. 

Below are some more snapshots from our stay in the Alvord Desert:

Get outside and play!



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