One of the fun things when camping in a remote area like the east side of Steens Mountain is waking in the middle of the night to the yipping of coyotes in the hills above camp. That happened a couple of times during the night I spent at the Alvord Hot Springs camping area. Helped to confirm the solitude of the place for me.
I left my little tent at 4:15AM – time to get down to the playa for a 5:30 AM sunrise. As I started down the access road – just past the first fence row – I was welcomed with this image. What a nice way to start a fresh new day. The light was just beginning to come up and the tips of some of the vegetation were just catching it. I was going to write about all the techie camera stuff that went with capturing this image but I decided that it bored me so — enough to just enjoy it.
I drove down the road onto the playa and found a place to set up and wait for the morning light and full on sunrise. I put on the warmest coat I had – actually think it was warmer than that awful sleeping bag I had. It was not all that cold but there was a fairly stiff breeze that made it feel much colder. I found myself retreating to the car from time to time in search of warmth only to turn around and see the color and cloud pattern developing in the sky. Those are times when you forget you are cold.
The image below is about the full development of the morning color. When the sun did pop over the distant hills things washed out pretty fast. (If you click on these shots you will get a bigger, and I think better view on your monitor)
After the sun filled the sky and the color dissipated I headed back to pack up camp and think about heading down the road. I stopped at the store/hot springs for one more view of the Killdeer egg and to bum a cup of coffee from Rose who was so gracious.
After a while I said Good-bye and headed south with the intent of stopping at Andrews which is the site of an old school that served the residents of the Alvord area, I think back in the 30’s. Have to do a bit more investigation.
After seeing an episode of Oregon Art Beat on John Simpkins, a fine art painter, who lives at Andrews, I hoped to be able to connect with him and see his work. As I cautiously turned into the driveway I found he and is co-worker sitting on the steps of his house, morning coffee in hand. I was a bit nervous just driving up on a place like that but they were so welcoming and kind and we struck up a fun and wide-ranging conversation — painting, photography, poodles, winter existence over there and how one gets supplies – they have Wi-Fi and UPS drives by almost every day but grocery stores are a long drive.
The link below is of the Oregon Art Beat episode featuring John and his life and work at Andrews. It has been nominated for an Emmy award.
When I walked into his studio – the old one room school – my first reaction was “This would bring tears to my friend Lillian’s eyes” – a huge space – 5>6 times bigger than her studio – outfitted with a wood stove, a bed, tubes of paints, huge work tables, north light and rows of prayer flags. He paints large canvases but most were rolled up so I only got to see the one he was currently working on.
I headed back south on the road toward Fields Guard Station and then around the loupe and back north to Frenchglen and breakfast. Following that I slowly drove down the Central Patrol Road on the Malheur National Wildlife refuge hoping to capture a few bird images. I am such a terrible bird photographer. I did see many common birds such as Red-wing Black birds etc. and took a few shots. I did manage to find one that was a bit unusual and I stumbled my way into a reasonable image of it.
Back to Burns for the night and then early the next morning I headed west over the mountains after a short stop in Sisters to see my friend Leslie. (lite snow in the trees on Santiam Pass – that was fun)