I know why this section of HWY 395 is scant of vehicles and human trespassers; there’s no fast food chains, supermarkets, tourist shops, no big billboards announcing what’s coming up, no cordoned off areas, only forests, mountains, lakes and open land with farm houses and barns, long empty roads with an occasional big truck or a group of loggers, a few fancy cars, occasional motorcycles, truck campers turning on little side roads begging to be explored. Gas up before you start and again when you hit a town, its steep and winding with frequent climbs and descents. You’ll pass Abert Rim one of the highest fault scarps in the US, basalt lava formation from the Miocene Period (millions of years ago,) as the road moves you across seasonal snowy peaks to alkaline desert scrub.

Traveling south wondering if this might be another dimension, I thought of Hwy 97 through Bend, I-5 and the 101, then I sighed in awe.  Since I’d never been this way and with no planning to go this way I had no idea that I’d find a beauty road. Trouble plagued this land reshaping it’s climate and available water, as much of the west, as all of our globe, I loved it more for this.

A troubled pine.

A troubled pine.

Passing the outskirts of Pendleton and McKay Creek National Wildlife Refuge my adventure began. Some of what I was to see would be Native American land, some Forest Service land, and some private ranches. Spring is ideal for this drive except for those seeking isolated winter wilderness. Scanning the Internet for info about this stretch of 395, there’s isn’t a lot in its favor and that’s fine, because it lays without makeup or glitz. This is not a road to travel fast, it’s a soul healing road, with its own voice which if you get out of your vehicle and touch the earth, feel its texture, breathe it’s wind and air, immerse yourself in its particles of light you’ll see it change and may even hear it speak to you. I took some shots, I almost didn’t as it’s not possible to capture the ethereal in a quick pass by point and click.

The first bastion of mountain with its covering of trees surprised me, I wasn’t expecting it thinking I’d left the pines behind me. Battle Mountain Forest State Park imparted lush coolness of pondersosa, larch, douglas fir and spruce.

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If I had any doubt this drive was the right way to go ahead was Ukiah-Dale Forest Scenic Corridor. How could such a name exist! Yet it was so, another crawl up a mountain alongside the John Day River and Camas Creek on the North Fork. Dale Glaser’s home was just outside of Ukiah and Forrest Lewis lived in North Fork. Forrest once met Dale, I’d introduced them in North Fork and we’d gone for a hike in the wilderness near Yosemite, Dale was 62 on that day, telling me he’d never felt better or stronger, I was hobbling with joint troubles and Forrest was still weak from his illness, we were laughing and happy; it was a precious time, the three of us together, helping each other to climb a rock dome. Somewhere nearby there must be a Jolyon town.

Oregon 395 continues to rise, twist and drop over and over through ponderosa pines, douglas fir, western larch. Along the river are songbirds, deer, elk, fun little roads pointing to lakes and campgrounds, unless I take the roads I cannot know how low the lakes may be but I am aware that everywhere I have traveled is in a semi-state of shock. In-between the gatherings of pines are open vistas of scrub and grasslands, ranches for cattle, old barns weathered and picturesque, stunning ranch complexes and a few little towns and a bigger ones on the cross highways with traffic traveling east to west. I know nothing but what I see as I pass of this area, its history and current status. Perhaps there are vineyards here, guest ranches and groups of visitors on tour, certainly in the forest there is camping, fishing, hiking, horses and winter snow play.

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Passed several of these alkaline lakes in semi-arid landscapes.

Lake Abert stunned me, it was shock still. I wondered if it was real. I’d passed a smaller alkali lake that looked like it’d turned to quicksand. An alkali lake has high alkali content and high salinity, fish cannot live there but brine shrimp normally can. The brine shrimp attract birds; this area is also on the Pacific Flyway and so should be teaming with life. The surrounding is bluebunch wheatgrass, cheatgrass and big sagebrush.

Lake Abert

Lake Abert

 

Lake Abert

Lake Abert

Lake Abert

Lake Abert

 

Lake Abert

Lake Abert

I don’t know why this lake called to me, there is something still radiant here; the lake is not suitable for swimming or extended contact but in its current state I think it may be dying.
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Oregon’s only saltwater lake is disappearing, and scientists don’t know why

 The uncertain future of Lake Abert

 

Next post I will cover more of this road. California is close.

 

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