It was a crazy weekend! I was late meeting up with the group at the chevron. Filled up the truck, Jerry cans, loaded the cooler with ice, and we set off.
My transmission got really hot heading over the owyhees (which is being addressed next weekend, provided my trans cooler gets here). We got to our first pit stop, topped of our tanks, and grabbed lunch while we waited for another travel companion to arrive.
From there, we headed to the Alvord desert. It looked like a giant lake, as it had been raining. About 3" of water all the way across. Under that was probably an inch or more of mud. We drove across to find our first camp site.
The next morning it was nice and clear, so we packed up, and made our way to the base of the steens mountain loop. Elevation 4100 ft. Light showers off and on all night. The campground was full, so we found a relatively flat spot a couple hundred feet off the road to set up camp for the night.
The next day, we headed 5400 ft up the mountain. Total whiteout conditions. We posed for a picture, and then got back in the trucks, and headed down the other side. We then headed into Nevada to camp at bog hot springs.
Most of us took a well earned hot bath in the springs. It was a but cold in the air, and windy. I think most of us were in there for an hour or more.
We enjoyed our last night around the campfire before heading home the next day.
What a great trip, and a great 4 days spent wheeling and camping.
A bit overdue on a report here. Post trip comedown and getting back to real life always suck.
This trip was a first for me. I've done a lot of multi-day solo overland/wheeling trips and I've done a lot of multi-vehicle day trips but I'd never combined the two. It did not disappoint. The only disappointment was when it had to end. I can't thank George enough for putting it (and a great group of people) together.
We met up in Marsing with the vehicles coming from the Treasure Valley area at 7am. After that it was the 4ish hour drive to Fields Station, OR. About 40 miles of it on dirt. The weather wasn't exactly inspiring but the rain didn't deter our spirits. At this point we were 5 vehicles. Myself and my girlfriend in my LX450, Brian in a Chevy Colorado on it's first overland voyage, Jamie in his monster Dodge, Derwin (I hope I'm spelling this right) in his fantastically built 3rd gen 4runner, and our fearless leader George with his daughter/her boyfriend in their epic Jeep wagon. We also had 4 furry friends among us. Thankfully, they all got along pretty well.
The drive from Marsing was mostly uneventful short of someone loosing the Jerry Can off the back of their rig on the mildest road ever. Unfortunately it landed squarely on the spout and sprung a leak. To save it's owner from having to huff fumes in their rig I ratcheted it to my carrier and we went on our way. Time for a new can! Sorry, EPA...
Once in Fields Station it was a stop for their “world famous” burgers and milkshakes. I'm not sure I'd go that far that but they were sure tasty and a welcome stop after an early morning! We were the only people present in the building that weren't clad in camo. So naturally I had to retrieve my camo hat from my truck.
Fields Station is a pretty cool spot and made more interesting by it seemingly being the only spot of any kind in the area. There is only one gas pump and it's the only place I've seen in a long time where you still pump your gas, walk inside, and just tell them how much you got. Whether it was an under staffing issue or it's just that kind of place it was oddly refreshing.
After being joined by the OP and his wife in their kick ass 4 wheel drive van (who drove all the way from Portland to join us) we headed on our way to Borax Lake/Hot Springs. Rumors were that the water was scaldingly hot. There may have been patches where that was the case but we didn't find that from the bank. Regardless, no one jumped in to test it and generally crummy weather sent us all back to the vehicles.
Then it was off to check out an old town cemetery in a town which I don't recall the name of. While cool, the highlight of this particular venture had to be watching a certain someones dog defecate on a grave. Out of respect for the epic pile of poop I neglected to photograph the event.
At this point there was conversation of finding camp for the evening. There was talk of heading to the desert. Myself, being the naive idiot that I am, found myself thinking “um, we're in the freaking desert”. While my thought was true I had no concept of what was to come. Desert actually meant an old, enormous dried up lake bed. The kind of place where they set land speed records and the sort. It was hands down, one of the coolest places I've been in my rig. We also caught it right after the rain.
A couple inches of water on top of hard packed dirt was about as surreal of a driving experience that I've ever had. After tentatively testing the waters we departed to the opposing side to find camp. Our crew of misfits looked like something out of Mad Max as we made our way. Allegedly a few donuts may have been ripped but I can neither confirm nor deny that allegation.
Random thoughts: I can see how it's easy to lose your bearings in such an environment. It's also oddly difficult to even set course for a landmark when it's 4-5 miles (?) away. It was also an interesting eye opener to just how much a little mud adds resistance. On flat pavement I can get my rig to hit 100+ MPH. Screaming across the flat and kinda wet mud I maybe managed to hit 80.
Once on the far shore, after some scouting and debate, we found an awesome camping area. Beers were opened, food was made, and the fire was lit.
Some day 1 pics:
After a pretty cold and windy night surrounded by coyotes we woke to a beautiful, sunny morning. Bellies full and camp broken we headed back across the lake bed. I surrendered the keys to my eager girlfriend but to her dismay the wind had dried things up considerably from the day before. No donuts for her!
After some debate over where we had actually entered the lake bed we found our way to the right location.
Day two consisted of a decent amount of driving, another hot springs (the name of which I can't recall) that you cant get it, and a partial tour of a Wildlife Refuge. This particular spring did live up to the hype and the water wasn't all that inviting. We toured some ruins and craters in the Refuge (I didn't get many pics) and as it was getting late decided to head to camp. After setting up camp in the rain and surrounded by piles of cow poop it was again time for dinner, drinking, and stories. Falling asleep to rumors of snow overnight was fun but the night actually proved to be considerably warmer than the first.
Day 2 pics:
After being reminded how much I dislike breaking camp when everything is wet we headed on our way. The goal for the day was the Steen loop. George had attempted it a couple times in the past but weather didn't allow for it. It made a strong case for that again. By the time we hit 9500 feet there were a couple inches of snow on the ground, near whiteout conditions, and a pretty strong wind. After some discussion we opted to stay on the actual loop and not make our way to the top/lookout/whatever it was. I'm not sure we would have had any issues but the reality was there was no visibility to be had anyway. It definitely seems like a pretty cool spot and I'm guessing the views are epic in different conditions.
So down we went. Way down. All the way back to Fields Station for more milkshakes! A bit chilly but definitely tasty. Evidently their record for milkshake sales is 147 in one day (memorial day).
From there we made our way into Nevada for brothels, gambling, and hot springs! Well, at least one of the three. The springs we camped at were gorgeous and, despite being pretty close to the road, we had them to ourselves until about 10pm when a couple cars came by.
Having gotten to camp pretty early there was discussion of trying to explore an aircraft crash site that existed on a nearby mountain. That plan was eventually scrapped in favor of saving it for a future trip. We were going to sit that out if it happened in favor of a long and relaxing soak, some great views, and a fire.
This is always the hardest day of trips for me. Saying goodbye to new friends, leaving to head back to reality, and the afterglow of an awesome few days are always difficult.
After a pretty laid back morning goodbyes were said and Morgan and I opted to stay a bit longer to soak again and let my RTT dry out. The group headed out around 9:30-10. We stayed and finally left around 12:30 for the solo journey back to Boise. On the way though, we stopped back through Fields for the tiny bit of cell reception we could get and of course, another milkshake!
Random thoughts and musings:
-My CB didn't work. I can't decide if this was good or bad. Had it worked Morgan and I probably would have pissed off everyone with our inappropriate antics and CB handles that we likely would have assigned...
Next time, after I fix it, game on!
-It was wonderful to be with a great group of well prepared adventurers who didn't let bad weather get them down and came well prepared. I can't wait for the next one.
-I clocked somewhere in the neighborhood of 825 miles. I say somewhere I somehow blew a fuse that runs the gauge panel and missed a few. Ever want to drive your rig without racking miles? Evidently, pull that fuse. You lose the benefit of a speedometer in the process, though. Morgan and I also drove a bit more on Sunday driving back into Fields looking for reception.
-Apologies in advance if anyone visits the Refuge gift shop and tries to buy ice. I think a few of us mentioned that it was absurdly cheap at $1.50 a bag.
-Feel free to steal any pics for whatever use you'd like.
Morgan and I didn't notice it the first evening there but we def did notice them the morning we left. The first evening we were pretty much up to our necks in water. The following morning, however, we were sitting with just out bottom half in. It wasn't as windy and cold and the water was a bit too warm to be totally submerged (your mileage may vary...personally I have a hard time with hot water and pretty warm air temp). With half our bodies out, we def noticed.
Edit- we were a bit itchy on our neck/face the first evening. I didn't think much of it until we saw them the next day.