I’m not a great lover of very hot weather unless there is a cooling breeze or and shade trees under which to take refuge (or perhaps a swimming pool nearby). I have visited the Southwest several times and even camped in the desert. Yet I preferred to move along to the next stop after a short time, the intense dry heat and empty landscape seeming forbidding.
Then I moved to Oregon at age 42 and not long after discovered it’s high desert. It felt like another experience altogether, magnetic and beautiful. It is the severity of sand swept, bare earth coupled with a variety of life that thrives; it is the everlasting sky into which thrust ancient rocky prominences; it is a wind that sears and sings and a sun that tolerates no weakness, foolishness. It immediately enthralled me. Central Oregon’s high desert remains a favorite place to visit.
In June of 2013, Marc and I visited the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon when we stayed a week-end at the tribal-owned Kah-Nee-Ta Resort. Little did we imagine that in 2018, it would be closed due to financial difficulties. I’m happy we had the chance to stay and explore the area some (also had fun during an attempt at kayaking together in one kayak on a short trip on Warm Springs River…but perhaps not again). Today I am revisiting those good moments.
We had gone for a work event with a new employer, but what I recall is a deep quietude of the land, air, sky. Stillness and then swift wind, silence and sounds I can’t well describe. It felt saturated with ancient time, people, sufferings, wonders.
As evening fell, the scenarios were even more captivating, perhaps, than daytime when our skin easily burned and vision seemed dimmed by the brilliant light even with sunglasses on–though each held unique pleasures. After dinnertime each night we sat on the room’s balcony, watched the orb of sun lower over the ridges, captivated–and then suddenly fierce, still-heat-burnished winds rushed around and over all.
On a brief road trip we still find extraordinary views even though we have become more familiar with it over the decades.
High desert country called in the midst of our new twin baby tending here. I have had little time to devote to writing or photography (except for pictures of the infant girls my daughter and husband are lovingly watching over –as are we, so very frequently). But now and then we engage in other matters of interest.
We enjoyed a quick two day trip over the Cascades for another granddaughter’s high school graduation. (Hooray for my son’s daughter, Avery! Early graduation at barely 17; on to college in the fall!) And I remain fascinated by that area, though doubt I’d trade rain forests, valleys and mountain foothills of my home topography for eastern Oregon’s high desert and ranch lands. Though I am yet drawn to the power of those, as well as our mountain ranges.
We always stop at Smith Rock near Redmond, Oregon if we can. I find it breathtaking, shifting scenes that are ever mesmerizing to explore as we trudge over winding, dusty paths. Here are several shots from our sweaty hike touched by awestruck moments. I saw a river otter for the first time, also, though shots did not come out well.
Be on the lookout for rock climbers here and there.
Please click on the series below for a slide show.
(Over the years we’ve spent time in Oregon’s breathtaking high desert and ranch lands. Our state is nearly 45 percent desert despite having lush forests and much rain in the western part. We once stayed at Kah-nee-ta Lodge, a resort on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation and owned by Warm Spring Tribes. I felt a stranger in a strange land….but found it all compelling. Enjoy some photos of the area below. You will soon understand the expressions on our faces: true enchantment.)
Winds talk. Shape time. I listen to
stories riding on brittle air,
Native, Caucasian, Hispanic
tales woven and split apart like
strands of rope, bracelets
of bright, hard beads,
rawhide twisted and turned.
I am silenced, prepare for
discovery, too much I do not know.
Those old, old voices mumble,
whisper and entreat. They shear
rock and sand, insistent,
striated with memory of blood
coursing, blood spilling.
A woman like me can be entranced
so slips through mirages, spirits,
springs for healing, treacherous passes.
A landscape erupting with grief.
Desire. Power. Peace.
Raw beauty is strong,
burrows deep in dreaming,
hallowed and dangerous like a charm.
The scents of heat in high desert:
harrowing and pungent so it stings
but brightens the senses. The mind.
Light on rocky buttes, in valleys–
so pure I pray as it bridges earth
to Crooked River, volcanic ridge to beyond.
Chase it, embrace the land’s heart,
magic of juniper, sagebrush,
common woolly sunflower.
Life recapitulating. Surviving.
An imperturbable demeanor comes from perfect patience. Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened, but go on in fortune and misfortune at their own private pace like a clock during a thunderstorm.—Robert Louis Stevenson