camping in the steens

Although we had no water leaks, small flakes of snow filtered in through the windward side wall panel on the upper bunk, landing lightly on the girls sleeping bags and faces.

view across the alvord desert

lichen covered rocks and the troutcreek mountains

 

Steens Storm, page 2

The desert sits against the East flank of Steens Mountain, one of the largest fault block mountains in North America. The Steens, along with the Sheepsheads to the North and Pueblos and Trout Creeks to the South ring the valley with mountains. The desert itself is perfectly flat, used by many as a landing strip, a surface for sail and kiteboarding, and for ATVs.  The surface is cracked, giving the look of a tiled travertine  floor.

Sometime during the first night, a storm moved in, hammering our Alaskan Camper with wind, rain, sleet, and snow.  The gusts made the vehicle rock as they hit the camper broadside.  Although we had no water leaks, small flakes of snow filtered in through the windward side wall panel on the upper bunk, landing lightly on the girls sleeping bags and faces.

Many other roads in the area are over rocky ground. As we discovered the first morning, Indian Creek Road may be solid when it’s dry.  When wet, however, it becomes slime; the sort that builds up on your shoes and tires, lifting you an extra three inches off the ground and curling up around the edges of your feet or treads. The effect in a large vehicle going downhill would not be unlike riding a toboggan. With the tire treads full, gravity is an irresistible force and sliding is uninhibited until you reach an angle of repose. Hardly where we would like to end up in a soaking downpour. Behind the tailgate, where our feet meet the ground as we enter and leave the camper, a bog was forming. Our weight had pushed prints into the ground and water had gathered in them, creating an ever more saturated mud pit to add to the experience of already less than enticing trips to the groover, practically the only time any of us stepped outside.

Our camper has two full beds, one of which converts to a table and benches, and a small galley. It’s the kind where the top raises and lowers; when driving it sits not much taller than the cab of our truck. The advantage to this small design is the ability to get to these out of the way places.  When set up, it offers a shelter we usually only use for cooking and sleeping.  Because we normally spend most of our time outside of the camper, we tend to go minimalist, including no electricity.

Being confined to such a small space with four people and two dogs is rubiks cube living. Any movement by one body impacts those next to it. When one returns from outside, their dampness spreads to their surroundings.  Getting a snack involves the whole family, and Marlie was never able to hold her cards in such a way that none of us could see them during our marathon games of crazy eights, go fish, blackjack and five card draw.

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copyright © Eva Gill 2009 ~ Web design, photographs,text by Eva Gill, unless otherwise noted. Video by John Gill