The wind catches the door and it flies open, the force pulling it from Marlie’s hand before she could react. Sleet pushed sideways by the force makes horizontal lines in the air outside the opening left by the now wide open camper door. A rush of cold blows in as she steps onto the tailgate of the pickup, instinctively turning her back to the gale. Shoving the door closed behind her, the air inside becomes calm again, sanctuary, until she returns from the groover set up on the leeward side of the truck. When she does, her coat will be soaked, and rotated onto the one hook where we are able to put our wet clothing to dry.
We had arrived the night before. Often when coming in late to a popular camping area, the better spots are taken, and making due for a night or two until someone pulls out is the norm. We could have crowded in at Pike Creek, between our favorite place in the boulders and tree rock. But, camping with the dogs, we’d rather be a bit further away. Brittanys are very social, and their high energy and curiosity can make a less than welcome impact on our neighbors. We’d rather not keep them on leashes in this wide open space. So, we drove up Indian Creek Road, just across from the Alvord hot springs, and found an open bench with fabulous views of the desert below.
The Alvord Desert side of Steens Mountain area in Southeast Oregon is not developed like the West side of the Steens. The Fields-Denio road that cuts north through this country is gravel, and the campsites are what is referred to as “dispersed.” They are not maintained, and the roads in and out of many of them are jeep trails. Camping for large motor homes and trailers is limited to a couple of wide areas along the road, and on the alkali flats of the desert itself after the summer heat has dried it out. Some unfortunate campers have found themselves up to the axel in mud a mile or more from shore on this dry lakebed having misjudged that one.