Frenchglen, Oregon

We’re back from the hinterlands, and a glorious trip it was! Mom got to see a part of Oregon that most Oregonians never see, and I got to revisit some beloved places, so we were both happy.

My return to Portugal is now roaring up on me and I don’t have time to put together a nice series of photos in one post, so I’m going to post one or two per day.

We stayed in a town called Frenchglen, which sits at the base of Steens Mountain. It may give you an idea of how remote Frenchglen is when I tell you that it has a year-round population of eleven. No, that is not a typo.

The Frenchglen Hotel is the only lodging for miles and miles in any direction (well, you can camp, but for some odd reason my septuagenarian mother wasn’t interested in that), and it’s a bit rustic. The ground floor is taken up by the office, storeroom, a bathroom, the kitchen, and a large communal eating area. Upstairs are eight rooms, all of which share a pair of bathrooms (his and hers). Guests dine downstairs, and dinner is at precisely 18:30. It’s served family style, with big bowls and platters, and everyone ladles their own portions. There are three long tables with benches, so you sit with the other guests (and campers who are staying nearby but longing for a nice hot meal that doesn’t come out of a foil package). On our first night we ate with a man who had toured North Africa in his hippie days, and had regretfully turned down a local vendor’s offer to resole his sandals with hashish.

Frenchglen Hotel

There’s a wonderful screened-in front porch, where guests enjoy some protection from the ubiquitous mosquitoes while gazing at the scenery. If they want to look up a bird or butterfly, the hotel has ID books on a shelf for anyone to grab and peruse.

The trees flanking the hotel are Carolina poplars, planted by the Civilian Conservation Corps back in the 1930s, shortly after the hotel was built. Since untilled soil here turns into hardpan in the dry season, the CCC men had to use dynamite to blast big enough holes for the young trees. Eight decades later, the poplars make the town visible from miles away, since the natural landscape here is sagebrush flats.

A few steps down the highway is the entrance to Steens Mountain Loop, the only road that ventures onto the mountain. I walked down at the end of the day, enjoying the gorgeous light created by the combination of late sunlight and thunderclouds.

Steens Mountain Loop

This photo required a bit of stubbornness. The road signs were in shadow and too dark to show in a photo, so I used a fill in flash to brighten them up. But I forgot that road signs are made of a reflective material — my flash lit them up like neon signs. I stepped back, tried again, stepped back again, tried again…and finally found the right distance on the fourth attempt. The result is one of my favorite photos of the trip.

That long, low hump you see in the distance is Steens Mountain. It doesn’t look like much from here. I’ll explain what makes it so special tomorrow.

(Click the images to embiggen.)

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About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
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19 Responses to Frenchglen, Oregon

  1. Paulo says:

    ~raises hand~ I know, I know!
    (you told me 🙂 )

    We’re so there, in a few weeks (hopefully).
    Thanks for all the tips.
    ~prints post~

    • oregon expat says:

      Fantastic! I hope your plans work out. FYI, the hotel also has newer “cabins” in the back property, which are more modern and have in-room bathrooms. But then you don’t have the fun of pattering down the hall at 02:00 to pee…or competing for the shower.

  2. Paulo says:

    P.S. Awesome shot.

  3. Lilaine says:

    Very nice light and shade pic! 😮
    Looks like someone took a spoonful off the middle of the cake… 😮

    Was Frenchglen founded by French people?
    It’s kind of a humorous name for a small town located in the middle of such a barren, flat landscape. 🙂

    Is it the 1930’s cluster of poplars on the left?

    ~raises hand~ I gotta go… !

    • oregon expat says:

      1. You’ll see that spoonful in another, closer photo. 🙂
      2. No, it wasn’t founded by French people. I’ll explain the history of the town name soon.
      3. The giant tree to the right of the hotel is a Carolina poplar, and you can see the branches and part of the trunk of another to the left. I’m not sure what those smaller trees are on the back left.
      4. It’ll be a heck of a trip for you, but I guarantee you won’t see scenery like this in France!

      • Lilaine says:

        1. Yum! can’t wait! 🙂
        2. Can’t wait, either.
        3. Er… 😀 thanks for repeating the … explanation… I was referring to the second photo, though. 😉
        4. I do intend to make this heck of a trip some day, as I’ve got to visit a dragon sister on the Olympic Peninsula, a common-Normand-ancestry kinda cousin in Idaho, a couple of friends in California and I absolutely want to see the Oregonian Coast. 🙂
        I believe we do have such scenery in France, but on a much smaller scale. 😉

        ~raises hand~ “I really gotta go, now!” says the squirming pupil at the back of the classroom. 😮

      • Lilaine says:

        This pic, in the same area, might be more like it. 🙂

  4. Inge says:

    The trees then also provide the only shade in the neighbourhood? Love the story.. and the shots.

    • oregon expat says:

      The trees provide the only shade for quite a distance! In this part of Oregon you can spot homesteads, ranches, and irrigation canals from miles away because they’re surrounded by the only tall trees in the landscape.

  5. Ana_ñ says:

    I knew it! Gorgeous photos and interesting stories. Perfect!
    Looking forward to the next post. 🙂

  6. What more to say? Well… more posts and more pics, please. 🙂

    Btw, I really love the second one. Great as a wallpaper.

    • Paulo says:

      Maria João, have you been to the Vale Glaciar do Zêzere, close to Manteigas? It seems like the closest thing we have in the old country, and the hike along the creek is great, especially in summer. You get to hear a lot of sheep/goats (I could never tell) in the surrounding mountains, but hardly ever see them.

      http://bit.ly/PNDnLy

      • I have! I use the Zêzere Glacial Valley as (a rare) example of glacial geology during the Pleistocene in the actual Portuguese territory (this part of Europe was never much affected by the last glaciations; the climate was always quite temperate).

        In fact, OregonExpat took some great photos of that valley. Maybe one day they will be placed in this blog as well.

        • Paulo says:

          I should have known. 🙂

          I was surprised the first time I went there, and it was only 10 years ago. Are there any other visible signs of glaciation in Portugal? In Trás-os-Montes, maybe?

          • Not really. The only areas that show evidences of perpetual ice coverage (i.e. ice all year long) during the last glaciation cycle are Serra da Estrela and, to less extent, Gerês. All the other areas were afflicted by the “temperate desease”. 😉

            Regarding Western Europe (or Eastern Atlantic), the big freeze was located above 42ºN. Those were the areas where ice cover and big icebergs could be found, which — of course — dictated the land climate and vegetation.

            In the Portuguese atlantic coast (all below 42ºN), during the Last Glacial Maximum (22-18.000 years ago), the sea temperatures in February were around 3/4ºC (nowadays: c. 12ºC). No real ice in the sea, and in the mainland only in very high mountains (like Serra da Estrela).

  7. Archivistwolf says:

    Very nice. Reminds me of some old homestead conversions I’ve seen over the years….

  8. Sandie says:

    This brought back memories. I love Frenchglen, Steens and the great birding nearby. It may have been a Pony Express stop at one time. We stayed there during an eclipse of the moon. So clear, quiet and dark it was like floating in space among zillions of stars with no separation between earth and sky. We stayed in a front bedroom upstairs and were the only guests there. Magical experience I’ll never forget.

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