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.
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.
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.)