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Steens Mountain And Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge July 2009


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#1 DirtyDog

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Posted 03 August 2009 - 12:57 AM

Steens Mountain is a prime spot I visited many years ago and have always wanted to go back to. The problem with the Steens is that it is way out there, even for Oregon locals. Another place in the general vicinity worth visiting is Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge - a lesser known spot that I have also been wanting to revisit for quite some time. My little science buddy Alex and his parental units were in on the plan so here we go!

Some basic info: Steens Mountain is one of the largest fault block mountains in the West (I think that only the Grand Tetons is larger). Fault block mountains are unique in that they rise on one side gradually over a great distance and then fall dramatically on the other side in the form of a series of cliffs with thousands of feet of abrupt elevation change. Looking at fault block mountains from the gentle side they don't look like much at all. Looking at Steens Mountain as you approach it from the west it's easy to wonder what all the hubub is about. Don't let your eyes fool you though as what you are looking at is a gentle slope that culminates in over 5,000 feet of elevation gain over many miles. One of the more interesting features of giant fault block mountains is that they produce a large amount of land area at high altitude. The result is that they get and hold a lot of snow. Steens Mountain was heavily glaciated during the ice age evidence of those glaciers endures as giant glacial valleys. Driving hours through the desert to a mountain with glacial valleys is a very unique experience. Anyway, Steens rocks and I'll prove it with some photos.

We arrived at French Glen at the base of Steens and drove approximately 19 miles to our meeting place at Fish Lake campground. Fish Lake was pretty full and Alex's parental unit 3956-i (aka Ryan) had found a spot on a small lake just a half a mile up the road from Fish Lake so we were good to go:

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#2 DirtyDog

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Posted 03 August 2009 - 01:07 AM

The plan the next day was to explore around the summit and hike to Wildhorse Lake. Kiger Gorge:

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View from East Rim (looking at the Alvord Desert over 5,000 feet below):

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#3 DirtyDog

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Posted 03 August 2009 - 01:11 AM

Wildhorse Lake is a hike down from the summit:

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A tough 1.3 miles down:

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#4 DirtyDog

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Posted 03 August 2009 - 01:14 AM

Almost there:

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Alex wading in the stream flowing out of the lake (one of my favorite photos ever):

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#5 DirtyDog

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Posted 03 August 2009 - 01:17 AM

Ryan trying his luck:

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And succeeding:

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#6 DirtyDog

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Posted 03 August 2009 - 01:20 AM

Near the top:

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#7 DirtyDog

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Posted 03 August 2009 - 01:34 AM

The girlz had to be home for "work" on Monday so Alex, Ryan and I took the long way home by way of Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge. Hart Mountain is a little known area with a lot more to do and see than most people realize. The downside is that seasonal closures restrict access to the best parts for most of the year so plan on going between August 1st and December 31st for total action potential.

Hot Springs Campground at Hart Mountain features a few hot springs in a central location with camping in three separate aspen groves situated around the hot springs:

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Awning comes in handy on a hot day:

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#8 DirtyDog

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Posted 03 August 2009 - 01:39 AM

These are the nicest hot springs you are likely to find at a remote campground. The rock structure was reportedly built by the "Order of the Antelope" which has a seemingly secretive and sordid history at the refuge. I hope to investigate more on this organization and have an article on it in the future.

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#9 DirtyDog

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Posted 03 August 2009 - 01:43 AM

Dinner time!

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#10 DirtyDog

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Posted 03 August 2009 - 01:48 AM

******Disclaimer: we mistakenly drove the Guano Creek Road before it officially opened on August 1st. All the gates were open and our approach through Hot Springs Campground either didn't have signs or we missed them. I don't endorse accessing closed areas. It was our mistake.

But we did it so - heading out:

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