I spent a very peaceful night camped alone at this Oregon “SnoPark” designed to support “winter fun” activities. Well, it was not very wintry and I had a wonderful fire until it started to sleet.
By comparison, Oregon’s Chickahominy BLM campground had a beautiful setting (aka: horizon-wide space in all directions) but the “sun shelter” by the picnic table was the tallest object around, other than the pit toilet, and it shuddered all night long, as did my entire truck. Vicious winds! Nothing to hide behind!
After scenic sidetracks to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Pete French’s historic Round Barn and the Diamond Craters (another awesome and rather remote volcanic area) I reached the road to Steens Mountain Wilderness, which was closed due to snow. I lucked out, however, in finding the Page Springs BLM Campground, this one sheltered from the wind in a natural rock-sided valley full of trees, where the Blitzen river flows down from Steens Mountain. Far from being “off the map” this campground was nearly full — of avid birders!! Everyone was wandering around in ones and twos, looking in different directions, through binoculars. It would have made a great New Yorker cartoon for the section where readers suggest the captions.
I found a campsite adjacent to the spring itself, and the bird-lovers pointed out many species I wouldn’t have noticed on my own. Page Springs has everything — songbirds, cliff-birds, marsh birds, raptors! In the morning, on leaving, I stopped out at Pete French’s old ranch (where an old fire tower fills with turkey vultures every night), and a birding couple nearby pointed out a great horned owl sitting in an old apple tree! More on Malheur National Wildlife Refuge: http://www.fws.gov/malheur/