Alvord Desert

Alvord Desert; photographer Larry D. Rea

Alvord Desert; photographer Larry D. Rea

The grumble of gravel disturbed by car tires… no pavement found here…

too far from civilization say commissioners… And best to drive slowly…

nothing worse than a flat tire (unless it is two flat tires).

A plume of dust reaching out behind us like a giant rooster tail…

we are headed south toward Fields… and Denio… the Oregon border…

passing between Steens Mountain and the Alvord Desert.

Steens Mountain from the Alvord Desert (east) side; photo by Larry D. Rea.

Steens Mountain from the Alvord Desert (east) side; photo by Larry D. Rea.

Crystals of ice landing on the hood of the car… flakes of snow…

transformed to water by heat from the engine…

then evaporating in the dry air.

are wrapped in swirling snow… It’s cold down here at 4,000 feet…

23 degrees this morning in May… but colder yet at the summit of Steens…

9,733 feet… the road up there may not open until after the 4th of July…

Snow blocks the way sometimes till later in the summer.

Thirty pound Lahontan trout populate Mann Lake… planted there…

a species left over from the ancient days… places to camp and vault toilets…

Fishing catch and release but still a thrill to catch one of those lunkers.

Hot springs boil from the ground along the fault fracture…

from deep in the earth… heated by magma…inviting some to take a dip…

hot enough to blister skin in a careless moment… beware.

Dust devils spin on playa flats of an ancient lakebed…

now called a desert… to our east… once upon a time Alvord Lake was 300 feet deep…

and, dare I say it, climate change evaporated the water…

leaving salt pan… perfect for setting speed records on land.

Kitty O’Neil was here… December of 1976…

riding a high speed tricycle to a world’s record…

for a woman… 512.7 miles per hour on the average…

she was directed not to break the record of 630.4 mph…

set by a man… to allow another man a shot at the record…

so she set the power of her vehicle at 60 percent.

While lawyers wrangled a snow storm set in…

and the new man didn’t get his chance to make history… too bad.

Dirt sailors delight in racing their land yachts here on the desert…

reaching a record speed of 126.2 miles per hour…

so much faster than the wind… hard to imagine.

Once upon a time I piloted a fighter jet across this land…

low level, close to the ground… I pushed the speed

to see what it was like at 512 miles per hour…

breath-taking… an adrenaline rush… Kitty has my admiration.

A pronghorn antelope challenged our car…

easily keeping pace at 30 mph… we slowly pushed it up to fifty and then

he (or was it she) broke away and put on a burst…

good enough to leave us in the dust… and maybe a record…

only the Cheetah is said to be faster… and not that much.

And then lunch at Fields before returning to Burns…

a family sized burger and a thick milkshake made the old fashioned way…

thick enough to require a spoon…

and cold enough to make your stomach ache.

-Larry D Rea©2014 For more information about the Alvord Desert visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alvord_Desert

For more information about Larry D. Rea, visit http://www.taxaflora.com

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