Sunday, June 10, 2012

Great Basin Spring ~ May 23-24, 2012

We head east over the Santiam Pass (a must see in the fall) on Hwy 20 to Burns then turn south onto Hwy 205, another of Oregon's Scenic Byways.

Our destination is the Narrows at Malheur and Harney Lakes in the northwestern corner of the Great Basin. Malheur Lake is freshwater, while Harney Lake is saline-alkaline. Both cycle between open water in wetter years and marshes in drier years. It is a wetlands oasis providing a habitat for many migratory bird species each year.

We stayed at The Narrows RV Park for two nights, the perfect base camp for exploring Harney County and the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. In the morning we went out to Visitors Center to get the scoop on the best places for birding. We got so much good information from staff and visiting birders we have to save some areas of exploration for our next trip. 

We took along a "sightings checklist" and head down Pilot Road (gravel)towards the town of French Glen with binoculars and camera at the ready. Spring in the high desert (about 4,100') does not disappoint: the colors, shadows and wildlife provide surprises at every turn. The road is virtually empty so we frequently just pull over, get out and walk. The weather is perfect, warm and partly cloudy.

American Avocets


White Faced Ibis

Buena Vista Overlook

After a full day of exploring we have an excellent dinner at the little cafe at the park. A storm rolls through after midnight and I wake up to the sound of dripping water. I just got up and threw a towel under it for the night. It turns out that one of the small ventilation skylights was cracked and the wind was forcing the rain in. No worries, Mr. Duct Tape to the rescue at sunrise.  

We just add it to the NWTF list with a smile. My mom and dad were on the road in their motorhome for a decade. They loved every minute of it, but Daddy did warn me "Honey, they are money pits". I now get that. We look at it as all part of the journey and we become a little more self sufficient and savvy as we go. After breakfast at the Cafe we head north to Burns, fill up and are on our way to Boise for a few days.