The Steens Mountain Loop Road

Although I’m a confirmed night owl, camping out, even car camping, quickly converts me to an early riser. Without lights I usually go to bed when the sun starts to sink in the West, and when you go to bed at 6:30 it’s pretty easy to get up at 5:00 or 5:30. After all, how many hours in a sleeping bag can a man stand?

Thus, Wednesday morning I was standing near the highest point of the Steens watching sunrise, miles from the previous night’s camp site.

Sunrise in the Steen Mountains

Although it left me with the feeling that sunrises might well be overrated, the morning sun did cast a golden glow on the highest point in the Steen Mountains:

Sunrise in the Steen Mountains

I had never made the complete Steens’ Mountain loop, as I’d been too low on gas the first time and was told the next trip that although my Element has all-wheel drive it didn’t have high enough ground clearance to be safe on the back side. Luckily, that’s no longer true as they’ve been laying a new layer of rock and gravel down. The only tense moments on the road were when meeting huge gravel-laden trucks on the one-lane road and those should be gone shortly.

This certainly wasn’t Mount Rainier or Mount Hood, seeming more like a high plateau than a mountaintop,

Driving Steen Mountain Road

at least until you begin to drop down the other side,

Impressive Canyons

revealing huge canyons.

Although I hesitated to take my eyes off the road, it was hard to ignore the stark beauty of this high desert.

Increasing Vegetation

I was rewarded by sighting a few of the 300 wild horses to be found here.

Wild Horses

I even spotted a Pronghorn Antelope as I completed the loop.

Pronghorn Antelope

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