Looking back on 2017, one of my favorite trips of the summer was a trek down to the Alvord Desert. The Alvord is one of those places I'd recommend everyone take the time to check out. Something about driving through the middle of nowhere Oregon and seeing signs that say "next gas 98 miles" brings an awesome perspective of solitude.
The trip we took was far from one of solitude and self reflection and rather a time for celebration of our dear friend Micah. We decided that for Micah's bachelor party we would lug the kid and a keg full of dales pale ale 9 hours south of Spokane. We had a blast.
The playa of what once was the Alvord Lake is insane. I've never seen dirt like it. Not to mention the expansive-ness. There is one main route to drive out onto the playa and each time someone would come out to join up we could see them drive for miles. You could stare across as someones camp that was definitely several miles away but the illusion of distance made it seem as though you could walk there in minutes. Along side the west side of the playa there is a hot spring that comes up out of the Steens Mountains. These hot springs are unique in the way in which the water heats up. Most hot springs are heated by geothermal activity. The Alvord Hot Springs are heated by the movement of the tectonic plate that the Steens mountains are a part of. The water actually comes up through all the friction created by the plate and becomes super hot right then and there before coming up into a stream and dumping into a pool to be enjoyed by all.
Selfishly I really wanted to make the trek down to the Alvord as I heard it was quite the overland destination. Last year in February I got my first Landcruiser and have since fallen in love with them and Toyota 4x4s in general. All I heard was that 4wd was necessary at times. Looking back, you could definitely go enjoy the Alvord Desert in a Prius and get wonderful fuel economy all the way down and back. 4wd is not necessary unless rain comes or you decide to do some wheelin to find a camp site. All that said, I don't regret taking my gas guzzling fzj80 one bit. The Landcruiser is such a wonderful road trip car. Aside from it being a pig of an suv and therefore only getting 14mpg on its best days, its comfortable, reliable, and a perfect basecamp for a camping trip like we took. The only time I would choose to have something different is in times when there are horrible winds and you just want a space to use as a living room - then the vanagon or some other kind of van equivalent seems to be the winner.
As we stayed and played corn hole while trying to finish our quickly warming dales pale ale, the winds did pick up and a storm began to blow in. We quickly packed up camp, got one more "drive as fast as you can because theres no speed limit on this super flat playa" lap in and headed back on to the road to Fields to search for a secondary camp site. While searching out friend Michael decided to take his brand new outback up a 4x4 trail headed up the Steens. He made it a surprisingly long way all while 3 wheeling and skipping across rocks and bumps. From there we checked out a few more trails that were all on blm land but couldn't seem to find a good level place to camp where we could fit 3 vehicles. We decided we would stay our second night at Mann Lake. However, the lake was currently home to grazing cattle from a nearby rancher. This made for a fun evening filled with cow sounds and our buddy TJ chasing cows all the while we were secretly hoping a bull might decide to turn and start chasing him.
The next morning, much to our surprise, we woke up to Michael's subaru having a flat tire. It wasn't until then that he decided to tell us that through all that wheelin he was doing the day before, he was on snow tires that had come on the car from the dealership...
We got Michael's donut fitted up on his subaru and made our way back north towards Spokane. On our way home the subaru and f150 that were along with us far out-shined the 80 series in pace but thats not what owning a Landcruiser is about. We took our time. Hell we still had a keg full of warm beer that wasn't finished and 3 guys aside from the driver to give it one last college try. We had a slowpaced party barge the whole way home. We even decided to stop off at a fire lookout on the way and in the end we were only about an hour and half behind the fastest car home. If there is one thing that owning a Landcruiser has taught me, its that taking your time is always worth it. There is always more work to be done and not enough time in the day but slowing down and enjoying the view is good for the soul.