Steens in late July?

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ezreub
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Steens in late July?

Post by ezreub » July 22nd, 2019, 7:55 pm

My 11 and 14-year-old sons are eager to do some car camping and hiking at and around Steens Mountain next week, maybe even following it up with a trip to Hart Mountain because it all sounds exotic and it's so far out there and those are areas of the state we haven't hiked at all and, well, there are antelope. The weather forecast for Burns calls for roughly 88-90 degree highs all week, and I'm thinking that once we get out there, we may end up being a bit miserable because of the heat, but I've never been out there myself, and I know that there are some campgrounds at higher elevations, which could be cooler, so I figured I'd check in here.

Does heading out there at this time of year seem like a bad idea? Should we instead head up to the Wallowas/Lostine as I'm inclined and save Steens for next June? Or will we be able to enjoy ourselves out there the heat notwithstanding?

Also: Does it really take three-plus-hours as per Google Maps to drive the sixty miles from Steens to Hart?

Thanks for your thoughts.

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jessbee
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Re: Steens in late July?

Post by jessbee » July 22nd, 2019, 8:25 pm

Great questions and I can hear the enthusiasm in your post!

Late July is absolutely perfect for the Steens, you'll hit the wildflowers just right. And the temps will be much cooler at that high elevation. I say go for it.

As for getting to Hart, yes it probably does take that long because it's nothing but gravel road to get there. I've never gone from that direction before so I can't tell you anything about the conditions of the roads. Make sure you have a very reliable vehicle and loads of gas.

Worth it if you have the time, even though there's no guarantee you'll see antelope. (I always have, but I've heard other people have been disappointed). Either way you'll enjoy the wide open spaces and just maybe the mosquitoes have died down there by now. I was at Hart mountain one year around 4th of July and the mosquitoes were as thick as any I'd ever seen.

If I had to choose one of the two for this time of year I'd definitely go to the Steens.
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adamschneider
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Re: Steens in late July?

Post by adamschneider » July 23rd, 2019, 7:42 am

I just went to Steens Mountain on Sunday. The road is in great shape, and it's at least 20 degrees cooler near the summit. Go for it.

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teachpdx
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Re: Steens in late July?

Post by teachpdx » July 23rd, 2019, 8:32 am

There are some pretty nice car-camping campgrounds on the road up to Steens, and this early in the season you'll surely find a bit of solitude. This is the perfect time to go.

ezreub
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Re: Steens in late July?

Post by ezreub » July 23rd, 2019, 11:49 am

Well, it sounds unanimous. I guess, we're going to Steens.

My sons will be thrilled.

I'll give you and update when we get back. Thanks so much for the replies!

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teachpdx
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Re: Steens in late July?

Post by teachpdx » July 23rd, 2019, 12:41 pm

As far as the drive from Steens to Hart, I think 3 hours is probably a bit exaggerated. Google defaults to 20 mph on rural gravel roads. Depending on your vehicle, the gravel road from south of Frenchglen over to Hart can be done at 35-50+ mph. A passenger car will be at the lower end, an SUV or pickup truck the higher end. The main culprit will be washboards, which should be better now than later in the summer. Be sure that your spare tire is ready to go.
I haven't taken my current car on that road, or been on the Frenchglen-Hart road for years, but I was able to do the similar gravel road north of Alvord Desert last September at 35-40 mph (a GTI with low profile tires, nonetheless).

ezreub
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Re: Steens in late July?

Post by ezreub » July 23rd, 2019, 2:28 pm

Okay. Good to know. We'll see how ambitious we feel, but we'll have a spare tire at any rate. Thank you.

ezreub
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Re: Steens in late July?

Post by ezreub » August 1st, 2019, 7:56 pm

Just wanted to report back that my sons and I had a fantastic five days at and around Steens, save for the "Sunday Night Massacre" at Page Springs, where the mosquitoes were as bad as we've ever experienced. The next four nights we stayed up at South Steens Campground, which was mosquito-free, fairly empty, and generally wonderful. We did less hiking than planned--covering some of the Little Blitzen Trail and walking down to the Riddle Brothers Ranch as per Bobcat's Trip Report: viewtopic.php?f=8&t=26859. But we climbed around the Summit (where the wildflowers were abundant as promised), birded extensively along Malheur's Central Patrol Road and around the Headquarters, checked out the Diamond Craters, threw an Aerobie on the Alvord Desert, and cooled off with milkshakes at the Fields Station. We even saw three antelope. We were only sorry that we couldn't stay longer. What a place! Thanks so much for encouraging us to go. We'll be going back next summer if I have any say.

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