Back to Burns…

The eclipse was fun, but I wanted to get outta town. Not much in Vale. They do have three or so excellent restaurants but nothing much else. I did find a bar with some microbrews on tap  and good food, but the TVs were too small so watching games on my home TV was more fun. I enjoyed being able to ride my bike around town for the exercise…as long as I did it in the cool of the mornings. By 3 pm it was HOT. I took several jaunts in my car with the AC on but again, didn’t find much of interest in the area. Went over to Ontario for shopping one day. That’s about it. I did stop in at the local auto shop for an oil change. And than at the local Les Schwab tire store to have my tires balanced but eventually, my overpriced visit week at the Vale RV park was over and I wasn’t going to give them any more money. Time to head back to Burns. This time though, I headed straight to the Narrows RV Park. It’s a Passport America park so half price. Since I was unsure where I’d be going afterwards, I paid for 3 nights to start, just to check the place out. It’s 26 miles from Burns, and right on the main road to the Malheur Wildlife Refuge.

This is the onsite bar they have. Notice everything looks new. It’s about 10 years since the owners bought the place and refurbished all the buildings. And built some new. 2008 was the year the RV market crashed and many RV parks went out of business. Bad luck on the owners part. Or they were able to get it much reduced price because of that. Who knows. But in any event, there’s a ‘for sale’ sign on the park now. The land around here has a rich history as just a couple miles away right at the narrows was a grocery store and hotel which existed for many decades beginning in 1889. It was a travelers stop over between Burns and French Glen for decades and developed into a small town until a highway was built that bypassed it. Afterwards, the small town of Narrows slowly died. The area is remote so it’s a little strange finding all this new building of the RV park out here in the middle of nowhere. Hunting probably contributed to the Narrows Hotel and Grocery store’s long life, and that still helps this RV park. Also, many bird watchers like to come here to take pictures at the Narrows and then visit the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Yeah, that place where those armed terrorists occupied federal buildings for all those months in early 2016.

Next morning, was visited by a couple rabbits.  Healthy looking.

And here I’m all set up. Wifi was pretty good. I was able to stream Netflix. Got some chores done and decided to build some wooden landing pads out of the scrap lumber I had from when I built the plywood doors for the TV cabinets a couple months ago. Have a nice work space here at Narrows with both a picnic table and a metal table that’s at a nice height for woodworking.  Had a great time building these. Here’s the entire write up about this project: Homemade Landing Pads.

They really work great. Very happy with them.

After I’d been here 3 nights, I decided to extend my stay. I liked it here at Narrows. Nice and quiet. Room to work on projects. And a bar with big screen TV with food just steps away from my RV. So now I was paying by the week. One day, I drove all the way over to Burns to do some shopping (there’s a big Safeway there), and then to Hines as I wanted to check out that little town a bit more than I already have.

Hines has some older houses that are palatial in style.

Stopped in Burns downtown on the way back and had a simple lunch and did some browsing in downtown stores. And on the way back, the clouds rolled in. I stopped on the hill overlooking the valley where Burns and Hines are…way off in the distance.Didn’t take long for it to get blustery. But, although the clouds threatened rain, we didn’t get much.A couple days later decided to visit the Malheur NWR. I didn’t know much about it at all except that it encompasses thousands of acres in eastern Oregon and is on a natural bird route. Millions of birds, insects, and animals gather here. This land, as you’ve probably noticed from the pictures so far, is relatively flat with the terrain punctuated by the occasional 100-200 foot high mesa.

Here’s where I started my visit. This is a tower that overlooks the valley, and just below it to the left in this picture is the actual Malheur visitors center. I’ll leave a visit there for some other time, today, I planned on taking the guided car tour around the area. And it starts right here. If I turn around, I’ll be facing the road that heads on into the refuge. I’m looking forward to seeing lots of wildlife and  such today. It’s an 8 mile loop, on strictly gravel roads. Not something you’d want to do in a RV though.  That copse of trees above is where the park headquarters are. That huge valley beyond was once an inland lake. And below, the road I’ll be traveling. Remote isn’t it?Find these little buildings along the route where roads join this loop. They all have a CD you can take with you that tells you the history at certain stops. The bridge is a bit aged. But it was solid enough for my car. Lots of natural grasses. Deer must love it here.Some hills way off in the distance.  So far I hadn’t seen much of any wildlife. But as I got to this copse of trees, a big goose jumped out in front of my car and took off like a shot to the other side of the road. It seemed as though I caught him unawares.Soooo many puddles. Just the thing for migrating waterfowl.  See the ancient volcanic cinder cone off in the distance? This was a favored camping spot for the local Indian tribe. Before they were forced onto a reservation near Burns. And here’s an overlook for the main part of the refuge that conservators are helping to maintain and restore after decades of abuse by settlers. Really a beautiful view. Weather was perfect for this type of road trip. Not to hot, but as the day worn on, it did get to the point where I needed to turn on the AC. It was still August…near the end of August but still summer.Turn around 180 degrees and there’s the desert again. This high ground doesn’t get as much water as the lower area of the refuge does.
Someone’s car off in the distance causing billows of dust to drift into the sky. That’s the road I was just on a few minutes before. They’re the only other car I saw on the road tour. And from no closer than this. Imagine Indians standing here looking out over this vast bird habitat and seeing riders in the distance stirring up dust like this. And my most beautiful picture of the area. Telephoto into the valley floor from the overlook. Look at those colors!And back at the overlook turnoff. This leads to the main highway that heads back to the RV park so that’s the direction I drove. I missed a visit to historic French Glen though. That’s another 35 miles beyond where this picture was taken. Population is now 12 people. French Glen has a history mostly created by a settler who built a large ranch nearby. Check out the link. It’s also sitting at the southern end of the Malheur refuge, though it’s outside those borders.  I’ll go visit the town next time I’m staying in Narrows.

And that’s the end of this visit to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. I know I want to come back at a time of the year when there are more animals and birds around. The end of August is the quietest part of the year for wildlife.

I’ll have a post about another visit to Malheur Refuge, at the Visitors Center so you’ll be able to see that. I went back a couple weeks after this visit.

Stayed in Narrows at the RV park for 3 plus weeks. Once a week I’d drive over to Burns for shopping and picking up mail at the PO. Most of the time, I just hung around the RV park and enjoyed the solitude. Oh, also watched the rabbits hop around the RV site, and later saw a couple cattle drives. So come back for the next post.

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One Response to Back to Burns…

  1. Hafcanadian says:

    We entertained staying at the Narrows a couple of times, but the hot springs RV park near Crane was always more convenient to our route, so we never made it there. The Narrows has sustained good reviews by most travelers. Make a trip over and check out the hot springs. Also the lava fields; there were some interesting features and explanation panels there, and a lot of nifty, perfectly round “lava bombs” lying around. The high school at Crane was on Oregon Field Guide some years ago because of its successful educational programs and great farm/ranch kids. And don’t miss the Pete French round barn. It used to be free, but a while back a visitors center was built, kind of commercializing the experience.

    We’ve spent days at the Frenchglen RV park, touring the refuge evenings when the wildlife get active, enjoying sorties on the Steens loop, and flyfishing the Donner and Blitzen River and Fish Lake, one of my favorites for evening Brookies from a small boat or bellyboat. One twilight when the action was one per cast, I was startled by two larger-than-normal beavers circling my small Orvis mini-pontoon, and slapping their tails on the water. Cool! There’s camping at the lake, and I’ve seen large rigs in there, but wouldn’t recommend the idea; easier to stay at Frenchglen. Have yet to make it over to Mann Lake on the east side of Steens escarpment, where trophy cutthroats cruise, but am never in the area at the right time of year.

    Have passed through Burns a couple of times in November and narrowly missed getting stuck when snow flew or the route to the Casino RV Park over the berm iced over. Gets pretty darned cold there this time of year, but our Beaver handles that just fine no matter how nervous I and the Missus personally get. Now the blasted beet trucks that rocket Hwy 20, throwing winter gravel at coach and toad, now that’s reason enough to fret.

    Lots of useful info in your comment Haf, thanks. I’ll make plans to visit Crane and French Glen next year after I get back from my trip east.

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