We’ve all, at one time or another, felt that need to get a break from the media bombardment of today’s world. To satiate that 21st century need to escape to an “Ozzie ‘n’ Harriet” place where the only media is a newspaper with stories about Jimmy’s lost dog. To an isolated spot where the hometown radio station has a broadcast radius that can be measured in feet, and TV is 100 miles over the horizon.
Places like this that have escaped the new millennium are few and far between but still exist. All you need to do is seek them out. But that’s easy – just study a cell phone coverage map. It’ll graphically reveal places where this ubiquitous tool has yet to reach, and civilization has yet to overrun. One of these “no-bar zones” I’ve found is the Oregon Outback, on the western edge of the Great Basin desert where it bumps into the Cascade Mountains.
Known as the Outback for its sparse population and similarity to its Australian cousin, when the 1843 Fremont Expedition passed through they named part of it Winter Ridge and Summer Valley. The mountainous ridge is often snow covered and hangs over a large salt lake dominating the temperate valley below. But over 10,000 years ago it looked entirely different. At that time the valley was lush and home to herds of mammoths and other extinct species, but through the millennium it’s morphed into its current arid environment.
Wildlife is but one of the many rewards that await you on this road trip. Early indigenous peoples left their stories carved into the walls of canyons for you and future generations to see. The State Park at Fort Rock holds the remnants of an extinct volcano, and the surrounding area is filled with easy hiking and spelunking opportunities. But my favorite is the oases at Summer Lake Hot Springs.
Dwayne, today’s owner of the hot springs and himself an escapee from bright lights and big cities, feels blessed to live in such an empty big-sky landscape. In this well-watered mixture of rustic and new buildings dating back to the beginning of the 20th century, he’s creating an ecological environment in tune with earlier times. This blessing is shared by offering an assortment of cabins and camp spots to allow visitors to get in touch with the solitude. Add to this water 20,000 years old, water that’s warmed by Pleistocene heat.
Throughout the ages hot springs such as the ones found here have been used for their curative and relaxing powers. Mystics, saints, and sages have sought them for the altered state of consciousness they provide, while others have benefited from their curative powers. You too can enjoy either or both in the large indoor pool that offers a visitor the chance to delve into the mystic and partake of these natural wonders.
After only minutes immersed in these soothing waters, watching storm clouds hang on Winter Ridge as the sun slowly sets, the concerns of 21st century life quietly melt into the simplicity you’ve come here to find.
If you go:
The Oregon Outback has been designated a scenic area by the State of Oregon, with a Scenic Byway cutting through it. Your journey will begin in the vast forests and volcanic peaks of the Cascade Range and end in windswept high desert environments that hold the shrunken remains of ancient salt lakes.
This link provides information on how to get there and what you’ll find once you do:
Travel Oregon’s Outback Scenic Byway