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A Fall Microadventure to Southeastern Oregon

Did someone say microadventure? Count me in!

By: Austin Jackson + Save to a List

Being a college student, free time is often hard to come by. Any opportunity I get to go spend some time outside, I jump on. I'm a firm believer in not making excuses for myself, so whenever I have a day or two free, I try my best to make something happen. On a recent weekend in September, I decided to take a little microadventure with my girlfriend Haley down to southeast Oregon for a quick night of camping in the desert followed by some fall colors the next day.

When most people think of Oregon, they think of waterfalls and lush green forests. However, Southeastern Oregon is about as dry as it can be. The best part about it is that much of the land in that region of the state is BLM land, which means a lot of things, but most importantly, it means free camping! This is also great for a college student!

It was Friday and we had already driven down to Sisters, Oregon the night before to stay with family. We woke up Friday, packed the car, and continued down to the Alvord Desert, which was an additional four hours of driving. I'd already been a couple times to this particular place before, but I knew it was one of the darkest skies in the country, and so I love going back to shoot photos of the Milky Way. 

We rolled in just before sunset and drove around for a few until we finally settled on a spot to set up camp. We got to set up the tent and start a fire just before it got dark. I was lucky enough to be testing out the BioLite Firepit on this trip, which was a pretty great way to have a fire. I never have a fire on this desert because I never want to leave the ashes behind, but with this fire pit, I wouldn't have to and I could have a fire without leaving a trace! We roasted marshmallows until after dark, at which point I set up my camera on the tripod for some night photography. After a few hours of shooting and watching the stars, we decided to get some rest.

The BioLite Firepit!

In the morning, we woke up and had another fire. Most of the time when I am camping, it's in the backcountry, so usually fires are not allowed. It's always nice for a change to be able to relax around the fire. We ate breakfast and burned off the rest of our wood, and then we were off. We were headed around the Steens Mountains in search of some fall color.

After what seemed like driving for hours on the dirt road, we reached a pretty cool overlook of the valley, where I had to pull over and break out my telephoto lens to shoot the trees far away in the valley. We hung out here for a while, did some walking around, ate some snacks, and by that time, it was the early afternoon. We wanted to make it back to Sisters that day so we decided to head back into town.

Shot at 270mm

Even though it was short, our weekend microadventure was incredibly relaxing. After a full summer's worth of backpacking and more than 30 days on the trail this summer, it felt good to cozy up next to the fire and roast marshmallows. Being in college, I've had to learn how to make the most of my time and enjoy every possible moment, and this trip was the perfect example of that.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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