Article and Photographs by Larry Turner (
High on Adventure, July 2020


My lifestyle now is social distancing. CV-19 has changed all of our lives in many if not most major ways. I’m fortunate to be impacted less than most because I live in a rural area with large empty spaces surrounding me ... and it is to these spaces I’ve been adventuring during the pandemic. I do carry a mask with me in case I have to slip into public for whatever reason. I have always avoided large crowds with a few exceptions, such as a rare concert. Living in a little town has its perks, especially if your front and back doors—like mine—lead to the Big Open. I feel for my urban and city brethren who have fewer immediate options.

Larry and Steen Turner

PERKS of CV-19?

Instead of CV-19 being all negative, there have also been some positive effects. More time has been spent with loved ones—which could grow thin—but it also can and has grown thick for many, including myself. I’ve done some things with my son which I have not done in years ... such as spending several weeks in the mountains of his namesake: Steens Mountain in Oregon. The last time that we spent time there was 15 years ago. Also, CV-19 has forced me to spend more time at home where I’ve been able to do some way overdo house and property projects. Additionally, I have gone back into the garden (albeit, small-scale compared to the past) which I have not done in years. I cleaned out the old greenhouse (it had been used for storage) and planted some veggies and flowers. Yahoo!

  Oregon camp morning   Oregon camp table  
  Oregon camp visitors   Oregon flyfishing  
  Oregon camp   Oregon river camp table  
  Oregon pronghorn   Oregon starry night  


I write these words—in this early summer of uncertainty—seated in my Coleman chair beside my beloved unnamed river that I’ve known forever. All of us have our special place, and this is mine. To help keep it that way, I leave it unnamed.

It is late afternoon, early summer 2020. Temps in the early 80s with a slight breeze. The river sings the constant song of riffles, cascades, rocks and gravity. The old shade-rendering bank-side pines are alive with the avian world and their lovely music: warblers, brown creeper, tree sparrows, vireos, red-shafted flickers, western tanager, and more. The soft pastel hills and mountains are largely void of humanity, except for the occasional camper like myself, and cowboys tending their stock. Not one vehicle did I see or hear today. A perfect day!

My morning fly fishing yielded a half dozen trout—I kept two for dinner. Later as the sun was setting, I caught and released a half dozen more.

I’m traveling with my beloved pickup, Rocinante and camper, Further In. Outside the camper, I have a table, chairs, hammock and a popup screened tent for relaxing when the temps are high and the bugs are biting. A shovel is my privy. A year ago, I was doing the same. I’ve lived half a century social distancing and I am an expert at it.

    Evening fireplace fire    
  Kayaker   Oregon sailing  
  Fresh trout   Steen and dog Bosco  


In my previous High On Adventure piece, I wrote about where I was (mainly Montana) when the CV-19 s__t hit the fan. Upon arriving back in Oregon, my son Steen and I stayed low, but we still adventured and explored. He hooked up with his girlfriend Alex in Medford and then soon after, we met and spent time at my b-in-law and sis’s Lake of the Woods cabin. We opened the cabin for the new season. We spent time fishing, hiking, mushroom hunting, cooking, playing cards, reading, kayaking, resting, and visiting which was especially nice before a roaring evening fire from the old fireplace. Mainly we were by ourselves with few visitors. After the lake sojourn, we went back home for a few days, then off we went to some of our favorite country in Lake and Harney County, Oregon. Neither of these counties had a CV-19 case at that time.

  Hart Mountain sign   Hart Mountain closure sign  
  Hart Mountain pronghorn   Hart Mountain pronghorn  
  Hart Mountain view   Oregon Lake County sunset  


Lake County borders my home county of Klamath, my second favorite county in the state. Klamath is my favorite as we have the only national park in the state and the deepest lake in America, Crater Lake - and so much more.

I love Lake County for its beauty, its people, and its spareness of people. The landscape dominates. We stayed a few nights at the J Spear Ranch and enjoyed the privacy and beauty of its location, including some pretty darned good catch and release fly fishing. Afterwards, we journeyed to Plush and Hart Mountain. Alex was very excited by this as she had never been there - her last name is Hart. It was a beautiful bluebird day when we traveled along and over this unique fault block mountain that dominates the high desert landscape in this neck of the woods. Steen and Alex wanted to soak in the Hart Mountain Hot Springs but CV-19 had forced them to close. Crater Lake NP and Glacier NP in Montana where we had been earlier were also closed. No one was out and about. We had the road all to ourselves and the pronghorn as we crossed Hart Mountain to Steens Mountain, a 45-mile well maintained gravel road. Gravel roads have always been my favorite anyway, as they are less traveled.

  Oregon Roaring Springs   Oregon Roaring Springs Amy  
  Oregon Roaring Springs entrance   French Glen Mercantile  
  Oregon Roaring Springs lunker trout   Oregon Roaring Springs red band trout  
  Oregon Roaring Springs Skull Creek   Oregon Roaring Springs Steen  
  Oregon Roaring Springs Steens closure   Oregon Roaring Springs moonrise  
  Steens Mountains   Steens sunrise  


We stayed at the Rock House, the oldest building on this historic ranch of a half million acres. I especially loved the wrap-around screen porch that hearkens back to another era when life was slower and not inundated with the media world of television, video games and the internet. No TV exists in the Rock House. Perfect! The nearest town is Frenchglen with a healthy population of 10. Steens Mountain dominates the landscape here, as does the Catlow Rim where we were staying, an extension of the Steens -- known to many as Oregon’s Crown Jewel. We went to the base of the Steens, parked at the unopened Page Springs Campground (vehicles were allowed to drive to the Blitzen River trail-head), and hiked along the Blitzen, fly fishing. I caught and released several rainbow trout. It is catch and release only here. The main road to the top of the Steens was closed because of snow. During the latter part of our stay, the South Steens Loop Road opened and I was among the first to go in. The South Steens Mountain Campground was one of the first to open in the state after initial closures by Governor Kate Brown because of CV-19. I was the only person in the campground that day. Steen, Alex and I were among the first customers as Amy opened the Frenchglen Mercantile for the season. Social distancing signage and a new glass partition between the cash register and customers were new additions to the store.

Steen got the green light from ranch manager Stacy Davies to fish for the large red-band rainbows in the pond beside the Rock House. Over the two week period, he caught and released several in the 5-6 pound range, fishing with barbless flies. We caught a few at their Skull Reservoir, too. The ranch has a full-time wildlife biologist who works on restoring red-band trout populations, sage grouse, deer, elk and other species. I took one early morning trip with biologist Andrew Shield and had the good fortune to photograph and encounter twenty-plus sage grouse.

My son is the chef de cuisine of the famous in Montana, so you can imagine the quality of our meals during our Rock House stay. Some evenings, Steen, Alex and I played the card games called pitch and 31 which he grew up with. CV-19 seemed like it was galaxies away from our world.

  Alvord Desert   Alvord Desert dawn  
  Alvord Desert evening   Alvord Desert star gazing  
  Alvord Desert, Steen, Alex and Bosco the dog   Alvord Desert tracks  

ALVORD DESERT: Site of Jessica Combs Death and World Women’s Speed Record

One day we drove to the Alvord Desert, a beautiful white flat playa where there is a variety of activities, including land yachting, camping, biking, and star watching. It is the site of the world speed record for women. Tragically, the world record- holder Jessica Combs went to her death a year ago, breaking Kitty O’Neil’s record (; Combs’ jet-powered car clocked a record speed of 522.783 mph (841.338 km/ph).

Guinness World Records has confirmed Ms Combs, 39, was the first person to break the record in more than 40 years. The previous record was set by American stunt-woman Kitty O’Neil, whose jet-powered, three-wheeled vehicle hit 512.7 MPH in 1976 in the Alvord Desert.

Jessica Combs' race car
This is a photo of Jessica during her fatal last ride.

We drove and walked on the playa. I would go back and spend a night there later, photographing the evening stars and morning sunrise. The following day, I drove to the northern end of the Alvord, knowing that I was in the same area where Combs lost her life.

The Alvord is at the base of the East Steens. Members of the Davis family who are good friends, own the Alvord Ranch and the Alvord Hot Springs. The hot springs were closed because of CV-19, but when they open again, it would be well worth your time to go, soak and marvel at the dramatic scenery of the stately Steens contrasted with the white flat and starkness of the Alvord.

  South Steens wild horse band   South Steens wild horse band afternoon rest  
  South Steens wild horse band curiosity   South Steens wild horse band horseplay  
  South Steens wild horses   South Steens new wild foal  
  South Steens wild horse herd   South Steens wild horse herd with view of Hart Mountain  


When you are in this part of the high desert of Oregon, finding and viewing the South Steens Wild Horses is a must. They run on BLM ground. I was able to nearly walk right up to them. They are familiar with and tolerate humans and come in all colors, each with its own distinctive characteristics. Descended from domestic horses, they are feral and roam freely within the perimeters of this range.

  Oregon lava beds hiking   Oregon lava beds camp view  
  Oregon lava beds camp   Oregon lava beds  
  Oregon lava beds pelican rookery   Oregon lava beds pelican tasting  
  Oregon lavabeds snowgeese   Oregon Tulelake National  Wildlife Refuge  


Upon my return home (Steen went to stay with Alex in Medford), my cousin Laura Sanders and I took what had become our daily walkabouts at Tulelake NWR, just eight miles south of my home. It was here that I was able to do ample amounts of bird and deer photography. Tulelake, along with Lower Klamath NWR, represent the Heart of the Pacific Flyway. Though the northern migration was largely over, I was still able to photograph large groups of snow-geese and white-fronted geese, along with the birds who spend spring and summer here.

On several weekends, I took the camper to Lava Beds National Monument to hike and explore, and spend nights outside the Monument as its campground was closed. Spring wildflowers were abundant and temps were perfect for hiking and exploring. There was a paucity of people, making social distancing even easier.

The world was in a pandemic but it seemed far removed from my back yard.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: (Steens Mountain) (Lava Beds) (Tulelake NWR) (Alvord Desert) (South Steens Wild Horse Herd) (Lake County),_Oregon


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