Camping in Deschutes River State Park, Oregon

Deschutes River State Recreation Area

I don’t know what preconceptions I previously had about the high desert, but it has unexpectedly swallowed me whole. The beauty of the high desert isn’t boastful, it’s not snowcapped peaks that sit higher than the clouds; the beauty is subtle but once I really saw it, I was absorbed by it. The perfume of sage in the afternoon heat, the quiet skitter of a lizard running for cover, a cool zephyr dancing across the land. I am consumed with love for this arid land.

This past weekend Paige and I decided to skip town to find some wildflowers and camp. I suggested Deschutes River State Recreation Area because I knew there would be no snow, and the campgrounds were first-come-first-serve. We packed up the 4Runner and headed out east through the Columbia River Gorge. Driving the Gorge always makes me nostalgic, when we were driving into Portland for the very first time, I’ll never forget coming around a corner and just having the Pacific Northwest bloom in front of us with Mount Hood towering above it all. Within the matter of a few miles the ecosystem changes from high desert to temperate forests (if you’re driving west). I digress...

After setting up camp at the campground, we headed out to hike the River View Trail and to find a good view to sit and enjoy our wine coolers. We must have stopped every couple feet to take pictures of wildflowers and to smell the sage. Eventually, we found an inviting patch of grass to sit in and soak in our surroundings. After hiking, we headed back to camp to build a fire and wait for sunset. The clouds looked promising and right before the sun was due to set, we headed back up to the bluff to try our luck. The sunset (as you can see above) was beautiful and the clouds dissolved with the setting sun, so we had a clear sky for stargazing all night! It’s true what they say about desert skies, I don’t know that I’ve ever see so many stars in the sky before.

We read a sign that said the average rainfall for the area was 11 inches a year, so spring is truly a magical time to be in the desert. It’s a small window of time when the grass is green, wildflowers are blooming and the river is swollen with the beginnings of snowmelt. After, everything dies, to be quite frank. The landscape turns golden brown, the river shrinks and the heat becomes almost unbearable.