The mosquitos are bad. Frenchglen borders the south side of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, which is a large wet, marshy area. All this water is what makes the area spectacular for birding, but ripe with mosquitos. I had slept in my bug condom (mosquito netting that goes over my sun umbrella with elastic to cinch at my waist- it fits under my tarp too to keep the bugs off my face and arms when I sleep), which worked out fine, but waking up and making some coffee exposed too much skin. I spent the morning in the laundry room to to escape the bugs, and put a big dent in the book I was reading.
I decided to go up to the Frenchglen hotel for lunch (breakfast & lunch are open to the public, dinner is family style and is by reservation only…if there is room after the guests of the hotel eat), so started on the 3 mile walk up there, when a guy in a backhoe offered to give me a ride up there. He went and got his ATV, and it was then I met Orritt. Orritt works for the Refuge and just happens to live in the house where ONDA was founded about 30 years ago. (For those of you just tuning in, I work for ONDA – the Oregon Natural Desert Association- a conservation group who has been working for 30 years to protect, restore and defend Oregon’s high desert. They created the Oregon Desert Trail to get people out to experience this incredible place). He knows a lot about the area, and I was glad to meet him. He recommended I get the Steens burger, and when I sat down to order, I found out his wife Twyla works there! Twyla and Dawna took good care of me, and since I was the only one there at that time Twyla sat down and had lunch with me.
I think a big part of the hiking experience in these remote places are the people you meet. This hike gives you the chance to meet people who have often lived in these areas for generations and who know the land extremely well. It’s primarily ranching land out here, and while ranching and conservationists don’t always see eye to eye, I thinks it’s important to understand both sides of the issues like grazing on public lands. So far I’ve been welcomed and helped by almost everyone I’ve met, even if we don’t always agree on all the issues. I think hikers will find a lot of trail angels out here who have no concept of what “angeling” is, but just friendly folks who see some who might be in need of a ride, or water, or a cold beer.
Anyway, the Steens burger was AWESOME. In fact I found they had room for dinner tomorrow, so I’ll be back for that, and will probably have breakfast when I hike out the next day. Too good to pass up!!
I chatted with Melina at the Mercantile next door and she was curious about what hikers would like to eat…she has plenty for a basic resupply if you aren’t picky, and I told her about some fuel options hikers might like, and some other meal options like Backpackers Pantry.
I sat on the porch of the hotel for a while reading my book and drinking a Steens Mountain Brewery beer before Orritt returned to see if I wanted a ride back to the campground. See?? Good people!!
I went back to my spot in the laundry room, and a few hours later after chatting with Debbie and learning the cabin I’m renting tomorrow night is open tonight too, decided to splurge and sleep in a bed tonight too and forgo the buggy tarp situation.
I checked out a few DVD from their library and spent the rest of the afternoon / evening watching the boob tube.
Life is good!