Lake Abert – Solitude, Quiet and Photography
by Adrian Klein
This year I told myself I would try to make it more about seeing less visited locations or places I have not backpacked since getting into photography, with less concern about always chasing locations strictly based on photographic appeal. Not that I am looking to come home empty handed, that is anything but the case. I am just changing to make that my secondary purpose on selected trips.
Today it seems there is a large number of human folk with cameras ready to run, jump and leap to places where the landscape has a better chance of guaranteeing some level of success in the great photo chase the digital era has created. Not that I am immune from getting caught up or wanting to go to more trafficked areas. I have that urge and will follow travel to more popular areas as well (excluding the retail outlet mall on a Sunday afternoon where I turn into old grumpy Klein as my wife would say). Yet after getting into photography as a part-time professional about four years ago, I believe I lost sight of why I became very passionate about photography in the first place. Getting back to the basics will surely allow me to capture work in the end while getting back to more of what satisfies my soul both in photography and being outdoors.
With this in mind one of the trips I made this year was to Lake Abert in Southeastern Oregon. It has been on my list for a few years now yet I kept putting it off in favor of other places. I have seen a few inviting photos of the area yet it’s definitely not a photographic destination for most that travel through the area.
This trip was decided on a whim at 8:00 PM the night before leaving. I have a teenage son that wanted to be home with his friends during summer (been there) and my wife with our girls out on their own trip. That left me heading for a quiet and peaceful place by myself. Driving from the densely forested northwestern part Oregon down to the southeastern part is always fascinating watching the trees shrink in size and the views open up for many many miles.
This was a very memorable sunset. The weather could not have been better to be outdoors wandering around. I sat on these rocks with only a slight gentle breeze rolling through and temps in the mid 70’s, my ideal temperature before I start to overheat. I would not do well living in the desert, being a visitor suits me best. Sitting here it was rather peaceful. The highway was up above me yet only a car or two coming by every 5 to 10 minutes. A far cry from rush hour in the city where being stuck in traffic gets me wound up like a cat rolling around with catnip.
Just above the lake is the steep slope that leads up to Abert Rim. The rocky edge of the rim you see off in the distance of this image is actually the area where you head to the top via find your own way, there are no trails. Not all spots can you just hike on up either. On Summit Post site you can find out more info on taking the route up. I was still working on rehabbing my knee and hiked half way up the steep 2,000 foot hike. Next time I plan to do it all and possibly camp up top. As you can also see here that with the nice warm evening light the hills are filled with colorful rocks and vegetation.
Here we are at sunrise. As is obvious the color palette and feel of the area is vastly different from the warm lit up hills of sunset. Yet has its own charm and beauty. With the tall and steep albert rim you have can have up to a couple hours after sunrise to work intimate photos of the area before the bright desert sun is in your eyes. And with an area that only averages little precipitation a year there is much sun and dry weather to be had.
It’s usually easier to combine multiple images like this to make a diptych or triptych yet a little tougher to get one to stand on its own. I have taken quite a few of these over the years but this one seems to have a good balance of multiple colors. If you have not tried to search for these before it actually takes more time than you might think. There were many rocks with lichen, some with only small amounts and others with plenty. After spending a fair bit of time wandering around after sunrise this rock showed particular promise to me.
Lodging: There is nothing in the way of lodging here, including no organized campsites. You either find a nice place to pull your vehicle off the road for a quick overnight or head 40 miles south to Lakeview for true brick and mortar lodging.
Amenities: Similar to lodging there is none. No place to pickup a latte or anything even close to it. Besides highway 395 that goes through the area and a few signs with information about the birds and geology you will just find the wild outback. Thankfully it’s not developed and let’s hope it stays this way. Bring plenty of water and food!
Climate: As with most high desert areas the temperature can change dramatically at different times of the day any time of year. Summer days are very hot with 90+ Fahrenheit being common and winters cold with evenings often in the teens and single digits. And as mentioned earlier it does rain and snow here yet at 14” a year your odds of dry weather are pretty good.
Curious to know more about the history of the area? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Abert
Side Note: Wildlife Details
There was more wildlife than I expected. I anticipated snakes yet saw much more.
– Came across two snakes. One a rattlesnake which was dead and another one that I almost stepped on that hissed very loud at me which of course caught me off guard and I fell back on some rocks. It was not a gartner snake but have not been able to identify it yet with my Google searches.
– My deer crossing included some alive and one dead on the desert floor with only a furry leg and hoof left to identify. As for live deer I had to hit the brakes as one jumped out of the bushes last minute. Despite having done this many times over the years it still startles me.
– Other wildlife included: Chipmunks, squirrels, a coyote, many birds and even a fox. Not a bad list for a short trip.
Well that is my write up and images of my jaunt to part of Oregon’s Outback as it’s called. Where cattle easily out number people and your next door neighbor might be a long ways away. Looking for a place less traveled this would be it. I plan to be back soon.
by Adrian Klein