Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Ochoco Lake, OR

Day 10: Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Redmond to Ochoco Lake: 31 miles

Once you cross the Cascade Range, the climate and terrain change appreciably. Gone are the wet rain forests and towering firs, replaced by Ponderosa and lodgepole pine, desert, and sagebrush. Also see the 1981 post for some cool pictures.

The striking dichotomy that I observed - which exists all across the west - is the stark contrast between the native vegetation and the heavily irrigated fields. Much of the water that descends from the mountains in the spring is rationed out to farmers, who in central and eastern Oregon use it mainly to water crops that are intended as forage for cattle and horses. Canals lace the landscape to deliver that water where it is needed.

irrigation and sagebrush
Irrigation and sagebrush

At Powell Butte, shortly after Redmond, there was a burger stand by the side of the road. It was done up in a fireman theme (the owner was a retired firefighter), and featured what some publication had declared the best burgers in central Oregon. Of course, I had to stop. That burger made for a good breakfast!

Big Al's
Big Al's burger stand

Big Al's Barn Burner
Big Al's Barn Burner

The descent into Prineville was both exhilarating and picture-worthy. I doubt if this photo will do it justice. The road wraps around three hills on the way down, with Prineville in the valley below.

Prineville descent
The descent into Prineville

When Jack and I did McKenzie Pass, we went all the way from Frog Campground to Ochoco Lake. But that was with good weather. Since I had stopped in Redmond, I thought I could make it all the way to Ochoco Pass today. But the temptation to stop at Ochoco Lake was too strong. And it turned out to be a fun experience. And a free meal.

First, let me say that I've been pronouncing it incorrectly all these years: o-CHO-co. Nope. It's OACH-a-co.

It was at Ochoco Lake State Park that Jack and I met Guy and Rick, two fellow bikers who had also stopped to camp there. The park was now a county park, and it was excellently maintained. And the host, a spry man of 81, offered me a can of pop. "I do that for all cyclists," he said. So I decided to spend the night.

In 1981, there had been a restaurant across the highway from the park. That was where we met Hermon Hoffer, our 74-year-old friend from Michigan who was also doing the TransAmerica Trail. See a shot of him outside the restaurant here. Now, the restaurant is closed.

closed restaurant
Hermon Hoffer isn't here.

A couple from back east, who were touring part of the west in their camper-van, invited me over for dinner, and we stuffed ourselves on pork chops and corn on the cob, followed by moose tracks ice cream and an evening of pleasant conversation. The wife was into genealogy, and they had some amazing stories to tell about their adventures both here in the US and in Croatia, which they visited not long after the Serbian-Croatian conflict.

dining al fresco
Dining al fresco

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