Little Blitzen River on Steens Mountain

August 29-September 1, 1975

Nine backpackers left Eugene by car Friday morning in a pouring rain which continued nearly to Sisters. As we progressed to the east the weather became increasingly better. Arriving in Burns midafternoon we picked up the co-leaders from the Desert Trail Association and progressed south through Frenchglen and on to Blitzen Crossing Campground on the Steens Mountain Loop. We car-camped at the Crossing Friday night.

Saturday morning we left one car at the Crossing and proceeded up the Mountain in the other two cars. Russ Pengelly of Burns gave us a tour of the Mountain where we looked down into the glaciated valleys of Little and Big Indian Creeks, Little Blitzen River, and Keiger Gorge. We also had several views down into the Alvord Desert and beyond. We were viewing these wonders from elevations of 7000 to 9100 feet in a brisk, cold wind.

Our backpacking began in the noon sun and strong mountain breeze near the top of the Little Blitzen Valley. We followed a steeply descending trail for a mile toward the bottom of the gorge, then struck out cross country down a talus slope ending in an aspen grove along the river. We stopped early and set up camp in the grove. Several of the hikers had enough ambition and energy to hike up the river a couple of miles to the cirque at the headwaters of the Little Blitzen.

On Sunday we advanced down the river in warm sunshine. Our guide, Russ, gave a good account of the formations in the valley, the presence of beaver, deer and other animals living there, and the vegetation unique to the area. We had lunch at an old corral then made our way through several miles of thicket to our camping spot for the night. We decided to shuttle the cars that evening since we were only a short distance from the shuttle car. Four of us had a treat of a beautiful sunset from the top of the Mountain while bringing the cars down to trail’s end. The rest of the crew stayed in camp and enjoyed the view of the setting sun from the mouth of the gorge at 5500 feet.

Next morning it was cloudy with a few sprinkles of rain. We packed out half a mile to the cars and made our way over twenty miles of rocky, rutty road to the highway. One carload turned south to take in the sights of the Alvord Desert. The remainder of the group returned to Burns for lunch at the Pengelly’s, then on home to Eugene in the sunshine.

Those enjoying the weekend were: David AdkinsĄ Mary Bridgeman, Rainer Herbeck, Laura Larsen, Hank Plant, Charlene Simpson, Andy Thompson, Merle Traudt, and the co-leaders Russ and Aubra Pengelly and Lois Schreiner.


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