My wife and I drove to Frenchglen, Oregon, this past Wednesday, accompanied by our friends Lynn and John, who’d not seen that part of Oregon. Besides getting away, our objective was to see migrating sandhill cranes, who pass through the area in March and April on their journey northward.
We weren’t disappointed. In winter-brown pastures near the town of Burns we viewed several groups of the gangly birds, who were joined by large numbers of snow and Canada geese, all of them busy surviving into a new spring.
In Frenchglen we stayed, as we always do, at the historic Frenchglen Hotel, although this time we splurged for a newer room just a few steps up the hill behind it in the Drover’s Inn. And we slept in, something we rarely do there. But with a biting wind (count the teeth) blowing incessantly, and overcast skies, a sociable breakfast in the Hotel was an easy choice to begin each day.
On Thursday we drove to the Malheur Refuge, knowing it would be relatively quiet at this time of year but nevertheless enjoying the open landscapes, the fields and marshlands accented by wizened cottonwood trees, dark mule deer, pheasants and, near Benson Pond, trumpeter swans. When we returned to Frenchglen later in the afternoon the weather worsened and snow flurries appeared in the waning light, apparently unaware that it is spring.
After breakfast on Friday we headed towards Burns, and home. The sky was stone gray and even the normally jovial crows were hunkered down against the weather. Snow began falling at The Narrows, tiny dry flakes dancing wildly in the gusts, and intensified as we continued until the road finally disappeared into whiteness.
I had a worst-case thought as we turned onto the main east-west highway, imagining a slick road all the way to Bend, 125 miles distant, but we cleared the edge of the snowstorm and were back on dry pavement after only twenty. Beautiful clouds filled the sky in every direction, thin curtains of snow trailing below their impressive shapes. The juniper hills were white and crisp.
After lunch in Bend I crossed my fingers (again), hopeful that the storm would wait until we’d crossed the Santiam Pass before it mandated tire chains, and so it did—but just barely. We crept down the west side of the Cascades in a thick snowfall, passing snowplows going the other way until, at Sahalie Falls, the snow became rain and there was only an Americano stop between us and Eugene.
This was a short trip by American standards—800 miles of open road over three days. (If we were English and driving over there we wouldn’t be here for another two days.) Stretching our legs at the house, we realized we were dog tired, and that getting home
may be is still the best part of traveling.