Steens Mountain Loop – Labor Day Weekend '17 – Lessons Learned

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  • Hucmot
    September 8, 2017 at 11:00 am #1680

    We started our route in Burns. and did the approximate loop shown on this site. There was 11 of us. The day-time highs were at or over 100 deg. If we had to do it over again, we would make the following changes. Start/Camp at Crystal Crane Hot Springs. The Café in Crane has good food and beer (4 mi from Hot Springs). CRANE is the last place for water until Fields 110 miles! This site says New Princeton, but the only thing there is a Post Office, which is a private residence and we were informed the water is not filtered or acceptable to drink in New Princeton due to arsenic. We all had the ability to carry 200 plus oz of water for that 110 mi, and it was not near enough, due to the heat. The climb out of Fields is difficult but reasonable of about 5 mi. Our plan was to stay at the South Steens campground. We all had 40 mm or larger tires, but with fully loaded bikes, the grade and loose gravel, it was too much. We opted to bypass the Steens loop and headed directly to French Glen. There is a nice BLM campground E 3 mi from French Glen. We then headed back from French Glen to Diamond and stayed one night at the Crystal Crane Hot Springs and returned to Burns the Next Day.

    Lessons Learned:
    If clear, sunny, and over 90 deg wear both Arm and Leg shades (Pearl Izumi) (Wicking white fabric to keep cool)
    Take 4 days. We tried to do it in 3.
    Camp at the BLM campground 2 nights, and do the Steens Mountain Scenic loop from the North without loaded bikes, and return to the campground.
    If temps are over 90 deg, carry at least 250 oz of water between Crane and Fields. There is NO water available, other than maybe the kindness of stranger along the road.
    Bring bug repellent and screened tent at Crystal Crane Hot Springs. The mosquitos were terrible. So bad, it made sleeping difficult.

    September 12, 2017 at 3:46 pm #1681

    We had a group of 5 about a day ahead of you guys (we briefly chatted with a couple of you at Frenchglen). Hucmot, did you guys have a SAG vehicle? It didn’t seem like most of you were packing much in the way of gear. We started/ended at Frenchglen and cut off the upper section of the Malhuer Refuge and went over the range past Diamond to the mustang viewpoint, then some old jeep/ATV track that was REALLY rough back down to Fields/Denio Rd. Fewer miles but more climbing.

    It was hot indeed! For anyone planning a trip, there is water available at the Alvord Springs office if you get there when someone is in the office. We were planning on refilling there, but of course the person was out sick that day. There is running water in the bathroom, but there is a sign warning it isn’t potable, and we weren’t sure if it was even filterable (again with the arsenic). HOWEVER, Frog Spring is about 3 miles south at the edge of the playa. There is a gravel road that dips off the main gravel road down to the playa. Cross a gate and there’s pipe spewing cleanish water. We filtered it, but we heard reports that the locals drink it unfiltered. No one got sick after drinking 100oz each. It’s not too much further to Fields from there, but should it be needed, Frog Spring is a reliable source of filterable water. Make sure to get into Fields by 3:30pm to put in an order for food (we went through on Friday, don’t know about the weekends). Amazing shakes and a great burger.

    The climb up South Steens was certainly long, but not too terribly steep. We left the campground by 7am to avoid the heat. The descent down the North side was brutal this time of year with the washboards. Our guy on the 29+ tires was much happier than the rest of us. We wore cowboy hats for some shade, and only donned the helmets for descents. If it’s hot, I’d recommend carrying 200oz of water per person and DON’T skip an opportunity to refill. We didn’t have any serious concerns, but there was some doubt a few times.

    All in all, a brutal but great trip. Hot shower, cold beer, huge dinner, and a bed at the end in Frenchglen was great, and all the locals we met were incredibly kind and friendly.

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 8 months ago by  alove42.
    October 3, 2017 at 12:50 pm #1687

    Brutal! This route isn’t for the faint of heart or weak willed! Awesome accomplishment.

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