First Steens Winter West to East Crossing, March, 1974, Plus Creative writing,"The Wind," and also a bonus picture from Steens Hot Spring!

Picture Credit: Joseph Warfel via Jim Whinston, longtime Mazama member

9,000 ft. high on Steens Mountain on skiis in the sky above the Alvord Desert

As told to me by Jim and Joe:

We slogged up through the mud on the Steens' juniper-forested lower reaches, on the western side of the range, above the tiny hamlet of Frenchglen... As we climbed toward the 9000+ feet crest, we slowly left Spring behind; it was late March, we skiers looked out of place, crazy to the local cowboys, carrying our nordic skiis up the sagebrushy lower reaches of Steens Mountain, past cows and shaggy sheep.

Around 7,000 ft, we picked up enough continuous snow to ski. Heading toward the distant crest of the range there was much hard climbing, and severe winds buffeted us on the crest itself as we traversed south toward the Steens highest peak (9760 ft). We descended off the crest and reached a large alpine bowl and set up our tents at about 8500 ft. right above Wildhorse Lake (or at least where it would be when it melted out come summer)... It was a magnificent arctic setting on the SE shoulder of the main peak of Steens Mountain itself. (For a picture of the group camping above Kiger Gorge, and Joe's account in his own words, click here).Jim Whinston, Mark Seder, Bruce Utsey and Mick Hill


Wildhorse Basin Under Winter Conditions. Steens radio tower The The The night was surprisingly frigid, but the site we'd chosen was otherwise great and we camped there, exploring all around, for three days. Finally, we descended into the arid confines of Wildhorse Canyon, soon running out of snow and needing to carry our skis again. Finally we reached the Alvord Desert area at about 4,000 ft. and rejoined the other members of our University of Oregon Outdoor Program. It was all a great adventure, to be sure!Gary Grimm, Jeff Elphingston (spelling?), Wayne Arington, Dale Moon, the Seeley family (Eugene Search and Rescue/Outward Bound)

Howling Alpine Wind--- Listen to the sound of that howling Alpine wind that accompanies us on so many high mountain experiences....howlngw2.wav .. (just click and wait for the rather large sound file to load)

Oregon is a State blessed with a great variety of natural geothermal features like hot springs. The Steens Hot Springs is a primitive bathing site in one of the most exotic and unusual locations in Oregon. It sits right on the edge of the Alvord Desert salt flats where land speed records have been set (see main Steens page for details). The picture looks east, across the Alvord Desert and toward the distant Owyhee River canyon country....In the other opposite direction, the vast eastern scarp of the main Steens Mountain vaults into the air, rising well over a mile above the springs within just a few miles. The springs are a site often wracked with powerful winds, but just bury yourself in the warm waters to escape the chill! My friends and I posed on the bench in 1972; just the day before, we had been skiing up in the high canyons of the Wildhorse.

Click on the picture below to see Jim skiing the basins near 7400 ft. high Fish Lake. To contact me, please use:


Fish Lake area Steens winter

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The Wind

Below you will find an evocative piece of creative writing about The Wind, by contributor J.D. Adams of Salem:

" What is it about the wind that inspires us? Writers through the years have used it to add a poetic touch. It seems its very mention adds an ethereal power that is universally understood. At the end of a piece I did
on the history of the Santiam Canyon, I used the wind to invoke the haunting presence of pioneers who walked the faded trails of the past; "In the wind is the sound of a forgotten traveler, cresting a ridge of long ago." It ended the story in a thought-provoking manner. The full story can be seen at

"The wind was an ancient entity in the lives of our ancestors. It has been noted as the harbinger of change, the bringer of news good or bad. The wind has a spiritual quality due to its invisibility, yet has tangible power
with sometimes destructive effects. The touch of a breeze can move us emotionally with subtleness. As air travels over the body, millions of nerve endings activate the pleasure centers of the brain. The wind refreshes us physically, removing stagnant carbon dioxide and positively charged ionization that makes us uncomfortable. Ions are atoms of atmospheric gases that have acquired a static charge. Moving water creates negative ions that are refreshing and mentally uplifting. The sea soothes us with this phenomenon. Waterfalls have a synergistic effect with the gentle breeze and ionization created by the falling water. We tend to linger, taking in the view but also responding to this beneficial stimulation. For the indoor environment, there are ion producing air purifiers that create the freshness of a passing thunderstorm."

"When the wind picks up at the beach as it often does, the kite flyers are out in full force. At Lincoln City on the Oregon coast, known as the kite capital of the world, the sky is filled by kites of every imaginable shape and color. There is always a major kite congregation at the D River Wayside. The transparent power of the wind is evident in the grinning people and the photogenic dance of their flying machines. The attraction to kite flying is manifold; it's not just for kids anymore. It combines the fascination with flying with the artistic complexity of the kites themselves. And of course, there is the wind...
It has been used in literature since the first writers penned their soul upon paper. The wind rises from the written page like a melody echoing in the corridors of the mind. It lays spectral hands upon us, running up the spine like the distant howl of a coyote. In tales of the fantastic, the wind slowly buries lost cities of gold. It can represent foreboding menace, or the promise of tomorrow. The smell of spring and fall comes to us on the wind, beckoning to untold romance and mystery. It can be ghostly, as it moans in the night at Yaquina Head lighthouse. It can whip the sea into frothing whitecaps. Grizzled ship captains respect the wind like the sea
itself. It is a force to be reckoned with. But mostly, it moves us gently, like a kite that dances on a summer breeze."


Page last revised 10/18/2023