The cold high desert - Amy Schmitz

Looking over Smith Rock State Park and toward the Three Sisters.


The cold high desert

Nov. 8, 2019

If you'd rather click through the photos in a gallery, go here.

I love living surrounded by green. But I look forward to a desert escape every year.

So Mikey and I planned to spend a week camping in Moab, Utah, a favorite of ours among the beautiful red cliffs and lonely, long trails. But as the last week of October approached, we regularly checked chilly weather forecasts and started considering other options. We considered driving farther from home to stay warm in southern California or even Sedona, Ariz.

We both slept poorly in the weeks leading up to Halloween and opted to visit a desert a bit closer to home and drove the short way to Sisters, Ore.

A short run in Vancouver, Wash., before heading to Sisters.


The entire country seemed to get an early hit of cold weather, and we chose to stay in a cabin the whole week. We took our camping gear for the weekends but never ended up using it.

Mikey dropped Tully and me off for a point-to-point run on the way into town Monday. (We finished where we started a run this summer.) Also, I decorated the Rover for my favorite holiday but lost a couple of bones on the drive.



We stayed in a cabin at FivePine Lodge, which I highly recommend. (Call for dog-friendly cabins.) Although I almost always prefer to sleep in our vehicle when traveling, it was wonderful to have a fireplace, especially the morning it got down to 6°F.

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On Tuesday, I waited for the temperatures to reach the 20s before layering up Tully and myself. We were rewarded with a beautiful view on easy trails just outside our cabin door.

Only 200 feet of elevation gain for this great view of the Sisters.


That night was the coldest, so we hung around the cabin all morning before heading east to some fantastic sandy BLM trails. Tully and I ran through a canyon while Mikey took Winston for a short walk.  


This was the desert treat I sought. Although it was still mid-30s, I removed my jacket 15 minutes in and ran under that strong sun in a tank and mittens.

And then Mikey drove on a Land Rover-appropriate road, one I chose, of course. It wasn't the middle-of-nowhere off-road adventure I had planned for Moab, but it was a little taste to hold me over.

Mikey then helped me decorate the cabin.



Our view out the back door included Deschutes National Forest and daily ruminant visits.


The next morning wasn't as chilly, but we still slept in and got moving a little earlier than the day before. Mikey didn't know why I had Smith Rock State Park on my to-do list, so I told him he'd see when we got there. And it wasn't for the rock climbing (not this trip anyway).

Tully and I ran an 8.5-mile loop to the summit and around the rock formations. The 1,200 feet of gain felt pretty easy, especially with all the photo stops.

My descent (with a little commentary):

Mikey took Winston for a walk, too, but Winston wasn't pleased. He had to be on leash because it's a state park. But Mikey managed some beautiful photos anyway.

The dogs napped easily after their time at Smith Rock.


We spent Halloween enjoying the sunset and woods (including the nightly passing deer) at the back of our cabin before heading in for another evening in front of the fireplace.


I ran from our cabin one more time on our last morning (bundled up again). This time without Tully. After Smith Rock, one of his pads was irritated, and he limped a bit. He wasn't limping the next morning, but just in case, I let him sleep in and snuggle a little extra with Mikey. (The dogs don't sleep with us at home, but they do when we travel.)

We headed into Portland for one night because we had to pick up some artwork from a local artist and bagels from one of our favorite bakeries. Tully felt better the next day, so he and I got in a few miles in Forest Park, which was sunny for the first time in the many years we've been visiting Portland.

We went home that afternoon. Although we left a day later than usual and headed home day early, Winston had had enough vacation. He whined and was unsettled the last couple of days until we got home. But it was a gorgeous trip, and none of us seemed to mind the cold mornings that much. I'm sure we'll spend many more trips in Sisters. We've scoped out a few potential campsites for warmer visits.



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