Sagebrush, cactus, swirling alkali dust, and the wind whistling across a barren prairie are not the first images that normally come to mind when thinking about the Oregon backcountry. Make no mistake, there's plenty of green beauty in the northwest, but once you're east of the Cascades, much of Oregon starts looking a lot more like the location for a John Ford western.
Variety is one factor that makes Oregon such a darn nice place to be, and that's one of the reasons the state is so popular with 4x4 owners. For a group of Land Rover-brand owners and a few others, central Oregon was a great place to explore during a recent club run. The trip was an annual affair hosted by the Pacific Coast Rover Club, a group that boasts more than 200 members. The group has members throughout the northwest and British Columbia, most of them driving all kinds of Land Rovers and Range Rovers.
The trip began with last-minute shopping and a roundup of the 18-plus wagons in Prineville, followed by a run south out of town along Highway 27 through the Crooked River canyon. Huge, jagged basalt bluffs looming close by bore mute testimony to the area's volcanic origins as we listened to the drivers' meeting at a roadside picnic site with enough room for all the rigs. From there we caravanned south to Highway 20, then east to the tiny burg of Brothers for a final gas stop and a last shot at a flusher for a few days.
Just east of Brothers, we turned south on an unmarked two-track headed for Glass Buttes. A stop on the way explains the area's namesake. The ground is covered with translucent black obsidian, some extremely sharp, which caused more than a few nervous glances at the rigs' tires. Although technically a "two-track," the road is rugged and calls for paying attention on the driver's part. It was slow going as we headed southeast through the scrub.
The day was sunny and warm on the valley floor, but at 6,000-feet-plus elevation, a coat felt good as the wind gusted over the peak, which bristled with cell towers and other antennae.