This story, dear readers, is like many of the tales I've shared with you over the years, a story within a story—this one about off road vehicles (ORVs). In this case it started out as a love/hate thing. What removed the hate part was the provider of the tale, Wade Bryant, and the fact that he and the drivers involved have a conscience, and are responsible for their actions.
Wade currently serves on the Oregon State Parks ATV advisory committee and grants sub committee. He's also a master instructor with Oregon ATV safety (4H-Oregon State University) working with youth and adults throughout the state. And if that's not enough for him to handle, he's also the director of the newly formed Oregon Outback Waypoints Association (OOWA).
Unfortunately, ORVs and their riders have not been my favorite elements in forest and field. Because my only experience with them and their riders over the years has always been on the negative side—everywhere I go researching this or that variety of wildlife I find obvious ruins left behind by irresponsible ORV riders.
The worst example was the historical golden eagle nest on West Butte; it failed over and over again because of ORVs running on a trail directly beneath the nest. (The BLM has, hopefully, got the ORVs to stay out of the nesting territory and other sensitive BLM wildlife closures as well.)
The recent example of a "tear-em-up" ORV rider took place at Cold Springs near Sisters, where some goofball went into the creek bed—and for all I could see—"just for the hell of it."
But that's all changed; through Wade, I have met a group of ORV riders who are doing it right, and having a wonderful time doing so: The Outback Adventure Riders of Bend.
Wade started these "outback" rides in 1997; the first one was from Gap Ranch to Sumpter, and Dave Kimball was along. They had no GPS tracking then, just paper maps. Dave and Wade connected over the years and they've both been working together since—Wade leads some rides and Dave leads some. It's now a team effort with invitations to the original core group of riders to join in the rides each year.
This past October, Dave and six other Outback Adventure Riders—led by Wade this time—went off for a 705-mile "Guy Ride" for five days that took them through the Great Sandy Desert, juniper and wild and scenic sagebrush lands, and high mountain pine forests that few Oregonians can even imagine—and they did it without leaving a certified primitive road, or ORV trail, or tearing up wildlife habitat.
They began their trip at Hampton, and that first day rode across the Great Sandy Desert for a total distance of 120 miles, ending up at the old French Glenn Hotel where they had a hardy supper and spent the night.
Day two found them up early and on the trail, headed for Lakeview, via Foster Flat. Foster Flat, if you haven't been there, is a high desert showcase. Foster Flat is a BIG—very big—2,960-acre alkali playa designated as a Research Natural Area by the BLM, and in the spring it is a plethora of beautiful Oregon Desert wildflowers. In October, the riders found all the wildflowers dried up, but sage grouse, other high desert birds, jackrabbits, pygmy rabbits, pronghorn sheep and wild horses were feeding on the leavings.
Day two also took the riders past one of Oregon's geological treasure lands, the Priday Agate Beds, home of the famous Priday Plume. Due to time retrains, the rider didn't stop at Sunstone Quarry, and when asked, Wade said, "No, we didn't do any digging," and then, with a bright smile, he added, "We need to go back there!"
Day three was an opportunity to take a quick jaunt down to Lilly Lake, adjacent to Goose Lake, which like Lake Abert is also drying up. Wade wanted to say, "Hey! I've driven an ORV from Oregon all the way to California!"
Day four the riders started out from Lakeview on the county road and headed up into the Fremont Winema National Forest. It was a brisk 24 degrees, and they rode on Forest Service roads over to Silver Lake. It was a nice sunny day that riders all look for, an enjoyable day to take in the scenery, which included a lunch break at the Bald Butte fire lookout.
Day five was a day that Wade will remember well. "We rode through some of the most beautiful pine stands I have ever seen," he said. Once they hit the trailhead at South Lava they rode the 50-inch ATV trails all the way to Alfalfa Curves Crossing—under Highway 20 near Millican.
Summing up the October ride, Dave had this to say: "To me, there is no better way to see and visit the outback—whether it be in the timber or the desolate desert—than riding an ORV. We sponsor this particular ride with a select few guys, to see and share new and old places, and do it for the camaraderie, fellowship and to spend time in the outdoors."
"We typically camp on the trail and tell stories of the days events around the campfire. I enjoy doing this for the break from everyday life and to just be in the outback," he explained. "I have heard it said that ORVs interrupt or bother in some way the animals. I personally highly disagree. From the back of an ATV, I have seen nearly every animal that we have in this state."