Alvord and Steens Mt. to Hart Mt. and Rabbit Hills
Oregon Thunderegg and Sunstone Hunt
Sept. 17-21, 2006
Report by Rhonda Gheen

Hello Fellow Rock Enthusiasts!

This field trip didn’t seem complicated, just two areas to explore, but I’ve found myself typing remembrances for 2 weeks. It was just so “different”! I started with 7 maps; county, state, OreRockOn x 2 sites printed, GemTrails Book and 2 directions printed from sunstone websites! Since we’d never been to that area at all Every one of those maps contributed to the others and came in handy. We never made a wrong turn on 100 miles of dirt and gravel! The hunting was fun, our finds were good enough to be happy, but experiencing this area as a Whole was Magnificent! AAA+++

We left Sumpter around 6am Sunday Sept 17. Our route took us past an area outside of Silvies that Herb B had sent me a note about. Dragging the trailer and no time to scout properly we didn’t know where to park or what was BLM out there. So we just briefly pulled off the side of the road. I picked up some obsidian nodules. The first I cracked had silver sheen stripes.

We decided to forge on into the unknown and come back to that spot as a day trip another time(without the trailer)as we’d both like to find some of the petrified wood from there and more obsidian. By 10 am we were eating Egg McMuffins in Burns and Rick bought a foam pillow for my lower back which had “gone out” two days earlier. It was still tweaking me painfully if I made any sort of bend or turn(but rock hounding Must go on). It didn’t seem long at all after that before we were turning at the Andrews-Fields-Denio Road.

I was surprised the first miles of this road were paved and then the flattest graded gravel I’d ever been on. It was flat as paper and brand new scraped grading mounds a foot high lined both sides. We were at Mann Lake in no time; well, actually it was around 1 pm. New scenery made it seem like “no time” for me! Getting close to the base of the big Steens Mountain for the first time was a wonderful sight to take in, but that lake wasn’t much of a “going concern”! It was all open space and some brush. I was advised that the nice Oregon Park Service type installed toilet was the ONLY known “facility” on our Alvord route.

We’d figured back at home that the Alvord Hot Springs would be our “real” destination and we had plenty of time. We commenced on a stretch of road said to be hazardous. I didn’t “get it”. The gravel got a little bigger and required going 25-30 mph instead of 45 but to country folks like us it was Very decent road! I bet it had been bumpy before and that new grading made a big difference. We stopped to inspect the roadside cobbles and Rick found a Thunderegg!!!! Find Of The Day!

Nothing else showed up for us there. We then drove to the Alvord Hot Springs which looked from a distance like some metal roofing sitting out in a marsh. Vast desert sands stretched beyond. Not glamorous but I knew it would feel like Heaven to a weary dusty rockhound ! One of the biggest reasons for choosing this route to the Sunstone area(our main destination) was that neither Rick nor myself had EVER gone to “non commercial” hot springs in our lives. Across the road from it was a gravel “parking lot” with a camper. Barren. Above it rose the beautiful Steens with “fairy” clouds dancing. Enticing.

New scenery to us was the glowing white desert that had grown on our left for miles coming in(the base of the Steens stretched beside us on the right rising steep and picturesque too).More stunning was that for the first miles it was WATER out there! At first we suspected the mirage effect, but NO! Shallow to be sure, but miles of water that turned finally to sands across from the hot springs and spread as sands for many more miles ahead toward Fields. It had been an unusually wet year I’ll bet!

Deciding where to camp we saw a dirt track going up the hill. The Ore-Rock-On map showed a road up there for several miles with several types of collecting. My only goal was a few Thundereggs from this location. I whined at Rick that I Really betted there were better campsites “Up”. He grumbled about pulling a trailer but he walked up the track until he was out of my sight for several minutes. He came back with a Big Grin, elated, saying it was Fantastic, and there was a place to camp at the top of the hill that I’d love! He was right! This was our view( in 3 pictures Rick combined in Photoshop for you)!!!

Our camp set up was glorious. WOW! I dubbed it “Sunflower Camp”.

After setting up we drove a ways higher on the real bumpy rock/dirt track and parked and walked for over an hour. No luck rockhounding at all except a few Very eroded egg-looking broken chunks. Not worth keeping but intriguing. They’d been huge eggs once. We were road weary and back at camp simply ate and sacked out early without even going to the Hot Springs. Sound drifted up to us that they were pretty crowded that Sunday night anyway! Not exactly the “remote” area I’d expected. The whole main gravel road this far “in” had been fenced with No Trespassing signs too. It’s huge ranches out there. We only saw two non posted gates to backtrack to the next day for more rockhounding.

In the deep of the night I opened the tent flap to climb out for “a call of nature”. Right across the middle of my field of vision went a Big blazing shooting star! What Timing! I stared at the brilliant constellations and nearly solid looking Milky Way for 10 minutes they were SO spectacular. One direction Orion was walking the desert below me and The Big Dipper was sitting on the mountain top above. There were So many stars I could hardly make out the Pleiades group(Seven-Sisters) and they usually look Alone up there!!! Wondrous. Probably the best sky I’ve ever seen. Starry starry night indeed!

We got up to a lovely sunny morning and I was so very happy to be on a trip. My back hurt less too. Somehow that cushy Aerobed had seemed to help readjust my 30 year old whiplash injury. The plan was to go back up above camp and try hounding again prior to backtracking the main road below. We passed several other camp areas above us and Gee! A real wilderness toilet with a view! I had to laugh at this “facility” and document it!!!

So, this time the fork we took turned worse than the day before. Jagged tall rocks jutting from the track and steep too! TOO MUCH. Rick was able to get turned around after a great deal of stress and some cussing I approved of heartily under the circumstances! Safely parked, we walked around and found little white rocks coming out of an igneous formation full of bubble pockets. They aren’t agate and I’ll have to get ID later. Some have fine rayed hair like crystalline structure on the surface but polished just look white. The picture is deceiving as most are only an inch or two long.

It was warming up fast and a third of our only full day in the area was blown. No thundereggs at all. Ore Rock On mapped them there,and several other minerals, but they were higher than we could get in our truck. I’d wager they are up higher the way we went the First day, so we blew it scouting another track with not enough time. We got the heck OUT of there and went All the way down to backtrack on the main road to the farthest open gate we’d seen. A small post/sign there said “Hunters Welcome”. We laughed later saying “Yeah, right, Hunters Welcome to bust their vehicles!!!” No wonder tales of flat tires abound for this area’s roads! The side roads are BAD and no kidding! We found yet another campground, a nice one with a few spaces (one occupied), fire pits, lots of trees, and LOOK! That blue dot there is a third variety of desert “facility” for me to document! A fairgrounds style porta potty.(there’s the desert flats water I mentioned in the background too).

The map showed thundereggs AGAIN and that our location was PIKE Creek. It was actually a fast flowing, cold and clear creek too, so the dogs got to be ecstatic over that. We drove lurching on from the camping area, to the foot of the mountain to park. There was a big carved out hiking trail ribboning the cliff side up a big canyon. IT might have gone to the Eggs but I went across the front face instead. Rick tried in the canyon.Up the mountain I went( see the X on my picture).

After a huffing puffing hour wandering I was criss crossing down and quite tired when finally a shape caught my eye! It looked like a little perfect sphere. I decided it was such WEIRD rock I’d be happy over it! I dubbed it my “ping pong ball” egg. In the immediate vicinity there were a few more related pieces.A broken half proved it to be an odd thunderegg variety.

Report continued . . . . . . .

Click Here for Next Page