One of the reasons I love living in Portland, Oregon is the access to diverse landscapes. The city and surroundings most resemble what one thinks of “Pacific Northwest USA”, a landscape of Douglas-fir forests, farms, and cities. Drive two hours west and I’ll have the full splendor of the Pacific Ocean at my feet.
But drive two hours east and I’m in a completely different landscape, a semi-arid tableau dominated by hills, rock, grass, and sagebrush, with scant trees. We call it The High Desert, though it’s technically more of a steppe than true desert. We Portlanders like heading to it as much as possible, especially during the wetter winter months. The wide-open landscape and big skies can brighten the mood.
One of my favorite eastern Oregon spots to explore is the Deschutes River Canyon. The Deschutes (pronounced “duh-shoots”) is one of the state’s major rivers, flowing northward from its source on the east side of the Cascade Mountains to the Columbia River just east of The Dalles. The first ten miles (16km) or so from its mouth is the Deschutes River Trail. Located on the east side of the river, it uses the former railbed of the Deschutes Railroad. During the turn of the Twentieth Century, two competing railroads built lines on opposite banks of the river, from the mouth up to the city of Bend. Due mostly to lack of traffic, the east side line was abandoned, leaving just the west side as the active rail. (BNSF trains still ply this route, and it’s common to see one or two of them when out here.)
Myself and my partner Emee headed out to the Deschutes River Trail at the end of March. Springtime is a great time to go, as the hills are a soft green color, the wildflowers are blooming, and heat and rattlesnakes are avoided. While some people walk the trail, we like to bicycle it. Most of the railbed is a gentle grade, though there are a few spots where trestles have been removed, necessitating a steep up-and-down. The unpaved surface is fine for most bikes as long as you’re running tires about 32mm or wider.
I decided to bring my Olympus 35 RD to capture the ride on film. This compact fixed-lens rangefinder from around 1975 boasts a sharp F.Zuiko 40 mm f/1.7 lens and shutter priority for easy shooting. And I wanted to capture the vibrant colors of the landscape, so I opted for slide film. I had some expired but cold-stored Kodak Ektachrome 200 from a reliable eBay seller. (I don’t know when it expired, but it was at least ten years ago, as Kodak discontinued this stock in 2011.) Shooting expired slide film can be a crapshoot, but I got lucky with other cold-stored Kodak slide film before, so I was hopeful that I’d get something. (I haven’t had the same luck with expired Fuji slide stocks.)
Shooting this 36 exposure roll of film went pretty quickly, even though we only rode eight miles (13km). What can I say, I love this landscape! And since the Olympus 35 RD is small, it fits easily into a pouch on my handlebars, so grabbing the camera to take a picture was pretty easy. I sent the roll off to my local lab (Citizens Photo) and a few days later I got some beautiful images. Here are eight of my favorites.
Thanks for reading! -Shawn
For more photos from my Deschutes River Trail Trip, click here.
And here’s more photos from this Eastern Columbia Gorge trip.
For more of me on the internet, click here.
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