Andy Kerr

Conservationist, Writer, Analyst, Operative, Agitator, Strategist, Tactitian, Schmoozer, Raconteur


Suggested Citation: Kerr, Andy. 2000. Oregon Desert Guide: 70 Hikes. Seattle: The Mountaineers Books. p. 24.

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This book's explorations try to avoid routes to areas that require a high clearance and/or a four-wheel-drive vehicle. If these conditions are unavoidable, it is noted.

Driving can be especially challenging. Not only are the roads generally much worse than what you're used to, if something happens, help can be a long distance and time away. Cellular coverage is expanding, but don't count on it.

Take your time. Don't rush. If a road obstacle can't be overcome, go to plan B. Devise plan B before you need plan B. If you can't reach your chosen area, choose another. Have a plan C.

Snow can be an obstacle. Always carry traction devices. A little rain on the right soil type, even regularly maintained county roads, can make it slicker than nasal drip. Or wet dirt can ball up on your tires and bog you down. (Life is not complete until you've chained up to get out of the mud.)

Fill up with fuel anytime you can.

If you haven't already, it is time to have a talk with your car. Will it allow you (or you it) to go on rough roads? If it (or you) anguishes at every bump and grind, then perhaps it's time for a new car (or at least a new attitude).

The more clearance the better. A high-clearance two-wheel-drive vehicle can usually get farther than a low-clearance four-wheel-drive one. The latter may be fine in the mud or snow but bottom out in a rutted or rocky road.

These "roads" are tough on tires. Modern tires are generally excellent against punctures, but defenseless against sidewall-attacking rocks. Bitterbrush (yes, the plant) can puncture a tire (another reason not to drive off-road).

For field research, the author drove a 1995 four-cylinder Toyota Tacoma semi—high clearance four-wheel-drive pickup with the next size bigger tires to get the higher ply rating. Three skid plates gave their lives for the engine. It was kept in two-wheel drive as much as possible, reserving four-wheel drive to get out of, not further into, trouble.