Summer Lake Hot Springs

Image: Tyler Roemer

"MY BUNNY!” I yelled, slapping the top of the car. “MYYYYY BUNNY!”

The nighttime game I learned from a friend who lives part-time on a cattle ranch deep in the Oregon Outback is simple: Drive, for miles, in the darkness. It’s a blackness so deep and complete it seems simultaneously like a soft cloth pressed to your face and something as vast as an ocean.

Occasionally, you catch a flash of silver eyes in the inky void, followed by the skitter-scamper of a wild jackrabbit, bird, or coyote hightailing it away from the road. And quick as you can, you yell out the name of the critter—claiming it. My quail. My cow. My bunny. Whoever claims the most wildlife by the time you get to your destination wins. It’s silly, I know, but when the nearest bar—hell, the nearest town—is an hour-and-a-half drive down an unending Pac-Man grid of blacktop and gravel roads cutting across pastureland and high desert with nary a streetlight to be found, it’s an excellent car game.

The Oregon Outback, a huge wilderness that stretches south from Bend all the way to California, is a deliciously lonesome, empty sort of place. A rolling panorama where craggy lava formations and windswept cattle bones form what look like outsider art installations and each lungful of air is scented with juniper and warm dust. The area’s lack of man-made distractions allows you to fill up the space however you like, charging down highways for hours with little more than behemoth rock forts, thermal hot springs, and watercolor vistas as company. In other words, it is an ideal road trip, full of natural splendor, oddball detours, and, in this case, the promise of a grilled steak half the size of your head.

We map a handful of other excellent, drivable getaways this month in our “Spring Road Trips” cover story, from a seafood-slurping trek north to Washington’s Hood Canal to a kid-friendly bender barreling down Oregon’s southern coastline that encompasses both fake dinosaurs and Japanese gardens. And, for those who can’t quite make it past city limits this spring, we offer mental vacations, at least: breathing in the wild bounty of Portland’s ever-expanding cannabis scene or burrowing in with one of the streaming TV shows or nationally lauded memoirs that claim this city as their home or inspiration.

However you travel, be it on four wheels, through a THC-aided sojourn, or simply via a deep read, we wish you the ability to get out of whatever rut you may have settled into this long winter. And, when nighttime falls, keep an eye out for your bunny.

Kelly Clarke
Editor in Chief

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