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The thru-hike you’ve never heard of: Oregon Desert Trail

Photographer Meg Roussos shares views from her solo-trek deep in the backcountry.


Photographer Meg Roussos is one of just 290 hikers who have completed all three long-distance hikes in the U.S.: the Appalachian, Pacific Crest and Continental Divide trails. But this spring she decided to hike a lesser-known path, the Oregon Desert Trail, and rather than hiking with friends, she walked alone.

She set out from her hometown in Bend, Oregon, in April to reach the trail’s endpoint near the Idaho border in Lake Owyhee State Park, 750 miles away. Along the trek, Roussos took pictures of the quiet moments and desert landscapes. She trudged along rutted roads, encountered wildlife and passed structures commemorating pioneer and Native American history. A few weeks in, faced with forging ahead through snow and crossing streams inundated with spring runoff, she postponed the rest of the trip. It was a freeing moment to realize she could stop at any point she wanted. “I didn’t have to prove to anyone that if I didn’t finish this through-hike that I wasn’t a failure,” she said.

The Oregon Desert Trail was created by Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) in 2011. The trail passes through a number of wilderness study areas, and ONDA is working to get more sections of the path protected. The route, different from other continuous footpaths, links four-wheel-drive roads, existing trails and overland travel. The off-trail sections may require extra effort to find, but are important in keeping the route wild and undeveloped.

Roussos found those conditions humbling. “I try to capture my experiences of what is out there, and at the same time what it feels like to walk a marathon every day,” she said. “At the end of the day, I take off my backpack that contains everything I need to survive for months on end. I resupply when I need food, take a shower when I can and leave the rest up to the silence in the nights.” -Brooke Warren

Meg Roussos will be sharing photos from her various long-distance hikes on the High Country News Instagram from July 3-7. Follow along @highcountrynews, or follow Roussos @delightfulontrail.