Thursday, August 15, 2013

Oregon Lore, Tour and More

End of July 2103

Exiting Idaho and continuing my adventure west I made a long haul in the van to reach Bend, Oregon. The next attraction, the Newberry Lava Cave was already closed for the evening, unless you are a local nocturnal bat, so I set up camp in the Deschutes National Forest for the evening.

View of Central Oregon from "Lava Butte"
At the visitor center entrance I noticed my impeccable timing as they were offering vehicle passes for a rapidly approaching opportunity to drive up to "Lava Butte". So I snatched one up and shortly made the winding circular drive up to the top for an excellent expansive 360 degree view of Central Oregon including clear views of Mt. Hood and the Three Sisters Mountains, all still sporting snow tops even in late July.

About a mile down the road, actually under the road, is where you'll find the Lava Cave. It's so much cooler now than it was in the past! You see, it was formally a lava tube and coincidentally quite a bit hotter, but it has since settled down to a cool, if not nippy constant 42 degrees, so don't forget your sweater! It's about a mile long and large enough to house a subway system.  It's also pitch black, but don't worry because they offer gas lanterns for rental. However, you might worry a bit about the mini drug test you'll have to take before entering the cave. You see, apparently the bats back east (it started in NY. Sin City?!) have fallen prey to a bit of a cocaine addiction which they are referring to as "White Nose Syndrome". As a result the bats are up partying all winter and burning crucial calories when they should otherwise be quietly resting in winter hibernation.  This drug fad is rampant and has claimed over 7 million bat lives this year alone. The epidemic wave is slowly making its way west across the United States so the Narcs, I mean Rangers, will question you to ascertain whether or not you have been caving recently and thus may be suspect for being a drug mule! You have been warned! Although I may be confusing a weird bat virus for cocaine addiction?
Lava Cave, formally Lava Tube

Central Oregon seems to be home to many great mountain bike rides and since I was right there I decided to explore one of them. From the Bentham Falls Trailhead I took the 15 mile ride along the Deschutes River past Lava Island and Meadow Camp. I would consider the "Falls" to actually be "rapids", but it is none the less a fun and mostly flat ride which allows you to put the hammer down. You should probably slow down though and take in the pretty views of the river as well as the striking lava fields. Of course, the great thing about rides along rivers is being able to wash off the dirt and sweat afterwards. Though, just once I wish I could find the hot water tap to warm things up a little!

With some light left in the day I moseyed further south and ducked in to have a look at what is currently Paulina and East Lakes, but they were formerly the site of another big volcano Caldera. Another dusty, winding white knuckle drive led to the peak where I sat on the rim of an extinct volcano and had a look around. A frozen in time obsidian lava flow to the right, both blue freshwater lakes front and center, a 360 view wherever I turned and a few towering pinnacles sprinkled on top for good measure. As the sun began to set on the wild geologic history lesson before me I knew it was time to descend and find a nice stand of trees to call home for the evening.  
Lake Paulina a few years post eruption.

The next stop on the tour was Crater Lake. This was one tour date that I had been looking forward to for a while. I'm starting to feel like I've been whisked away on a Grateful Dead tour as I realize that I've began a tour along the ring of fire, following a "Thankfully Dead" volcanic tour

Crater Lake lays inside a caldera formed some 7,700 years ago when a major eruption collapsed the 12,000 foot peak. It may have been the biggest North American Eruption in the last 600,000 years, but a couple of things are for sure. At a depth of 1,943 feet it is the deepest lake in North America. It also has no outlets such as rivers or streams and is fed entirely by rain and snow. Additionally it's also considered the gold standard for purity by which all other lakes are judged! 

The lake is also world renown for the intense blue, almost surreal color its deep and pure waters exude. So I was fairly excited to have a look for myself. Luckily I was able to spend the night because on arrival, much to my dismay, the lake was barely visible due to a blanket of smoke created by nearby wild fires. I feel for all the visitors who came and left that day unable to honestly say, "I saw Crater Lake".  

In the morning the winds had shifted temporarily and cleared the air enough to make out a little more than just vague outlines,  but the situation was still very much smoggy, foggy and just downright smoky. A serious disappointment and I would have considered waiting the fires out, but upon hearing that they were only 10% contained I decided that waiting another week or two was out of the question. 

Unfortunately, I didn't get the photographs I was hoping for, but I got enough that, through the magic of photoshop and my considerable digital darkroom skills (not!), I am able to share my "artistic" rendition of what I envision one would see if peering on to Crater Lake on a clear day. My hope is not that it quenches your desire to see it, but that it may inspire you to someday make the trip and see it for yourself, sans smoke!

For Photos and Videos please check out the following links:
Facebook     (A sampling to wet the appetite before eventually posting to my Photography website)