Day 43 – No tax, plenty of grass & cinder
We spent the night in Bend, Oregon which could have been a more exciting evening if it hadn’t been cold and rainy. I’d been in Bend before on business, but you know what that’s like … one city looks like another when all you’re doing is going to meetings and staying in a hotel. It wasn’t much different this time since we pretty much stayed in our room. It seems to be a lively enough place based on the brochures I saw … a wine route, a brewery route, a cannabis route. Wait a minute … did I say cannabis route? Why, yes, indeed I did, and there are actually several cannabis ‘guides’ available. Oregon has had legalized weed for recreational purposes since 2015 and it appears to be quite the industry. We enjoyed the ads and signs (but not the product) as we made our way across the state. And, oh yeah, Oregon has no state sales tax either which was great for re-provisioning.
Enough pot talk … on to more important things. After an ATM, a fuel-up, a post office and an oil change for Blue, we returned to Newberry National Volcanic Monument. How many more ‘unknown’ national parks can we find? For two people who get around and really enjoy national parks, it seems we’ve certainly been totally unaware of so many of them. For sure, these smaller, under-the-radar parks are less crowded while still offering some unique views of our country that we’d otherwise miss. So … Newberry National Volcanic Monument came as yet another pleasant surprise to us. It’s a pretty impressive park with several campgrounds, lots of interesting trails of varying difficulty and topography, diverse flora and fauna and two visitor centers.
Administered by the US Forest Service instead of the National Park Service, the park is located within the Deschutes National Forest. Newberry Volcano is the largest volcano in the Cascade Range and last erupted about 1,300 years ago. Our first order of business was to drive up the steep, winding, red cinder road to the summit of Lava Butte, a cinder cone about 500’ above the 9 sq mi lava flow below.
We walked the short, but scenic rim trail. We hadn’t walked much in the past couple of days because of the inclement weather and it was great to be able to stretch our legs and get some steps in. The views were impressive on this partly cloudy day. We could see snow-covered Mount Bachelor and two of the Three Sisters ~50 miles away.
Back at the visitor center, we left Blue parked and walked two short interpretive trails. Trail of the Molten Land led us on a path through a jagged, coarse a’a lava flow field, very reminiscent of our visit to Ascension Island in the South Atlantic. We read that the astronauts trained here at Newberry in preparation for their moon landing. Midst this bare, barren terrain, I found hot rock penstemon which somehow only thrives in volcanic rock.
On the Trail of the Whispering Pines, we learned how to distinguish lodgepole pine from ponderosa pine, the two major conifers in the Deschutes Forest. Believe me, this is a piece of information we’d been dying to know … and have already forgotten. We drove up the road to the Deschutes River/Benham Falls Trailhead which was quite busy with walkers and bikers. Benham Falls was quite exhilarating and we wondered if white water rafters did this river which seemed a maelstrom of eddies and a voluminous gushing, crashing, whirling and swirling of water.
The Old Mill Interpretive Trail was empty and we followed the well-trodden dirt path through greenery to the remains of an old mill. Along the path, western red columbine bloomed profusely which was much more interesting than the old mill timbers and pond cattails.
By day’s end, with all the easy trails completed, we’d racked up enough walking miles to warrant a nice campground site, dinner on the campfire and a glass (or two) of wine. The Little Crater Campground on the shore of Paulina (Pow-line-ah) Lake was most pleasant. Ground squirrels and chipmunks were particularly numerous, energetic and a bit cheeky. One fellow kept nipping at David’s chair and then his pant's leg and finally climbed up David’s leg onto his lap, much to their mutual surprise as David yelled and swatted him off and the squirrel went flying. I had a hard time containing my laughter as I watched the scene unfold.
Day 44 – Hot springs, cold lake and ducks
It was cold during the night (45F) and we lingered over our morning coffee, letting the sun warm up the day. We let Blue rest while we embarked on an 8-mile loop hike around Paulina Lake. The trail was mostly level although rooted and rocky in spots with a few up and down scrambles through a’a cinder to keep it interesting. Huge, shiny obsidian rocks gleamed in the sun. The ancient native people used this obsidian for arrowheads as well as trade items.
We walked long distances, it seemed, in comfortable silence, each of us letting our minds wander along with our feet. Pollen was thick in the air. The lakeshore was covered with a layer of yellow and our alternating sneezes broke the otherwise peaceful solitude.
We took a short detour to the lake’s edge to dip our toes in a hot spring. Logs and stones had been moved into place to allow a bit of soaking. The lake water was quite cold, but the hot springs were so hot, they were boiling. A quick dip determined they were definitely too hot for comfort and we continued on our way.
Somewhere during our recent travels … at Lassen NP, maybe? … I acquired a walking stick which I’ve been using frequently. I named it Palo (Spanish for stick … very creative, huh?) and it’s been quite useful. David has been whittling on it in the evenings, first to make a more comfortable grip and then to make it a bit more decorative.
We were back at camp in time for dinner and another campfire. A mallard with his grumbling mate following closely behind wandered unexpectedly into the camp. They looked around a bit, but quickly determined we did not speak duck and worse, we were having a cousin (chicken) for dinner. They departed without a single quack to explain their intrusion or their abrupt departure.
We sat at the campfire till it was too cold for comfort. When the sun sinks here, so does the temperature. David nursed the fire till it was nothing but glowing cinders and we were near to shivering. Time to climb into Blue and get warm.
More next time … we heading west of the Cascades in Oregon to Steens Mountain. Come on along!