Monday, August 21, 2017


The eclipse this morning was only partial here (about 75%), but I still enjoyed wandering about the yard looking at results of all of the natural pinholes. I was also happy to be able to locate my useful piece of welders glass for safe viewing of the sun.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Other fun volcanic features

One fine day on our vacation found us haring off down dirt roads to find a trio of volcanic obscurities.  I supposed the dirt roads weren't really necessary, but one can't resist the occasional "shortcut" spotted in the atlas.

The first stop was Hole-in-the-Ground.  This is a maar, or volcanic explosion crater, formed back in the Pleistocene when the area was a lake.  Upwelling magma hit groundwater causing a steam explosion that blew out a circular crater.  Our guidebook pointed out with great glee that the diameter of this feature is 1 mile, making the trail around the rim exactly π miles long.

I experimented with panorama mode on the phone, trying to get the whole thing in one shot.  This particular shot would clearly be more successful from the air.

Of course, if you then forget your camera is in panorama mode and try to take a normal picture, you can get strange results.

The second stop was Fort Rock.  This is also a feature caused by the interaction of lava and the ancient lake, but this time the lava made it all the way to the wet lake bottom before exploding.  Hot blobs of lava and ash were blown into the air, and rained back down to form a circular rung of tuff several hundred feet tall

We wandered about and explored the inside of the ring of rock.

You can definitely see terraces where waves at the original lake level eroded out some rock.  When you look at the surrounding land, you realize that this had been a very big lake!

After those two sites, we hared off into the hinterlands and off of our guidebook to find Crack-in-the-Ground, a two-mile-long volcanic fissure caused by tension fracturing as a lava flow cooled.  I found out about this obscurity when optimistically searching for information about slot canyons in the area -- none of those about, but Crack-in-the-Ground looked like it might *feel* like a slot canyon and thus was high on my mental list of places to check out.

Of course, we tried to find the back way through the maze of dirt roads.  This was almost, but not quite successful, as after a certain point, what we were seeing on the ground did not match what was in the atlas.  Most frustrating, because by this point, I knew we were only about a mile from the site as the crow flies, but all the things that looked like the road turned out to be dead-end stubs into cattle watering holes.  In the end, we had to go back around on the main road.  Ugh.

I looked at the satellite imagery on Google Maps after we got home, and it was clear that the main road goes through what in reality was a gated ranch.  If one knew that ahead of time, there does appear to be a way to circumnavigate the ranch and get back on track, but we didn't know that, and at the time said circumnavigatory road appeared to be going in entirely the wrong direction based on the map, leading us to take a side road into the maze of cattle grazing areas.

At any rate, we did find our way there after taking the "main" way in through the town of Christmas Valley (very odd to be driving by Snowman Lane when it was over 90 degrees out!), and as I expected, the site was totally worth the trouble.  A short hike from the road takes you to

a miles-long series of parallel cracks in the basalt that one can climb in and out of to explore.  So much fun, and incidentally quite a bit cooler than on the surface!

After the first few instances, Nim got a little annoyed whenever we climbed out due to an obstacle and I would then find another way to climb back in.  I could have played there for a full day; as it was we spent a fun couple of hours.


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Newberry National Volcanic Monument

One of the places I wanted to explore in OR was Newberry National Monument -- home to 400 cinder cones, lava tubes, hot springs, numerous waterfalls, and Paulina Peak with its lake-filled caldera and 360 degree views to the other Cascade volcanoes.  What's not to like?

Plus it had the excellent sign above, which is funny to those of us with teenagers.

We drove up to the summit and took a short hike to enjoy the views

Mt Bachelor and Three Sisters

Not one, but two lakes in the caldera.  Apparently there is a beach on one of them that has hot springs burbling up through the sand, but we chose to go to a waterfall instead given that it was about 95 degrees out that day.

The Big Obsidian Flow.  A most impressive deposit -- it really is all obsidian.

So impressive that we had to go explore it up close.

Kid had fun.  Or maybe she was laughing at the two kids we had just seen on the trail acting like little baby birds with their beaks wide open while their mom doled out water from a Nalgene.  (One of said kids was about Nim's age; he cracked up when I made a comment to the mom about baby birds.)

We could even see the other volcanoes peeking above the caldera wall down at lake level.

There was a nice short hike through the woods from the visitors' center to Paulina Falls.

And numerous small cinder cones to explore.  We ran out of time and didn't explore the many caves in the area, but there is always next time!  (Clearly we need to go back to the Bend area.)

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

addenda to last post

Just found the missing pictures from McKay Falls.

The falls:

The kid, who oddly didn't want to go in the water despite it being about 90 out.  We had to settle for going in ourselves and laughing at the other feral children who were chasing each other around with sticks and bunches of wet algae-covered vegetation.


We *could* have sought out many, many waterfalls on our trip, but given that most of them were in vicious mosquito country during apocalyptic mosquito season, we saw but a few:

Chad at McArthur-Burney Falls

Same falls sans Chad

Rare picture of both of us on the trail that circumnavigated said falls.

Random rapids near Fall River Mills along CA-299.  Not much of a falls, but the gorge was scenic enough that we pulled off at the viewpoint.

Teeny-tiny falls in La Pine State Park.  This on is on the Fall River in OR (unlike Fall River CA in the picture above).

And finally, another real falls -- this double falls is Paulina Falls in Newberry Crater National Monument, a short hike down the Peter Skene Ogden Trail from Paulina Lake.  The trail continues down for miles and miles along the creek, passing several other waterfalls and a natural waterslide, which would make for a fine outing had we had all day left (we didn't, and had to make to with also making a brief stop at McKay Falls down near the bottom so I could play in the creek).
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Monday, August 14, 2017

Tour of the Volcanoes: Mountain Biking

You may have noticed from the earlier photographs that we dragged our mountain bikes all over creation on the back of the truck.  We rode them some too!

One of the trails I wanted to check out in Oregon was the North Umpqua Trail.  This is lovely 70+ mile stretch of singletrack through the woods along the north fork of the Umpqua River.  We only had time to check out the top section, which of course makes us want to go back and do the whole thing.  Just not in July, which as we found out is apocalyptic mosquito season... even the beer served at the restaurant back in town was called "Vicious Mosquito".

We found a fine dirt shortctut from the trailhead back to the main road

and the truck kicked up even more dust than our bikes did.  I kept hoping all the mosquitos that had pestered Chad and Nim were choking and expiring in our wake.

After that ride, fun as it was, I ruled out further expeditions into the part of the mountains deemed "Mosquito Central".  Fortunately, I had cleverly picked our next accommodation to be in the slightly warmer drier region further east (maybe I had an advance inkling that the bugs might be bad in the mountains...)

La Pine State Park was half a mile from our rental hut that you saw in an earlier post, and was chock-full of the most delightful easy (i.e. mostly flat) singletrack that you can imagine.  Most of the time you got to weave in and out of the trees along either the Deschutes or Fall Rivers, and there was just enough navigation of the trail maze involved to make it interesting.  I snuck out here one afternoon while Chad and Nim were napping after our day's activities over at Newberry Crater, and rode about 14 miles, only to head back to the hut and make Chad go back out with me so he wouldn't miss out.  And, I convinced Nim to get up at 6am the next morning so she would get her chance too :)

We were amused by the park's "Big Tree" -- the largest Ponderosa Pine in the state of Oregon.  It *is* a big tree, but my eyes have been jaded by the immensity of the redwoods and sequoia in CA.

Once up in WA, one ride that we really wanted to do was to ride up Ape Canyon and the Plains of Abraham near Mt. St. Helens.  This is the non-brutal part of a ride that we did on a previous trip.  I was appalled to note that the last time was seven years ago -- how could it possibly be that long???

The route climbs up a forested ridge that contains the only trees on the mountain to have survived the 1980 blast, and then pops you out above the treeline to some amazing views.  What I didn't quite remember was just how steeply some of the climb was -- but I knew the views would be good.

When we hit this point, a hiker hollered from the next switch back "You guys look just amazing there -- do you want me to take a picture?"  Naturally we said yes, and Chad ran the camera over to her.  Two little people on bikes with giant Mt. Adams in the background.

Around another corner I got to ponder

the immensity and nearness of Mt. St. Helens.

High on the east flank of the volcano are found the Plains of Abraham -- a desolate-seeming flat field of pumice with spectacular views of the mountain (peak would be to the left of the picture below).

We hit the timing just right to see most of the Plains covered in lupine and another purple flower that I couldn't identify.  The sheer weirdness of the lupine-blanketed moonscape doesn't quite come out in the photo.

After a few more corners, we were off of the worst of the pumice and the wildflowers were abundant all along the trail.  I don't think I stopped grinning along this stretch even though I was pretty tired.

We started taking more pictures as we both got tired.  "I'll just sit here and take your picture as you ride through over there."  The sitting part was good :)

And actually the riding was too!

We took a moment to balance the camera on a rock to take a picture of both of us before heading down a couple thousand feet of swoopy tree-lined descent.  Much easier on the way out.

And just for reference -- us on the same trail seven years previously.  We are this young in our own heads.  (I was also amused to note that my mountain bike shoes that Chad classifies as falling apart and I classify as just getting good were almost new back then.)