Thursday, August 24, 2017

I think this plank is done.

Salmon grilled on a cedar plank is yummy.  Being a cheapskate, I use the same plank over and over again.  The current one split in half a while ago with no actual functional problems, but I think after last night it is just completely done...

Plank smoldered during cooking, despite having been pre-soaked

Bottom side of plank after final use

The salmon itself was delicious, given that it was wild-caught Coho with a mustard, bay-caper-infused vinegar, rosemary, honey, and lemon zest marinade.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Many Faces of the Kid

Last, but not least, the many faces of the kid on vacation.  Notice that she is much more smiley overall this year -- maybe just not as hungry as last year...









After the hike

After the hike mentioned previously, we still had the whole day in front of us.  A very very hot day in the desert.  After fortifying ourselves with cold beverages from the camp store, we headed out in the air-conditioned truck for some dirt road exploring the back routes southeast of the park, ostensibly to locate a couple of heads of creeks.  Water in these parts sometimes flows underneath volcanic buttes, leading to odd places where entire rivers come gushing seemingly out of nowhere.  We thought that sounded like a good kind of destination for a warm day.

The heat is not so bad from inside the truck.  Chad found the driving fun, I think.

It certainly was scenic.  This is forest road 1170, after road 2055 appeared not to exist.

We did successfully navigate our way through the maze of dirt roads to the trailhead.

The springs are surprisingly serene and quiet, for all that the flow is something like 50,000 gallons a minute.  Mt. Jefferson is framed nicely in the background.  From this point, the Metolius River flows back to the lake by our campground.

The kiddo is much more awake at noon than at 6am.

Headwaters #1 was nice, but we weren't allowed to stick our feet in (private property), so we had to drive around the maze of forest roads to find the trailhead to another one.  Given my dad's name, the Head of the Jack seemed like a fun destination.

Another nice, but short hike through the trees brought us to the head of Jack Creek,

where we could happily stick our feet into the ice-cold water.   Aaaahhh... 

Post hike, we took advantage of the shady picnic table to have some lunch.  Nim worked on her writing; Chad took a nap to prepare for the drive back along another obscure almost-not-a-road through a part of the Crooked River National Grassland.  (I just looked at the atlas to plot out said dubious route!)

Cove Palisades/ Lake Billy Chinook

You may recall I mentioned Cove Palisades State Park in the post about our campsites.  Besides the 100-degree temperatures, free showers, and miracle ice-cream-containing camp store mentioned earlier, the park is also home to Lake Billy Chinook, an impressive three-armed lake formed by the Deschutes, Metolius, and Crooked Rivers being backed up behind Round Butte Dam.

The campground is on the peninsula between two of the arms, so to get to it, you drive down the basalt cliff, across a bridge, and then partially up the adjacent cliff.  One interesting thing to note is that the gorges through the basalt were not at all obvious until you are right on top of them -- as we drove toward the campground, it seemed like we were just on a plain with nary a lake or river in sight....until we hit the edge.

Incidentally, my mom remembers going here as a kid, back before the dam was in place.  One suspects the old campground she stayed at is probably now under water.

One of the things we wanted to do was hike the Tam-a-lau trail.  This 6-mile trail leaves right from the campground, winds its way 600 feet up the cliff in the first mile, and then loops around on the plateau on top for views of the lake and surrounding volcanoes before going back down to the campground.   Given the heat when we were there, we got an early start.

The teenager was not sure about the wisdom of a 6am start.  I knew it was the right plan -- it was very pleasant out at that hour, and we enjoyed watching the low-angle sunshine spread across the terrain.

We started to get views of the lake as we hiked up.

Once on top, there was a scenic flat loop, with volcanoes to view in seemingly every direction.

I particularly like the contrast between the yellow desert-y landscape and the snow-covered peaks.

There is almost an island at the edge of the peninsula between the Deschutes and Crooked River branches of the lake.  This "island" is closed to public access and has been designated a BLM Research Natural Area -- one of the few undisturbed bits of this particular ecological community.

Big views everywhere.

And very fine outcrops of columnar basalt, all before breakfast!

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.