Monday, September 1, 2014

Central Oregon

A friend of mine gave me a list of things to do while I was in Oregon…my thanks to Aaron Roberts for that wonderful list!  We did many of his highlights, and left others for another visit.  When we left Portland we went south to Salem and then turned east toward Bend.  Aside from the hide and seek we played with Mount Jefferson (OH MY GOSH!) the drive was beautiful as we cruised through forests of douglas fir, ponderosa pine and hemlock.  After a stop in McKenzie Falls for a visit to the neato general  store there (if they don't have it, you don't need it) we stopped for the short hike to Proxy Falls.  The hike gave us our first taste of hiking through an old lava flow that was being retaken by the forest.  I've never seen such a landscape, with trees growing right out of the top of big hunks of lava.

 But that was only the beginning of wonderfulness, because when we got to the falls, it was gob-stoppingly gorgeous!  We stayed there for a long time gawking and taking pictures, and, as is my traditions with waterfalls (when safe), I stuck my head under the flow (way over to the right side).

I like how this picture shows the size of the falls.  That's Kate in the lower left.

An extra bonus was the upper Proxy falls, a cascade through the forest with a special surprise.  There was a lovely pool at the bottom of the falls, but there was no outlet for the water!  I did some research later and learned that the water exits the pool from a hole in the rocks at the bottom (more features of a lava landscape, I assume).  So the we continued on toward Bend, through the lovely forest, then all of a sudden the forest stopped and we were driving through the middle of a LAVA FIELD!  That's right, lava as far as we could see on both sides of the road.  Aaron had told me about this place, and when he used the word "otherworldly" I didn't really appreciate why until I was standing there with my mouth open, staring.  It was like being on another planet, and I drove there!

There were even "islands" of trees that had been on the higher ground and escaped the flowing lava.  This lava flow is said to have happened about 7 thousand years ago.  Not much vegetative progress since then!

We then spend a quiet evening in Bend, and made plans for the next day.  We wanted to do quite a lot, including climbing Mt Bachelor, visiting Crater Lake, and getting within a reasonable distance to Salt Lake City to not have a terribly long travel day to get there.  Initially we decided not to climb Mt Bachelor, because the trail descriptions we found were sketchy and described a "punishing" steep climb to the top.  But, in a last minute loss of good sense, we decided we would give ourselves 3 hours of climbing and see how far we got.  Mt Bachelor is below.  I must admit that when we got to the beginning of the trail and looked up at it I thought that there was no possible way we'd  get up that thing.  But off we went.  I decided to try using hiking poles for the first time to help me get up the steep path, which turned out to be a rocky ski slope.  I soon discovered that hiking poles are magical turbo-thruster-ascending-boosters!  I took off with those things faster than I could have imagined, and Sue was wondering what had gotten into me.  They're great!  We made the first half of the climb pretty easily, but the second half is two thirds of the effort.  After struggling up an even steeper, rockier, loose, difficult ski run, Sue and I both discovered that there was a TRAIL to our left on a ridge that went all the way to the top!  So much for the trail descriptions I found.  This was a lovely trail through the lava rock (Mt Bachelor is volcanic, like most of the big mountains in OR).  It was steep but the footing was stable and we MADE THE SUMMIT IN ONLY TWO AND A HALF HOURS!!!  Hooray for rocket booster hiking poles and trails!

 The reward at the top was a wonderful 360 degree view of central oregon, and, as you can see in the picture below, lots of big mountains.  For those of you who care, they are, from near to far, Broken Top, the Three Sisters, Mt Washington, Mt Jefferson, and way in the distance is Mt Hood!  That's a clear day folks! (and a pretty girl on my arm too!)

The descent on the nice trail was easy enough, and we soon were on our way to see Crater Lake national park.  Here we go with "otherworldly" again.  We drove into the park, and started seeing these huge areas of bare ground….really bare…oddly bare.  Sue thought maybe the drought, but the spots were surrounded by normal areas of vegetation.  These spots were acres in size.  Oh well, who knows. Then we got to the first overlook at Crater Lake.  As I looked over the edge, I could only say two words….Big….Blue….Big…..Blue!!  I've never seen anything like it.  Crater Lake is the result of a volcano blowing up then collapsing into itself, then filling with rain and snowmelt over a couple thousand years.  Its 1900 feet deep!  The good news is that the volcano way down in the earth is not extinct…it could blow again some day.  So, the bare spots.  Some time after the volcano blew, it spewed hot ash and pumice dust out that filled up some low areas in the surrounding terrain and this pumice and dust is about 400 feet deep and pretty much sterile, so almost nothing can grow on it because it cannot hold water…it simply drains through.

What a great day that was.  We stayed in a little town called Lakeview, OR that night, in a motel run by the local LDS bishop.  He gave us a discount!  We had an uneventful drive through northern NV and made it to SLC in time to go to a concert.  My brother Mike plays in several bands in UT, and this one was playing for a USANA company conference.  That's Mike on the big screen (on the left), he's the guitarist in white pants and a dark shirt.  It was the most fun I've ever had at a concert!  It was a beach theme so they played Beach Boys, some reggae (Mike on lead vocals, and he rocked it!), and lots of really fun, really loud music.  It was a blast!

We ended our stay in Utah Valley with a saturday hike with Bryce and Lysa to Silver Lake in American Fork canyon.  That's Bryce at our lunch spot by the lake.  It was a fun hike, and the aspen trees were just beginning to change color!  

I can't wait for fall so Sue and I are heading to Banff National Park in Canada tomorrow.  We're going to be on the road again for a while.  I guess I should mention that we dropped Kate off at BYU on Sunday.  She's already loving her roommates and is very happy to be there.  So, now its just Sue and me, empty nesters.  The funny thing is that our nest is our car, and its pretty full of camping gear!  So off we go to see a place that both of us have dreamed about for many years, and there's no one I'd rather be going with.  My bride is still my best friend, and I'm so very blessed that she loves to hang out with me.  Off to new adventures!!

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