DNA-X 2015 #9 The Ring of Fire…
After our Idaho adventure, Pip (our co-pilot) pulled out the map and his dart to randomly select our next stop. He aimed west and launched it. Like a lost missile, it sailed across the high desert of eastern Oregon, a barren land, rocky and sparsely inhabited. Blue followed the missile’s direction for hours. Where are we going?
Weaving along the lonely road we stop at the only gas station we find. “Malfunction Junction” the sign reads, and an old codger emerges from a ramshackle house. “What can I do fur ya?” he asks eyeing Blue suspiciously. “Do you have any gas?” Captain Jay asks as he studies the ancient gas pumps. “Only high test” says the man and the Captain and Blue are now happy! A dusty pickup truck pulls up and the driver swaggers into the house which apparently is also the only bar for miles. You make a living however you can out here. On we go until suddenly out of the desert and over a hill, a small city reveals itself. The towering, snow capped Cascade Range looms beyond while vast national forests conceal other treasures.
We land with the dart in Bend, Oregon and pull into the Oxford Hotel. A welcoming staff makes us feel right at home. Although the hotel is small the service and charm are big! The doorman helps us unload and spots our guitar. “You won’t need that here” he says, “Every room comes with its own Breedlove guitar!” This is a first! We discover that Bend is Breedlove’s hometown where they build exceptional guitars. The town is surprisingly upscale and trendy with many shops and restaurants. The beautiful Deschutes River cascades through town and all around are well-maintained parks, trails and bike paths for everyone to enjoy. This is a great base to explore an amazing area. Sitting on the edge of the Pacific Ocean’s Ring Of Fire, an active volcanic fault zone, Bend actually has an extinct volcano in the city limits, Pilot Butte. This State Park is a good spot to get our bearings and we drive to the top where in the west, we can see the dramatic Cascade Range that runs from northern California to southern British Columbia. To the east we see the desert we just drove across.
Bend is an outdoor activity paradise! To get a feel for the area we head for the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway just south of town. This 66-mile historic highway winds past alpine lakes, through a variety of landscapes and national forest. Stop and hike one of the many trails or enjoy water sports on one of the crystal clear lakes.
Not far from the Byway is the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. It was becoming abundantly clear that this region has had a very violent past and could
just as easily have an explosive future! Lakes, lava flows and bizarre geologic formations flank the immense, dormant Newberry volcano that is the size of Rhode Island! Long ago the center collapsed leaving a caldera now filled with two lakes.
We take the rocky, one lane dirt road with blind corners, no guardrails etc. to the top of Newberry. Seems like we always find that kind of road but Blue doesn’t bat a headlight! The peak tops out at 7,984 feet and looks out over Paulina and East Lake(s) that fill the caldera. Amazing views in all directions can be enjoyed from here! Back at the lower elevations, we visit the Lava Lands Visitor Center and hike the Lava Cast Forest where ghostly remains of trees swallowed up by lava left casts of their former shapes. Stranger still is the nearby Big Obsidian Flow where obsidian and pumice are piled high in a massive glass extrusion.
Perhaps Oregon’s most famous park is a little further south from Bend. Once covered with glaciers and rising to12,000 feet, Mount Mazama exploded in a violent eruption over 7000 years ago. Evidence suggests Native Americans witnessed this event and the subsequent collapse of the volcano leaving a deep basin now filled with pure rainwater and snow. Crater Lake, our nation’s deepest lake, is the main focal point of Crater Lake National Park. Take time to explore the Rim Drive to enjoy the deep blue clear waters and views of another volcano, Wizard Island, which has surfaced from depths of the lake. Both Mazama and Wizard are just resting for now…
All this talk of lava, explosions, sleeping giants had us a little uneasy. We decided to venture to the west side of the Cascades to calm our nerves in Oregon’s wine country. Along the way we stopped by the Evergreen Museum, an aviation museum filled with vintage and modern planes. This is worth a stop as the carefully restored Spruce Goose; Howard Hughes enormous flying boat is here.
Oregon makes some great wines and their Pinot Noir vintages are the best known. We pulled into a nice hotel by a vineyard where a Napa Valley feel greeted us. In the chic restaurant, a screaming child next to us cast a deafening pall over the romantic atmosphere. A pompous waiter handed us a lengthy wine menu and tried to interest us in the most expensive wine. Uninterested, we ordered a less pricy vintage and he spiraled into a hissy fit. He assured us the certified wine measuring scale would dole out the specified 2 &1/2 (?!) ounces with accuracy. Captain Jay asked if that was something like a truck scale? We wondered if there was a wine shortage around here? The waiter raised his nose and went off in a hoity-toity huff. He returned 15 minutes later with a thimble sized portion of wine- price $18.00 a glass! It’s cheaper to buy a bottle in Florida! This would never fly in Napa or anywhere where the idea is for you to enjoy the wine so you buy more, not to send you into cardiac arrest! So wine aficionados do enjoy the wonderful wine but you might want to check prices first.
We had more exploring to do in beautiful Oregon. We did keep our eyes peeled for any evidence of the famous Bigfoot. So far, we only found some wooden replicas. Pip had no interest in seeing one of these creatures and retreated to his “burrow” (glove box) for safety. The west side of the Cascades has dark, lush forests, rushing rivers, gigantic spruce and fir trees festooned with shawls of moss and lichens, perfect for Bigfoot…