Als ich wisse das Morgen der Erde enden wuerde, immernoch wurd ich mein Apfelbaum pflanzen.

Even if I knew the world would perish tomorrow, I would still plant my apple tree. - Martin Luther

"Factory work's easier on the back, and I don't mind it, understand, but a man becomes what he does. Got to watch that. That's why I keep at farmin' although the crops haven't ever throve. It's the doin' that's important." Madison Wheeler in Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Oregon High Desert and Volcano Country

After exploring the Mt. Hood valley we turned southeast and headed toward Bend, OR.   This also meant that we were leaving the lush, green forest and returning to the High Desert.  Although the High Desert can be punishingly hot during the day, and freezing cold at night, I have always found that type of terrain to be one of beauty.  

One of the big advantages we have when we travel is that since my parents have traveled extensively in the U.S. they are often able to tell us about hidden gems we don't want to miss.  Not only do we get to experience the best locations, but we often are able to avoid the most crowded areas.  I always sit down with my mom about two years before a major trip to quiz her on places we need to go, and to also learn about places we can skip.  There's a lot to see out there, and we want to use our time wisely.

We had already decided to go to Bend because of the High Desert Museum.   We knew we would learn a lot about the High Desert, and we were also eager to go to their raptor show, which promised that the birds would fly right over your heads.  When mom heard that we were headed to Bend, she said that we had to include Newberry National Volcanic Monument in our trip.  We were looking forward to more volcanic geology, and had promised the kids that we could do one more lava tube cave (this time the longest one in Oregon).

We loved the High Desert Museum.  It was filled with not only animals and their habitats, but also contained a lot of cultural history about the area.  We saw many shows and talks - we could have spent another day there.
Burrowing Owl at the Owl show
We decided to camp close by in the Deschutes National Forest at Paulina Lake.  Paulina Lake was created when a volcano errupted.  The remaining crater was then filled with snow melt and created a beautiful mountain lake.  There was only one, HUGE problem with Paulina Lake - skeeters.  They were out to get us.  I seem to get bit less than the rest of the family, so I did everything that needed to be done outside the camper while the rest of them huddled inside.  

This handmade wooden camper was across the road from our site.
It was amazing - solar panels on the roof and a stove pipe on the other side.  Someone was very creative.

After dinner we drove to the overlook above the lake.  It was a ridiculously windy, steep, terrifying, dirt road.  I thought I was going to be sick.  I quickly took a picture and then huddled in the car alternating between dreading the drive down and craning my neck to see if the kids had fallen over the cliff.  The view was gorgeous, but given my fear of heights it was not my favorite part of the trip.

When we got down to safety we drove to the obsidian fields.  This had to have been the prettiest geological sight we saw on this trip.  The obsidian was glossy and mirror like.  The chunks were imense, and the temptation to be a bad land steward and walk off with a souvenier was great, but we remembered the warning of the ranger at Craters of the Moon about the curse of the Hawaiian Goddess Paloiloi, and decided to buy some at the gift shop instead.

Every sunset in the west seems to be beautiful.  

 It was a beautiful evening.  Even though the bloodsucker attacked at the campground we found Newberry to be enchanting, and well worth our time.  Early the next morning we hiked into the Lava River Cave, and explored the Lavalands Visitor center.  We then headed west once more on our way to Crater Lake.

Crater Lake was majestic, but it was also very, very crowded.  We were also found the campground and the concession for the boat tickets (both run by Xanterra) to be completly lacking and frustrating.  I had attempted to get tickets starting in the spring, and had a temporary reservation because they don't issue final reservations until they know when the snow will melt.  However, when we got to Crater Lake we had no tickets.  It took a very long time to check into our campsite as they don't assign sites until you arrive even if you have a reservation.  They had been cutting trees in the campground areas, but had failed to clean up when they were finished creating a big mess and tripping hazards. The showers only ran on tokens, and closed at 9 PM (we got there at 8:45 and they were already closed).  We also found the staff who handled our questions to be rude and unaccomodating.  Finally, because Crater Lake is so popular the price of the camping was some of the most expensive we experienced.

Even though we couldn't ride to the island, the kids decided they still wanted to swim so we hiked the very steep trail (11% grade for 1 1/2) to the lake.  The lake is an unbelievably crystal clear blue, and it is COLD.  The swimming was brief.

It was hard to believe it was possible, but the mosquitoes were even worse here than at Paulina.  You hardly dared to stop and catch your breath on the way up as you were afraid you'd be drained of blood.  Also, it was HOT.

The water was so clear, but those rocks were sharp (volcano remember).

We also discovered while we were there that our car was leaking a strange fluid (at the time we thought possibly brake fluid), which was very scary as it was a holiday weekend and we had major mountains to descend on our way to CA.  So, although it was beautiful, and I'm glad we went, given all of the negative feelings toward Xanterra we were not sorry to depart.

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