Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Visitors from the East

I spent most of last week in the company of my mother, her sister, my cousin and her husband. They came to Oregon from Illinois for a visit and to see the gorgeous beauty of this country.

For the most part, I acted as a tour guide for the group, and took them to local areas well worth seeing...and of course, I took along my camera.

It had been so long since I spent any time in the high country, that I actually felt like crying when I returned. There are two spots in central Oregon which are my favorite top two favorite spots in the state. The top spot on the list is the McKenzie Pass area. The pass, along the McKenzie Highway, is located between the North Sister and Mt. Washington in the area of Belnap Crater. The view there at the right time of the day, is absolutely spectacular.

Unfortunately, the area is still blocked by snow and the pass is closed until the end of July at the earliest. I'll get there again...I hope. And when I do, I'll once again be awed by what I see.

The second place on that list encompasses a large area of central Oregon and is known as Newberry National Volcanic Monument. I got to know this area before it became a national monument. Though not a lot has changed, it does cost more to get into the park and some places I could go before, I'm not allowed to go to now. Not that I would these days as my Davy Crockett days are long gone, but it would be nice to go there if I could.

There are so many volcanic features throughout the caldera, that a person could spend a lifetime inside the volcano studying it all. Among other sights, are the Big Obsidian Flow, Central Pumice Cone, lava flows, smaller obsidian flows, pumice flats, two lakes formed by the collapsed summit, a beautiful waterfall and Paulina Peak.

The peak is the highest point at the monument at 7,989 feet. It can be driven to along a gravel road cut into the flanks of the mountain. The drive itself is interesting, as in spots, you're driving the edge of a three hundred foot drop to oblivion. But the views from the roadway are gorgeous and well worth the time. One of my most memorable trips up to Paulina Peak occurred in 1992 when I took a friend of mine up there. We were in an old Ford pickup and the road was extremely wash-boarded at the time. Since the drop offs were on the passenger side, my friend from St. Louis wasn't accustomed to looking out his window and seeing nothing at road level. He certainly was glad when we finally made it to the top.

Once at the top of Paulina Peak, the views are spectacular. On clear days (few and far between these days in the summer wildfire season), a person can easily see into the states of Washington and California. To the north, Washington's Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams are easily seen. Further north, Mt. Rainier can be made out on the horizon. To the south, Crater Lake in Oregon and Mt. Shasta in California grace the distance landscape. I have seen what I believe is Lassen Peak, a volcano which erupted in California in 1915.

Still looking south but moving more to the east, a person can easily make out Fort Rock and Hole-in-the-Ground. In the distance, the flats of the Great Basin show and further south, the fault block system of the Hart Mountains.

There is much more to see in the High Desert area of central Oregon. And I hope to someday be able to visit the areas I have been before, along with those I haven't seen. In the meantime, I'll continue to do what I can to see what I can and when I do, I'll have my camera and record it for all to see.

I have posted some of the photos I took from Paulina Peak during my recent visit at my Flickr site. Although it was a nice day, my views were limited due to smoke from the California fires.

I do hope you enjoy my photos and if you decide to visit the central Oregon area, I do hope you enjoy your visit. But please...just visit...don't plan to stay 8v)