Thursday, August 19, 2010

McKenzie Pass, Oregon

As we rode home from Bend this morning I tossed around how I would try to explain the beauty of the McKenzie Pass lava flows. Massive, extensive, unique, similar too all seemed to blaze and I guess you have to experience it for yourself to take in the true magnitude of the scenes.

We visited two sites with our friend John on our trip to Bend. We drove to the top of Pilot Butte just outside of Bend to take in the sights about 1100 feet above the city. I consider a Butte as a hill or mountain with a flat top. Pilot Butte is a cone with a flat top and a road that winds around it to the summit. What was surprising was that people were running and walking up...some women pushing strollers, even. But once at the top the view does not disappoint. From the pinnacle, which doubles as a parking lot and observatory, one can see for miles...virtually all the volcanoes in the Oregon Cascades. Plus you get a look at the countryside around Bend...population 80k.

We drove to the Newberry Volcanic National Monument which is acres and acres of lakes and lava flows. The most remarkable site is the Obsidian (silica, glass) flow which has a 1 mile path to the top. The mounds of volcanic glass are without description.

On our way home we traversed the Cascades over McKenzie Pass which is arguably the most scenic area in Oregon. Miles of lava fields then miles of Ponderosa Pine forests winding down a well maintained, yet narrow paved road. It added about two hours to the trip, but was worth the time. We stopped several times to drink in the view and did some climbing, but we decided that there is no way to do it all justice in one trip. McKenzie pass is not open year round. It closes the end of October and opens the first of June...not unlike Crater Lake. We loved every bit of it.

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