Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Newberry National Volcanic Monument

On the afternoon of Monday, July 28, we drove south from Bend to the Lava Lands Visitor Center at the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. It was close to closing time, but we got a recommendation for a place to camp and then set out on one of the interpretive trails.

Newberry is a massive volcano, occupying 500 square miles just south of Bend. It was designated as a national monument in 1990. We’d never heard of it before we saw it on our map and decided to stop in.

The sky was a little hazy, but we still got views of the Three Sisters and Broken Top from the interpretive trail.

Lava Butte loomed above us.

Unfortunately, the road leading up to the top of Lava Butte closed before we could drive up.

There were a few lava balls along the trail, which formed like snowballs, gaining volume as they rolled.

There wasn’t a lot of vegetation, so this tree stood out.

After the interpretive trail, we drove further south to the Newberry Caldera section of the monument. Apparently, a caldera is similar to a crater, but a caldera is wider than it is deep. Scientists thinks that the caldera originally contained one large lake, but then lava deposits split the single lake into two, Paulina Lake and East Lake. Little Crater Campground on Paulina Lake had been recommended to us, so we headed there. Even though it was a Monday night, most of the sites were full, but lucky for us, one lakefront site was still free. We set up our tent and enjoyed our lovely lake view.

The area around Paulina Lake was cold, particularly the east side of the lake where our campground was, because it received the full force of the brisk winds. We had no complaints – where the Sawtooths were infested with mosquitoes, and Elk Lake had its share, Paulina Lake had none. We bundled up in our down jackets and enjoyed the mosquito-free camping.

The next morning, we enjoyed our campsite’s view of Paulina Peak, Newberry’s highest point at 7984’.

Sarah wrapped herself in a fleece blanket to fend off the cold.

After breakfast, we went sightseeing. The first sight was Paulina Falls, which turned out to be two side-by-side waterfalls.

We also took pictures from the top viewpoint.

Next, we drove up to the top of Paulina Peak and looked back down at Paulina Lake. Our campground is at the front right (southeast) edge of the lake in the picture.

Looking out to the east, we could see the Big Obsidian Flow, and beyond that, East Lake.

Clouds were forming, but the views of Bachelor and the Sisters were still nice.

Here’s Diamond Peak.

And there’s Sarah in front of Paulina Lake.

Later that afternoon, we headed to a hot spring on the shore of East Lake that we’d heard about. We thought it was just a short walk along the lakeshore, but as we walked and walked, we started to wonder if we’d missed it. Fortunately, a man appeared in front of us right then on the lakeshore and told us we were almost there. When we arrived, we found that it wasn’t a full-body soaking pool or even a leg-soaking pool, but the hot water sure felt nice on our feet.

An osprey watched us from overhead as we soaked our feet.

Next, we hiked the short trail through the Big Obsidian Flow. Just 1300 years old, it’s the youngest lava flow in Oregon. Obsidian is essentially glass, and Native Americans periodically came to the Newberry area to collect supplies of obsidian, which they would use to make sharp tools like arrowheads. Obsidian only makes up 10% of the rock at Newberry, and it’s entirely different from pumice. Pumice is full of air bubbles – the bigger the bubbles, the lighter the color of the pumice. Obsidian, on the other hand, has no air bubbles, so where pumice is rough, obsidian is smooth along its surfaces but has very sharp edges.

We passed a small lake as we hiked up through the obsidian.

The obsidian felt incredibly smooth, just like glass, but we walked carefully because the edges could easily cut our sandal-clad feet.

There was obsidian and pumice practically as far as the eye could see.

From the high point on the trail, we could see Paulina Lake past the lava flow.

We’d had a full day, so we headed back to the campsite to make dinner, bundle up, and play a game of Scrabble.

The next morning, Brian woke up early to a fog-covered Paulina Lake.

Brian had created a bit of a problem the day before, when he crossed the positive and negative wires when connecting our power inverter to Caroline’s battery. Fortunately, this appeared to do no damage to the car, but the inverter was fried, proving that the extremely strong warnings provided by the manufacturer weren’t exaggerations. So today, we decided to drive back to Bend to replace the inverter.

On the way out of the caldera area, we got our clearest mountain views since we’d arrived at Newberry.

Finding a new inverter in Bend turned out to be a wild goose chase. After stopping at something like a dozen places, we finally found what we wanted at Target. Reading the instruction manual of the new inverter, Brian found out that it had a fuse inside that was only replaceable by “trained professionals”. Since he’d already invalidated the warranty on the old inverter by crossing the wires, Brian opened it up to see if it also had a fuse. Sure enough, it did, and the fuse was blown. After a quick trip to an auto parts store to acquire a standard 30-amp fuse and some wrangling to get it into the inverter, the old inverter was back to life. Ugh! It makes complete sense that the inverter would have a fuse. But why put it inside so that a “trained professional” has to take the whole thing apart to replace it? Anyway, we returned the new inverter to Target and headed back south.

Wild goose chase aside, there was an upside of heading back north: We could visit the areas of the monument that we hadn’t seen when we first arrived because they were closing at the end of the day. We drove to the top of Lava Butte and walked around the crater at the top.

The mountain views from the top of the butte were pretty. The Sisters:

Mt. Bachelor:

And more distant, Mt. Jefferson:

Next, we went to Lava River Cave, a mile-long lava tube that’s open for self-guided exploration. It was neat to walk around in the dark with just our headlamps lighting the way, but there wasn’t a whole lot to see in terms of cave features – a few stalactites that were two or three inches long and not much else. We hiked into the cave until we had to get down on our knees and crawl to go further, and then we turned around. The cave is a constant 42.5 degrees, so we had to shed clothing when we walked out into the 70-plus-degree outside.

Next, we would continue the volcano tour further south at Crater Lake National Park!

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