OR 126, Santiam Pass, The Lava Lands Center, Lava Butte

- 19 April 2003 -

Back in 1987 or so, when I was about 9, I was absolutely and entirely in love with Central Oregon. The city of Bend looked so much like home (which was Hillsboro at the time), and yet it was located in such different and beautiful surroundings. I still like it over there, although my opinion now is that it's a beautiful place to visit; there's too much snow and not enough rain for this Willamette Valley boy. 

One of the things I got to see at age 9 was the Lava Lands Center, about 12 miles south of Bend on US 97. My family did a short hike around there, but we didn't get to complete the entire hike. I've always loved geology, so I was disappointed by this... and I vowed that one day I would return. 19 April 2003 was the day I fulfilled my vow. Yay for me! Or something. 

I'm writing this late at night and I'm running low on caffeine creativity, so I hope you understand if I don't caption some of the pictures. After all, they are equal to 1,000 words, right? Right? KAPICHE? ... Good. kthx. :b   

This is a part of the lower McKenzie Valley, somewhere near Leaburg.

Springy, isn't it? (Also blurry. I apologize profusely. The picture quality will increase after the next picture.)

Bridge over troubled waters a McKenzie tributary.

More of the lower McKenzie Valley.

A covered bridge over the McKenzie, near Vida.

For reference, the road inside said bridge is Goodpasture Road (not to be confused with Goodpasture Island Road in Eugene... there is no defunct Kmart on the other side of this bridge). 

Springy foothill goodness. 

Spring hasn't reached all parts of the mountains, though -- not even on April 19th. 

This, and the last few pictures, are some typical McKenzie Valley scenery along OR 126 between Vida and Blue River. 

This is the turnoff for the McKenzie Pass (OR 242) -- which just happens to be the locale of the first major roadtrip I ever took. :) 

However, on the day I took this picture, the McKenzie Pass was closed. The sign just before this one had said, "Closed by snow gate 7 miles beyond this sign." I think the McKenzie Pass is closed from October through May. (Tangent: Those are the months when all drivers who attempt Oregon's mountain passes must carry chains or traction devices with them.)

A bridge over the McKenzie River. The US Forest Service logo just to the left of the river name; this bridge must be within the Willamette National Forest. 

This picture looks like Central Oregon. 

When the evergreen branches start pointing skyward and the undergrowth thins out, you're in Ponderosa Pine territory... the drylands, the rain shadow, the other side of the Cascade divide.

The outrageously ruddy dirt by the side of the road is dust from volcanic red pumice; due to the vast amounts of volcanic red rock in Central Oregon, it's used on the roads there in place of sand during seasons of ice and snow.

Hmm. There's quiescently frozen crystalline aquatic goodness in them thar hills!

Mountains of a Cascade nature!

This... is Kalapuya Thunder. It's also known as "the new Yansamobile" or "the Green Beastie".

The Yansamobile of yore -- a 1989 Buick LeSabre -- was involved in an accident on 15 December 2002, and it was subsequently totaled by my insurance company. :( Since I couldn't get insurance coverage on a totaled car (even if I got it repaired!), I decided to seek a new vehicle. This 1995 Mustang happened to be the one that rocked my world. It also rocks the roads -- it thunders along even the mountainous routes (such as the Santiam Pass) where the ol' Buick just cried for mercy. :b

Now, a brief explanation of the name of the vehicle. 

Kalapuya = the Native American tribe that lived in the Eugene area before whitey showed up and did his usual whitey-type thing. :b

Thunder = a loud sound produced by storms; the word is often utilized in nomenclature by individuals who wish to invoke power, strength, force, and excessive levels of testosterone. :b

It's Yansa, frolicking near the snow! 

Frolic thou mightily, o Yansa. And rocketh thou on.

Blue sky. Light clouds. Forest. Lost Lake. "Passing lane, one mile" (rectangular metallic savior of the two-lane highway). Snow. Pumice dust.

Driving in a springy wonderland.

More snow... but I chose this picture because of two things:

1. Those trees just scream "High Cascades". (If your window is down, that can be rather annoying after a few miles.)

2. The sign says "Hoodoo Ski Area"... and the word "hoodoo" makes me feel all tingly inside.


Fortunatamente, no nieve en la calle.

Black Butte, and more of those screaming High Cascade trees.

Looky here... 'tis I! In this picture, I'm being all burly 'n' stuff at the Mt. Washington Viewpoint along US 20, near Santiam Pass and the crest of the Cascades.

Mt. Washington was supposed to have been visible behind that tree to my left (your right), but the sun hid it very well. The sun hid many of my potentially-great pictures of the Cascades, today. I am very cross at the sun right now. Snarl! Roar! Snarl! But it provides light and energy for the entire world and everything in it, so I suppose I should forgive it for this one petty infraction...

... naaaah. >:b  

More scenery at the Mt. Washington viewpoint.

And now, thanks to a certain heliotic entity's decision to entirely invalidate most of the mountain pictures I took along US 20 near Sisters, we skip a lot of Central Oregon and arrive at the Lava Lands Center, south of Bend.

Lava Butte is in the background of this picture -- Lava Butte, named after the lava that undoubtedly stunned and surprised my Oregonian distant cousins 6,000 years ago, the lava that caused Lava Butte to rise up from nothingness like Paricutín. This is the sort of thing that can happen in your back yard in a volcanic sort of place. Keep your fingers crossed that it just doesn't anymore...

~ ~ ~

But hark: BEHOLD, THOU MORTALS... THE TRAIL OF THE MOLTEN LAND! *thunder, lightning* 

Thou wilt not return alive from the Trail of the Molten Land! Surely thou wilt wilt! But if thou doth returnest alive from the Trail of the Molten Land, thou wilt be requirèd to perform Herculean tasks before thou canst returneth to the overworld!!! 


Minutus cantorum, minutus balorum, minutus carborata descendum pantorum!!!  *thunder, lightning, earthquake, more thunder*

Along the beginning of the Trail of the Molten Land.

This is a sample of what the sun didn't want you to see! This is what the Cascades are *supposed* to look like (except that they're bigger... but that one is the camera's fault, not the sun's).

Mountains, lava, tree trunks from 6,000 years ago(?), plants.

"Many years ago, a creepy-faced astronaut with a stripey walking stick stood inside of a campfire. This brave individual was perhaps pondering his or her incorrectly-cast shadow while waiting for the sun to go down. In the distance was a near-perfect conical mountain that closely resembles Black Butte, a volcanic cone which is located far from this sign that you are now reading. What this little vignette has to do with Lava Butte is entirely beyond our wildest imaginations; however, it captured our hearts and minds to such an extent that we have set aside an entire 'small rest area' to commemorate this important occurrence. So, hey -- enjoy our lovely basalt, and the wonderful telephone system. Love and snuggles, The Management."

Lava rock goodness! And, in the distance, big honkin' snow-covered lava rock goodness!

You just can't escape the basalt. Sometimes you hear something knocking on your door in the dead of night... and if you're an Oregonian, you cover your head with the pillow and ignore the sound, because it's just that damn basalt again, reminding you once more: You can run from the basalt all you like, but you simply cannot hide. The basalt will find you.

Aieeeeeeeeeeeeee!!! It's back! And it's brought ancient wood with it!

Katy, bar the door.

Lava rocks, Lava Butte. Lava lava, basalt basalt, aa, aa, aa. Whoo. Hah. Whoo hah, whoo hah, pahoehoe, basalt -- yeah, baby, yeah!

That's gonna be my hit song when I'm on Oregonian Idol

(Of course, I'm already an Oregonian idol; half of the people in Multnomah County already bow before a little golden statue of me every morning when they begin their days.)

Nobody knows the trails I've seen. Nobody knows but Elvis. (And, now, you.)

That little cave-like thing is a former lava tube. Back in the day, gooey firey orangey lava goodness thundered through that tube. These days, it just spits out Susan B. Anthony dollars, back issues of Huh magazine, and, on rare occasions, an entire Kaypro PC. 

Actually, that is incorrect. These days, that which is emitted from this lava tube is best summed up with a certain eloquent phrase: bupkes with bupkes.

I just thought this was pretty. Don't you?

This looked a lot more interesting in person.

So did this.

This is less hazy than the last two pictures, because I'm no longer looking in the same general direction as a certain essential solar unit whose name I am now refusing to mention. *hmph*

This is the end of the world. Any questions?

(Actually, no.  This is the smoke of a distant forest fire, as seen through an ancient lava channel.)

Lone pine.

Lone soapbrush.

Lone visitor's center.

Oh, and by the way, I have just finished writing a fatwa on this particular visitor's center.

I have a very good reason for this. I wandered in there after my hike, because I didn't get to browse through the "Geology" section before I left on my hike. So I went in there, and looked at maps, and looked at the lava rocks they had in there. (I was underwhelmed.) I was just about to leave, and this dorky forest ranger guy -- a dude who was about my age -- said "Hey, how ya doin'?" And so I replied nicely, and browsed the remaining rock that I was going to look at before I left. And then he said, "You like rocks, huh?" I gave him a raised-eyebrow "WTF" look, and said "Yeah, rocks are cool." He said, "Well, you ought to check out the trail, there's tons of 'em out there!" I told him that I just came back from there, and then left. That guy had, how shall we say, unresolved issues. So, henceforth, all who bow before my golden statue must find that guy and give him a strong verbal reprimand in a Finno-Ugric language of their choice... for such are the terms of my fatwa. *nods*

And now, we skip to the top of Lava Butte. 

Ordinarily, that might be just a tad difficult, since there are no pedestrian trails to the summit of said butte. Thus, one who chooses to skip along the Lava Butte road may encounter a crushing defeat of the vehicular variety. However, I am able to transport you there without harm. Such is the magic of the Internet, you see.

This is a north-facing view. We are pointed toward the city of Bend; southern portions thereof are visible if you zoom in on the center of the top of this picture. (The smoke from the aforementioned forest fire made things a bit... indistinct.) The road in this picture is US 97.

I snapped this picture whilst atop the lookout tower atop Lava Butte. 

The low snowy rise in the central distance is Newberry Volcano... however, that is merely a half-truth, for I am also standing on Newberry Volcano. (!)

Newberry Volcano is a 500 square mile volcano -- the largest in Oregon. It doesn't look much like Fujiyama or Mt. Hood. It has one major summit (Newberry Crater, which I have visited in the past), and a bunch of smaller summits scattered about the area. (I would imagine that the phenomenon is something akin to the Boring Volcano Field that peppers the city of Portland and the surrounding area -- one big ol' lava pit with a bunch of places for it to vent. Then again, at some level, that last phrase might describe the entire Northwest.)

Pure Central Oregon: snowy volcanoes, lava rock, thick green forests, and a parking lot covered in red rock dust.

Kalapuya Thunder is the second car from the left.  

The trails below (seen as little pavement-colored squiggles behind the bigger red road) are the trails that I walked earlier in this page. Of course, while taking this picture, I am standing on the Lava Butte that I saw from down there. Wacky, no?

That bigger red road is the road I had to drive up to get to this point. It is narrow; *very* barely wide enough for two cars to pass. :/ Of course, the first car that I encountered that was going the other direction was a big honkin' SUV. Life has a way of making me confront my fears. :b

That little gazebo looking thing is actually the two-story lookout tower that I mentioned earlier. It's on one rim of Lava Butte... between this spot and the lookout tower is Lava Butte's crater. (I tried to take some good pictures of the crater, but they didn't turn out. Envision a deep pit whose surface is covered with trees, black basaltic lava rocks, and red rock.)

I couldn't pass up the chance to get another picture of the Cascades. In fact, I deleted a picture from my camera to get this one.

Same here.

And, with this nifty mountain vista, we say adieu to Central Oregon. 

Adieu, Central Oregon... adieu

And stuff. 

Or something.

Text written 20 April 2003.
Last updated 19 January 2006.

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