15 October 2018

Road Trip: SE Oregon

Although it may have been one trip too many, we rounded out our Oregon travels this year with the trip we had planned to take last year, before EZ landed flat on his back for five weeks.  So in late May we took off to finally show him the highlights of the extreme southeastern corner of the state.

But you can't get from the west to the east without crossing the Cascades, so our first stop (ok, after stocking up on our favorite Mexican fare at Torero's) was 286' Salt Creek Falls near Willamette Pass.

From there it was due east to the Fort Rock National Natural Landmark, one of ca. 40 tuff rings (formed around volcanic vents in a prehistoric sea) that rise out of the otherwise pancake flat high (4700') desert.

Nearby we submerged ourselves in Crack-in-the-Ground, a volcanic fissure amid western juniper and sagebrush seen here from above.

It marks the western edge of a shallow (30'), 2 mile-long volcanic-tectonic depression of sunken older rock, providing a very narrow hiking/clambering trail lined with moss and surely 20 degrees cooler than in the desert just above.

After a less than favorable night in Lakeview, we began day two by stopping off at 25' Deep Creek Falls, which form a barrier for the native redband trout but not the introduced (eastern) brook trout.

After dipping into Nevada and then heading north again, our next stop was the Alvord Desert, an 84 square mile dry lake bed where we walked around a bit on the cracked, alkaline surface.

Just to the north we paused at Pike Creek below the 9000' Steens Mountains, where dotted among the sagebrush lie dozens of 100+ ton glacial erratics.

Although the snowy Steens still rise in the background behind the intense bacterial lining of Mickey Hot Springs, we were saddened to see that the entire area been grazed to death (Harney County after all) and no longer has the native plants whose profusion of color used to enliven the desert.

The much (over-) acclaimed private 100' tall fossil-bearing clay palisades known as the Pillars of Rome were only seen from a distance.

Our final stop of the day was to catch the evening sun on the gentle bunch-grass slopes of the eastern side of the 1000+' deep Owyhee river canyon southwest of the town of Jordan Valley.

Following another memorable night at the single institution in Rome (punctuated by the cheeps of birds nesting in the walls of the cabin), we admired wildflower carpets at Upper and Lower Cow Lakes, playa lakes formed when Jordan Craters cutoff their streams ca. 10,000 years ago.

Heading north to cutoff the rain, we bumped along through the amazing tuff formations of Leslie Gulch, whose many pockets and holes reveal their origins in volcanic ash.

Miraculously driving in and then out of the rain, we next arrived at Jordan Craters, which are composed of basalt fields dotted with cinder cones that are sufficiently moon-like that (according to a BLM caretaker) NASA astronauts once trained here (as well as at Newberry Crater).

One of the nicest drives (and not just because it was paved) was along the Owyhee River, whose lazy waters meander through the sagebrush and rabbitbrush desert to cut deep canyons in the Owyhee Plateau.

Nearby was some exemplary columnar basalt, formed into angular hexagons as the lava slowly cooled.

We rounded out the day by passing through Nyssa and noting a family resemblance to the thunderegg (a tough crust protecting a hidden jewel...ok, a bit thick).

After an even more memorable night in Ontario, we tracked original Oregon Trail ruts (among the few on loess soil deep enough that they haven't been eclipsed by erosion) at Keeney Pass, which was used by Oregon settlers for ca. 40 years.

Further west we slipped south to pause at the Malheur Cave, a very large lava tube cave long used by the Paiutes and to this day used as a meeting point by local Masons (who even built a stage with bleachers ca. 500' into the cave!).

A bit further southwest is Pete French Round Barn, a covered corral and architectural memorial to a typically colorful (read "crooked") figure in the history of the west.

Nearby are the numerous formations at Diamond Craters Outstanding Natural Area, a volcanic field of ca. 8000-year-old basaltic flows, cinder cones, and low volcanic craters.

Only one of the craters, Malheur Maar, holds a lake and subsequently supports a ring of green between the black basalt and dusty green of bunch grass and sagebrush.

Not long after this we wandered through the historic Frenchglen Hotel and, quite unrelated, got our first flat tire.  The consolation for changing the spare in sun strong enough to finally get a sunburn was the roadside view across the Malheur Wildlife Refuge toward the Steens.

This placid view within the Refuge must have been the consolation for the second flat tire, achieved surreptitiously shortly before arriving at the Les Schwab in Burns just to the north.

En route back west on our last day, we paused at the remains of an old CCC camp (Camp Gap Ranch) that was established in 1934, housed ca. 200 men who built juniper fences, roads, and wells for the US Grazing Service until 1942, and was dismantled and relocated for the war effort before being partially restored in the 1990s.

Our last gravel road was up Glass Butte, where we hiked to the obsidian field for black-and-red glass souvenirs.  It was such a clear day that we couldn't help stopping at Pilot Butte in Bend to take in Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, all three Sisters, and Mt. Bachelor.

Although the charcoal from the 2011 wildfire could still be smelled as we passed by in 2014, regenerating trees are now to be seen beneath the charred snags around Blue Lake just north of Mt. Washington.

Just back over the crest and down the McKenzie Highway we enjoyed the pristine waters of Clear Lake, which is fed by runoff from Mt. Washington and in turn is the source of the McKenzie River.

Nearby are two falls on the McKenzie River, both of which sported rainbows when observed from the Waterfalls Trail that afternoon:  the 64' Koosah Falls

and the 100' Sahalie Falls, which form the terminus of the two thick basaltic andesite lava flows that dammed Clear Lake 3,000 years ago.

They were, to quote Ray and other contemporary Oregonians, amazing!

15 September 2018

Road Trip: NW Washington

Maybe it doesn't quite qualify as the butterfly effect, but if friend VM hadn't mentioned the word retirement, and our neighbor hadn't raved about Bellingham, we would not have spent three days on the road this May.

But, once planted, those seeds took hold and thus we had to head off to northern Washington state to find out if it might be the paradise we've been looking for.  Obviously it's not anywhere south of that on the I-5 corridor, as the first time we even took out the camera was on our approach to the summit of Mt. Baker at sunset
The nearby town of Bellingham is quite decent, if not photogenic, but the next day we crossed the (also nearby) border into Canada and found our way to the suspension bridge dangling 50 meters over Lynn Canyon in North Vancouver, B.C.
Then we tooled up the only road north of Vancouver, Hwy 99 toward Squamish, stopping at massive 335 meter Shannon Falls on the way up.

On the way back south again, we enjoyed views of half a dozen snow-capped mountains

rising over the driftwood laden beaches of placid (protected) Howe Sound.

After bumper-to-bumper traffic and skyscrapers in Vancouver and a quick stop to see the atrium of the Forestry building at the University of British Columbia, 
we worked our way back south, sliding east to avoid Seattle--which brought us to a nice long hike in Wallace Falls State Park past very mossy forests
to a 265' water fall, with smaller falls below, and a panoramic view of the valley.

Our final stop was the vastly more accessible, and tourist-swamped, Snoqualmie Falls (sacred to the Salish), over which logs were once floated and which has powered electrical generation since the 1890s.

15 August 2018

Road Trip: Rowena Loop

Swayed by romantic memories and idealistic hopes for peak wildflower season, we chose the Columbia Gorge for a rendezvous with friend SB in May.  Our first stop was the view of the river and of Vista House, perched atop the basaltic walls of the Gorge, from the Portland Women's Forum State Scenic Viewpoint.
And it's hard to pass the 249' lower Latourell Falls, flanked by robust yellow and orange crustose lichens, without taking a peek.
Once out on the hiking trail on the Tom McCall Preserve off the Old Historic Columbia Highway, our primary focus was just staying upright in the gusting winds of the Gorge.  No wonder some of the trees grow nearly horizontally!
Peak was past, but we did see a few yellow balsalmroot and blue bachelor's button still in bloom (and plenty of poison oak) on the slopes up toward the Oregon white oak and stunted ponderosa pine.
Although last year's wildfire (which very nearly destroyed Multnomah Lodge) increased the risk of landslide to the point that the upper trails are all closed, the up side was that our view of the Falls was not impeded by tourists crowding the bridge.
The romantic memories of floundering flowers, gorge gales, and rivulets of rain are already inspiring the next friendly rendezvous.

15 July 2018

Road Trip: Hawaii 5-0

Years ago, I added to my website that the workshop might "come to you" if "you are someplace I'd like to visit."  It took a decade for it to work, but this year a grad student at the University of Hawaii-Manoa finally took the bait.

Thus in early May we were off to Oahu to teach for three days, and then popped over to Mauii and The Big Island to suck in the heat, make vitamin-D, and enjoy sandy beaches and volcanoes under the rarest of all commodities in central PA--a sunny blue sky.

So naturally it rained the whole time I wasn't teaching.

Nonetheless, we took in what we could, exploring the grassy hills off the western shore of the island of Oahu shortly after our arrival.
The afternoon of our first day also included hiking along the craggy beaches of the northwestern corner of the island.
The next three days were spent on campus blathering away, but in the evenings we slipped out to check out things like the Koko Crater Botanical Garden (situated inside an old volcanic crater).
And the Spitting Cave just below these sandstone cliffs, which are accessed by a muddy trail squeezed between multi-million dollar private estates.
On the sunniest day of class, EZ took a stroll on Waikiki Beach.  The picture was enough for me.
But after the last day of class we spent more time along the southwestern coastal route, pausing at Hanauma Bay
and the Nu'uanu Pali state wayside en route back through the interior.
On our fifth day, we took in the Byodo-in Buddhist Temple near the Japanese cemetery on the eastern side of the island.  In 1920, 43% of Hawaiians self-identified as Japanese; by 2000, it was down to 16%, although many more have Japanese heritage.
After hiking through the botanical garden of the mossy Waimea Valley on the northern shore,
we were treated with Wimea Falls (and a great many bathers).
Swinging further west to the northwestern shore, we hiked past volcanic formations in clear blue waters toward (but not reaching...) Kaena Point.
Inspired by a scene from Hawaii 5-0, EZ celebrated his 50th state at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Punchbowl crater, overlooking Honolulu.
In addition to tidy rows of white headstones, the memorial has a series of murals explaining various Pacific campaigns (from WWII through Vietnam) through exquisite tile mosaics.
That evening we flew off to Mauii, where we spent day 6 driving the Road to Hana.  The bucketing rain made for overflowing waterfalls, but must have dampened the spirits of the dozens of convertible Mustang drivers who found themselves in bumper-to-bumper traffic along the route.
Although the white and red sand beaches we aimed for turned out to be on inaccessible private land, the tiny Waianapanapa black sand beach was open to all.
The next day we finally took in the attraction that had motivated the entire trip, which I had found so fantastic in 2001 that I was able to convince EZ to check off his last state after all:  Haleakala Crater National Park.  Sadly, he'll have to take my word on the amazing 10,000-foot-high V-shaped moonscape valley dotted with lava flows and 14 cinder cones, because we could see, quite literally, nothing.  Rain and fog reduced visibility to about 10 feet.  Same thing for the Ioa Valley.
So then it was off to the big island of Hawai'i, where the eighth day was spent taking in the Saddle Road that squeezes between eastern Mauna Kea and western Mauna Loa (neither of which we could see through the clouds).
The rain well fed Umauma Falls on the northwest coast,
but totally obscured nearby Akaka Falls (which we think must have been where the whitish cloud extends downwards in the center of this image--or not).

We had better luck at the roaring, but muddy, Rainbow Falls
and could just still catch the Pe'epe'e Falls.
As if the rain was not enough, our arrival coincided with the start of the latest Kilauea eruption.  So our tour on the ninth day of the southeastern coastline,
to explore older (circa 1983) lava flows, involved road closures and detours.
What was a minor inconvenience for us, however, was a major pain for local residents being herded out of the area by the National Guard.  And since then, the 2140 degree-Fahrenheit lava has destroyed 700+ homes and boiled away one of the only two freshwater lakes on the island.
From a highway that has since been partially covered with fresh lava flows, at the time we could only imagine what was to come while peering at plumes of smoke and steam rising from Leilani Estates.
Which in retrospect makes having snuck into the nearby, closed, Lava Trees State Park to capture a couple old lava tree-casts seem a little imprudent...
At the time, however, Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park will still partially open, so we enjoyed yellow fumes rising from the perpetually stinky sulphur banks.
We were able to drive down part of the Chain of Craters Road, catching variously aged and sized craters while hiking in the rain.
Although Kilhuea crater has been the site of gaseous emissions for decades, the plume that rose into the rain clouds may have been a teeny bit bigger than usual.  Five days later that steam exploded and distributed some refrigerator-sized rocks.
But from there we moved further west into the clean prevailing winds, where we stopped on the south coast for Punalu'u black sand beach.
Climbing north along the western coast, we toured the sacred royal grounds of Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park,
and historically captured JP shortly before the thunderstorm began.
On our tenth and last day, we visited Lapakahi State Historical Park in high heat and humidity (marking the first and only use of sunblock)
and hiked out to the Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Park to see the ca. 1200 mysterious forms carved sometime between the 13th and 17th centuries.