Day 285 – Cascade Lakes Highway, September 27, 2011
The skies were clear in Bend when I headed west into the
Deschutes National Forest via the Cascade Lakes Highway. Once I got into the mountains; however, it
was a different story: overcast and
misty. I can only imagine the beauty of
Sparks Lake in the sunlight. I rounded
the bend and came across a golden prairie, perfectly flat like a parking lot,
situated in between the evergreen covered mountains. It was such a stark contrast that it was
simply remarkable despite the poor weather.
At first, I didn’t even see the lake, only a narrow stream which wound
through the meadow. In fact, when I
stopped to snap a photo, a placard claimed the Ray Atkeson, a professional
photographer, felt this was the most stunning landscape in Oregon.
From Sparks Lake we moved a bit further to Devils Lake which
normally presents visitors with an eerie optical illusion. Its crystal clear waters and shallow white
pumice bottom makes it seem as if boats are floating in midair. Today, I couldn’t see the bottom, but its
waters changed from brown to emerald green to aqua from one end of the lake to
the other. This area has historic
significance due to the inhabitance of Indians for the past 10,000 years as well as a
rock from this area was taken to the moon by astronaut James Irwin.
Our drive continued past more lakes including Elk Lake, Lava
Lake, and Little Lava Lake. We found an
old guard station as well as a few deer hiding out under the bushes. Once we turned south toward Crane Prairie
Reservoir, the skies cleared for Petey and me to take a walk at Osprey Point.
The information sign claimed Osprey stayed around the area
until early October, but in late September, I didn’t see signs of any. While the birds weren’t diving into the water
for fish, their primary source of food, the chipmunks were actively scurrying
around with nuts preparing for the winter.
Upon return from our stroll through the woods to the open grasslands we
visited the grave of William Quinn, a 25 year old pioneer who died when accidentally
being shot during a hunt.
From here, we turned east toward Newberry National Volcanic
Monument. The line of trees edging the
highway looked as if someone had driven by with a blow torch and burned the
center of them. They must have survived
a fire at some point in their lifetime with their base and tops green.
Newberry National Volcanic Monument is home to Newberry
Crater. Now dormant, this huge,
partially collapsed volcano has formed a five-mile-wide caldera. Inside the caldera are a 100 foot waterfall,
two lakes, and an obsidian lava flow. We
took the walk to Paulina Falls first and enjoyed the view from both above and
below the falls.
Next we followed a very rough road four miles up to Paulina
Peak, the highest point on the rim at 7,985 feet. The
summit provided a 360 degree view of the surrounding landscape which was
absolutely magnificent despite the ferocious wind.
We bounced back down the road and continued to the Big
Obsidian Flow, Oregon’s youngest lava flow aging 1,300 years old. A mile loop led me through the piles of
pumice and obsidian. The surface of this
lava flow cooled before the atoms had time to organize into crystal thus the
flow is essentially glass as it contains 73% silica just as in a window. The flow is about 150 feet high and covers
1.1 square mile or 400 soccer fields. At times I felt like I was walking on the moon.
Obsidian is so sharp, it has been used as a scalpel and the incisions
cut by the obsidian healed better than those made by the steel scalpel. Perhaps I should have had the branch cut out
of my leg with obsidian!