Central Oregon (August 21-24, 2007)
Lava River Cave, Cascade Lakes and Fort Rock
We had heard that, though a little eerie, the lava tube at Lave River Cave was worth visiting. Even Steve, who is wary of enclosed spaces, joined me in this adventure into Oregon’s longest known lava tube. The mile-long cave was an even 42.5ºF (=6ºC), so I donned all the warm gear I'd brought along especially for the visit.
We took our own lantern to save having to rent one. Also torches (= flashlights in Amerispeak). We appeared to be the only visitors this early in the morning.
The entrance to the cave was big enough to dispel Steve's thoughts of claustrophobia. We walked down a couple of flights of steps into a large cavern partially filled with fallen debris. "Collapse Corridor" continued for about a thousand feet.
We were then in a large chamber called Echo Hall. Here the ceiling reaches 58 feet high and the cave is 50 feet wide. As we were still alone for this part, I experimented with my voice to see how the sound carried.
We continued walking steadily. Occasionally a wall glistened with water seeping through cracks.
Sometimes you could find the spot in the roof or wall where fallen rocks (until who knows how recently) had been. At one spot a second tube was visible above the first. Photos of objects were hard to take, but these illustrate the texture of the walls.
The tube slowly thinned and a couple of times the roof dipped so that taller people had to watch their heads, but it was generally quite wide and high. The floor was usually flat and sandy, with only a few spots where we needed to clamber down slopes.
After reaching and passing the Sand Garden (a roped off area that looked like a child's playground), we walked for about half a mile more before deciding to turn back. By this stage the cave was quite populated, so the initial private feeling of excitement was gone, replaced by a veteran's interest in the other groups who were coming from the opposite direction.
We then went north back to Bend, then west along the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway to see the mountains and lakes.
Mt Bachelor, viewed from the east.
Not much snow there this time of year, but you can still go up to the top.
View of Mt Bachelor from the south, at Sparks Lake.
We rounded a lava flow on the right, and then there was Devil's Lake, on the left.
We drove around Elk Lake on a dirt road. There were many camping spots at these lakes. Some of them, where there was a general store and hot showers, were called resorts. Here's the view of South Sister and Broken Top, from the Lava Lake Lodge resort.
Steve took off on a dirt road to our own private lava flow. It was still too risky to climb, though.
There was even a fishing hole nearby, with good-sized rainbow trout. Or maybe they were kokanee .....
As we drove further south, we went through an area where fire had burnt out a large area of forest.
We turned right on Highway 58 towards Eugene, to visit Odell Lake. There was a resort at both the east and west sides of this large lake.
The west end was calm, sunny and pleasant. I talked to a guy who had motored over for some fishing supplies from one of the camping grounds on the north side. He had been doing well catching kokanee. There is a bag limit of 25 on kokanee, in addition to the trout bag limit.
When we went to the east side of the lake the sun was at the wrong angle, the wind had sprung up, and it felt cold.
On our way back to Bend, we decided to take a detour to Fort Rock, seeing it was just "down the road".
And "down the road" was something reminiscent of the Australian outback! Straight roads, flat, no trees. Compare the two photos above. No wonder they called this stretch of highway the Oregon Outback Scenic Byway.
Fort Rock was visible in the distance for miles. It is a volcanic outcrop situated on an ice-age lake bed. Steve likened the shape from this side to a dog laying on its haunches.
There are more outcrops here, in Oregon's version of Monument Valley.
I'd always wanted to take a photo of the car out in the wide open spaces, just like those ads on TV.
Close-up view of the south-west end.
Close-up view of the south-east end. Steve didn't want me walking around up there because you never know what critters might be lurking in caves and under rocks, so I went for only a short climb.
A more 3-dimensional view. We certainly picked a great time of day to see it!