Sunday, September 29, 2013

Volcanoes, day hikes, and desert squirrels

I love Central Oregon.  It’s got to be the most beautiful part of Oregon (many argue this opinion).

While driving through the mountain pass there seems to be an invisible line, where once crossed, all my stress dissipates. Seriously, it’s an incredible phenomenon.

Not growing up here, I learn something new each adventure. Mustache Man knows a lot about this area. I can glean all kinds of new information from him.

He has shared his insight on how not to create an avalanche (not that I would ever venture into the backcountry without him). He has shown me what to do if we encounter a cougar (although, I still question whether the technique will work or not). He guides me on how to be green and to “leave no trace behind.” And if I ever go hiking without him he always stocks my pack with items that I argue are just added weight, however, I always end up using. Its like he can see into the future.

Recently, he taught me that most of the mountains here are actually live, dormant, or extinct volcanoes. The last time we were driving I noticed a house on top of one of those volcanoes. I told Alec that I thought it was probably dumb to build a house on a volcano because their house insurance premiums were probably out of this world. He gently explained that it was not a house, but an observation deck for scientists to track volcanic activity. That makes more sense.

I often wonder if Mustache Man is secretly priming me to live in the wild.

Not too long ago, Audrey and I found time to hike Black Butte.  According to Merriam-Webster a butte is an “isolated hill with steep sides and a flat top.”  I learned that when I first moved here. Apparently, most of the “mountains” I have been exposed to were actually more butte-like.

We drove about 2 ½ hours to the trailhead. I didn’t know this beforehand, but Black Butte is referred to as a stratovolcano, which is composed of different layers (lava, tephra, and volcanic ash) and has a steep profile. Unlike some of the other “mountains,” Black Butte, has no glaciers and hence, hardly any erosion. That being said, it appears to be a baby butte but is actually older than some of the other Cascade Mountains.

The hike was about 4 miles roundtrip. I think the elevation gain for this section of the trail was over 1500 ft., which if you do the math, is a decent little hike. Needless to say, we weren’t talking much on the way up.

                                         (photo credit: Audrey Williams)

When we arrived at the summit there are a couple of old fire watch towers. The older (condemned) fire tower was built in 1934. They were cool, but the view was unbelievable. 

                                         (photo credit: Audrey Williams)

Black Butte is approximately 6,300 ft. of elevation, at the summit. And in my humble opinion, the panoramic view was even better than that of Smith Rock (maybe because it felt more remote).

                                         (photo credit: Audrey Williams)

You can see in the pictures several peaks. In no particular order, you may see, Broken Top, North Sister, South Sister, Mt. Washington, Belknap Crater, Three Finger Jack, and I believe Mt. Jefferson. The pictures do not do the view justice. And there were a few forest fires, so it was a bit hazy that day. On clear days, some claim, Mt. Hood can also be seen, which is over 100 miles away, as the crow flies.

                                         (photo credit: Audrey Williams)

I really appreciate the desert squirrels. They seem to be somewhat trusting. I thought this little guy was gonna sit in Audrey’s lap.

                                         (photo credit: You guessed it, Audrey Williams)

Anyways, if you ever get a chance, this is one of the many wonders of Oregon, again, my opinion. Maybe my next entry will be about hiking South Sister (Mustache Man will definitely need to be present for that one).