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View of Mt. Jefferson as I drove to Bend.

One of Tara’s summer classes this term was geology field camp. Oregon State University has a great geology program, and Tara has field trips as part of a class multiple times a year. But field camp is when the entire class is on location. This latest class was 5 weeks out in the desert of eastern Oregon, near a tiny town called Mitchell. OSU geology students have been going out to the field camp location for so long that locals in Mitchell refer to them as “dirt nerds.”

The students had only two days off during the entire class. In addition to those two days, once a week they did get what the professor called “free days,” which were not so much free, as a few mandatory field trip days. The professor felt these were days off because the material was not testable, but students were still expected to learn. On one of these field trip days, which would be around the Bend, Oregon area, I got permission from the professor to meet up with the group when they went out to Smith Rock.

It’s a 4 hour drive to Bend from my home. After I arrived I checked in with my AirBnb host and then got some coffee while I waited for Tara to let me know where they were. It was clear immediately that either I was in a very geology-friendly town, or PALATE is a geology-friendly coffee shop. In the bathroom I found this gorgeous giant rock with a note that said, “I thought the Bolivian Rose Quartz needed a friend.” Not sure if what I saw was the rose quartz, or if this rock is the companion. I got my coffee and took it outside to enjoy the sun, and saw that the entire courtyard was surrounded by rocks. There was a lot of obsidian – very common in this highly volcanic part of the US.

In the bathroom of the coffee shop.

Courtyard of the coffee shop.

Tara got in touch with me right away because the group had come into a zone with cell phone service (not at all commonplace out there in the desert). They said they were on a hike and expected to arrive at Smith Rock State Park around 4pm.

With hours to kill, I had time to play in Bend. I used my AllTrails app to find something quick and easy, and soon found myself walking along the Deschutes River South Canyon Trail. I walked first toward the center of town, along a very pretty waterfront walk, clearly a hit with summer tourists. The trail crossed the river and I headed back out of town for an unexpectedly great 3-mile loop back to my car.

Walking the Deschutes River Trail in Bend, Oregon.

poppies

desert blossom

As the trail got closer to the city center, there were murals and outdoor coffee shops and people using all kinds of wheeled contraptions on the paved trail.

I get a kick out of duck butts.

This is the bridge I used to cross the river and head back out of town.

The Deschutes River South Canyon Trail provides educational signboards along the way that taught me about the health of the river, the fish, the flora and fauna in the area, as well as some geological perspective. There are also name plates that identified trees and bushes. It was nice to see a lot of people on the trail enjoying the weather and the outdoors, but people do tend to visit Bend, Oregon for that reason.

Lots of people were in the water on this warm day.

Through the arches I could see a woman fishing on the other side of the river.

The trail is in good condition and hugs the river when possible.

View of the Deschutes River from the bridge at the far end of the loop trail. Clearly, at this point, I had left city boundaries.

Once I found my Jeep again, I drove out to Smith Rock State Park. I arrived before the kids and had time to relax in the shade while I waited. Soon the OSU vans showed up and I joined the group. I listened while the professor took them all to the ledge and pointed out stuff they should notice about the formations surrounding us.

If you’ve ever seen a photo of Smith Rock, you’ll recognize it. It’s a cliff formation surrounded by comparatively level ground, with the Crooked River winding its way through the base of of the cliffs. It’s the biggest, most eye-catching thing around. The tuff and basalt cliffs are famous for being the place where the sport of rock climbing began in the States. Trails for all levels of athletes wrap around the huge rocks on all sides. I’ve been on a lot of them in visits over the years.

The iconic shot of beautiful Smith Rock State Park, looking East.

This is a less commonly photographed angle, looking due North.

Tara spotted this shallow cave and had to climb inside to explore.

I was especially sad not have my good camera when we hiked down to the bottom of the valley, because we spotted this astonishing sight. Can you see it?

Yes, the black speck between the two peaks is exactly what you think it is.

Our visit to the State Park was very brief! The professor had been so excited to show the students so many things all day long that they were way behind schedule. They absolutely had to get back to Mitchell by a certain time, because they had reserved dinners at Tiger Town Brewing Company. When we were released we hurried down to the trails at river level.

Tara and I talked a blue streak because we hadn’t seen each other in weeks, and we barely had time to look around us when it was time to jog up the steep steep hill to get back up to the parked cars. Tara got permission to ride back to Mitchell with me, to our delight. We were able to continue our chatting and catching up during the hour and a half drive out to the desert again.

The students were clearly pleased to be at Tiger Town. I gather that most of the time they eat camp meals prepared on site (Tara said the food is good!), but once in a while there is a splurge and the class gets to eat dinner out. They had to buy their own beers from the seasonal selection of craft brews. I paid for my own meal (and my own beer. I opted for the Danger Melon.) and the great staff at Tiger Town agreed to put my order in with the kids.’ For the next hour I sat outside in the warm evening air and listened to the kids talk about what was on their minds, joke with each other and with their professor. After a while they decided I was ok, and they included me in their conversations. It was a treat to have this peek into Tara’s world that I usually don’t get to see. All too soon it was time to go and I hugged my goodbyes and made my way back to my Airbnb room.

Looking at volcanic peaks in the background, rising over the Crooked River.

The next morning I left early in order to get home early, but I simply was not able to drive past Peter Skene Ogden State Scenic Viewpoint without stopping. From the highway I could see the snowy peaks of volcanoes and wanted to pull the car over so I could get a photo. Early in the morning, I could access the parking lot, but the road to the cliff was still gated. I parked and walked through the dewy grass, fretting a little about the time I was wasting by stopping to look. But oh, it was worth it.

Sadly, the elevation of the Viewpoint was lower than the highway and it was not a good view of the volcanoes. However, there was an incredible view of the canyon.

Mt. Washington, Black Butte, and Three Fingered Jack are barely visible above the trees.

Train bridge over the canyon.

Looking into the rising sun over aptly named Crooked River High Bridge.

It was really time to get back on the road though, and I hustled back to the Jeep and headed north again on Highway 97. I snapped a few shots while driving (bad Crystal habit, do not try this at home), then I settled in and spent the rest of the day driving back to Rainier.

Mt. Jefferson peeks around a scenic bluff beside Highway 97.

I was about to enter the forest and leave the fabulous views behind, so I took one parting shot of Mt. Jefferson and then put the lens cap back on the camera.

Weddle Bridge now sits in a place of honor in Sweet Home, Oregon. It was originally built near Crabtree, Oregon.

Weddle Bridge now sits in a place of honor in Sweet Home, Oregon. It was originally built near Crabtree, Oregon.

When the rain let up and the sun came out, the glow was irresistible.

When the rain let up and the sun came out, the glow was irresistible.

Arno and I had the idea to leave Friday after work and drive wherever our fancy took us. The weather was a factor, and we went south and east in an attempt to escape the rain. We left I-5 and went due East till we reached Sweet Home, Oregon. My deepest apologies to my aunts and uncles who live in the area, and did not receive a visit. Next time, you guys!

In the morning before we left town, we asked someone to tell us how to find the Weddle covered bridge. When it was replaced by a concrete bridge at its original location, the town of Sweet Home bought it and rebuilt it here in town. Most of the covered bridges in Oregon were built between 1905 and 1925, numbering as many as 450. Fifty of the historic bridges remain. I’d like to do a covered bridges trip one day.

While Arno drove, I flipped through the book Bend, Overall (by Scott Cook) and picked our next stop. It was a trail to House Rock, following the old Santiam Wagon Road.

House Rock Falls lights up when the sun hits

House Rock Falls lights up when the sun hits

Wildlife!

Wildlife!

The trail was easy to find and to follow. The day had sun mixed with showers, but it remained relatively warm so our hiking was enjoyable. It was neat to think that we were walking along a road built for wagons and horses. Before we reached the rock, however, we were distracted by a side trail to a falls, which turned out to be really beautiful.

House Rock purportedly got its name for being a place of shelter for travelers along the wagon road. It was apparently large enough to cover multiple pioneer families. Soon we came upon it. The rock is indeed huge, and leaves a generous space beneath. However, there was a healthy-sized brook running through the sheltered area, fanning out across the small rocks beneath House Rock to wet as much ground as possible. I decided that if I had to shelter there, the first thing I would do is build a trench to keep the brook in one place, and free up the rest of the area for me and my family to try and stay dry.

Arno stands on the trail and looks up at House Rock

Arno stands on the trail and looks up at House Rock

This is me beneath House Rock, contemplating how I would use this space if I was a pioneer traveling through Oregon by wagon.

This is me beneath House Rock, contemplating how I would use this space if I was a pioneer traveling through Oregon by wagon.

This campsite was across the river from the House Rock trail. I decided to stay there the following weekend with Tara.

This campsite was across the river from the House Rock trail. I decided to stay there the following weekend with Tara.

Harlequin duck

Harlequin duck

Chipmunk at the Metolius

Chipmunk at the Metolius

Next we went seeking the Headwaters of the Metolius River, at Metolius Springs. This is a fascinating thing to see: the river simple bubbles out from beneath Black Butte, river-sized and immediately flowing freely. The theory is that when volcanic eruption caused Black Butte to form, it blocked an old river. The water now spreads out over a wide marshy area, and percolates through the porous volcanic rocks through the base of the butte, and presto! Instant river on the other side.

Metolius River bubbles up, instantly formed, from beneath Black Butte.

Metolius River bubbles up, instantly formed, from beneath Black Butte.

We moseyed on to the little town of Sisters after that. Outside of town we found a gravel road that followed a creek, and we picnicked while seated on an old log and watching Whychus Creek flow by. The clouds cleared and the sun warmed us, and we stayed for a couple hours after we ate, just soaking it up and talking.

By the time we got on the road again and reached Bend, we were ready to eat a real meal. Lucky for us, Bend has some really awesome places to eat. It’s a walkable town, and as we walked to find a restaurant, I found Wabi Sabi, a store packed full of fun Japanese stuff. Of course I had to go in. I bought a pendant necklace inspired by the manga Attack on Titan, that Tara is currently reading. I picked out a Totoro decal for me.

We decided to camp that night instead of find a hotel. Arno thought of a campground at McKay Crossing, and off we went. It’s only about 25 minutes south of Bend, but we got a late start after dinner and had to set up the tent in the dark.

McKay Crossing Falls on Highway 21 south of Bend.

McKay Crossing Falls on Highway 21 south of Bend.

The next morning we explored around the campsite, which included the lovely and unexpected McKay Crossing Falls.  We walked to McKay Crossing, named for an old creek crossing (which is now a bridge – much easier). On the other side is a pretty good trail that follows Paulina Creek and gave us a new perspective of the falls.

Soon we had to head home. I wanted to get back in time to help Tara prepare for her AP test for Environmental Science scheduled first thing next morning (update: she thinks she did well on it, yay!), and we had many miles to travel in order to be home in time for studying and a good, healthy pre-test dinner.

Stretching the weekend as long as possible, I found one more adventure to try from Cook’s book, and we found a rutty, dirt road to climb, outside of Redmond. The view from the top of Cline Buttes was really worth the trouble, and we got a pretty spectacular view of Black Butte, despite the clouds obscuring its top.

View of Black Butte from Cline Buttes. From here you can tell it was formed by a volcanic eruption.

View of Black Butte from Cline Buttes. From here you can tell it was formed by a volcanic eruption.

We made a picnic lunch up here and gazed out across this amazing view while we ate and sampled some Hood River microbrews.

We made a picnic lunch up here and gazed out across this amazing view while we ate and sampled some Hood River microbrews.

 

 

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