Stranded In The Southland

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Yet More Volcanoes and Beer

We spent much of the day exploring the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. It's not a particularly famous place, but it turned out to be mighty cool. We headed out south on the 97, stopping off at a particularly cool river canyon carved through the volcanic rocks that underpinned the whole area.

Then we wound up at the Lava Butte, which was a pretty decent-sized cinder cone surrounded by what seemed like miles of rough, recent (8,000 years or so) volcanic flows. In fact, for all of the 8,000 years, this stuff looked like it could've been spewed out last year -- there was almost no visible weathering, and damn little vegetation. M. even gamely trekked around the top of the cindercone, enjoying the views of the distant mountains all around us. The museum at the base of the cone was okay, but not really amazing.

We then headed south, and wound up grabbing some lunch in Sunriver. This is a "planned resort community," and for all I could tell, home of the Stepford vacationers. Our bagel lunch was pretty mediocre, but the trip to the grocery store just about unhinged me. This was like going to the mall, without any of the diversity, surrounded by a homogenous bunch of folks who just didn't seem to have a whole lot of imagination. I mean, all the folks from Sunriver were just as nice as could be the day before, and I wish them all the best in the world, but, dang, don't make me go back!

We were a little rattled by the whole place, but happily got back on the road south to check out the main caldera of Newbury Volcano. We had a quick hike up a "new" (1,300 year old) obsidian flow that was interrupted by some close lightning strikes, and a pleasant drive up to a 7,000 foot peak overlooking the whole thing.

Then we headed back, and stopped off to see the Lava Cast Forest, which would've been more fascinating if we weren't worried about getting struck by the nearby lightning as we hiked through a flat plain. We were definitely the highest things around, so we took a rather hurried look at the casts of the trees and hauled ass back to the car, just as the rain started in. We had a great drive back along a dirt road with dust everywhere and the constant worry that we'd hit mud and get stuck. I mean, this doesn't sound interesting, but it leant a little interest to the proceedings without any real element of risk.

We ended it all up with a very pleasant dinner at the McMenamins Old Francis School, a fabulous hotel and brewpub. McMenamins owns a number of hotels built in converted schools or other old buildings; they feature brewpubs, really interesting rooms, and all sorts of extra features -- this one had a cheap moviehouse showing recent flicks for cheap (with beer). Next time, we definitely make reservations well in advance, and stay at McMenamins!

White-water Rafting!?

[Crap, I'm still not done with this!?]

To my amazement, M. had decided that she wanted to go white-water rafting. I mean, she's climbed volcanoes and hitchhiked through Patagonia, but she's really not much of an adrenaline junky. Oh, well, far be it from me to argue!

We found an interesting place in Bend that would take us on a short, cheap trip, and, fortified by a fine lunch and beer tasting at the Deschutes brewpub, we headed out. We got onto a bus nearly full to the brim with friendly folks from Sunriver (about which I can say more later), trucked down to the river, and headed out.

It was a very pleasant experience, gently paddling down the river with a guide and few of our new friends, floating past big volcanic flows that had obviously redirected the river, and bopping through a couple of class 3 rapids and on down and out. We both got thoroughly soaked, which was kind of the point of the exercise and had a pretty good time.

The guide was a pretty friendly guy, and really went out of his way to make it a pleasant experience for us, chatting us up about our trip and making everybody feel pretty comfortable. We were kind of abashed by the other folks in the raft, who'd been golfing and biking and doing all sorts of stuff in the morning, where we'd just been hauling ass and drinking and doing laundry. :-)

We finished off the day with yet more beer, at yet another brewery, and some exhausted sleep. All in all, the rafting was a pretty worthwhile activity, even if it was kind of pre-packaged.