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06/02/12 - The Newberry National Volcano Monument

Before this trip, we had never realized just how volcanic Oregon is. The place is riddled with volcanoes, most of the inactive, at least during our visit. We drove south past Bend to the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. As our elevation increased south of town, the sky grew darker and the rain picked up a bit. Things did not look good, and then we pulled off the main road to the visitor center and discovered that it was closed. The side parking lot, which was open, had only one other car and a tour bus full of German tourists. The main lava field hiking trail was closed.

We were pondering plan B when a ranger popped out, apparently during a break in a training session, and suggested we try following the red road up the Lava Butte. We had noticed the butte towering darkly against a gray sky behind its wall of jagged and crumbled black lava. The red road was indeed red and while it was closed to cars, it was open to hikers, so up we went.

First, we crossed the lava fields, black masses of stone, once molten, and now hardened into lumps and clusters and sheets, then folded and crumpled. Here and there were lava bubbles and tubes, now broken. We climbed the butte, spiraling around it and rising with increasingly spectacular views of the lava fields and the more distant country side. We made our way to the parking lot at the top and enjoyed the vista.

On our way down, the sun emerged. Had the visitor center been open, we would not have been able to hike to the top of the lava butte safely. It was only our bad planning that had given us the opportunity and what a treat it was.

The lava butte glowering behind its fortress walls

The red road

Some pine cones

A distant red mountain, probably another lava butte or cinder cone

A distinctive mountain form

That's the closed lava trail down below. One door closes, another opens.

More lava fields.

The lava field

Some lava

A broken lava bubble

The viewing station - closed - at the top of the butte

Keywords: oregon