17 July 2009

Three weeks in central Oregon

With one week left in Bend, I thought I'd reflect a bit upon our stay.

It's been an active stay, that's for sure. Everyday, the boys and I ride our bikes around town, with the exception of one trip, Liam has ridden his own bike. I've been trying to log our jaunts on the Trails app on my iPhone. I only remember to start the app about half the time - and right now we're at 14 miles.

We've also been taking advantage of living in Central Oregon.

Todd Lake
An easy hike from the parking lot, we explored this alpine lake within days of arriving. We hiked around the lake, starting along the southern edge, which is on a north-facing slope. At this time of year, it's normal for snow to still exist in the Cascades. And exist it did! We played with it, slid on it, and hiked over it.

We arrived at the southwestern edge of the lake and hopped right in. Camper found a little stream coming into the lake that he really enjoyed sitting in!

The views of Mt. Bachelor from Todd Lake are pretty spectacular.

Newberry National Volcanic Monument

We spent two weekends exploring this amazing place. It ranks up with the Canyonlands of Utah in terms of unbelievable, geological places that make me feel like the speck of dust that I am.

We started our adventures by heading to the top of Lava Butte. The road spirals around the old cinder cone, to the summit where you have a 360-degree view of the surrounding area. A trail runs around the edge of the crater, affording many views across the landscape - much of which is a relatively recent (about 6,000 years old) lava flow (to which, Nikki remarked, "it's amazing it didn't run over the highway.") - and down into the crater.

After going up the mountain, we thought we'd go into the earth and explore the Lava River Cave. It's an old lava tube that runs about a mile into the earth. In terms of caves I've explored, it's huge. Most of the time, the cavern is about 30-50 feet wide as well as tall. There are a few places where it gets small, and I understand that at the end, if you want, you can crawl into a tiny spot (but we didn't make it that far...).

The next week, we went down to the Newberry Caldera. A caldera is (from Wikipedia), "a cauldron-like volcanic feature usually formed by the collapse of land following a volcanic eruption." This one is huge; 4 by 5 miles in diameter. Within it lies Paulina Lake and East Lake, as well as The Big Obsidian Flow, a giant pile of obsidian.

We started our visit by driving to the summit of Paulina Peak and hiking around. From the summit, you can see much of the Cascades as well as the high desert floor, almost a mile down! I took a couple of panoramas from the summit.

We then drove to East Lake where we enjoyed a dip in the water and some play in the weird obsidian and pumice sand.

After that, we headed over to the Big Obsidian Flow. From the summit of Paulina Peak, the Flow looks fluid and almost gooey. Up close, it's a bazillion shattered stones - including obsidian chunks the size of buses. It's weird, because obsidian is clearly a dense material, yet right next to it are huge chunks of pumice-like stone that weigh a fraction of what they look like they should.

I really want to go back to the Flow and hike further in. It's an absolutely unreal place.

On our way out, we stopped at Paulina Falls. Yet another amazing geological feature.

Tumalo Creek
Last week, I hiked up to Tumalo Falls for a sunset photoshoot. The next night I brought Nikki and the boys up for a dinner picnic. It's an amazing waterfall that drops 97 feet into a narrow canyon - all covered with moss.

Since then we've been exploring and playing in Tumalo Creek. Mostly at Shevlin Park, a city park on the western edge of Bend. It's a tree-lined park with trails crisscrossing it, and the creek cutting through the middle of it. We found a great spot where the boys and I have been working on a dam (OK - I've been working on the dam while they throw rocks in the water...).

In addition to all the family and boys' days fun, I've been able to get out on my road bike and explore the Bend area that way. I've found a great 15-mile ride with almost 5,000 vertical feet! The smooth pavement and wide bike-lanes are just icing on the cake!

We have one more week here and I plan on making the most of it!

Check out my Deschutes County photoset.
Or maybe my Beaver State one.

04 July 2009

Bend suits us

built like a climber
Originally uploaded by Ben McLeod
Well folks, we survived the packing and the moving.


As Nikki alluded, I kinda freaked out during our three-day packing and moving. Sometimes I'm not the most mellow person on this planet. OK, OK.... I'm never the most mellow person on this planet.

I hate moving. I hate packing. And yes, I blamed Nikki and her need to go to a school across the country.... I got mad because we're broke and I quit my well-paying job to become a full-time dad while she goes to school. Not exactly paying attention to "the big picture," I realize, but hey, we're allowed our moments of weakness.

Aren't we? Please say yes.

Whatever. What's done is done. It is what it is. And right now, "it" is us living with what we could fit in (and on) our car.

We're in Bend, and I'd say it fits us well. It's full of - as my friend Bryce would say - "the PLU." That's People Like Us. Unlike Hillsboro...

People here like the great outdoors, beer and each other. There are a ton of bikers (on our street the bike traffic is easily twice that of cars), climbers, skiers, kayakers, hikers and other adrenaline junkies. There are also several breweries and brewpubs. AND, AND.... the people are friendly. I constantly find myself in conversations with strangers (who don't feel like strangers). So unlike Hillsboro, where if you talk to someone you don't know they either ignore you, glare at you or try to talk about their intimate relationship to Jesus Christ (or how a woman's role is in the home.... and she should have, as one woman told me "as many babies as God allows. I hope to have eight." "Wow," I replied. "That's a lot. I hope you have help." "Oh yes," she said, "God." "Does God change diapers?" She stopped talking to me after that. I was fine with that.)

The boys and I have been riding around town checking out the playgrounds (all of which seem to have a mandatory climbing wall) and the river scene (it's been in the mid-90's, so a dip in the ice-cold river feels perfect!). On Nikki's first day off, the family went on a hike around Todd Lake, an alpine lake up near Mt. Bachelor. It felt so good to be in the mountains again.

We'll have to put Bend on the short list of "places we could move to when Nikki is finished with school." It would be a great place for the boys to grow up; there's skiing, world-class mountain biking, climbing, and, most important, a sense of community.