OR – Central Cascades Jaunting (Oct 2021)

By October the focus of my jaunt had turned from wildfire smoke to fall colors. I landed in the Bend area where I enjoyed several nearby hikes.

Whychus Creek, Deschutes National Forest

There are several trailheads where you can access Whychus Creek including the Scenic Overlook, which is where I started.

I found some lovely fall foliage.

Clear Lake and McKenzie River, Willamette National Forest

The Clear Lake Loop Trail takes you around the perimeter of this 142 acre lake.

The McKenzie River National Recreation Trail connects at the southern end of Clear Lake. Along the Waterfall Loop Trail you’ll find Sahalie Falls, with an approximate 100 foot drop and an impressive amount of water flowing especially for October.

The double flow coming out of Koosah Falls makes it distinctive and recognizable, at least at this time of year.

The vine maples stole the color show.

Dee Wright Observatory, Willamette National Forest

According to the USFS website, “completed in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the observatory was named in memory of Dee Wright, the crew’s foreman who passed away the year before. On a clear day, you can view Mt. Washington, Mt. Jefferson, the South, North, and Middle Sister, and even see Mt. Hood, 78.5 miles to the north.” On this day, two of the three Sisters were visible but the others were mostly shrouded in fog.

It was 28F when I arrived. This hoar frost was a good indicator.

The crystals were amazing.

I walked the Lava River National Recreation Trail learning all kinds of interesting factoids. One that stuck with me was that it takes about 1,000 years for enough soil to accumulate in a lava field for a tree seedling to take root.

Sparks Lake, Willamette National Forest

According to the USFS website, “Approximately 370 acres of lake wetland are surrounded by another 360 acres of meadow, marsh, or stream wetlands. The spectacular setting is dominated by South Sister towering to 10,358′ elevation, Broken Top to 9,175′, and Bachelor Butte to 9,065′.”

I love the colorful geology on South Sister and the other Central Cascades Mountains.

The Ray Atkeson Memorial Loop Trail was a nice blend of geology, volcanic forests and views.

The forecast was hard to imagine after this beautiful day.

I was happy to awake to rain instead of snow but the forecast was enough to push me south.

I even found some blue sky on my drive.

Adventure Date(s):

  • October 7-9, 2021

OR – Newberry National Volcanic Monument (Sept 2021)

I was running from wildfire smoke (link to previous post). My first night was a little cooler than expected but I slept toasty warm in my car with my down quilt. Love this little temperature gauge. I keep one in my car and one in my backpack. (Amazon link)

I had zero expectations about air quality the next day but it was exciting to see stars and the moon during the night (the benefit of a sunroof) What a treat! I enjoyed an extra cup of coffee while waiting for the sun to rise and the temps to warm. When I checked AQI I was excited to see green which to me means GO! Get outside and breathe.

Not quite ready to trust AQI, I took a drive up to Paulina Peak. It was perfect hiking temp so I hiked the interpretive trail learning about the struggling White Bark Pine trees. Although smoke smudged the views I still enjoyed seeing the Cascade peaks and the view down into Paulina and East Lakes, and Big Obsidian Flow.

I couldn’t resist another wander on the Big Obsidian Flow Trail, even though I’d hiked it on my previous visit a few years ago (link). This is a 1-mile loop rated moderate. It includes stairs and uneven footing.

The afternoon was for absorbing as much natural Vit D as possible while enjoying the lakeshore views.

Warnings of algae bloom and swimmer’s itch kept me out of the water. I was a little jealous though seeing paddleboarders out and about.

After a full day it was back to my special campsite for dinner and another sunset. I was very thankful for a day being outside breathing good air and soaking in the sun.

During the night I saw stars and was excited to know I wouldn’t need to change location. I had more nearby places to explore and more trails to hike. The Crater Rim Trail is a 21-mile multi-use trail for hikers, bikers and equestrians. Leashed dogs are allowed on most trails as well. This one won’t get a WOW per mile award but it was a great workout and I finally surpassed my 2mph average, impressive with a 1,400 foot climb. Bonus: I only saw one other hiker and one biker during my nearly 9-mile jaunt.

The volcanic pumice makes for extremely dusty trails.

This Park and the surrounding forests are filled with wildfire fuel.

There was evidence Deschutes National Forest and the Park have been busy raking the forests. I hope they have an opportunity to burn these debris piles before a wildfire strikes.

My objective on this day was near North Paulina Peak where I had this view of Paulina Lake and Paulina Peak.

North Paulina Peak isn’t very impressive and wasn’t worth off-trail exploration on this day. I turned around at the Swamp Wells trail junction making this a 9-mile round trip trek.

This is North Paulina Peak from Paulina Lake.

Proof the pumice trail is indeed dusty. I think I broke in my new shoes! As always I really appreciate my Dirty Girl Gaiters for keeping most of the dirt out of my shoes.

The Visitor’s Center was open when I finished my hike and after chatting with a very friendly volunteer, the Lost Lake Trail was recommended. It’s rated difficult although I’m not really sure why. There are options to extend or turn into a loop but I hiked a bit beyond the Pumice Flat junction and that resulted in about 7 miles round trip with 1,000 feet elevation gain/loss.

This photo is from my Big Obsidian Flow hike. The Lost Lakes are not visible nor accessible during today’s hike, not to mention they are dried up at this time of year. Apparently thousands of frogs lay eggs and hang out in the lakes before beginning their mass migration through the obsidian flow, typically in August. Thus off-trail visits to this area are highly discouraged. You can see one of the dry lakes on the far side of the obsidian flow in this photo. The Lost Lake Trail climbs about 1,000 feet through this beautiful forest with occasional opportunities for big views of Paulina Lake, Paulina Peak and Big Obsidian Flow.

The red line is my track from the Lost Lake Trail. You can see the “lakes” surrounding the flow.

I’m glad I was referencing my digital topography maps on Gaia or I might have been tempted to descend from here to try to reach Lost Lakes.

There was lots of obsidian, showcasing many shapes, sizes and textures.

I would have loved to have had a geologist or ranger along to educate me regarding the volcanic activity.

I liked the variety of this trail, especially when I reached a plateau filled with I believe Bristlecone and White Bark Pine trees, and views of Paulina Peak.

Pumice Flat was an interesting short detour off the main trail.

This was my turnaround spot. I’d like to return and hike the lollypop loop.

It takes a lot of time for a tree to take root in lava flows. I recently read it takes about 1,000 years for enough soil to be deposited for a seed to take root.

I was hoping these clouds would gift me an awesome sunset as well as some much needed rain to clean the air.

Sadly neither happened and instead I woke to smoke-filled skies the next morning. There was no doubt my time at Newberry was over for now.

I’d like to say this is fog over Paulina Lake, but alas it’s smoke. I’d hoped to explore the Lava Cast Forest, Hoffman Island and Lava Lands. Those will remain on my list for a future visit.

Adventure Date(s):

  • September 1-4, 2021


  • There is no backcountry camping (car or backpacking) allowed in the park. There are several nice campgrounds.
  • Dispersed camping is available on forest service roads outside the park as well as at the nearby snow parks.



OR – Newberry National Volcanic Monument, Paulina Region

Over the years, I’ve traveled through Bend many times, but until now my timing has never been optimal to explore the area. After a 5-week travel hiatus, it was time to begin my summer jaunt. Can you believe the Newberry Volcano is the largest in the Cascade Range? It’s also one of the newest National Monuments receiving the status in 1990, and only one of 12 managed by the US Forest Service.

There are three areas of the monument with the southern region the most diverse. I visited several trails in that section during my recent visit.

Hike #1 – Paulina Falls and Creek Trail

Besides Paulina (pronounced Pol-EYE-nuh) Lake, the Falls are probably the most visited areas of the park. There is a short 1/4 mile trail to the falls but it also extends to the top of the falls and along the creek to a crossing and the opposite shore.

Hike #2 – Big Obsidian Flow Trail

This is another short hike of about one mile. Ask at the Paulina Visitor Center if there will be a ranger talk. There was one scheduled for the day I visited but the timing didn’t work for my schedule. The trail is quite rocky. I was glad to be wearing my hiking shoes and prepared with my hiking poles. There is excellent interpretive signage along the trail.

Hike #3 – Little Crater Trail

This trail was in excellent shape offering views of Paulina Lake, but most impressive was the view of the 1,300 year old Big Obsidian Flow. There were even a few wildflower sightings. It was a less than a 2-mile loop with about 400′ of elevation gain/loss.

Hike #4 – Newberry Crater Trail

I really wanted to experience being on the rim and seeing if I could get a better perspective of the 17-square mile caldera, so this trail seemed the best opportunity. There is a 21-mile loop trail along the rim; however, no backcountry camping is allowed so biking, running or fast hiking are the best options to experience it in one go. There are several access points so you can create a series of loops to experience more of the rim. This was 7 mile, 1,100′ foot elevation/gain, zero WOW-factor hike until the end when you’re rewarded with a view.

Virtual Hike – Paulina Peak

After my full day of hiking, I drove to the peak rather than hiking the 2-mile, 1,400′ elevation gain/loss trail. It was a perfect way to end my trip as the view of the caldera, lakes, flow and other volcanic features were highlighted from this perspective.

The skies weren’t very cooperative on this visit keeping mostly hidden the distant mountains. I was glad for at least a glance while on Paulina Peak where I could see Three Sisters.

Adventure Date(s):

  • July 10, 2019


  • There is no backcountry camping (car or backpacking) allowed in the park. There are several nice campgrounds.
  • Dispersed camping is available on forest service roads outside the park as well as at the nearby snow parks.
  • Another recommended trail I’d hike in the future is the Peter Skene Ogden National Recreation Trail.
  • A ranger recommended the Lava Cast Forest. I’m sure it’ll be very interesting as I was introduced to these fascinating fossils at Craters of the Moon National Park.




OR – Three Sisters Wilderness, Tam McArthur Rim Trail

I love interpretative signage. 

The hike climbs out of the Three Creek Lake basin providing views of the cascades. My friends Jill and Robert were great about helping to orient me and learn the names of the peaks. 

You also get views of the Tam McArthur Rim high above the lake.

As you enter Three Sisters Wilderness, you lose the views while wandering through the forest.

There was still a bit of snow around on this mid June day. 

Looking back at Three Creek Lake from Tam McArthur Rim. There were wildfires and subsequent smoke affecting the distant views. 

This is the jump off point for further exploration including Broken Top summit attempts. 

From this vantage point you can see Broken Top and South, Middle and North Sister Mountains. 

Mount Bachelor appears to be a hop, skip and jump away.

Broken Top (you can see how it got it’s name). 

I had a hard time picking up my jaw when I saw this view. WOW WOW WOW! 

Then we off in search of Lava Bombs, which I’d recently learned about during my visit to Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. The Wikipedia definition, “A volcanic bomb is a mass of molten rock (tephra) larger than 64 mm (2.5 inches) in diameter, formed when a volcano ejects viscous fragments of lava during an eruption. They cool into solid fragments before they reach the ground.” 

There was so much to love about this day. Thank you again Robert and Jill. This was my kind of place. Your company and knowledge added much to this adventure. You know I’m in heaven when I take a zillion photos!

There were lots of other volcanic treasures to explore. 

Adventure Date(s):

  • June 19, 2018

Hike Details:











OR – Smith Rock State Park

Although I’ve been to and through Bend many times, I’ve never spent time with locals. I enjoyed quite the introduction thanks to hiking friends Jill and Robert. 

Hike #1 – Deschutes River Trail

Bend has a beautiful park and trail system paralleling the Deschutes River. 

Hike #2 – Black Butte, Deschutes National Forest

This is a great workout and views trail near Sisters. We had to skip the summit view on this day due to lightning.

Hike #3 – Smith Rock State Park

This is a very popular area near Bend. 

We hiked the outside loop trails. 

We skipped Misery Ridge. 

The park has helpful interpretive signage. 

And being the rocky place it is, we found plenty of colorful rocks. 

With the recent rains, we were happy to find waterfalls. This can be a dry hot place with the exception of Crooked River. 

Adventure Date(s):

  • June 18, 2018
  • Hiking Stats: