Yesterday might have been the most gloriously varied day of my trip so far.  I hiked in two lava fields, one of which consisted largely of obsidian, went on a two-mile round-trip hike in an underground lava tube, saw two waterfalls and a caldera.  There was sun and there were clouds, there was snow on the ground and icy cold wind, I had a picnic in the car because it was too cold to have it outside, but then later I sat outside sipping coffee before having a fabulous dinner, did some shopping, and then went to a movie.

I started by heading south, backtracking a bit on the drive from Ashland, to visit several sites that are part of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument.  Because of the government shutdown, their websites are down, so I’ll link to Wikipedia articles.  (I suppose other links from earlier blog posts are down as well.)  Luckily, I was there a day earlier and didn’t miss anything.

My first stop was Lava Butte.  I drove up the spiral road to the top of the dome, walked around the crater, then walked the trail through the lava field.

My next stop was the Lava River Cave.  For $5 they rent you a propane lantern (or you can bring your own flashlight), and they send you down into this cave where you just walk for a mile in the pitch dark.  There were a few other people ahead of me, but until I passed them coming back, I didn’t even see the light from their lanterns.  It was a mesmerizing, other-worldly experience.  I kept thinking I can turn around any time, since I couldn’t really see anything beyond what my lantern cast a faint glow on.  But I walked on, driven largely by the thought that I was in such a strange place, I wanted to experience all of it.  After a mile, it comes to an end, and you turn around and go back.

I took some flash photos, but the flash was mostly lost unless I was close to what I was shooting.

Entrance to the cave

After I left the cave, I drove the road toward Mt. Paulina, where there are two crater lakes.  My first stop near the top was Paulina Falls.

Then I went for a hike among the obsidian.  How fascinating to see this shiny, glassy stone in such abundance among the other volcanic rocks.  And how tempting to grab a hunk for a souvenir.  The views from up there were beautiful as well.

Finally, after a quick stop by Paulina Lake, I headed down and back toward Bend.  I made one more stop, at the trailhead that leads to Benham Falls, and I hiked in to see that impressive site.

On the way back, I spied this fellow fishing in the river.

Back in Bend, I wandered around downtown, where it was not raining.  I had a great dinner at Zydeco, and then I headed to the Old Mill District, which was formerly the site of a lumber mill and now consists of a shopping complex along with condos and townhouses.  The old mill is now an REI.

I ended the day at the multiplex in the Old Mill shopping center.  I saw Prisoners, which I enjoyed a lot.

Total miles yesterday: 104.

Today I’m going to explore some more in this area before heading to Fossil.  Sadly, because of the government shutdown, I’m not sure I’ll be able to see any of the sites that are part of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.  In which case I’ll explore what I can and just relax.

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