Saturday, July 23, 2011

Little Belknap Crater, the McKenzie Pass.

In between bouts of mad gardening, my parents and I have been going on some very nice hikes while they are visiting me here in Oregon. Just a few days ago, the McKenzie Pass--which allows passage over the Cascades at about 5300 ft, finally thawed out and was opened for the summer! So today my parents, E and I took a hike through the lava fields that can be accessed by that route. Here are some impressions of our trip.

Approaching the McKenzie Pass--the trees have gotten stumpy as our altitude has increased, and there are clumps of snow on the side of the road!

Black lava and a view of Belknap Crater (our trail leads us to a little lump off to the right called Little Belknap Crater). The razor sharp volcanic rock probably took 2 years of life off of my poor hiking boots, the rolling bits of it definitely challenged my ankles, and my hands are shredded from catching myself on sharp outcroppings as I stumbled, and from pawing at beautiful, sparkling bits of lava with my Rockhounding Mama. We didn't bring Lucius on this hike, because this stuff is really hard on dog feet. Maybe we'll get him some booties before next time.

Surprising snow... E was interested in glissading on his butt whenever possible and put on a good show of climbing to the top of this hill and careening down at lightning speed on his ass just as a bunch of civilized looking hikers passed by. I pretended not to know him.

My parents in the lava field, with two of the three sisters in the background. You can't tell from this photo... but my Rockhounding Mama has about 50 pounds of  "Take Home Rocks" in her backpack. And this is on the way UP. It was surely 250 pounds by the time we reached the car. As you might imagine, she has bulging Rockhounding Muscles.

A view of pointy Mt. Washington (7794 ft) from the top of Little Belknap (about 6300 ft). Just to the right of Mt. Washington (without snow) is Three Fingered Jack (7844 ft), which my dad consistently misremembered as "Snaggle Toothed Billy" (I might like that better!) The snowy peak to the far right is Mt. Jefferson (10497 ft).

A panorama of our view from Little Belknap Crater, taken by my pop, Nile Oldham. (You can click on that and see a larger version if you like.)

The top of Little Belknap was a beautiful terra cotta red... and the landscape in general looked like something from outer space. I've never seen anything like it. Near the summit of Little Belknap there was a lava tube (which I didn't manage to get a good picture of), that led straight down to the bowels of the earth. It was terrifying, and of course E teetered right on the edge of it, aiming his camera down into the abyss.

It was a hot hike--bright sun and black rocks radiating heat. And yet there were many fields of snow all around us. My mom and I would grab handfuls of it and dribble cold water down our backs to cool down. I tried dribbling some ice down E's back, but he shrieked and skittered away from me on the sharp rocks. I thought I was being nice!

Beautiful speckles of colorful plant life could be seen here and there in the lava fields--it was always such a surprise and delight to come upon these hardy plants. The trees seemed not to do so well, though...

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