Last week we visited Crack in the Ground in Central Oregon near Christmas Valley. You may be wondering what exactly this place is. Well… it’s a huge crack in the ground in the middle of the desert.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was impressed by the crack’s picturesque angles and curved surfaces.
There’s a 2-mile trail inside that reaches a depth of ~70 feet below the surface. We took the left path that has a more gradual entrance. It’s in the middle of the picture below. This trail is relatively easy but if you go the whole length, expect to climb over boulders and through some cracks.
But how did this crack get here? It’s an ancient volcanic fissure. I learned in most climates, fissures fill up with soil and rock from erosion. Since it’s so dry here, there has been relatively little filling.
Crack in the Ground sits within the Four Craters Lava Bed. During the Pleistocene, four cone volcanoes were active here. A shallow depression formed when older heavier rock sunk. The fissure opened near the edge where there was tension along a fault zone. This Bureau of Land Management map shows the extent of the lava beds and the location of Crack in the Ground.
As the lava cooled, it formed spots with interesting textures. Great for photos!
As we found out, temperatures within the fissure can be 20 degrees cooler than at ground level. These photos were taken on March 23. When we saw the trail ahead, we decided to stop here.
Why? On this trip we brought our dogs and didn’t want to do our own version of dog sled racing on the slippery surface. 😉
Make sure and bring the essentials, including warm clothing, on this short hike. You’ll travel on a 7.5-mile washboard dirt road to get to the site, but it’s well worth it to view this unique attraction.
Also consider visiting the nearby Lost Forest, another special local attraction.
The 0.4-mile Trail of the Whispering Pines winds its way through the forest near the visitor center. You get great views of pine trees, Lava Butte, and several nearby volcanoes. This path sits on part of Newberry Volcano, a 1,200-square mile shield volcano.
South Sister, pictured on the left above, is the youngest and most geologically active of the Three Sisters volcanoes. The mountain last erupted 2,000 years ago, but a “bulge” began forming in 1997. By 2001, the bulge grew to 9 inches in height and 10 miles in diameter. Its growth since that time has slowed considerably. Both South Sister and Newberry are regularly monitored for volcanic activity.
We recently took a short drive west from Bend to visit Dillon Falls. Splashes of color border the river near the falls.
Temperatures were cool and we didn’t see anyone else on this early morning trek.
The short trail to the falls is lined with manzanita shrubs – one of my favorites! They have so much character.Continue reading
Rockridge Park, in northeast Bend, is a nice place for walks and more. Bend Park and Recreation preserved features of High Desert habitat in this 36-acre park and added a few unique activities. It’s one of 82 parks in the city.
You’ll see a “forest” of juniper tree trunks near the small parking area. This play area for kids includes black “talk tubes” that connect underground. Primitive cell phones. 😉
I’ve been keeping an eye out for fall foliage and this park had several colorful trees. The maple trees are beginning to turn red and the paper birch leaves are turning a lovely shade of gold.
The trails in this park include a paved one-mile+ trail and more than a mile of unpaved bike trails. The beginner and intermediate bike trails include boardwalks and other obstacles.
Last weekend we visited the Oregon WinterFest event in Bend. I always look forward to seeing the fire pits and there were over 20 entries this year.
The Lens-Artists Photo Challenge (LAPC) this week is Treasure Hunt. I thought the fire pits fit perfectly under the suggested topic of “something hot.” Here are a few of the sculptures I saw at the WinterFest event.
A scaly tree holding a suspended ball of fire
This one looked like kindling hovering over a fire
Tall and graceful, reaching for the sky
Did you know there are secret rooms at McMenamins Old St Francis in Bend? Here are pictures of two of the blacklight rooms with their secret blue views.
You can’t get into to the rooms through a traditional door. You have to find special panels in the hallway and push them in just the right spot.
The secret blue views inspired me to write microfiction stories related to each room.
On the night of the harvest moon, trees in a hidden forest create plump blue and red fruit. Jackrabbits venture into the forest, searching for the red fruit. They nibble on their magic and dance until the sun rises and the fruit disappears.Continue reading
I saw many plants I’m familiar with on this tour. Some I knew the names of, others I was like, “Uh… what was your name again?” Fortunately, the plants were labeled or the person whose garden it was could tell you.
Here are some old friends.Continue reading
Have you ever stepped inside a time capsule and discovered a place frozen in time? You have the opportunity to visit such a place if you stop at the Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site in John Day, Oregon. The small building, located two blocks north of Highway 26, was, at one time, bustling with activity. Kam Wah Chung, which translates to the “Golden Flower of Prosperity,” served as a dry goods store, herbalist shop, import business, house of worship, and boarding house. It also housed an informal library and post office.
I’ve featured several outdoor photos taken in and around Fort Rock, but now you’ll get glimpses indoors at the Fort Rock Valley Homestead Museum. Many of these historical buildings were moved here from nearby. The homes and businesses are furnished as they would have been in the early 1900s. This is a place where history truly comes alive.
A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.Marcus Garvey
Winter is a special time of the year here in Bend. Winter walks around the neighborhood are highlighted with landscapes covered in snow and ice.
He who marvels at the beauty of the world in summer will find equal cause for wonder and admiration in winter.John Burroughs
Buildings are blanketed with snow and edged with icicles.
Twisting trails are carved through snowdrifts.Continue reading
Last weekend we attended an Asian New Year Celebration, and the performances we watched were spectacular! This event brought together performances of music, Tai Chi, Parkour, aerial silks, and lion dancing. A local restaurant provided samples of Asian cuisine. There was also a silent auction.Continue reading
I’m sharing the March issue of the High Desert Voices newsletter. It’s a newsletter for volunteers and staff at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon. I help out with the newsletter and I’m particularly proud of this issue.
This issue of the High Desert Voices newsletter includes a History event – 19th Century Making & Mending; Art – a new exhibit by Native American artist, Rick Bartow; Nature – a fact sheet on white sturgeon; People – a profile of our Communication Director; and Recreation – a trail through the colorful Blue Basin. There’s a little more related to updates for the different areas of the Museum and kudos, for work well done.
Enjoy the newsletter! To see more, go to Volunteer Newsletters.
Seven artists featured in Tin Pan Alley
The Tin Pan Alley Art “gallery” is located in a short alleyway in downtown Bend, Oregon. The alley features large pieces of art created with a variety of media. Some are 2-dimensional while others are more sculptural. Do you have a favorite among these wonderful pieces of art?
This collection is part of a public art initiative that supports local arts and culture. It takes our outdoor lifestyle into consideration. Another example of outdoor art is featured in many of Bend’s roundabouts.
This is The Visitor by artist Carol Sternkopf. This is a mixed media piece that combines photography, vinyl, paint, twigs, wood, metal, and salvaged home decor. Nature and animals were important in Carol’s childhood. She incorporates them into her art. She hopes viewers think about the “larger story within the magnificent blue owl’s eyes” in this piece.Continue reading
Last night we had a front row seat to watch the paddle parade go by on the Deschutes River in Bend, Oregon. This event has taken place for many years, rain or shine. It was kind of blustery weather last night but there were still a lot of people participating in the parade.
The event is hosted by Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe in the Old Mill district. Participants dress up their watercraft and themselves with colorful lights. The parade takes place from about 4:00 to 6:00 pm. After it’s over, everyone gets together for nice warm drinks.Continue reading
The Photographs of Edward S. Curtis in the By Her Hand Exhibit
This exhibition features portraits of Native women by photographer Edward S. Curtis from the collection of Christopher G. Cardozo. Curtis took the featured photographs over a 30-year period as part of a project to document Native American’s lifestyle and culture in a time of change. Curtis traveled across North America from 1900 to 1930 photographing over 80 tribes.
Edward S. Curtis worked out of a studio in Seattle, Washington and received financial support from J. P. Morgan. Curtis collected information about the lives of each tribe through photographs, writings, and audio recordings. With the help of Native translators, he assembled a 20-volume set titled The North American Indian. Curtis intended to publish 500 copies but due to a series of financial and personal setbacks, only about 272 were printed. Ninety percent of the original sets are owned by institutions, including the High Desert Museum.
Learn about the natural world by visiting Sunriver Nature Center
Sunriver Nature Center & Observatory is a great place to learn more about the natural world. This small interpretive center is on the west side of Sunriver, Oregon. It’s in an area that includes pine forests, meadows, and the meandering Deschutes River. The “edges” between these habitats are good places to see wildlife.
You can observe local wildlife by walking the trails on your own or going out with a guide. The Sam Osgood Nature Trail winds around the property. In the spring and summer keep an eye out for trumpeter swans. Guided bird walks take place every Saturday morning in the spring, summer, and fall. I have been on several of the walks. You’ll see waterfowl in the pond, raptors flying overhead, and songbirds along the walk. Great gray owls have been spotted in the area occasionally. You never know what you might spot on one of these walks.
There are also programs for families and kids. There are Kids Nature Camps for kids 4-10 years of age at certain times of the year. Family programs might include offerings such as Family Birding, Aquatic Explorations, and Eco Bike Tours. During the school year, staff travel to nearby schools to give presentations.
Looking up while looking back
These images from Fort Rock, Oregon focus on looking up. In this photo you see what a town from the early 1900’s may have looked like. Buildings were moved to this site to create the Fort Rock Valley Historical Society Homestead Village Museum. Each building is decorated with artifacts so it’s easy to imagine yourself stepping back in time.
Pioneers were promised rich and fertile land. That was not the reality in this arid high desert. Many settlers moved away after unsuccessfully trying to cultivate the land.
A sculpted garden of outdoor bonsai plants
I saw these outdoor bonsai trees on the High Desert Garden Tour in Bend, Oregon this summer. I marveled at the artistry that went into sculpting these plants. Though I’ve seen bonsai trees in the past, I was pleasantly surprised to see tree species that grow locally sculpted into small replicas of full size trees. You can see why they are referred to as “living art.”
Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Small is beautiful
Reaching for the sky in the Ascent exhibit
Sometimes you may have looked up at rock climbers on Smith Rock (near Terrebonne , Oregon) and wondered what drives them in their quest to reach the top. This new exhibit helps answer that question. Ascent: Climbing Explored, looks at the history, evolution, and culture of climbing and mountaineering in the West. What began as scientific exploration, grew into an activity people take part in for sheer joy of the experience.
One of the first things you see in the exhibit is a journal entry from John Muir. Muir taught people about conserving wild places through his eloquent writings. In another section of the exhibit, the artwork of Thomas Moran is featured. The paintings he created of Yellowstone in 1871 helped to establish the world’s first national park. The artwork and writings of early explorers were the “social media” of their day. Artist Sarah Uhl, also featured in this exhibit, presents landscape art that is a continuation of themes first presented by 19th century artists. James Lavadour, of the Walla Walla tribe, did the bold bright paintings of mountains near the exhibit entrance. His paintings, and the clean lines of the exhibit, bring a modern look to the displays.
McCoin Orchard apple blossoms
I saw these apple blossoms in the McCoin Orchard near the trailhead for the Gray Butte trail. This orchard, near Terrebonne, Oregon, was originally planted in the late 1880s and it was rescued by range specialists 100 years later.
There’s a nice hike here with some spectacular views of the country. The close up views of spring flowers are great as well.
Stopping at Shaniko
I visited the ghost town of Shaniko, Oregon this spring. The town is right on U.S. Route 97 and I’ve driven by it many times but didn’t really know much about it. The 1910 census showed its population at its peak level of 600 people. By 1911, the population plummeted. It’s called a ghost town today but according to the 2010 census, 36 people still call it home. They originally named the town Cross Hollows.
The first thing I wanted to know was where the current name came from. In 1867 Oregon received a grant to build a military road from The Dalles to Fort Boise, Idaho. They discovered gold in Canyon City and thousands of miners relied on small towns nearby for supplies. Settlers traveled to areas that had previously been hard to access. They grabbed up large parcels of land under the Homestead Act of 1862. One of the settlers was August Scherneckau, and he established a post office in the area. Members of the local Wasco tribe pronounced his name SHAN-i-koh, and the name stuck. As someone with an unusual name, I can relate to that!
Doors with eyes
I took this picture on a trip to the ghost town of Shaniko, Oregon and didn’t notice the watcher within until I edited the photo. I thought it was something inside but realized later it was a reflection of the Shaniko Hotel across the street. It looked like some alien creature out of a Star Wars movie watching me. I found some interesting doors in Shaniko but apparently they were keeping an eye on me.
Stepping back in time at Clarno Palisades
In May I visited the Clarno Palisades area, 18 miles west of Fossil, Oregon in the Clarno Unit of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. This unit gets light usage. We only saw a few other visitors.
There are three short hikes near the covered picnic area. The Geologic Time Trail winds along ¼ mile to connect you to the other two trails. Interpretive signs note the changes of the last 50 million years. The colorful small signs explaining the geologic history looked brand new. The Trail of Fossils takes you up a ¼ mile loop trail on the hillside and shows you fossils that left their imprints in large boulders.
The theme for the very last Weekly Photo Challenge was All-time Favorites. I’m late getting these up because my computer was in the shop and I was traveling. So without further ado…
All-time Favorite Critters
I have a lot of photos of animals so it’s hard to choose favorites but here goes. Here’s a handful for you.
The Central Oregon Wildflower Show is on hiatus in 2018 but the Native Plant Sale is taking place this weekend, June 9 and 10, at Sunriver Nature Center. Click on Sunriver Nature Center – Upcoming Special Events for more information. I am sharing an article I wrote last year about the show.
Getting to know local flora at the Wildflower Show
Colorful examples of native plants drew crowds to the 29th annual Central Oregon Wildflower Show at Sunriver Nature Center on July 1-2, 2017. Participants could visit a room packed full with cuttings of plants, each of which were clearly labeled. Visitors could go on short staff-led wildflower hikes near the Nature Center to see some of the featured plants growing in the wild. Volunteers working at the event were ready to answer questions visitors might have.
Bright yellow flowers on a currant shrub with colorful flags flying in the background. The bridge passes over the Deschutes River in Bend, Oregon.
See my post about one of the short, easy trails in this area here.
Glass Buttes – Rockhounding and habitat
Scenic views all around
The hike to Gray Butte, located in the Crooked River National Grassland near Terrebonne, Oregon, is great to walk in the spring because of the wildflowers. I went here in May and we saw quite a few colorful flowers. The habitat is sagebrush steppe with scattered western juniper trees.
I have been here twice with Leslie Olson, one of my favorite guides with Bend Parks and Recreation. One time we went on Cole Loop Trail #854 and the other time we went on Gray Butte Trail #852. The roads to the trailheads have sections that are rough but passable. We did out-and-back hikes of around four to five miles total distance. They are listed as easy to moderate hikes. Here’s a map that shows both trails.
A piece of history
My most recent hike began at Gray Butte trailhead, elevation 3,800 feet, near the McCoin Orchard. The orchard was originally planted by Julius and Sarah McCoin in 1886. The property was purchased by the U.S. Forest Service in the 1930’s. At one time there were 100 fruit trees here – apple, pear, plum, etc. Grassland range specialists saved the surviving trees in the 1980’s. When I was there, the trees were in full bloom.
Short and sweet hike
The Mill A Loop is a short and easy hike that starts on the flag bridge in the Old Mill district of Bend. This 1.1 mile trail is paved and mostly flat. You walk along the Deschutes River for most of the hike. At certain times of the year, kayakers, stand up paddleboarders, and innertubers will float by you on the river.
The Flag Bridge is a well-known sight in Bend. The flags are changed to celebrate different holidays and events. I am always impressed by these flags of many colors fluttering in the breeze. They also fly over a smaller pond near the restaurants.
Cool rocks – inside and out
Do you ever drive by a place a million times and think to yourself, “I’ve got to stop there one day.” This rockshop, south of Redmond, Oregon, was one of those places for me. We finally stopped last summer. The shop has hundreds of carefully labeled rocks inside and out.
There are a wide variety of rocks in Central Oregon and this shop displays some of the beauties collected over the past 42 years by the owner. Owners Mel and Jerry Lindbeck obviously have a love of rocks. Mel shapes some of the rocks into spheres, bookends, and display pieces.
Lovely displays of rocks
We have been to plenty of rock shops over the years but this one displays them in lovely ways. The front room has a couple display cabinets, a table with small rocks, and windows lined with slices of semi-transparent agate.
The Weekly Photo Challenge this week is Tour Guide. This will be easy!
Enjoy some pictures of beautiful sights in and around Bend, Oregon. Can you see why I love living here?