I went on a field trip recently to one of my favorite places–Glass Buttes. Obsidian is everywhere you look! It’s like being a kid in a candy store. In fact in one of my previous posts, Glass Butte Dragonglass, I show a picture of some obsidian I have collected displayed in a candy bowl.
Glass Buttes – Rockhounding and habitat
Located about halfway between the towns of Bend and Burns in eastern Oregon, this site is a rockhounder’s paradise. You can dig and crack open obsidian with a rock hammer, but you really don’t need to because it’s all over the surface. The Bureau of Land Management oversees most of this site. Individuals may collect up to 250 pounds of obsidian per year.
Today I took a hike up Gray Butte, northeast of Terrebonne, Oregon. It was a nice hike with lots of wildflowers and spectacular views. This view is from the edge of the Crooked River Caldera looking west to Mount Jefferson, on the right, and Black Butte, on the left. The rocks in the foreground are splattered with messages left by lichens.
My place in the world is out in the wild places of central Oregon. From dry sagebrush steppe in a caldera to lush meadows bordered by pine forests. There are so many special places to explore…
Here’s one more entry for the Weekly Photo Challenge of Lines. The many layered castles in Bryce Canyon National Park are an amazing sight. A single hoodoo formation is impressive, but when you see hundreds of them in lines like soldiers standing at attention, they are just plain stunning.
See my previous post Time Lines: Utah Parks for more pictures featuring a small taste of the geology in Utah’s parks.
I have so many Yellowstone favorite places it’s hard to choose. Here’s a collection of photos of things that make the park special. I start this post with a quote from President Theodore Roosevelt who was known as the “conservation president.”
“The only way that the people as a whole can secure to themselves and their children the enjoyment in perpetuity of what the Yellowstone Park has to give is by assuming the ownership in the name of the nation and by jealously safeguarding and preserving the scenery, the forests, and the wild creatures.”
Theodore Roosevelt, April 24, 1903 at the laying of the cornerstone of Gateway to Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park, with its larger-than-life landscapes, dramatically changing weather conditions, amazing menagerie of wildlife, variety of plant life, and geology in action, is one of my favorite places. It also has a rich history as the world’s first national park.
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.
Canutts Gem and Rockshop display room
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.
Canutts Gem and Rockshop
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 Structure. I immediately thought of our recent trip to the five national parks in Utah. The structure of the rocks and geological features is complimented by the trees in these parks. Whether dead and twisting, or green and contrasting, the trees are a main character in an interesting landscape.
Arches National Park, Utah
The arches are amazing at Arches National Park and standing dead trees add to the scene. You can see Double Arch in the background.
A fence along the trail in Canyonlands National Park, Utah
I loved these fences made from old juniper wood in Canyonlands National Park. They helped keep people on the trail and were nice to look at too.
Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
The rainbow of colors in the cliffs of this canyon in Capitol Reef National Park were complimented by the bright green of the trees. A storm was moving in in this picture.
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
A windswept pine tree clings to the edge of a cliff in Bryce Canyon National Park. Puffy white clouds (like in “The Simpsons” cartoons) float gracefully in the background.
Zion National Park
Colorful and tilting structures in the rock, line a tree-filled canyon in Zion National Park. A few wispy clouds hang over the valley.
The national parks in Utah are full of interesting structures both large and small. The geology of the region tells a dramatic story. The trees and other plants living here have adapted to harsh conditions. The wildlife living here takes advantage of the local environment.
Take the time to look up but also to look down when you visit these parks. Each park is a little different from the others and each one has amazing sights worth seeing. The forces of Nature are strong here.
The Otter Bench Trail gives you some breathtaking views of the Crooked River. The trail head is near the town of Crooked River Ranch and the trail goes along the base of the cliffs bordering the river. We walked a couple miles in, stopped for lunch, and then headed back. There is little elevation change on the section we hiked but if you decide to head down to the river, it gets steep.
The trail goes through juniper and sagebrush habitat and along rocky talus slopes. If you go off the trail a little ways, you can walk to the edge of cliffs that enclose the river far below. If you have a fear of heights, don’t get too close to that edge. A turkey vulture flew by at eye height when we were close to the edge. Hope it wasn’t waiting for a meal!
You get a good view of some of the geological forces at work here. The basalt columns in the lower cliffs are part of the Deschutes formation. Above them you can see light tan colored tuff. Far above the tuff area you will see more columnar basalt and it is part of the most recent Newberry formation.
There is a small dam on the river a few miles from the trail head.
There are golden eagles nesting on the cliffs and you can see how easy it was for them to find a nest site here. The Horny Hollow Trail forks off from the main trail but it’s closed seasonally when the birds are nesting. It was closed when we were there but I saw eagles flying above the highest cliffs in the distance.
I heard and saw quite a few songbirds on this hike in April. The list of species seen includes Townsend’s solitaire, black billed magpie, mountain chickadee, Brewer’s sparrow, and western meadowlark. It was nice to hear some of these songsters again.
As temperatures begin to warm up, the high desert starts its wildflower show. We saw big showy arrowhead balsamroot, purple phlox and rock cress, delicate pink prairie stars, yellow fiddleneck, larkspur, and white miner’s lettuce. After a particularly hard winter we were grateful to see these bursts of color.
This trail passes through Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Crooked River National Grassland, and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife land. There is no fee to use the trail and there’s a good parking area at the trail head.
Directions to Otter Bench Trailhead from Highway 97 From Highway 97, just north of Terrebonne, turn left on to Lower Bridge Road (Sign with left arrow says “Crooked River Ranch”). After 2 miles turn right on 43rd St. After 1.7 miles turn left on Chinook Dr. After 5 miles (including a steep descent), go straight on to Horny Hollow Rd (do not take Chinook back up the switchback) Go 1.7 miles to the end of the pavement and park there.
Being a visual person, I have always wanted to visit Bryce Canyon National Park. I was not disappointed when I visited the park in May. Here are some of the many multi-layered delicate castles of stone in the park. They are a visual treat to all that are lucky enough to see them.
Do you enjoy watching the HBO series Westworld? When I first watched the show, I wondered where some of the stunning outdoor shots had been filmed. Interesting land features and sunny skies serve as a backdrop in this series. I found out that several filming locations were in Utah so we visited them on a recent trip.
Origins of Westworld
This series is based on the 1973 Westworld movie, written and directed by Michael Crichton. In this sci-fi classic, wealthy tourists visit an Old West-themed amusement park where they can indulge in any of their fantasies with no consequences. The “hosts” in the park appear to be human but they are actually androids. Though the skies appear to always be sunny, there are dark plot twists involving the hosts in both the movie and the series.
Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy worked on the screenplay for the new series. It debuted on HBO in October of 2016. You may have heard of Jonathan’s brother, Christopher Nolan. The two of them co-wrote the screenplays for The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, and several other successful films. Jonathan worked as a writer, director, and executive producer on the Westworld series, roles he also held for the Person of Interest series.
We just got back from the Rock, Gem, and Mineral Show in Madras. I overheard someone say there were 135 vendors this year so it took a while to see everything. This is the 68th year of this event. It is sponsored by the The All Rockhounds Pow-wow Club of America, Inc. Prices for the rocks, gems, and minerals range from one dollar to hundreds of dollars. Parking, admission, and entertainment is free. The show takes place June 22-25.
Here are a few pictures I took today at the Rock Show in Madras. Do I know what the name is of everything I show in these pictures? No! I have always liked pretty rocks even if I don’t know what they are. If you go to a big rock show like this, someone there can likely identify what’s there for you and tell you all about them. They may even tell a tale or two about the adventure they had when collecting them.
Land forms of the Moenkopi Formation at Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Land forms at Capitol Reef National Park
The landscape at Capitol Reef National Park tells many stories in colorful layers of rock. The darker columns in the picture above are part of the Moenkopi Formation and it is 225 million years old.
The sedimentary layers of rock in this picture consist of silt, sand, clay, and gravel. The bands of gray and burgundy are made up of volcanic ash. The 700 foot thick layer at the base of the cliffs is the Chinle Formation. That formation contains a lot of petrified wood.
I was impressed by contrasting colors and textures at this park. If you take a trip to Utah, don’t overlook this park. There are a lot of hiking trails here and a short scenic drive.
The Three Sisters volcanoes in Oregon are beautiful but one of the three is dangerous. The photo above shows Middle Sister, a dormant volcano, and North Sister, an extinct volcano. Their other sibling, South Sister, is the troublemaker. This volcano last erupted about 2,000 years ago and research in 2000 indicated uplifting activity so it could blow again. See all three Sisters in the photo below. South Sister is on the left – some distance from her siblings.
The soil in central Oregon likes to remind you of its origins by shouting it out to you in deep shades of red. Lava rock red. Here is the view from Lava Butte, south of Bend. For more on visiting that area, see my post here.
While on vacation, I picked up a rock and it told me what it was meant to be. A T. rex of course!
I took it home and got ready to paint a Tyrannosaurusrex. All of the ridges and depressions seemed to be in exactly the right spots. Even the greenish color was right. I darkened a few spots and enhanced others. I added scales with a tiny brush. The crooked T. rex grin fit right into the contours of the rock. The nostril and eye placed themselves along a ridge and depression.
Look past external appearances and you may find magic hidden within.
I have always had a special feeling about Spasmodic Geyser in Yellowstone National Park. Why? I think part of it has to do with the interesting name. Check out this short video and watch for the butterfly that tempts fate.
Eruptions from this geyser range from a few inches to 20 feet in height. The time between eruptions varies but is usually in the range of 1-3 hours. Spasmodic Geyser has a temperature of 198° F. This geyser was named by Geologist A.C. Peale when he was doing work with the 1878 Hayden survey team. Peale chose this name due to the geyser’s erratic behavior.
Is this a post about the burgeoning marijuana business in Bend? No! I’m impressed by the local materials used in some of the buildings here and The Herb Center is an interesting example. It’s a small building covered in rocks including lots of obsidian. It was known as the Stone House. Perhaps now it could be called the Stoner House (?)
The Downing Building used to house the Downing Hotel and Cafe. It was built in 1920. It was made from local tuff and pumice blocks, bricks, yellow pine, and Douglas’ fir. When doing restoration work on the building in the 1980’s, a secret door was located and it may have connected to the brothel next door.
The Des Chutes Historical Museum is currently housed in the Reid School building. It is an impressive building made from pink volcanic tuff blocks. This was the first modern school in the area and it contained ten classrooms, an auditorium, indoor toilets, and central heating. It opened in 1914 and 241 pupils were enrolled there.
New Taggart Hotel
The New Taggart Hotel was built in 1911 by J.B. Goodrich. The front has rectangular blocks lined up perfectly with partial arches around the doors and windows. I thought the back of the building was interesting because the stonework is less concise. It’s wonderfully imperfect.
These are just a few examples of interesting architecture using local materials. Be sure to take a closer look when you are in Bend.
Do you want to go to the top of one of the few volcanoes in the U. S. located within the city limits? Pilot Butte is a cinder cone that rises 480 feet above the city of Bend. There are some amazing views from its 4,142 foot summit.
Look at this 360° “photo sphere” image that I took from the top. You can move the image around to see it all. It is a fantastic place!
About 190,000 years ago, Pilot Butte erupted and spewed glowing cinders and steam hundreds of feet into the air. The butte was covered in a foot of ash when Mount Mazama erupted 7,700 years ago. As Pilot Butte eroded away over the years, it evolved into the extinct cinder cone that we see today.
Getting to the top
You can get to the top in a few different ways. The Nature Trail is a 0.8 mile hike and the Summit RoadTrail and the Summit Drive Trail are both 1.0 mile long. There is also a road that winds around the butte. The road closes for several months during the fall and winter. The Nature Trail is a dirt trail that ranges from moderate to moderately steep. There are several benches where you can rest and take in the sights. The Summit Road Trail starts on the west side and follows the road. You can also access it from the east side via a short trail. That’s the Summit Drive Trail.
Looking uphill on Pilot Butte
Roadcut on Pilot Butte
Juniper tree and views to the East
The butte is covered by bunchgrass, wildflowers, shrubs, and western juniper trees. You will see reddish volcanic soil along the trail and in road cuts.
You can see lots of interesting wildlife here. Mule deer can be common during certain times of the year. A cougar was seen on the butte a couple of years ago but they are not a common sight. You are much more likely to see a golden-mantled ground squirrel. Red-tailed hawks and other raptors hunt here so be sure to look up. You might also see (and hear) black-billed magpies and scrub jays. On warm days, western fence lizards might be out sunning themselves on rocks.
I recently went on a two-mile trek to the center of the earth. Okay, not quite the center of the earth but the trail did lead underneath Highway 97 – the main North-South highway in these parts. I decided to visit Lava River Cave before it shut down for the season. This cave is located 12 miles south of Bend, Oregon in the Newberry Volcanic National Monument area.
I had heard that there was limited parking so I got there early. WAY too early! I forget that I only live a half an hour from many of these geological attractions.Check the operating hours and entrance pass requirements for Lava River Cave here.
Dee Wright Observatory in the distance from the trail
Dee Wright Observatory, McKenzie Pass, Oregon
Looking like some medieval castle about to be attacked by dragons, the Dee Wright Observatory is located near the top of McKenzie Pass at an elevation of 5,187 feet. No, there is not a telescope set up here for star viewing, but you can see several Cascade Mountain peaks nearby standing tall amidst 65 square miles of black lava rock.
The lava is from relatively recent flows from Yapoah, Little Belknap, and Belknap Craters. One of the types of lava you will see here is called Block or A A lava.
Though there is little rainfall in this area, there can be up to 20 feet of snow. The melting snow travels through cracks in the lava to underground reservoirs that feed the McKenzie and Metolius Rivers.
The McKenzie Pass Highway follows parts of the McKenzie Salt Springs and Deschutes Wagon Road that was built in the period of 1866-1872. It was used to move cattle east. The wagon road was established as a toll road in 1872. It’s hard to imagine how travelers made it over the rough lava rocks at the pass and many had to abandon their wagons. See my previous post on the Santiam Wagon Road for a little bit more history on the wagon road.
The amazing, and appropriately named, Big Obsidian Flow feature was formed a mere 1,300 years ago. You can walk up a trail that winds through a massive mountain of sparkling obsidian. When I say massive I mean MASSIVE – 380 million cubic yards! From a distance, the landscapes appear to be a real life version of Mordor. Up close, the shimmering reflections all around you are dazzling.
You can get to top of the Lava Butte cinder cone by hopping onto a shuttle or taking a short hike from its base. The 500-foot tall butte is located at the Lava Lands Visitor Center in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument about eight miles south of Bend, Oregon. Lava Butte is one of the hundreds of cinder cones in the immediate area.
Lava Butte erupted about 7,000 years ago. There are several trails that wind through the ancient lava flows and onto the flanks of the butte. There were three main gutters where most of the lava flowed. Ten square miles of pine forest were buried by lava. The lava flows blocked the Deschutes River in five places. If you walk the trail to Benham Falls you can see where the river has made its way through the lava rock.