Observatory of the Past: LAPC

This observatory of the past is on McKenzie Pass near Sisters, Oregon. Dee Wright Observatory was built in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps to showcase the human and geological history of this location. The round tower sits atop a small hill.

Observatory of the past

Here’s what it looks like when you approach it from the west. It’s one of the odder roadside attractions in Oregon but one that should not be missed.

Observatory of the past

The Observatory is constructed of local lava rock. The triangular-shaped rail supports look like rock cairns.

Dee Wright Observatory

But what can you observe from here? You get excellent views of some of our local volcanoes, including North and Middle Sister, pictured below.

North & Middle Sister

You’ll see panoramic views of lava beds bordered by volcanic mountains. On the left you can see the top of Mt Washington. Mt Jefferson is in the middle of the picture, shrouded by clouds. On the right you get a partial view of Black Butte.

View from Dee Wright Observatory

Here’s a closer view. See Mt Jefferson hiding under the clouds?

Mt Washington & Jefferson

An observatory of the past – Geology

This sign highlights part of the geological history. The lava flows that covered this landscape are young, in geological terms. If you have time, walk the 0.50 mile interpretive trail at the site.

Observatory of the past

From the inside of the structure, you can peek out of square and rectangular windows to see the peaks. Labels are below each window.

Dee Wright Observatory

On top of the building you’ll find a peak finder.

Dee Wright Observatory

Here’s a closer view.

Peak finder at Dee Wright Observatory

Old Wagon Road

This area served as a route for wagons to get across the Cascade Mountains in the late 1800s. It must have been an incredibly rough ride.

Old Wagon Road

If you visit this area…

  • Consider traveling the 82-mile loop McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass Scenic Byway. We drove it in September while searching for fall foliage.
  • Note the road to the observatory closes during late fall and opens again in the spring because of high snowfall.
  • The winding, narrow McKenzie Pass Highway does not allow vehicles over 35 feet in length.
  • Watch for bicyclist traveling along the 38-mile long McKenzie Pass Scenic Bikeway.

For a little more about this observatory of the past, see my previous post – Dee Wright Observatory.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Interesting Architecture

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Shapes and Design

Oregon mountains from afar: LAPC

Today I’m featuring views of Oregon mountains from afar. We’re lucky to have wide open views of these landmarks.

The first picture shows a view of the iconic Cascade Volcanoes west of Bend, Oregon. From left to right you can see Broken Top, South Sister, Middle Sister, North Sister, Black Crater, Mount Washington, Three Fingered Jack, Black Butte, and Mount Jefferson. Visitor can drive scenic roads, hike, rock climb, bike, go boating, fish, hunt, and nature watch around these peaks. This map helps you find the activities you’re looking for.

Oregon mountains from afar

The second picture shows mountains east of Terrebonne, Oregon. The highest peak is Gray Butte, where I’ve seen lots of stunning wildflowers in the spring. At the base of the mountains, on the left side, you can find Smith Rock State Park. This park is a destination for rock climbers and hikers from around the world.

Oregon mountains from afar

The third picture shows Steens Mountain, in the southeast part of the state. This fault block mountain is 50 miles long. At certain times of the year, visitors can drive to the 9,733-foot peak. It’s a trip well worth taking and the views are spectacular. You’ll see the pale sand of the Alvord Desert far below and stands of mountain mahogany and aspen near the peak.

Steens Mountain, Oregon

The fourth picture shows the Painted Hills, north of Mitchell, Oregon. The stripes of red, tan, orange, and black in this photo record the effects of past climate change in this region. There are several trails in the Painted Hills Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. One of my favorites in the nearby Sheeprock Unit is the Blue Basin Trail.

Painted Hills, Oregon

Consider the weather when viewing Oregon mountains from afar

When you’re out exploring Oregon mountains from afar, check the weather conditions in advance. Did you notice the cloud cover increasing in each of these photos? Clear skies show off the Cascade Volcanoes along the skyline, but rainy conditions bring out the soil color in the Painted Hills.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Going wide

The Mountain from above: Cellpic Sunday

In Washington State, locals call Mt Rainier The Mountain. When clouds fill the skies and you catch a glimpse of her, people say, “The Mountain is out!” I took a quick trip up to Seattle this weekend and had a picture perfect view of Mt Rainier from above. What a gorgeous sight!

The Mountain - Mt Rainier

Cellpic Sunday

Dangerous Beauties

Dangerous beauties. Sisters 1Aug2016The 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.

SistersView2 4June2016Weekly Photo Challenge – Danger!

Pilot Butte: Bend’s Volcano

Pilot Butte views to North & West October 2016
Pilot Butte views to North & West

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.

View from Pilot Butte looking to the East October 2016
View from Pilot Butte looking to the East

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 Road Trail 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.

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.

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Lava Lands Visitor Center – Stories of Oregon’s volcanoes

Lava Lands Visitor Center

Follow the red lava flow

The Lava Lands Visitor Center has interpretive exhibits that focus on local volcanology, geology, ecology, and archeology. As I entered the exhibit area, the red “lava flows” in the carpet guided me you through the center. Display boards are big, bright, and bold. They contain A LOT of information.

Lava Lands Visitor Center

This small center is a great place to start a visit to the 54,000+ acres of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument near Bend, Oregon. The Monument was created in 1990. It encompasses unique geological features, lava flows, and many lakes.

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