B&B Complex Fire, Bend Oregon, Crater Lake, Dee Wright Observatory, Lava River Cave, McKenzie River, Newberry National Volcanic Monument, Oregon, Ray Atkeson, Sisters Oregon, Sparks Lake
Needing to stop off in Oregon’s state capital Salem to get our 60,000 mile Sprinter service (the chassis is a Mercedes Sprinter and the coach is Winnebago) afterwards we had a bit of a walk around town and good lunch at the bar in the Table FIVE 08 restaurant. The next day we left Salem for the cute little town of Sisters via the very pretty State Route 22E to US 20. This route is almost entirely in both the Willamette and Deschutes National Forests where the huge B&B Complex Fires in August & September of 2003 burned almost 91,000 acres killing over half the trees.
After spending the night at the Sisters Creekside Campground which is in a lovely woods, on the edge of town and walking distance to restaurants, shops and Sisters Bakery, (YUM!!) we drove west on the beautiful McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass National Scenic Byway – St. Rt. 242. This road separates the Mount Washington and Three Sisters Wilderness areas and at the McKenzie Summit is the Dee Wright Observatory where the view across 65 square miles of lava is spectacular!
Route 242 ends at St. Rt. 126 where we headed north following the magnificent McKenzie River. Remarkably clear and an amazing color the McKenzie is one of the prettiest rivers we’ve seen. There’s a very popular 26 mile hiking/biking trail running along the river and we did a tiny bit of it and would love to do more someday.
At Santiam Junction 126 joins with US20 where we headed back to Sisters. If you’re ever close to this area I suggest you put this drive on your MVL (Must Visit List).
Moving down the road about 30 miles to Crown Villa RV Resort in Bend we settled in at one of the nicest commercial RV parks ever. Not cheap, but lots of space in a pretty treed location with the nicest laundry I’ve used to date, make note RV friends! Unfortunately the weather became wet and generally unpleasant so we decided to poke around Bend which is considered by many folks as being in the USA top 10 places to live. We had a damp picnic lunch in Drake Park which has some lovely old homes surrounding it and then walked around Downtown Bend which has the Red Chair Gallery where we may have bought some things 🙂 In truth we barely touched town, but what we saw was very nice and probably worth a better look someday. This trip however we were more interested in exploring the immense amount of volcanic landscape here.
I was especially looking forward to seeing the Lava River Cave located in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. To our amazement this is a self guided mile long hike (one way) through an UNLIT lava tube! No hard hats, no checking to see if you’ve got a flashlight (they do rent very good torches) no Forest Service personnel inside, just enjoy yourself! We keep asking each other where the liability lawyers were locked up because you’d never see this back home 🙂
Next on the “lava list” was a walk at Big Obsidian Flow also in the Newberry NVM. Ed and I have been to lots of lava fields in many states but we have rarely seen any obsidian and to see a really large area covered with this volcanic glass was sooo cool! As much as I wanted to, I followed the rules and did not help myself to a great big chunk of it 🙂
With the sun at last fully back (it was almost hot), we drove part of the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway. Along this route is Sparks Lake which Oregon’s Photographer Laureate Ray Atkeson called the prettiest place in the state. With this recommendation we bounced out the dirt NF400 (National Forest Rd) to hike the Ray Atkeson Loop Trail. It was a lovely 2.5 mile walk with great views and of course lots of lava. The only negative was maybe the worst allergy attack I have ever had! There’s some kind of evergreen out here that my nose does NOT like.
As I have said in other posts I saw a lot of the west back in 1962 and some of those places have always held a special spot in my heart, one of those is Crater Lake. Back then we had the place pretty much to ourselves. Dad led us on a hike down to the water and I used my hands to drink out of this incredible pristine volcanic caldera.
Now, even though there are many, many more people coming here, and even though the loop road was under repair and causing long delays and even though the one path down to the water was closed, it’s still an amazing place.
Pretty much we think you should put this whole post on your MVL!