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Some Late-Summer Hikes in Central and South-central Oregon

by paul spencer Sun Oct 4th, 2009 at 05:06:33 PM EST

This diary is too easy.  No matter where you turn in the Cascades Mountain Range of the Pacific Northwest, the scenery is dramatic and mostly green and blue.  It is the case that along the eastern edge of the Cascades, as in much of Colorado's and British Columbia's Rocky Mountains, the Mountain Pine Beetles have decimated the Lodgepole Pine trees (they also attack Ponderosa Pine, but the P.P. are better adapted to fight them off).  So, as you'll see in some of the photos, there are stretches of gray and brown, too.

Mirta and I drove with our friends from last year's biking tour of the Erie Canal to Ashland, OR.  (We make an annual pilgrimage there during the first week of April, along with 20 to 40 friends from the Stevenson area, to see a few plays and to exchange the ambience of the Columbia River Gorge for that of the Rogue River valley.)  Stopped for Umpqua ice cream cones in Rice Hill (which is in a valley), as usual.  (Like Tillamook ice cream in Tillamook, OR, you have to go to the Umpqua region to get the Reserve product.)

In Ashland, we walked a ways up Lithia Park (no pictures) which is an informal arboretum along Lithia Creek, the starting point of which is located just below the Ashland Shakespearean Festival theaters.

The second day we drove to Fish Lake - about 40 miles northeast of Ashland, starting along Dead Indian Memorial Road (just reporting, folks). Again, no pictures, as I forgot to take my camera along on the hike. As in many of the lakes in the Cascades, it's located in a bowl that has been dammed on the lower end by what we call 'rip rap' - large rocks - either by natural slide or by dozer (in this case it looked like a combination, as there are huge slides or rock 'screes' in the area). The hike starts at the downstream side of the dam and is 10 km long, round-trip. At the upper end of the lake, there's a cafe where Mirta had "very good" clam chowder with lots of clam bits. Why a rustic restaurant 150 km from the ocean would have very good clam chowder, I can't say, but Mirta's taste is unquestionable, so there you are.

The next day we drove to Sun River via Crater Lake, and I took about 50 pictures - partly to make up for my failure to take photos earlier and partly - well, you'll see. The first time that our little family of 4 drove to Crater Lake back in 1981, we came from the northern access road. The first parking area that one sees from that side of the lake offers a view of large rocks, tan dirt, Scrub Jays, Chipmunks, and a few little bushes and scrub White Pine. One parks; one walks upwards; in the last five steps to the viewpoints, Crater Lake appears in sweeping strokes. And it is stunning in the most literal sense of the word. Here are a few samples from the western edge:

Then there's Bob with his t-shirt advertising Bull Frog ales:

We hiked up to the old fire look-out tower, and here are the lake views from that vantage point:

Looking North:

Looking West (can you see the two wildfires on the horizon?):

Looking Southwest (the haze is from the two wildfires further south near Ashland and Medford, OR):

Looking Southeast (the picture may not be quite clear enough, but we could see Mt. Shasta which is over 150 km from the lookout tower):

One more toward Wizard Island:

I've got a bunch more, but I think that you get the idea. It's definitely one of my favorite spots on the planet. We moved on to Sun River, just south of Bend OR, which is situated along the Deschutes River. From there we took day trips to two very different parts of the Cascades. The first loop traversed a very extensive lava-flow region toward the West. My pictures may not convey the massiveness of the boulders or the extent of the field, but I'll show you opposite directions from the road, which may give some perspective. First one is looking South, and the haze is from the wildfires noted on the Crater Lake pictures from the day before. The wind had shifted from southerly to westerly:

Looking North:

You might be able to see the dead trees in that picture, but here's a closer view. I'll return to this matter near the end of this diary:

From the lava-flow area we drove on to the McKenzie River (Oregon version) and its headwater, Clear Lake (Oregon version also). There's a connection to the lava fields in that Clear Lake is spring-fed via all of the bare and overgrown lava flows in this central region of the Oregon Cascades. Some of it comes from melting glaciers on the Three Sisters Mountains; and some it is essentially an aquifer that flows and seeps throughout the underground formations made up of many lava flows over millions of years, that are hundreds and thousands of meters deep, throughout the central mountains and the high deserts to the east of the Cascades. Here's a few shots of the McKenzie near Clear Lake:

Then there's Clear Lake itself:

Looking North toward the springs:

It's pretty clear:

Mirta and an average-sized specimen of the larger trees along the trail:

A trail artist with a light touch left a bit of graffito on a Western Red Cedar:

Next day we headed further East to Paulina Lake, which appeared to be a natural alpine lake. Going east from the Deschutes River, the Firs give way to the Pine trees; and the more Pines, the more Mountain Pine Beetles. So now it's time for some editorial comment: yes, 'Global Warming' is part of the reason that these bugs - and the Spruce Budworm - are 'epidemic' (becoming 'pandemic') now. Lack of severely cold Winter temperatures allows more survival. However, the more important cause is overcrowding of trees. And yes, part of the cause of overcrowding has been the high-density replanting strategies, after clear-cut harvest, during the roughly four decades (1947 - 1990) of industrial forest practices on the U.S. forests. However, there's a reason that most of the bug-kill devastation has happened on National Forests, and that is that forest management has been nearly abandoned in the last 18 years due to litigation by forest preservationists. Private forestlands, Native American forests, and most western State-owned forests do not show the same depredation, because dead trees are salvage-harvested (which breaks the beetle's life-cycle); clear-cuts break up the landscape (which hinders the beetles' dispersion); and thinning is practiced (which decreased stems per acre and reduces drought stress on the remaining trees). This last element is perhaps the most important, because healthy trees with sufficient water resources reject the beetles via 'pitch'ing them out - bleeding, if you like. So - here are a couple of pictures of the situation around Paulina Lake. You might note that the trees on the ground have cut surfaces. This is an artifact of clearing the trail and dropping dead trees that are hanging up on other trees:

The good news at this point is that in a forest like this of Lodgepole Pine (almost gone), White Pine (much reduced), Ponderosa Pine (affected but not in danger at present), Douglas Fir, Mountain Hemlock, and Subalpine Fir; the unaffected and less-affected trees are growing and will construct a new forest over the next 50 years - albeit a different and immature forest. Beyond that, it's difficult to predict much; because Climate Change effects are very likely, but the particulars are largely unknown. At any rate, I give you Paulina Lake:

Finally, on the last evening of our stay, I took my regular bike loop around Sun River. You may notice, once again, the haze in the sky. This time we could smell the wood smoke. The wind had changed again, and this time the smoke was coming from a fire near John Day, OR - about 150 km east of Sun River. Evening along the Deschutes:

That's it for this installment. (Front-pagers - please let me know if that's too many photos, and I will edit.)


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Wonderful! The last half of the photos look remarkably like Finland ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Oct 5th, 2009 at 05:39:35 AM EST
Maybe we need a Bonk conference there.

paul spencer
by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Mon Oct 5th, 2009 at 06:57:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I had the same experience in and around Toronto - even in a sauna by a lake that was 'just like home'.  But then there are a lot of Finns in and around Toronto ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Oct 6th, 2009 at 09:19:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Beautiful pics.  I need to get back up there.  Its about 8 hrs from where I live and a beautiful drive nearly all the way.

"I said, 'Wait a minute, Chester, You know I'm a peaceful man...'" Robbie Robertson
by NearlyNormal on Tue Oct 6th, 2009 at 04:49:08 PM EST
whereabouts do you live?

paul spencer
by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Thu Oct 8th, 2009 at 12:19:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sonoma County/Napa county border

"I said, 'Wait a minute, Chester, You know I'm a peaceful man...'" Robbie Robertson
by NearlyNormal on Thu Oct 8th, 2009 at 08:08:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've heard of Cascades, but as the source for the (very floral) flavouring hop added to beer. About 10 - 15 years ago you'd find practically every new beer had a few cascades in. Fortunately they're much less prevalent as people have realised that on their own they create a thin flavour.

Equally I know Deschutes for the brewery, or particularly Black Obsidian Stout which I enjoy.

Lovely to see the scenery that creates the beer.

How do "Forest preservationists" justify ruining the forests when what you describe is an artifical situation anyway ?

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Oct 8th, 2009 at 09:07:13 AM EST
The answer is that they are the leftovers of an important movement that has not quite got the message concerning forest health - and a few other details, such as optimization of carbon sequestration. It's inertia partially, but it's also siege mentality, because they took their 'fair share of abuse' for their contribution to better forest management.

To elucidate - 25 years ago the national forests were over-harvested. The mature trees were really depleted, because they made the best structural lumber - fine-grained, dense, and straight-fibered. Via litigation and direct-action, environmental groups virtually shut down logging on the national forests with a legal theory partly based on their share of the 'ownership' of national assets. It was a noble cause, but, as in all such adversarial developments, they swung the pendulum too far for too long.

Now, large sections of the national forests are sick - and dangerous - due to over-crowding. The cure is known, and people like myself are working on redirecting the forest management practices to what is essentially selective harvest - more or less what is practiced in the hardwoods forest of the Northeastern U.S., in many European countries, and in Japan.

Our immediate goals, though, involve substantial thinning of non-commercial, as well as some commercial, timber. Where I live, the Gifford Pinchot N.F. has been particularly unmanaged for 20 years. We are ripe for a catastrophic burn; the laminated root rot pockets are growing among the Douglas Firs; the Lodgepole Pine kill in the eastern section is over 40,000 acres; and stream temperatures are climbing due to removal of groundwater via the transpiration of many too many stems.

An interesting side-light of the tour shown in this diary: private lands, such as those around Sun River and a resort called Black Butte, are kept thinned out; and 'the woods' look to be in great health. There is plenty of forage and open space for elk, deer, etc.

And there were leftover indications of wildfire that showed the benefit of practices that leave and encourage the big trees. The wildfires of the last, say, 8 years have scorched the bottom 2 meters of bark on the big Ponderosa Pines, but without other effect. This is one of the main benefits of a thinned, selectively-harvested forest. Fires stay on the ground where they do virtually no damage to established trees; they clear and re-fertilize the ground for pioneer species; and they're relatively easy to suppress, if the situation demands it.

As to hops - yes, the Cascade Mountain region is home to some hops growers. I think that there are more growers to the west of us, in the Coast Range of Oregon. You and I apparently do not share similar taste in beer, because I like a strong hops flavor. As to the Deschutes Brewery, my favorite is Black Butte Porter. I used to prefer Guinness, but it's inconsistent over here, and now it's owned by an outfit that I will not support (have to give up my Bailey's and coffee, too).

paul spencer

by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Thu Oct 8th, 2009 at 12:18:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh I do like strong hop flavours. Some of my favourite beers are American IPA purely because of the huge hop thwack.

However, in the UK, when cascade hops first appeared they were so startlingly floral that every brewer under the sun started experimenting with them. One brewery (roosters) even based their entire range on only using cascades. Trouble is it all got a bit same-y and everyone got a bit fed up with the ubiquity of them. So a dash of cascades now and then is okay, but much more than that and I really don't want to know.

In the british market it was just a case of overkill.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Oct 8th, 2009 at 01:50:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Wizard Island is an ideal example of a cinder cone volcano - with a tongue of lava (or perhaps it's rock a slide, though I suspect not) coming towards you.

I looked it up: Crater Lake is only some 8000 years old. (Still almost twice the age of the earth for some...)

Your "back yard" looks absolutely stunning, a slice of paradise. Thanks for sharing paul.

by Nomad on Fri Oct 9th, 2009 at 04:53:48 AM EST


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