Adventures in Oregon: Newberry Volcano

‘I like it when a flower or a little tuft of grass grows through a crack in the concrete. It’s so fuckin’ heroic.’-George Carlin

I have had a strange obsession with volcanos for most of my life. I am not entirely sure where it started…perhaps multiple rewatches of National Geographic documentaries on the Ring of Fire or one of my favorite movies, Dante’s Peak. Regardless, I know more about them than I should. When I moved to Bend, I realized I was very close to living my own version of Dante’s Peak. My view is three extinct volcanos and one that’s dormant. I am also about 30 minutes from one of the largest volcanos in the U.S., the Newberry Volcano.

The Newberry National Volcanic Monument is massive. The caldera alone of Newberry is about 4-5 miles across. The entire area, including lava flows, is roughly the size of Rhode Island. The lava flows were used by NASA in the 1960s and 1970s for Apollo training. They thought the region replicated some of the terrain astronauts would face on the moon. Once the weather perked up, I headed out. The visitor center is closed half the year, and was when I went, but the area is pretty easy to navigate. The trail is a roughly two mile loop. Very easy, although there are some steep portions but is accessible to all.

The whole area quite stunning. The lava fields are surrounded by junipers and ponderosas. It highlights the famous line in Jurassic Park that ‘life always finds a way.’ You can see bits of green peaking through, somehow finding the strength to carry on. An inspiring metaphor for life in general, especially for someone coming out from a really bad winter and then a pandemic! The area also offers some spectacular views of the Cascades.

Another ten miles up the road, a left, and another 12 miles down another road, you reach the Caldera. The area is closed during the winter and, while the U.S. Forest Service has been great updating their websites, the road hadn’t actually opened yet even though the website said it opened May 1. But, funnily enough, it did while I was there-1:30ish pm on a Thursday, go figure! I had come to the road block and pulled into the lot next to it. I was going to figure out what I was going to do and they opened the road! So I was one of the first to visit Paulina and East Lakes this season, not to shabby! My plan was to walk the trail loop around Lake Paulina but one of the access points was closed and it was only me and this guy who gave me weird vibes at the trail access pull out. So I made the decision to wait. I didn’t feel safe. I am a big fan of Ed Visteurs and he writes in his books to trust your gut. This is in regards to climbing the highest peaks in the world but solo (and I would be the only one of the trail with this guy who was not dressed for it) hiking with no cell service and an odd dude, it seemed appropriate. So I just drove the road and checked out the lakes and the scenery.

The lakes are both crater lakes and they used to be one big lake but volcanic activity put of a lava ridge. So now there are two! And they are independent of any river system. All snow and rain has led to a 250 foot lakes, pretty impressive. There is runoff and trails with waterfalls, those were closed so expected a part two post later this summer! Word of warning, the area smell a bit fishy.

I am so grateful that I get to live amongst the massive volcanos I have only read about. And while they are pretty and fascinating, I am okay with them staying put. I may love Dante’s Peak but I don’t need to live it. But if I do, hopefully someone as handsome as Pierce Brosnon comes to help me out! I now live in the Ring of Fire-so I’ve come full circle!

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