After enjoying Mt. Hood and Bend, OR we were in full swing for our Pacific Northwest journey. According to Google Maps, there are about 125 miles between Bend and Crater Lake.
Of course, 125 miles doesn’t take into account any side trips and we had two planned for day three.
Breakfast at the Springhill Suites was basically a Starbucks breakfast. We paid around $60 for coffees, yogurt parfaits, a muffin and coffee cake. Standard Starbucks fair.
At Starbucks you expect pre-packaged food. But at a Marriott I’ve come to expect eggs, bacon, bagels, pastries, some fresh fruit and maybe one of those waffle machines.
For what we paid, breakfast was very disappointing. I think Marriott should either have a restaurant or not. They should serve breakfast or not.
While breakfast was a disappointment, the rest of our day was awesome!
Tumalo Falls Hike
During our Mirror Lake hike we stopped to chat with two women from the area. They had a lot of hiking experience and knew Oregon very well. We told them about our trip and where we were going. They gave us some information about Bend and said we’d love it.
One lady also told us about Tumalo Falls and what a great hike it was. If we were going to be in the area and had the time, we should really do this hike.
As we headed west through Bend, we went through seven rotaries. That seemed like a lot, but it certainly slowed traffic.
After we got out of Bend we had a great ride out Skyliners Road. There are houses and development, but there is also quite a bit of country and beauty left to see. I found the road to be quite fun to drive the Jeep Wrangler, Sahara.
As we approached the trail head area there was a place to pay for a parking pass. I think it was $5.00.
Often you can get away without paying in a remote area. But, The Bend, OR Official Visitor’s Guide said the Falls area is extremely popular and has limited parking. They advised planning ahead and even carpooling!
These small fees are everyone’s contribution to trail and facility maintenance. Everyone who came before us paid their fee so that we can enjoy a nice hike and perhaps a clean restroom. I think we should always pay even if we think we can get away without paying.
Hiking Tumalo Falls
We pulled into the trailhead lot around 8:35. There were a few cars and we wondered just how popular this place really was.
During our trip to Death Valley, Joshua Tree and other arid places a few years ago we learned a few lessons.
We always have something to eat, even if it’s just a few granola bars or a bag of chips or pretzels. We each take a water bottle and I usually have an extra in the backpack.
This time I also brought a “first aid” kit consisting of hand sanitizer, an ace bandage and a few band aides. Certainly not enough to get you out of a bad fall or bear attack. But it was enough if someone tripped on the trail or twisted an ankle.
After loading up, using the clean facilities and locking the Jeep we headed out.
The hike starts at about 5,000 feet and steadily climbs. We turned around at about 1.5 miles at about 5,430 feet. The trail is well tended and there are plenty of places to go off-trail and see the Tumalo Creek.
To get to Tumalo Falls you only have to hike about a quarter mile. The trail is in good shape and if you just want to see The Falls, most people should be able to do this hike.
We went about another mile and had a great time looking at all of the huge trees and meeting more people than we had expected.
We had a full day ahead of us and there didn’t seem to be anything more spectacular than The Falls ahead, so we turned around.
On the way back we met people on mountain bikes and a few groups of people. Some asked us questions like we were experts! We were as helpful as we could be, but this was our first hike on this trail.
When we got back to our car the lot was full and there were some trucks from the local water district.
I wandered up a dirt road to see what the big building at the top of the hill was and what all the noise was. Turns out this area is where Bend and the surrounding towns get their water. That’s what it looked like any way. They had several signs telling people to stay away from the building, so I turned around.
We drove out just after 10AM, and all parking spaces were taken. The Visitor’s Guide was right!
Newbury National Volcanic Monument
We retraced our route to and through Bend and got onto The Dalles-California highway headed south towards the Newbury National Volcanic Monument. The Bend Visitor Guide mentions this National Monument as a great place to hike and explore.
The Newbury National Volcanic Monument is only an hour south of Bend. Who knew there was so much to see and do in Bend, OR?
I didn’t get a photo, but as we walked through the parking lot towards the trail head, we could see the lava flow through the trees. It must have been 50 feet high. It was awe inspiring.
We thought this trail headed to the top of Lava Butte. Instead it was a hike through part of the lava field, and ended at Phil Brogan Viewpoint.
While this was a short hike and it was only 75-800 everything was black and hot. We were glad that the entire hike was under a mile as we were not prepared at all for what the hike would have been like.
I tried to imagine what it was like when this pyroclastic flow was active and thousands of degrees. It looks just like the lava flows on Hawai’i.
In my mind I could imagine the sounds of hot rock popping and pieces clinking down the leading edge of the flow like chunks of burned wood turned out of a fire pit. Just like I’d seen on TV when there were eruptions on Hawai’i.
The Monument includes 54,000+ acres and is truly vast. We spent an hour at the visitor’s center, hiking and taking the bus to the top of Lava Butte. You think of big trees and powerful rivers when you think of the Pacific Northwest. This area had few trees and even less water.
When you see “National Monument” on a map, be sure to look a bit closer. “Monument” sounds like a statue or something, but is often much more.
The next day at Crater Lake the Park Service Ranger told us that Crater Lake and Newbury National Volcanic Monument were the two choices for Oregon’s first National Park. And while Crater Lake is a breath-taking must-see, don’t drive by this Monument. It is truly spectacular, and huge!
Pacific Northwest Journey – Lava Butte
After our sweltering hike through the lava field we were very happy to see that The Forest Service had a shuttle bus to the top of Lava Butte for only $3 per person!
As luck would have it the bus showed up a few minutes after we paid our fee. It was airconditioned and full of fellow tourists.
The top of the cinder cone is only 500 feet above the visitors center, but the road or trail up the cone must have been over a mile. You’ve really got to be in shape and well prepared to hike or bike that. And some people did.
The Ranger said a few words about what we were seeing and to be careful. The bottom of the cinder cone was only about 150 feet deep, but it was steep.
The cinder cone is made entirely of small pieces of lava that would be impossible to get a toe hold on. The pieces of stone are sharp and a fall would have been painful. A rescue would have involved several people and long ropes.
As we walked the path around the top of the cinder cone, we were careful not to get too close to the inside or outside edge of the cinder cone. We didn’t want to fall down either side of the cinder cone!
After about twenty sweltering minutes, we got back onto the bus and headed back to the visitor’s center and our car.
We spent about an hour and a half at the north end of The Monument and we were hungry.
The Village at Sunriver
Sunriver and the surrounding area are outside of the Monument on private lands. There is a small town and a newly developed commercial area that is fairly upscale.
We didn’t have a lot of food with us. At least nothing that we would consider lunch, so we headed to a little slice of civilization in the middle of a lava field!
After about a five mile drive we pulled into the parking lot of the fairly up-scale shopping district. We had been looking for The Sunriver Brewing Company. I think Google said it was a good place to get lunch. And I was thirsty!
As we approached the door, people were walking out with bags. At the door one guy jokingly said, they give you so much food you need to-go boxes. I later understood that the to-go bags were full of ice-cold beers!
The place was pretty busy but we were able to get a seat quickly. Since I was driving I restricted myself to two ice-cold beers.
We had a good lunch in a nicely air-conditioned pub and I would recommend the Fuzztail Hefeweizen.
A grabbed two six packs to go and we headed for the Sunriver Country Store to stock up.
It is a small grocery store by city standards and a bit pricey, but they are literally in the middle of nowhere. We picked up a few things and headed for our next stop.
Paulina Peak and Obsidian Flow
Our next stop was the southern entrance to The Monument. Lots of driving down winding roads and lots of beautiful country to see.
We decided to find the end of the road which for us, turned out to be the Cinder Hill campsite on the eastern side of East Lake. With 110 sites, we were surprised at how many sites were occupied.
Lot of families and kids. Somehow they looked like they were familiar with the area and this was their place.
To us, the area seemed so remote and isolated. But many people enjoy this type of solitude and find ways to entertain themselves, or just relax. Besides the other campers, there appeared to be few distractions.
There are ten boat launches and nine camp grounds on the lakes including two day-use only sites, an RV park and Chief Paulina Horse Camp.
Cinder Hill campsite was about a half mile from that 10th boat launch, but I was watching the fuel gauge.
East Lake is at an elevation of 6,381 and Paulina Lake is at 6,331 feet. The peak of the pumice cone between them is 7,013 feet. The water level of East Lake looked a little low and the boat ramps were high and dry. But people still managed to launch their boats.
We had found the end of the road. In a Jeep, the road can end in much more isolated places than a campsite on East Lake. We decided to head back and look for more places to see.
We didn’t really know what to expect, but obsidian caught our attention.
As we walked across the parking lot towards the flow the scale of the flow began to come into view. It was several times higher than the flow at the visitors center.
This photo is the best one I have to establish the height of the flow. Garmin says we climbed about 121 feet to the top. The edge of the flow is so steep that the trail begins with wooden stairs!
After our short hike, I could not imagine hiking through this terrain for the day or days. The Monument is over 54,000 acres with trails across it and to many remote locations. I’m sure you could spend a week hiking here.
The Big Obsidian Flow has a lot of pumice and other types of rock in a typical lava flow, but it is about 20% obsidian. I’m no expert, but they say this is unusual. It was the only flow that we saw in the park with obsidian.
Obsidian is a black glass-like material. It is very hard, but when it is broken it has a very sharp edge.
There were chunks of it everywhere. Lying around and embedded in piles of other stone. It was pretty cool, but we decided to keep our hike short and move on to our next hike.
The next destination was Paulina Peak. I’m not sure that we really knew what we were getting ourselves into.
Paulina Peak has an elevation of 7,984 and is the highest point in the park.
We started up the road probably around 3:30. There were easily five more hours of daylight and we figured other people would be up there. But we didn’t really know how long the drive was or how long the road was.
We turned off of the main road onto another paved road and figured it was paved like any other park road.
My gas gauge said I had about 130 miles of range in the tank. So we were good.
The road starts at around 6,400 feet of elevation and quickly becomes fairly steep and rough. No more pavement!
Most of the ride up I was going 10-15 mph and the engine was cranking!
Since this was US Forest Service land, there were no guard rails. And since we were above 6,500 feet in elevation the trees were smaller and shorter. While this offered a great view, I had to keep my eyes on the road and AnnMarie was sitting at attention the whole way!
Their web site says the road is rough and often closed through June due to snow. We didn’t see any snow but the road was very rough in some places.
In Maine we used to call this type of road a “corduroy road” because the bumps looked like the ridges on corduroy pants.
When you are driving up a steep road like this, the vehicle essentially looses contact with the road and bounces from one bump to the next. They are so close together. It seemed like hydroplaning.
The scary part was that the Jeep would move to the left or the right as we bounced along, and I don’t think I had total control in those moments.
This happened a dozen or dozens of times. All I could do was slow down so the tires would regain contact with the gravel. I would drop from 10 mph to probably 5 mph to make this happen.
We met a few vehicles on the way up. It was a bit hairy and I’m glad that we only met a few.
In this photo you can see some of the turns in the road. The closer to the peak, the steeper the road and the hairier each turn became.
It’s difficult to convey the height and steepness of the mountain, but the shadows in the photo will give you some idea of the height.
At the summit the view was amazing! From the Forest Service site:
The summit of Paulina Peak with an elevation of 7,984 feet, is the highest point on the Newberry Volcano. This site offers a grand overview of the Newberry Caldera, the south and west flanks of the Newberry Volcano, the Cascades, the Fort Rock Basin, and much of central Oregon. On a clear day, the Cascade Range is visible extending into California (Mt. Shasta) and Washington (Mt. Adams).
Sleep Inn Suites at Chiloquin
Driving back down the mountain wasn’t much easier than driving up. You can’t get comfortable or forget about all of the turns and let your speed creep up.
When we drove down the Mt. Hood road I could hear the transmission. It seemed to be whining a lot, but I didn’t know what a Jeep was supposed to sound like. I was on the brake a lot, but even with that the sound of the transmission was noticeable.
But I didn’t see any lights on the dash or smell anything and the vehicle handled like any vehicle I’ve driven. So I didn’t worry too much when I heard the transmission all the way down the Paulina Peak road. Even though we were in a much more secluded area.
We were going to be fine. I was more worried about the gas gauge which now showed under 100 miles of range.
Once we got onto The Dalles-California Highway we stopped at the first gas station we found in La Pine.
The La Pine Travel Center was set back from the road and the roads in the area were under construction. We paid $4.699 per gallon, which is about a dollar higher than Boston. For 16.4 gallons we paid $77.26. Yikes! But we were on vacation.
We had driven about 349 miles which worked out to 21.25 miles per gallon. Not too bad when you consider that we drove up two mountains and there’s nothing but peaks, ridges and valleys in Oregon.
Getting out of the gas station was another adventure. We couldn’t go back the way we came in because the road was one way and there was a detour!
So we had a nice tour of La Pine and ended up about a mile back up the highway. All part of the adventure!
The rest of the afternoon I just drove to Chiloquin to find our hotel.
Crater Lake Base Camp
The Sleep Inn & Suites Chiloquin – Crater Lake Junction looked like a brand new building. Across the parking lot was the KLA-MO-YA Indian casino. We were on the reservation and the tribe owned both businesses.
The room was comfortable and the hotel had an in-door pool and a basic breakfast offering. They did not have a restaurant and the clerk referred us to the Indian casino for dinner. She recommended the Cobb Salad.
As we walked across the parking lot, we were a little skeptical. Neither of us are fond of casinos and how good can the food be? We were basically in the middle of no where. They didn’t have much if any competition. The gas station had gas station food, so this had to be better.
I had smothered chicken with mashed potatoes, but I don’t recall what AnnMarie got. But she enjoyed it and I enjoyed the salad that came with my dinner.
They definitely are not in the running for a Michelin Star, but the food was above our expectations.
After dinner we headed back to our room, did a little planning for the next day and got a good night’s sleep.