Northern California and Oregon
2020, July 11-18
The only real constant on this trip was a slow, insidious nosebleed; sinuses cracked from the unfamiliar hot dry air, dusty, warm, and inescapable, a taste of high desert in the middle of summer. Over in the southeast edge of the Cascades, where one mountain range peters out and bleeds into the start of the Sierras, the snow has mostly gone. Summer is in full swing.
B and I took the week off to enjoy the best of it, touching a hike or bike here and there, driving to connect the dots. Seeing all the Cascadian volcanos laid bare before us, one dropping off in our rearview to be replaced by another, each beautiful and impressive, conjures up a subtle itch to explore them all. This trip highlighted for me the geological instability of this region; some of the activity so new: most recently Lassen in 1914 and 1921, and St Helens in 1980. Even Crater Lake in its serene blue only filled up after a massive explosion some 7500-ish years ago, a long groan in human history but barely a blink in geological time.
We took this trip for a break, to refresh ourselves after the long stretch of continuous work that began before the effective start of the US COVID-19 epidemic in March. And also to fill in some of the blanks in the region. But I found that even as I was impressed by the beauty and grandeur of places, the moments I found most memorable were those shared with strangers, masked or distant. It's running into other hikers and bikers, questioning the availability of water on a hot exposed day, and joking about drinking from the Crater rim. It's gathering at the summit of McKenzie Pass -- where everyone was in high spirits -- and gossiping with locals about mountain climbers, accidents, and the military overtake of Portland. It's running into a randonneur with a very fancy bicycle outside a general store in a tiny hundred person town who casually slips that he'd been riding continuously for 30+ hours in the boiling hot day and freezing cold night as part of the 1000km Race Across Oregon (where he was in first place by more than 6 hours, we find after the fact), and staring slightly dumbstruck with popsicles in our mouths as he wishes us a good ride and remounts his bike with a pained groan to tackle the next 200 miles...
Day 0 -- July 11: Drove from Seattle to Lassen Volcanic Nat'l Park
Day 1 -- July 12: Hiked Summit North to Snag Lake to the Cinder Cone (15.5mi, ~2200ft), camped at Snag Lake
Day 2 -- July 13: Hiked out (7.5mi, ~1000ft); shorter hikes around Bumpass Hell (3mi) and Lassen Peak (4.6mi, ~2000ft, max elevation: 10,462ft)
Day 3 -- July 14: Explored some caves in Lava Beds Nat'l Monument, then drove to Crater Lake Mazama Campground
Day 4 -- July 15: Biked Mazama to Crater Lake loop (46mi, 4860ft)
Day 5 -- July 16: Drove to Sisters via Mt Bachelor and Bend, hiked around Smith Rock (4.3mi, 1295ft)
Day 6 -- July 17: Biked out and back Rainbow to McKenzie Pass Dee Wright Observatory (60.5mi, 4111ft), biked around Rainbow and Cougar Reservoir (9.2mi, 350ft, some gravel), drove to Painted Hills
Day 7 -- July 18: Biked along the John Day River (Service Creek to Spray) (26.0mi, 450ft), drove home to Seattle via Tri-Cities and Hanford